I Believe in One God…Creator (Part 1)

This meme is making its way around social media and it expresses the result of a very interesting meeting between a priest and a scientist.

Father Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966), a Belgian priest and mathematician had a keen interest in physics and mathematics. He studied at the Catholic University of Louvain and received his PhD in physics and mathematics in 1920. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1923. He then went on to study astronomy at the University of Cambridge, followed by further studies at Harvard and MIT. In 1931, Father Lemaitre presented a scientific paper which outlined what would become known as the “Big Bang Theory,” a theory about the beginning of creation, time and space which has been described as “a day without yesterday.” This theory found support in 1998 when scientists at Berkeley confirmed that the universe was indeed expanding at an increasing rate: “discovery which has since "shaken astronomy to its core" In January 1933, both Lemaitre and Einstein traveled to California for a series of seminars. After the Belgian detailed his theory, Einstein stood up, applauded, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened." Duncan Aikman covered these seminars for the New York Times Magazine. An article about Lemaitre appeared on February 19, 1933, and featured a large photo of Einstein and Lemaitre standing side by side. The caption read, "They have a profound respect and admiration for each other." (Astronomy, October 1999).” (CatholicEducation.org)

Father Lemaitre was able to look at the universe through the glasses of the physicist, the mathematician, and the man of faith. He was able to explore the cosmos, the universe through those lenses. In the same way, in the first story of creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4) the sacred author is able to look at the creation of the universe as a whole, recounting the creation of the earth, of water, of the sky, of the plants and animals and humanity. The Priestly author of this portion of Genesis is indeed looking at the larger picture of the whole universe. He recounts the omnipotence of God, His creative power, and the effects of His divine Word as the different elements of the universe came into being. The first chapter of Genesis is presented to us through the eyes of faith, the eyes of the science of theology in which the sacred author detects the hand of God.

We remember that this depiction is geared toward the knowledge and mind of those who lived in the six centuries before the birth of Jesus. Their scientific knowledge was different than ours, but the revelation of a loving, good and just Creator was a unique and divinely inspired event: no other ancient culture possessed this sort of revelation. Today we are often confronted with a false choice: do we believe in science or in the revelation of God? The photo of a priest-scientist and a theoretical physicist puts the lie to the perception that faith and science must, of necessity, be at odds. Both the science of physics and the science of theology aim at the same thing: objective truth. As such, they cannot really be at odds. God is Truth and the creator of all things, so it is reasonable to believe that we can discover much about or God and Creator by studying His creation.

Pope Saint John Paul II referred to this perceived modern dilemma in his catechesis on God the Father and Creator:

The question about creation surfaces in everyone's mind, the simple and learned alike. The roots of modern science are closely linked to the biblical truth about creation, even though the relationship between the two has not always been harmonious. In our own day the mutual relationship between scientific and religious truth is better understood. Many scientists have assumed an attitude of increasing respect for the Christian view of creation…” (General Audience, Wednesday, 8 January 1986)