How can we believe the universe is billions of years old, and still believe the Bible, too?

“Hi Father, I have been watching yourself and Fr. Pacwa on EWTN discussing the Big Bang etc. (in England by the way).

The truth is I didn’t really follow all of your arguments, just the gist of them. What surprised me was a throw away comment of yours which was to the effect that the Universe is thirteen billion plus years, old. Well for reasons I won’t go into I watch a lot of Christian TV and have tended to become convinced that Creationism and the Bibles account of it is true. This stance seems to be a more non Catholic view.

“My concern is that we Catholics (and eminent intellectual Catholics like yourself) seem to accept creation as having occurred Billions of years ago? The reason I find this very concerning is because it undermines the very foundation of Our Christian Holy Scripture which says very definitely that the Creation took place approximately 6500 or so years ago and this is supported scientifically by such things as only 4500 or so years of accumulated silt at the mouths of the worlds major rivers (Amazon, Mississippi, Nile etc). That would support the Flood being True.

“That of itself is not the important issue. What is important, is the undermining or contradicting of the Bible which we claim to be the inerrant WORD of GOD. How can we justify saying that Our Bible is GODS WORD but not all of it is True?

“Sincerely,
“Peter”


Dear Peter,

Thank you for your letter. I can see why you are concerned about the scientific account undermining the biblical account, but the Catholic Church has not seen any problem with this since the writing of an encyclical entitled “Divino Afflante Spiritu” by Pope Pious XII in 1943.

Essentially the Church holds that the Biblical author was not doing science, but rather theology. He was responding to theological errors that were manifest in the Gilgamesh Epic and other popular creation myths of the day.

He wanted to tell his Israelite audience that God is one, that nature is not a god, but a creation of God, that God’s creation was good – not evil, and that God’s actions were just – not pernicious.

The Israelite people in the seventh and eighth century BC were incapable of understanding the mathematical physics of today, and since the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, the church has stated clearly that “whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.”

In other words, God is not going to speak to a seventh century B.C. Israelite in 21st Century mathematical-physics terms.

If one does not try to make the biblical author do science, the two accounts have striking parallels.

Thanks for your thoughts.

God Bless,
Fr. Spitzer

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