Wolfgang Smith, Intelligent Design, & Theistic Evolution

Wolfgang Smith Painted PortraitDiscovering the work of Wolfgang Smith is an invigorating intellectual and spiritual experience. It is a remarkably brilliant synthesis of Catholic orthodoxy, perennial wisdom, and authentic scientific discovery received and chronicled by a single mind. I am indebted to Smith’s influence for several reasons, and one of these reasons is that his intellectual vision and erudition allowed me to see just how vitally important it is to courageously adhere to a biblical cosmogony and cosmology while standing against a modernistic militancy that virulently spurns the Apostolic deposit of faith.

One of the most controversial aspects of Smith’s work is his rejection and refutation of the Teilhardian heresy of theistic evolution so prevalent among the intellectual elite in the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy. In fact, it is his stance against the modernist darling Teilhard de Chardin that most likely kept Smith out of the mainstream limelight of Thomistic scholars. But having the opportunity to read Smith’s work and get to know him personally reveals the fact that Smith is his own man, an intellectual rebel with a cause who loves truth more than accolades.

Smith’s work has been my reentry into the world of the origins debates, and until reading his views I did not properly understand just how important this debate actually is. In fact, it can be argued that everything associated with Catholic orthodoxy hangs on this single battle. If the revelation of biblical origins is undermined then there is no limit to what also can be undermined due to the illusory need to adjust doctrine according to “scientific discovery.” Instead of giving in to the relentless pressure of this error, Christians must never waver from the truth that Christ is the exemplar of created reality revealed to us in the Sacred Page. We have no right to alter this revelation in order to feel comfortable among a culture that worships the idol of scientism.

The reality of Christ as the Incarnate Word of God presupposes the revelation of orthodox creation theology.

To put this bluntly, classic Darwinian and neo-Darwinian evolution is an enemy of the Church and the deposit of faith we are commanded to proclaim in the name of Christ. Moreover, theistic evolution is nothing more than a theological surrender to the materialism of neo-Darwinian hegemony in the culture. It is a compromise that no faithful Catholic can make if fidelity to our Divine Master is what shapes our lives.

With that having been said, I recently received the newly released anthology of scholarly articles critiquing the position of theistic evolution titled, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. To be sure, Smith has already accomplished a thorough refutation of this heterodox position in his work, Theistic Evolution: The Teilhardian Heresy, but this anthology is a welcome systematic dismantling of the most fundamental pillars of an unlawful marriage between Darwin and Jerusalem.

A noticeable strength of this anthology is that it clearly identifies the key problems with the theistic evolutionary position.

These twelve differences are highlighted:


  1. Adam and Eve were not the first human beings (and perhaps they never even existed.)
  2. Adam and Eve were born from human parents.
  3. God did not act directly or specially to create Adam out of dust from the ground.
  4. God did not directly create Eve from a rib taken from Adam’s side.
  5. Adam and Eve were never sinless human beings.
  6. Adam and Eve did not commit the first human sins, for human beings were doing morally evil things long before Adam and Eve.
  7. Human death did not begin as a result of Adam’s sin, for human beings existed long before Adam and Even and they were always subject to death.
  8. Not all human beings have descended from Adam and Eve, for there were thousands of other human beings on Earth at the time that God chose two of them as Adam and Eve.
  9. God did not directly act in the natural world to create different “kinds” of fish, birds, and land animals.
  10. God did not “rest” from his work of creation or stop any special creative activity after plants, animals, and human beings appeared on the earth.
  11. God never created an originally “very good” natural work in the sense of a world that was a safe environment, free of thorns and thistles and similar harmful things.
  12. After Adam and Eve sinned, God did not place any curse on the world that changed the workings of the natural world and made it more hostile to mankind.[1]

These theistic evolutionary positions should strike any serious Christian as problematic due to their explicit denials of Genesis’s teachings.

