How the Traditional Teaching of the Creation of the World Give Truth to the “New Creation" in Christ
Hugh Owen | The Daily Knight
One of the greatest stumbling blocks preventing Catholics from believing in the traditional doctrine of creation and the truth of the sacred history of Genesis is the widespread false teaching that only protestant fundamentalists read Genesis as a literal historical account of the creation and early history of the world. This error is reflected in the footnotes in most modern Catholic Bibles and even in modern translations of the Bible, but it is providentially excluded from the Douay Rheims translation of the Bible which is a faithful word for word translation of the Latin Vulgate, the Bible endorsed by the Council of Trent as being free from all error in faith or morals. In this newsletter I will show how the text of the first chapter of Genesis, the text of the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, and the decree of the Council of Trent on “justification” give a profound teaching on the supernatural character of the first creation of the world and on the supernatural character of the “new creation” in Christ that is achieved through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. I will also show how the denial of the supernatural character of the entire work of creation goes hand in hand with a denial of the truth that souls require the divine action of God to be saved and sanctified—and that they cannot be saved by their own faith or effort alone. I am indebted to our advisory council member Edward Razz for many of the insights and for much of the content of this newsletter.
The Supernatural Character of the First Creation and of the New Creation in Christ
The opening verses of Genesis read:
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved over the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).
The Spirit of God prepared the first creation while hovering over the waters. The heavens and the earth were not endowed with the potential to develop on their own into the cosmos that we see today. Only the supernatural divine action of God could use the material elements created on Day One of Creation Week to produce all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures during the Hexameron. Under the influence of Neo-Platonic philosophy, the early Church writer Origen believed that God only directly created spiritual beings in the beginning and that all of the animate and inanimate bodily creatures were brought into existence as penitential material prisons for spiritual beings who had sinned against the Creator. In the Middle Ages, the Albigensian-Catharist heretics revived a form of this error by asserting that God created the spiritual beings and the four elements in the beginning, but that Satan formed the four elements into all of the bodies of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, including the human body. To refute this error, the Fourth Lateran Council under Pope Innocent III defined dogmatically that God created all of the different kinds of spiritual and corporeal creatures at the beginning of time, thus defending the goodness of the material creation and the direct creation by God of all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures. We have seen that the Holy Ghost was directly involved in the creation of the different kinds of corporeal creatures, but the Spirit of God is no less involved with the new creation of believers through the waters of Baptism. If we are to believe what the Bible teaches, then Baptism is clearly the moment … 1. of the new creation, when 2. We are cleansed from sin. 3. We receive the Holy Spirit. 4. We are incorporated into the Body of Christ. 5. We are made “sons of God.” 6. We are born again. 7. We are first justified in God’s sight. If any one of these regeneration effects is produced by Baptism, then “faith alone” must be rejected. The only possible reason for denying baptismal regeneration is a bias towards “faith alone” or “instantaneous salvation” theology. If you put “faith alone” aside for a moment in your theological thinking, you’ll begin to see why St. Peter taught that “… Baptism now saveth you” in 1 Peter 3:21.
“Power To Become the Sons of God” or “Power to Be Made the Sons of God”?
In the now out-of-print TAN book by Thomas A. Nelson, entitled Which Bible Should You Read? the author demonstrates that the Douay Rheims Bible, as a faithful word-for-word translation of St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, is superior to all other English translations—and this is especially true in relation to the doctrine of creation and the distinction between the natural and supernatural. Nelson quotes St. John’s Gospel, Chapter 1, Verses 9 to 12, and offers a profound commentary:
That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. (DRB). (John 1:9-12, emphasis added).
This last emphasized verse of St. John contains in a pithy microcosm the entire theology of grace for the conversion of sinners. For actually, man does very little in his own conversion; it is mostly God’s (actual) grace at work to bring man to justification. (The reader should note that “justification” equals “conversion,” which equals “receiving Sanctifying Grace,” which equals “becoming an adopted child of God”—all of which takes place at Baptism.) Hear what the Council of Trent says, in this regard:
It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight. Hence, when it is said in the Sacred Writings: “Turn ye to me,. . . and I will turn to you” [Zacharias 1:3], we are reminded of our liberty; and when we reply: “Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted” [Lamentations 5:21], we confess that we need the grace of God. (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, 6th Sess., Chapter V, “Justification.” Emphasis added.)
The Council of Trent goes on to say that in performing a grace-filled act, the will of man is free to accept or reject God’s prevenient grace, which, if he accepts it, then moves him to accept Baptism. Now listen again to the 12th Verse of John 1: “But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name.” (Emphasis added).
