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Keywords:

  • angels;
  • animals;
  • evolution;
  • graced nature;
  • human distinctiveness;
  • image-bearing;
  • rational soul

Abstract Although official Roman Catholic teaching affirms the concept of evolution as a convincing theory in order to explain the biological origin of different life forms, there is still a strong insistence on an “ontological gap” between human beings and all other creatures. This paper investigates how best to interpret that gap while still affirming human evolution. Drawing on medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas, I seek to uncover the influence of Aristotelian ideas on the rational soul. I will argue for the crucial importance of divine grace in consideration of divine image-bearing bearing so that while other animals share in the likeness of God, only humans, like angels, bear God's image. Such an approach does not provide any justification for the denigration of other creatures. Rather, the possibility of a further transformation of human nature, deification, and thus into the likeness of God depends on Christ as the one who bears the image of God perfectly, and the Spirit, who enables such a transformation in human subjects.