A recent Gallup Poll revealed that nearly half of Americans believe in a fairly strict version of creationism, and that “theistic evolution” is apparently on the decline. Believers and nonbelievers alike often find it difficult to reconcile evolution with theism. Thus, there is a tendency to admit only one or the other.

Not being a scientist, I can only timorously comment on anything pertaining to science. Theology and philosophy are, however, somewhat more familiar, so I offer the following reflection.

A more sound notion of Providence holds that God guides all things suaviter et fortiter , suavely yet firmly, sweetly yet strongly. Christians needn’t fear that conceding some evolutionary process is the camel’s nose in the tent, leading inexorably to atheism. (Similarly, nonbelievers should realize that evolution is, rationally, not a “disproof” of God’s existence).

This principle (let’s call it “the suavity of God’s providence”) has a wider application than the generation of the material world. On reflection, it provides great relief to those anxious to discover God’s will in any sphere–an anxiety, when one scratches beneath the surface, that is usually due to the unfortunate view that God’s action or causality is in competition with human action or causality. Nothing , however insignificant or complex, falls outside of the scope of God’s loving plan. God, more interior to us than we are to ourselves (and by extension, to all of creation), moves even free agents to act without violating their freedom. Univocal agents (on the same plane of being) only act on one another exteriorly (or, so to speak, “violently”). God, from whom our being and our ability to act is derived, wills that his ordered plan for the good of the universe unfold through the contingent (free and dependent) activity of creation.

Fatalistic determinism and deistic “autonomism” are the ditches on either side of the road. God’s interaction with creation does not remove human responsibility or freedom. Neither did the Creator simply set the ball in motion and then recline to watch with amusement as history unfolds.

There’s much more that could be said, of course. But in a word, He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Articles by Sebastian White O.P.

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