Pope Benedict: No Conflict Between “Big Bang” And Religion

Yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI said in a sermon during the Feast of Epiphany Mass that there is no conflict between scientific explanations for the origin of the universe and belief in a God:

Christians should reject the idea that the universe was created by accident, Pope Benedict said Thursday, adding that God’s mind was the driving force behind scientific theories such as the Big Bang.

“The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe,” Benedict said on the day of the Epiphany, where the Bible says the three kings arrived at the birthplace of Jesus, Reuters reports.

“Contemplating it (the universe), we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God,” he added in a sermon at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Of course, it’s been several centuries at least since the Catholic Church adhered to the idea that the creation story in Genesis was literal truth and, only a few years ago, the Pope explicitly said that there is no conflict between religious faith and the theory that man evolved from lower forms of life. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see some segments of human religion becoming more willing to accept scientific explanations for the origins of life and the universe, even as others close themselves off to the possibility.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Religion
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I believe the joke is that religions used to do science, and now physicists do religion.

  2. Eric Florack says:

    This one is absurdly simple.

    Granted that the science has merit, what do we have? Do we have any indication that it wasn’t a directed occurrence?

    God creating a universe would seem to me likely to make a pretty big bang.

    And 7 days?
    God is held to be a timeless being. What within that context is a “day”?

  3. DMan says:

    “This one is absurdly simple. ”

    It’s absurdly simple of you to have such confidence in your knowledge of God’s hand in creation no?

  4. Herb says:

    “God is held to be a timeless being. What within that context is a “day”?”

    Yeah, this is a good point and one I’ve heard often. However, even operating under the idea that the Bible was divinely inspired, doesn’t it seem strange that God would call his measure of God-time a “day?” If a day of “God-time” is equivalent to, say, a year of human-time, why wouldn’t he just say the world was created in 7 years? Why call it a “day” –a term understandable to any human– if it was some other unknown measure of time?

    This theory would have more clout if the Bible said the world was created in 7 Lurdins. (And if you’re wondering what “Lurdin” means, it’s a term I just made up for one measure of “God-time.” I don’t know what the conversion is to human-time, but does it matter? The world wasn’t created in 7 days….it was created in 7 Lurdins.)

  5. Rose says:

    Actually the Church has for a long time NOT taught that the Bible is in conflict with science. The Catholic Church has taught the “religious truths” of the Bible which come in all sorts of forms, including allegory, metaphor, parables, explanation of abstract concepts with material language, poetry, etc. It was the fundamentalist evangelical religions that turned the Bible into a book of supposed “scientific truths” and “facts” when it never was such a book.

    Think of Aesop’s fables. He used animals to teach us about “concrete truths” for humankind. We all know that animals cannot talk or do the things he said they could, but the concepts that were taught via his story telling held true. The Bible is such a book, except it contains much more than fables and is much more complex because the truths about God are complex. I personally don’t know any Catholic who believes that God actually created the world in six “days”, or that Adam and Eve were other than a symbol for mankind falling away from God, and I certainly don’t know any intelligent Catholic who believes the snake was other than a symbol of evil. There is a HUGE difference between the OLD Testament and the NEW Testament and the way it is taught, and uses human language to try to give us an understanding of complex truths.

    So the Pope has said nothing new to those Catholics who actually have made a study of their Bible.

  6. Michael says:

    However, even operating under the idea that the Bible was divinely inspired, doesn’t it seem strange that God would call his measure of God-time a “day?”

    It may surprise you to find that when God handed down the story of creation, he didn’t do it in English.

  7. Rose says:

    Herb, regarding your comment of: “doesn’t it seem strange that God would call his measure of God-time a “day?”

    God never called it a day. Early humans did who happened to be the Jews. They had the first inkling of the “ONE GOD” concept and explained it in the only way they knew how at the time. Also, the original Jewish language is a very “mystical” language, where words have various meanings, depending on their context, and a “day” could mean anything from an actual day to a millenium. When the Bible was translated into Greek, because the Greek language was more concrete, some of those meanings had no way of being expressed, so they did the best they could. That is exactly why the Church guides people in the study of the Bible, because its scholars have grappled with these complex language issues for centuries. The evangelicals act as though the Bible was written in English, which it wasn’t, and there simply are no English words for some very profound and deep concepts such as the ancient Jews had.

    I understand that because I speak three languages (all of them happen to be European) but there are words in one language that have no real translation into another language, and when you try to translate a “mystical” language like ancient Hebrew into a concrete language like English you get misconceptions that were not originally there at all. This is why I personally am guided by the Catholic scholarship of the Bible even though I’m not a Catholic.

  8. Rose says:

    Great comment Michael!!!!!

  9. PJ says:

    “It may surprise you to find that when God handed down the story of creation, he didn’t do it in English.”

    No. No. No. Jesus was a white guy speaking English.

    😉

  10. Franklin says:

    In 100% agreement with Bithead.

    /mark this day

  11. michael reynolds says:

    The Catholics have to back and fill on this for one simple reason: they just can’t bring themselves to be as stupid as Baptists.

    The RC has a long intellectual history, some of it now laughable, some of it evil, but some of it pretty impressive. The evangelical protestants don’t have that. Boy do they not have that. So evangelicals, fundamentalists, your Baptists and Churches of Christ, your various Pentecostals, your “I can speak God’s words in ancient Sumerian and it goes like this: yabba dabba oogie boogie,” those guys, have no difficulty asserting and defending beliefs that are patently idiotic. In fact given a choice they will deliberately choose the more idiotic belief. (A tendency that explains Sarah Palin.)