While there are many strengths that can be taken from this anthology there are also weaknesses. A major weakness is to implicitly grant legitimacy to the neo-Darwinian schema by accepting the evolutionary timeline in the realms of cosmology and geology. The textbook attempts to take a position of neutrality regarding the “age of the earth” by stating,

“This book is not about the age of the earth. We are aware that many sincere Christians hold a ‘young earth’ position (the earth is perhaps ten thousand years old), and many others hold an ‘old earth’ position (the earth is 4.5 billion years old). This book does not take a position on that issue, nor do we discuss it at any point in the book.”[2]

However, this declaration of neutrality is immediately exposed as an impossibility in the subsequent footnote attached to the paragraph highlighted above:

“However, the science chapters that argue a Darwinian explanation of the fossil record operate within the commonly assumed chronological framework of hundreds of millions of years for the earth’s geological strata. We recognize that Christians who hold a young earth view would assume a different chronological framework.”[3]

While I am sympathetic of the desire to not focus on the “age of the earth” controversies, the chronology of natural history pertaining to origins demands that a position be taken. And if we are going to make arguments emphasizing fidelity to Sacred Scriptures then we must remain vigilant to what is taught therein; to this end it becomes clear that the Bible will not allow for any meaningful exegesis granting legitimacy to the evolutionary timescale of billions of years. Every attempt to do so is to commit an act of eisegesis, that is, forcing modern scientific categories into the pages of the Bible rather than letting the categories of divine revelation shape our thinking about cosmogony, cosmology, and natural history.

Again, what does Darwin have to do with Jerusalem?

This is where the brilliance and integrity of Wolfgang Smith’s work becomes apparent. Contrary to the trend among influential Thomists, Smith admirably allies with many of the theoretical postulations advanced by the Intelligent Design movement because they are in fact true, but he does not ignore important areas of theological and philosophical disagreement; he pushes the boundaries of these controversies into the realm of perennial wisdom and Catholic orthodoxy, therefore emphatically finalizing the burial of scientism, materialism, and methodological naturalism.

Theistic evolution is a compromise Catholics cannot afford make in order to try and make peace with the modern world. We must choose this day whom we will serve, and in so doing commit ourselves to defeating the tenets of an atheistic worldview looking to undermine the Divine Logos. Wolfgang Smith leads the way to that end, and this newly released anthology of scholarly articles is an important contribution to the project.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] This list is taken from Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, Edited by J.P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, Pg. 72, 73

[2] Ibid, Pg. 62

[3] Ibid Pg. 62, 63

6 thoughts on “Wolfgang Smith, Intelligent Design, & Theistic Evolution

  1. About two years ago I found a book called “Original Sin in the light of Modern Science” by Rev. Patrick O’Connell, B.D., with Nihil Obstat: Robert J. Dwyer. D.D.,Ph.D and Imprimatur: same as above, with Copyright 1973 by W. Doyle Gilligan, and still available. After reading Mr.Wolfgang-Smith, it seems to me that it may be good for both the information from the book of Rev. O’Connell and the reading of Mr.Wolfgang-Smith be read together, but then, at my age I may be wrong. Thanks for letting me post here. +JMJ+

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  2. I do not understand Wolfgang Smith’s beliefs on the Creation of Man; the explanation here makes them sound radically different from Catholic doctrine, but does not explain in any detail Is there any detailed explanation online?
    This sounds like a Bible Christian theory of the literal truth of the Bible. Is that correct?
    There is a frequent contributor to the Yahoo Discussion Group called “Thomism” who expounds a theory of the Genesis account of Creation which attempts to simultaneously be in accord with detailed observations in modern cosmology (but not at all with modern theories of cosmology). His theory sounds like what you are advocating. The contributor uses the account name/pen name “Ptolemy”. I have no detailed written account of his theory either, but if you reply to one of his posts to that Group, he will be happy to talk with you.

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  3. I wanted to be clear – I have no problems with Smith’s discussion of scientism as Modernistic pseudo-religion. I simply had no idea what sort of literalist interpretation of the book of Genesis you are advocating. As far as I know, Catholic doctrine does not require that the first human beings were named “Adam” and “Eve”.
    The blogger that expounds the book of Genesis as scientifically accurate in detail, on the Thomism discussion group, has pen name “ptolemy1022”.

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  4. Also, I agree with the Church that Teilhard de Chardin advocated was a mixture of science, an extreme Darwinism, and a Hegelian idealism. Itis notconsistent with Catholic teaching. Let’s hope and pray that Pope Francis will not press this modern paganism on the Church in order e.g. to make Teilhard de Chardin’s notions into a “Catholic” form of the Gaia theory.

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