Youth Ministry Exercise: Evolution and Faith
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
As the evolution debate heats up, it is time for an exercise in understanding what evolution teaches us.
Explain to your youth that Evolution shows us a scientific law on which faith is based.
"Our ability to perceive reality is limited by our biology."
What this means is that we can only perceive a limited amount of the reality around us. This is a key aspect of Catholic teaching.
Why can we not see angels, or guardian angels? Many say that is because they do not exist. Others say, it is because they are invisible.
Yet, what does invisible mean? Invisibility is the trait possessed by something that makes it impossible for the human eye to perceive it. The world teaches that invisibility indicates non-existence. Yet, Jesus who taught this principle never taught that materialistic agenda. Indeed, he says that like the wind, the Spirit blows as He wills. The affects of the wind are seen, but not the wind itself. A tree blowing in the wind does so because of the wind. We can see the tree moving, but we cannot see the wind moving it. Using the eyes of faith, one can see the effects of the Spirit, but not The Spirit Himself. For example, we can see people do things such as attend mass, receive the Eucharist, be charitable, all of which are attributed to the actions of the Holy Spirit in a person's life. We cannot, however, see the Holy Spirit.
Now that said, try this experiment.
Have your youth stand outside in pairs.
Have each member of each pair stand about six feet apart and looking towards each other.
Ask both members of each pair to note aloud all the things they can see. (clouds, sun, parking lot, church, trees, grass, etc.) Now, remind the youth that between each member of each pair is what appears to be empty space.
Ask them now to note all the things that they cannot see including air. What else is there: (microbes riding on the wind, radio waves, dust, light, radioactive particles, atoms, electrons, sound waves, and more.)
Now explain to your students that the ancients at the time understood the principles of matter and energy for it was Aristotle who first described them. The descriptions were primitive but adequate for the time. Aristotle taught that what we describe as atoms were little bits of what he called elements like fire or water. We have since learned that he was not completely right, atoms do exist, but they are not made of fire or water, etc. However, we still use Artistotle's terms of atoms and elements.
Jesus in the fourth chapter of John describes God as spirit and indicates that we worship in spirit and in truth.
The Spirit is not defined within the same field of physics as are the terms atoms and molecules. Indeed, physicists generally do not work with the term at all.
Now go back to your experiment in the backyard. Explain to the youth that if they are capable of sensing only a limited amount of that which is made of atoms and molecules, can they say for certain that there is nothing between each member of each pair besides that which is made of atoms and molecules? What about angels, could they be there too? Ask what they think? Remember, they can only sense those things that are made up of atoms and their molecules that are large enough or solid enough to be perceived. Further, no one can sense spirit. However, that does not mean that spirit is not there.
Explain to your students that evolution teaches that through various forces in nature, our biology changes to help our race adapt to changing environments. Yet, that same process also indicates that our ability to perceive is limited to a specific amount of physical realities in nature. Jesus teaches us that much of what truly exists and that we cannot perceive is far greater than what we can perceive.
Now go back to your bible and read to the youth, or have one of the youth read aloud the first chapter of the gospel of John. Notice that the word "light" refers to the wisdom of God. Such light, which enlightens our minds, leads us through faith to understand the reality around us and to understand how to live within it. We do that by listening to Jesus who teaches us about those things that we cannot perceive and then studying and understanding those things in our world that we can perceive.
Now, go to Romans 12 and read verses 1-2 to the youth and ask them what it means to have a renewal in their minds in light of what they have just learn about evolution and faith. Finish by reading the whole chapter.
Next up: Using Evolution to Understand God's Law.
http://www.revrobertjcarr.com MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Catholic Priest, 617 625-0029
youth ministry, evolution, faith
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