Evolution of understanding


From: John Rupkey

I recently read the following statement: “The popular modern belief that truth can evolve is absurd. If any truth can change, then it cannot be God’s truth, which, of course, is unchanging.”

This is confusing, because this statement doesn’t distinguish between God’s truth, which is unchanging, and our understanding of God’s truth, which evolves.”

When I was a Catholic schoolchild I was taught the creation story in Genesis is literal history. Since then Catholic understanding of the Bible has evolved. Today Catholic schoolchildren are taught that the Genesis creation story is a divinely inspired myth. The way God creates never changes, but our understanding has evolved.

The same is true in moral issues. The natural law, which reflects God’s eternal law, never changes. But our understanding of the natural law evolves as our understanding of human nature evolves.

In fact, in order to more perfectly reflect God’s eternal law, our understanding of the natural law not only can evolve, but it must evolve.

If our understanding of what is moral didn’t evolve, Catholics would still be burning heretics at the stake.

What then are we to think of those whose understanding of the natural law doesn’t evolve over the years as our understanding of human nature does evolve? Their moral judgment remains fixed and unchanging, because they think their present understanding of the eternal law is infallible or inerrant.

They are the ones who unwittingly inhibit the continuing advancement of moral understanding among humans. They sometimes unwittingly facilitate injustice.

It naturally follows that as time goes by, those who think like this will become increasingly less reflective of our understanding of God’s moral judgment, and their moral judgment will become increasingly irrelevant and non-moral.

An excellent example of this is the moral judgment of the Catholic bishops in various issues such as birth control.

The popular religious belief that as we go through life our understanding of moral issues shouldn’t evolve is absurd.


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