“No one likes to be called stupid.” This statement spoken to me by a parish catechist attending a seminar I was presenting on The Story of Salvation provided me with a moment of clarity and grace. This catechist was hoping I could provide a way to speak about the accounts of Creation in Genesis that would deliver the truth without “looking stupid”. I had made the catechetical points and the catechist had accepted and acknowledged these. The question was not the faith of the catechist or her own assent to that faith. Neither did the question reflect timidity in proclaiming the Good News. The question was addressing the aspect of catechesis that is very real and perhaps the most daunting; how is the truth delivered to a culture which rejects the basic premise proposed? Perhaps even more to the point: how does a catechist respond, especially in areas where, in popular opinion, science or research seems to disprove, or at least test the credibility of the Word of God. When creation is proposed for belief, the response of the listener often contains terms such as “myth”, “story”, “childish”, “naïve” or just plain “stupid”. And no one likes to be called stupid.
Does a catechist need to know the scientific theories on evolution, quantum physics or genetics? Is it enough to understand how to read Sacred Scripture and that the account of creation was never meant to provide a scientific or even historical explanation of the origin of creation, including man? Perhaps we are not asking the right questions. The question to be addressed is whether the catechist has the confidence to propose the truth in a reasonable and intelligent way. The catechist needs to understand the difference between science and theology and how these two distinct threads of knowing are used in tapestry of God’s design to reveal his truth and glory and our salvation.