Thought of the Day: A Solution to the Immaculate Conception – Evolution Problem

Honestly, I have no bone in the evolution fight. To my mind it makes no practical difference whether, as a matter of prehistoric fact, humans are or are not bodily descended from apes or other animals. I think most of the ‘conclusions’ that people derive from the theory (e.g. “see, everything is just a chemical reaction” or “humans are no different from other animals and non-quantitative observations are illusions”) are ridiculous on the face of them, and its quasi-dogmatical position in modern society means that I enjoy mocking it whenever I have the chance, but as a serious scientific theory, it’s mostly in the ‘none-of-my-business’ category.

That said, recently I’ve listened to more than one video where a priest or commentator has brought up a serious issue with it. At Lourdes, Our Lady said of herself “I am the Immaculate Conception.” That is, I am the (singular) Immaculate Conception. But, the argument goes, if Adam was conceived in the womb of an ape, he must have been conceived without original sin as well, since obviously no sin had been committed yet. Thus he would have been ‘an’ Immaculate Conception. And if it’s a choice between the best scientific minds in the world and the Mother of God, well, frankly she has a much better track record of being right than they do, so we must conclude that evolution is not real.

However, I don’t think it quite comes to that, for the following reason (speaking, of course, under correction, and with an idea that there are probably other solutions as well).

Genesis describes God as first forming Adam’s body before breathing life into him:

“And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7).

Now, this to my mind suggests that Adam was not born man, if he was born at all. That there was a period of time between when Adam came bodily into the world, formed ‘of the slime of the earth’, and when he ‘became a living soul’ in the image of God.

If we take evolution to be true, we can imagine that the creature that became Adam was born of its bestial mother in the normal course of nature, then at an appointed time was elevated by God to the state that had been prepared for him and became Man.

Nor do I think this even requires much of an interpretive stretch, since the phrase ‘formed man of the slime of the earth’ could easily, to my mind, accommodate the idea “was formed over millions of years of bestial, earthly nature.”

This staging has the added benefit of fitting well into the pattern of how God operates throughout the Scriptures, calling His chosen in youth or adulthood seemingly out of nowhere. It also would fit the pattern of the mirroring incident when Christ breathed the Holy Spirit into the Apostles, again taking men who are already one kind of thing and adding to it rather than creating ‘from scratch’ as it. Supernature building upon nature.

Of course, this would eliminate the whole problem, as Adam would then not have been immaculately conceived, since he would not then be in a state where ‘sin’ meant anything at all.

I daresay it creates problems of its own, but so it is. I only offer it for whatever it is worth. We’ll all find out the answer sooner or later.

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