    Basically, Catholics are elitists. That’s the problem. They are in thrall to pointy-headed (heh) intellectuals. Unlike your rock-solid American religious literalist who is simply an imbecile.

  12. sam says:

    You have to an atheist devoid of all feeling not have a chill run up you spine when you read this:

    In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

    About as beautiful a description of the Big Bang as poetry can command.

  13. Michael says:

    About as beautiful a description of the Big Bang as poetry can command.

    I’d disagree, but “beautiful” is too subjective to prove. However, I can definitively say that it is not an accurate description of the Big Bang theory in meaningful way.

  14. sam says:

    I can definitively say that it is not an accurate description of the Big Bang theory in meaningful way.”

    You miss the poetry part?

  15. Herb says:

    “It may surprise you to find that when God handed down the story of creation, he didn’t do it in English.”

    Ha! Of course not. He apparently didn’t mean “24 hour period” when he said “day” either.

    Rose, good comment. You hit the nail on the head with this:

    “When the Bible was translated into Greek, because the Greek language was more concrete, some of those meanings had no way of being expressed, so they did the best they could. ”

    Full disclosure: I’m an atheist non-believer who isn’t impressed by “the Bible is without error” types coming up with creative “fixes” to the various “errors” in the Bible. For example, in the gospels, Judas meets his death in a couple of different ways. In one book, he hangs himself. In another, he falls and his guts split open. My Dad, believing that the Bible is 100% true, explained this discrepancy by saying that first Judas hung himself, THEN he fell and his guts were split open. Even as a kid, that answer didn’t sit right.

    Wouldn’t a true, error-free account include this information? Of course it would! It follows that when a true, error-free account says the world was created in 7 days, it means 7 days. If we’re going to admit that this is open to interpretation, that a day means X, then we’re also admitting that it’s not a true, error-free account.

  16. Rose says:

    Well, I for one don’t get hung up on the error-free account because a story can be told many, many ways with the same TRUTH at its core. The Bible is neither a historical record, although bits and pieces of it may be historical, and it is not a scientific dissertation. It is a book about religious truths, which is a complex subject told with limited human language. I think to get hung up on it being error-free as far as facts go, is self-defeating because it was never meant to be error free in that sense.

    Just as ten people who see an accident can have ten different versions of what happened, so it is with the people who wrote the Bible, but that does not mean the accident never happened. It simply means that ten people saw it from ten different viewpoints. They may or may not have the date right, and the street where it happened, but they may end up with different versions of what actually happened. The core truth is that IT DID HAPPEN. When you add poetry and symbolism and allegory into the mix, fact becomes sort of mushy, but the religious TRUTH is still there. It really matters not to me one iota how Judas actually died. Just the fact that he did die is good enough as far as telling the story of how he betrayed a friend he claimed to love.

  17. Rose says:

    I think we also have to remember that the Bible was passed on orally until written language was used, and it was written over many, many centuries. So while males many centuries ago had more than one wife, that was a social custom of the time, not a religious law, and those social customs are talked about as reference points of those people at that time, not as a truth that holds forever. And when God instructs his people not to harm sheep at one point there may have been good reason, such as increasing a healthy herd for future generations. Then when God instructs the people two or three centuries later to slaughter all the sheep, there may have been some sort of plague in the herds which demanded that be done. So it isn’t contradictory at all in many cases where we try to make it contradictory because we see it with our sort of short-range viewpoint.

    Nor do we have a good understanding of what happens to language when things are translated.
    Just try to translate the German word “Weltschmerz” into English. I can guarantee that it can’t be done without a long convoluted explanation because there simply is no word in the English language for the complex idea the word represents.

  18. Frank Paige says:

    I read a lot. I’ve read only one version of the sermon that truly seems to fit Pope Benedicts
    temperment and intention. It might be my imagination, bit it seems as though the actual sermon is quickly dis-appearing from Media Archives.

    I consider myself reasonably intelligent and at age 68, I consider myself somewhat of a expert at finding the author, writer or speakers true intent.

    Simply put, the Pope said; God has provided you with a huge brain, use it !!

    Like saying , You need a helping hand ? It’s at the end of your own arms !!

    Consider me a “Enlightened Christian” .. Wise enough to protect his foundation roots.

    Thanks for your time

  19. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 to 1772), the greatest genius in both science and religion, taught that Genesis was written by the ancient people in a “language of correspondences”. The web site biblemeanings.info presents the “internal meaning” of many books of the Bible, including Genesis. Here is a brief excerpt as an example.
    http://www.biblemeanings.info/Bible/genesis.html

    AC 6. The six days, or periods, which are so many successive states of the regeneration of man, are in general as follows.

    AC 7. The first state is that which precedes, including both the state from infancy, and that immediately before regeneration. This is called a “void,” “emptiness,” and “thick darkness.” And the first motion, which is the Lord‘s mercy, is “the Spirit of God moving upon the faces of the waters.”

    AC 8. The second state is when a distinction is made between those things which are of the Lord, and those which are proper to man. The things which are of the Lord are called in the Word “remains,” and here are especially knowledges of faith, which have been learned from infancy, and which are stored up, and are not manifested until the man comes into this state. At the present day this state seldom exists without temptation, misfortune, or sorrow, by which the things of the body and the world, that is, such as are proper to man, are brought into quiescence, and as it were die. Thus the things which belong to the external man are separated from those which belong to the internal man. In the internal man are the remains, stored up by the Lord unto this time, and for this use.

  20. Folks, Let’s avoid being fooled by a news media that doesn’t “get” religion. The Pope had nothing to say about the Big bang theory. It was sloppy reporting. http://www.getreligion.org/2011/01/the-herod-in-all-of-us/