The Latin Vulgate reads: “Quotquot (as many as) autem (But) receperunt (they received) eum (Him), dedit (He gave) eis (to them) potestatem (the power) filios (the sons) Dei (of God) fieri (to be made).” And this translation is literally the same as the Greek “original.” The Greek “original” reads: “Hosoi (As many as) dè (but) ’élabon (received) ’auton (Him) ’édo–ken (he gave) ’autois (to them) ’exousían (power) tékna (sons) Theou (of God) genésthai (to be made).” But hear now how the new Catholic Bibles and the Protestant Bibles translate this verse:
“Any who did accept him he empowered to become children of God.” (NAB, ’70, emphasis added). “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” (NAB, ’86, emphasis added). “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (CRSV, ’66, emphasis added). “But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God.” (JB, ’66, emphasis added). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (NKJV, ’85, emphasis added). “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (NIV, ’78, emphasis added). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (NASV, ’77, emphasis added). “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (NRSV, ’89, emphasis added). “But to all who did receive him, to those who have yielded him their allegiance, he gave the right to become children of God.” (NEB, ’76, emphasis added). Cassel’s Latin-English and English-Latin Dictionary gives “to be made” as the literal translation of the Latin passive infinitive fieri, and only a remote meaning of “to become.” And genésthai is the second aorist Greek infinitive of gígnomai, whose primary meaning is “to be made,” which is always a passive infinitive, and in English is translated “to be made” (a passive infinitive). Yet every one of the nine translations cited immediately above translates fieri and genésthai as “to become.” Only the Douay-Rheims says “to be made,” which is the primary, literal meaning of fieri and genésthai. Notice also that four Protestant versions (NKJV, NIV, NASV and NEB) translate the Greek exousían ’ and Latin potestatem (“the power”) as “the right,” another gratuitous, “creative” translation.
Holy Baptism of St. Vladmir of Kiev Some may argue that this discussion appears to be “straining out the gnat.” However, just the opposite is the case: far from being trivial, the poor translation of this passage from John 1:12 in all the non-Douay-Rheims versions shows, it would seem, both a certain arrogance toward the actual wording of the Bible, on the one hand, and on the other, an absence of regard for the precise theology of grace that St. John is expressing in this verse. Both the Greek word genésthai and the Latin word fieri are passive infinitives, which mean precisely, “to be made.” Now the Douay-Rheims Bible translates these two passive infinitives with the English passive infinitive “to be made.” The exact meaning of the Greek “original” and the Latin Vulgate translation thereof are retained perfectly by the Douay-Rheims. However, this verse is skewed by every other English version cited here. All nine of these popular English translations use an active infinitive (“to become”), rather than the passive infinitive (“to be made”), which is used by the original Greek, as if we could—after Christ’s initial help—change ourselves into children of God!
The First Creation and the New Creation
Now what exactly does all this have to do with the theology of creation? The Mosaic account of creation teaches that God created every kind of spiritual and corporeal creature instantly and immediately by an act of the Divine Will. He did not set in motion a natural process that would allow matter to come alive and develop into all of the different kinds of corporeal creatures. The divine, supernatural action of God was required to create each and every one of the different kinds of corporeal creatures. St. Thomas Aquinas affirms this categorically in the Summa where he explains that:
In the first production of corporeal creatures no transmutation from potentiality to act can have taken place, and accordingly, the corporeal forms that bodies had when first produced came immediately from God, whose bidding alone matter obeys, as its own proper cause. To signify this, Moses prefaces each work with the words, “God said, ‘Let this thing be,’ or ‘that,’ to denote the formation of all things by the Word of God . . . (emphasis added) ST, I, q. 65, a. 4.
When a human being is justified and made pleasing to God by the infusion of sanctifying grace in Holy Baptism, this act of sanctification is completely divine. In an instant, the baptized person’s nature is divinized and he becomes a sharer in the divine nature by grace, so that if he remains in the state of grace and cooperates with the grace of God in his actions he will be transformed into the perfect likeness of Christ.
In one way this is similar to what happens to lower life-forms, and in another way it is not. When God created the original ancestors of all coconut trees on Day Three of Creation Week, those trees needed only the natural requirements for life to achieve perfection according to their nature and to become fully productive coconut trees whose seeds, in turn, would produce coconut trees of the same nature. No further divine creative action was needed, except for the divine action of holding all things in existence, which is necessary for the existence of all created beings. The new creation of baptized believers as children of God is similar in the sense that only God’s divine action through Baptism can make them partakers of the divine nature. However, the development of the baptized believer into a perfected saint requires his moment-by-moment cooperation with divine grace. It is not enough for him to receive the necessities of natural life. By holding that God created some matter in the beginning and simply allowed that matter to develop on its own into the first living cell and into all of the different kinds of living things, up to and including the human body, the theistic evolutionist ascribes to matter a power that belongs only to God. But that is not all. The same error leads him to easily make the much more serious error of thinking that souls can “become” children of God through their own efforts, apart from divine grace. And this error, in turn, easily leads to the truly monstrous error of thinking that the baptized person’s choices—so long as they are made “in good conscience”—will be pleasing to God, whether or not they correspond to God’s grace and to the authentic teaching of the Church. Through the prayers of the Mother of God, may the Holy Ghost deliver us from every error against the Faith and keep us always faithful to His divine grace! Yours in Christ through the Immaculata in union with St. Joseph, Hugh Owen P.S. We have decided to hold our 2022 annual leadership retreat at the headquarters of the Apostolate for Family Consecration in Bloomingdale, Ohio, again this year, from Sunday, August 28, until Saturday, September 3. For more information or to obtain a registration form, please email me at email@example.com.