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Embracing evolution helped me rediscover God

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Human Evolution

Tom Hoopes - published on 07/11/22

“We live with shades down over our windows, so to speak, because we are afraid that our faith could not stand the full, glaring light of the facts,” says Ratzinger. This isn’t faith but “a kind of refusal of faith.”

The most anticipated Catholic book of the year has finally been released. Well, the most anticipated by me, at least.

Dr. Matthew Ramage’s work explaining how evolution is compatible with the Catholic faith has been enormously important to me in the last year. I have listened to him here at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, online and in podcasts, along with Benedictine College philosophy professor Dr. James Madden and the lectures and videos of the Thomistic Institute.

Discovering this rich vein of current Catholic thought has been a second reversion experience for me.

Now, Ramage’s fourth scholarly but accessible book applying Pope Benedict XVI’s wisdom to pressing theological difficulties is available at CUA Press: From the Dust of the Earth: Benedict XVI, the Bible, and the Theory of Evolution

Maybe, like me, you doubted evolution because of science, theology, or both.

For years I doubted that both human evolution and the biblical account of the special creation of human beings could be true. I knew Catholics were free to believe in evolution or not, but accepting it always felt like a kind of surrender to me, as if we had to cede something central and pretend it didn’t matter.

Ramage feels my pain.

He speaks of Catholics like me in the book’s introduction. They “have often been well catechized. They know the story of salvation history. They love Jesus Christ and are committed to living as his disciples. However, they often struggle in vain to find sane answers to their questions due to the widespread assumption that faith and evolutionary theory are incompatible.”

He quotes Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become Pope Benedict XVI, who also understands why people worry about the Church’s expanded acceptance of evolution. We wonder how much more will be lost — Jesus’ miracles? The resurrection?

But Ramage is concerned about the opposite problem: Our doubts about science hurt our faith.

Pew Research found that not only most nonreligious people consider science and faith incompatible, but more than half of weekly churchgoers do also. How can the faith last if even its most ardent adherents think it can’t coexist with a growing area of science? Bishop Robert Barron likes to point out that doubts stemming from scientific questions are a leading reason for the rise of “nones” — those who claim no religion.

Ramage quotes Ratzinger’s powerful words about the danger in this state of affairs. “We live with shades down over our windows, so to speak, because we are afraid that our faith could not stand the full, glaring light of the facts,” he said. This isn’t faith but “a kind of refusal of faith.”

To Ratzinger, “True believing means looking the whole of reality in the face, unafraid and with an open heart, even if it goes against the picture of faith that, for whatever reason, we make for ourselves.”

It’s true: Real faith faces science unafraid.

What I like most about Ramage’s book is that it moves past preserving the faith despite science, to enhancing the faith through science.

His work has helped me realize:

God is sovereign. Rather than being one cause among others, and one who works on human terms and human timetables, God is the ground of all being, the unmoved mover, the eternal infinite source of being and essence to whom 1,000 years are but a day.

Nature is God’s. Understanding evolution is helping me see the presence and action of God everywhere. I used to think of God as responsible only for the breaks in the natural world. Now I see him in every field and every bird, as Jesus did. 

The Trinity and cross are universal. God is a Trinity of self-gift among three persons, one of whom is Jesus Christ, crucified. When you look for it, you see that reflected everywhere in creation, where all creatures advance through gift and sacrifice. 

In short, everything makes more sense now for me, and my confidence in what the Church believes has never been stronger. I highly recommend going on a journey with Ramage and other thinkers into a deeper understanding of the natural world.

You just might fall in love with God all over again.

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