After having observed his behavior as Pope since his inauguration, I have increasingly found Pope Francis to be tricky and manipulative – a real politician – who I am amazed is deceiving even so many secular people. These comments from him a short while back about creation and evolution are another example of that:
“When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that…And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities.”
“[God] created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment”
“Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
Religious and secular people alike are fawning over these comments, and they’re saying that this is a “break” from Catholic tradition. They’re acting as if he is some champion of progressivism and sensible beliefs. But there are several major problems:
1) Nothing new
What Francis said is nothing new. The Catholic church as an institution has always supported loose interpretations of Genesis 1-3, all the way back to early saints. And a recent Time article notes: “Anyone who knows anything about Catholic history knows that a statement like this is nothing new. Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical “Humani Generis” in 1950 affirming that there was no conflict between evolution and Catholic faith. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that, stressing that evolution was more than a hypothesis, in 1996. Pope Benedict XVI hosted a conference on the nuances of creation and evolution in 2006.”
2) Pope Francis is a creationist
I don’t know what Francis means by saying that God cannot “do everything”, since even the most liberal Christians still seem to believe that God is omnipotent. But what annoys me about him saying that God is not a “magician” is that Francis still believes that God did some magic and created humanity – just in a slow way (Sorry, but someone who does magic slowly is still a magician. Saying that God is not a magician just makes the notion of creationism sound less childish to a modern audience).
But in his view, as you can see from his comments, God was still the total cause and designer. He believes that God created humans by establishing specific physical laws – and maybe even certain life forms – from the outset that were designed to lead to modern humans. That is a very different and UN-scientific belief. That is Creationism by definition. It is just Old Earth Creationism, not Young Earth. He does not believe in *Evolution By Natural Selection*. He believes that a “magician” made it all happen – from the Big Bang to modern humans.
3) Just more dogmatic religious belief
By saying that the Big Bang and Evolution require God, an intelligent creator, Pope Francis is promoting the same old illogical dishonest apologetics that we have grown to expect from Christians for ages. This is not new for Christians. It is not progressive. If anything it is a step backward toward religious dogma since he is not merely saying God is compatible, but is required. Personally, I am very opposed to the way he is encouraging people to adopt the same exact illogical thinking that is supported by myriad apologists today.
At this time I should also discuss the impact he is having, since people seem to support him because they think he is helping turn Young Earth Creationists into supporters of evolution and secular moral causes. But I don’t think that is the influence he will have. For one, as I already said, his statements are nothing new from a Pope or Catholic. But also, remember that Francis is trying to save the church. His target consumer therefore are not creationists, since they are already hardcore supporters of religion anyway. But rather, it appears that his target is secular people who are leaving the church because they already support science and have diminishing religious beliefs. So what Francis is doing is not going to make secular science-supporters out of Young Earth Creationists. If he has any effect, he is going to make more Craig-like apologists who we’ll end up arguing with online.
So the Pope is a non-secular traditional creationist, the likes of William Lane Craig. He is an effective politician (partly due to the extremely low expectations people have come to have for religion) but he is just improving the Church’s brand image, not many of its actual beliefs or policies.
Maybe next time I will cover his belief in Satan and his [probably intentionally] misleading statements about his stance on homosexuality.