However, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a decision more than a century ago that is helpful, titled “Concerning the Historical Nature of the First Three Chapters of Genesis” (1909). It is worth reading:
- The first three chapters of Genesis contain narratives of real events, no myths, no mere allegories or symbols of religious truths and no legends.
- In regard to those facts, which touch the foundations of the Christian religion, the literal historical sense is to be adhered to. Such facts are, inter alia [among other things], the creation of all things by God in the beginning of time and the special creation of humanity.
- It is not necessary to understand all individual words and sentences, in the literal sense. Passages that are variously interpreted by the Fathers and by theologians may be interpreted according to one’s own judgment with the reservation, however, that one submits one’s judgment to the decision of the Church and to the dictates of the faith.
- As the sacred writer had not the intention of representing with scientific accuracy the intrinsic constitution of things and the sequence of the works of creation, but of communicating knowledge in a popular way suitable to the idiom and to the pre-scientific development of his time, the account is not to be regarded or measured as if it were couched in language that is strictly scientific.
- The word “day” need not be taken in the literal sense of a natural day of 24 hours, but can also be understood in the improper sense of a longer space of time.
So there it is: Genesis is real, but not a science text. God created all things, and humans special. We may judge carefully on our own, as long as we remain faithful to the magisterium, should a decree on evolution ever be issued — and there will no such decree as long as the answers are ambiguous.
Meanwhile, say something like this to your kids: “Dinosaurs lived before Adam and Eve. You have been taught about how God created plants and animals before he created man and woman. Well, there is much more to the story. Scientists have learned about fossils, taxonomy, anatomy and genetics, all subjects you will learn in time. Be excited; it is mind-blowing to explore how God designed nature!”
We cannot know all the ways that God creates — indeed, there is a hubris and an impropriety in declaring that we can know God’s every decree — but we can have fun learning science in the light of faith.