Ratzinger Again . . . “The Creation of the Human Being”

Ratzinger on the humble truth of the creation of man from dust:

We are told that God formed the man of dust from the ground. There is here something at once humbling and consoling. Something humbling because we are told: You are not God, you did not make yourself, you do not rule the universe; you are limited. You are a being destined for death, as are all things living; you are only earth. But something consoling too,, because we are also told: The human being is not a demon or an evil spirit, as it might occasionally appear. The human being has not been formed from negative forces, but has been fashioned form God’s good earth. Behind this glimmers something deeper yet, for we are told that all human beings are earth. Despite every distinction that culture and history have brought about, it is still true that we are, in the last resort, the same. . . . We are all one humanity, formed from God’s one earth. It is precisely this thought that tis at the very hear of the creation account and of the whole Bible. In the face of all human division and human arrogance, whereby one person sets himself or herself over and against another, humanity is declared to be one creation of God from his one earth. What is said at the beginning is then repeated after the Flood: in the great genealogy of Genesis to the same thought reappears – namely, that there is only one humanity in the many human beings. The Bible says a decisive “no” to all racism and to every human division. (42 – 43, 44)

Ratzinger’s comments on the relationship between the Biblical doctrine of creation and the theory of evolution are very nuanced. On the one hand, he says that faith gives us what Creation is, while biological theory tells us how things came to be.  However, he goes on to mention two points of Monods, which I agree with as a Protestant. The first is that not every actual thing exists by necessity: “Contrary to the thinking of both Laplace and Hegel, all things in the universe cannot be derived form one another with ineluctable necessity” (52). The second is that human beings do exist, yet did not have to. As Ratzinger elaborates, “We are, he [Monod] says, the result of chance. It is as if we had drawn a luck number in the lottery and had suddenly and unexpectedly won a billion dollars” (52 – 53, footnote removed). However, Ratzinger points out that the difference between him and Monod “is that in place of God’s will Monod postulates chance – the lottery – as having produced us” (53).

Essentially, Ratzinger says this concerning biblical doctrine and scientific theory –

What response shall we make to this view? It is the affair of the natural sciences to explain how the tree of life in particular continues to grow and how new branches shoot out form it. This is not a matter of faith. But we must have the audacity to say the the great projects of the living creation  are not the products of chance and error. Nor are they the products of a selective process to which divine predicates can be attributed in illogical, unscientific, and even mythic fashion. The great projects of the living creation point to a creating Reason and show us a creating Intelligence and they do so more luminously and radiantly  today than ever before. Thus we can say today with anew certitude and joyousness that the human being is indeed a divine project, which only the creating Intelligence was strong and great and audacious enough to conceive of Human beings are not a mistake but something willed; they are the fruit of love. They can disclose in themselves, in the bold project that they are, the language of the creating Intelligence that speaks to them and that moves them to say: Yes, Father, you have willed me. (56 – 57)

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One thought on “Ratzinger Again . . . “The Creation of the Human Being”

  1. Reblogged this on Evolution, Culture and Meaning and commented:
    Although I agree with the position that belief in creation and evolutionary theory do not exclude each other, and I also agree that the contingency of evolution by natural selection parallels certain aspects of creation belief, I must admit I am a bit reluctant to identify divine action with the process of natural selection as Ratzinger does in this quote.
    I think the quote is still far too anthropocentric to be able to bridge the gap between blind chance (Monod) and divine love (Christianity). Mikael Stenmark’s analysis might be helpful here. He proposes that there is a difference between God willing humans to emerge and God willing sentient life to emerge. He compares this with parents expecting a child. There is a difference between longing for your child to be born, loving it even when it’s still in the womb, regardless of the child being a boy or a girl, and longing for your child to be born, after having decided it should be a boy, named Rick, with an IQ of 135, a taste for music, a talent for soccer, and so on. Stenmark argues that Christians could think about God’s love along the same lines: God was expecting a sentient life form, loving it even before it was born. He did not a priori impose norms that would limit His love to creatures that could meet these norms.
    I think Stenmark has a point. God loved the Neanderthal as much as Homo sapiens, just as He loves every living creature. To think of God’s love as somehow limited goes against the grain of creation belief, I think. But following this line of reasoning raises, in its turn, new questions on what it means to be Imago Dei.

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