What does the Pope mean when he says God isn't a "divine being"?

In his speech the other day about Evolution, Creation, and the Big Bang, Pope Francis stated that God isn’t a divine being or magician, he is the creator (that’s not an exact quotation, obviously). I understand the magician and creator part, but not the “not a divine being” part. I have received some flak from some non-Catholic family and friends (not to mention what the general public is saying). Any help would be immensely beneficial! I am at a loss as to what to say. Thanks!

Please, what is the exact quotation and its context? Not the media’s summary.

Those who have followed Pope Francis know that the expanded context is crucial for understanding his message.

Sorry, my bad. He was addressing the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences a few days ago which had gathered to discuss “Evolving Topics of Nature,”. Here is the quote.

***"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything — but that is not so.

He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.

He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things.

God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."***

In my humble observation, “being” is a human philosophical description that could apply to both God
and humans – but – we cannot stop our thinking at that point. Pope Francis is clear that there is a difference between God’s Being and the human being. Do you see what I see?

What helped me was that I had to look up the word demiurge which begins with a capital letter in my dictionary. Demiurge is a deity in Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and other religions who creates the material world and is often viewed as the originator of evil. You may be familiar with the constant war between two gods, one good, the other evil.

God is not a divine Demiurge being. The first sentence is dramatically clear that God is not a divine human magician being.

The first sentence in the quoted part of the Pope’s address states a valid warning. The Pope then illustrates this warning and emphasizes this warning by insisting that God is the Creator. Not a material being that has been upgraded.

Ah, I think I see. So when he says that God is not a divine being, “divine being” is referring to a Demiurge being which he speaks of in the sentence before?

Yes, more or less. The Pope never actually said “divine being”. That’s the best translation that the translators came up with (I guess) to the Pope’s use of “demiurgo”. What the Pope said is that God is not some demiurge or some magician, but THE Creator.

“…proprio perché Dio non è un demiurgo o un mago, ma il Creatore”.


This makes a world of difference. Apparently, the old cliche happens to be true: a lot can be lost in translation!

I think all the English translations we have are unofficial, and therefore anything questionable like Pope Francis saying God’s not a divine being should be taken with a grain of salt. Personally I suspect he meant God isn’t a “divine being” in the sense that the pagan gods or the Demiurge of the Gnostics were supposed to be, but rather THE Creator of all things, including the natural processes and laws.

The problem with Pope Francis is he actually DOES say some stuff that has people scratching their heads.

If BXVI has been quoted thus, everyone would immediately assume a bad translation…

But c’mon, this one was a dead giveaway tho I understand why the OP would post this thread. But when I read it I chuckled, too.

“Oh, so the Pope is not only pro-Abortion but is an atheist, too?”

Yeah, I actually think there are those in the media that would like us all to believe just that.

Ah. I see. I see. Thank you tremendously! :smiley:

As I said…in my humble observation … Yes. We need to understand that the being part of the description “divine being” does refer to a Demiurge being or a human being. With all the emphasis on the contrast between a Demiurge or magician and the Creator, Pope Francis is saying that God is different. Pay attention folks. God does not need a magic wand.

Here is another approach to the Pope’s statement:
God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.

We can put this statement in the context of Catholic doctrines, especially Genesis 1:1 which is professed in the creed said during Sunday Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There is nothing in the address which says that Pope Francis denies the fact that God is the Creator. Being the Creator, by definition, means that God is not the same as His creatures. Created beings do not have the power to create the material universe. Nor do created beings have the power to create the rational spiritual soul. Genesis 1: 26-27.

When someone objects to referring to Catholic doctrines as if these doctrines, in turn, have to be proven, my reply would be the question – Is the Pope Catholic?

Yes, all of the English translations are unofficial at this point.

The official English translation will likely be here on the Vatican website:


The speech is from Monday, October 27th. Generally, the English translations go up about a week afterwards. So sometime early next week, there will probably be a better translation available at the above link.

But even so, you can see from the Italian, that “demiurge” is probably a better translation than “Divine being.” And, even apart from that, it is pretty clear from the context that Pope Francis is not denying God’s divine personhood.

You just presented my favorite Catholic pet peeve. It is the assumption that Catholics in general will always recognize the underlying Catholic doctrine.

Quick commercial.

I got sick to death of hearing various* Papa Francesco said what?!* stories, and so I bought a book of his to understand how he thinks. When I saw the title of this thread, I instantly smelled a rat, perhaps partly based on some of the reading I’ve done from the book.

I’d like to recommend the book, because it’s really quite beautiful, incredibly Scriptural, and really communicates the thought of a man who knows Christ. Here’s a link: amazon.com/Open-Mind-Faithful-Heart-Reflections/dp/0824519973

One of my favorite quotes from what I’ve read so far: “Our humility is born of our consciousness of how frequently we have sinned against the Gospel.”

Isn’t that a Vatican translation? They are the source of many of these problems themselves. They should hire someone who knows that the translation of “demiurgo” is “demiurge”?

No, The Crossroad Publishing Company owns the translation copyright.

It’s not. But even if it was, translation to English is very hard and less exact as other languages.

There is a reason why English is the hardest language for non-native speakers to learn to speak and why it’s harder for native English speakers to learn other spoken languages than it is for non-English speakers to learn other languages.

I am curious as to where did you got that translation. Here is the actual Spanish version of what the pope did say: muscatolica.com/2014/10/27/papa-francisco-el-big-bang-y-la-evolucion-no-contradicen-la-intervencion-de-dios/

If you can understand spaniah and you look at the paragraph that he is talking about evolution what he said is not what you are posting. What he said was that the universe did just not show up out of chaos but it came due to the action of a supreme being. I don’t think you are reading what the pope actually said but the personal summary of someone or what the media thinks he said. I would recommend you to look at the actual church statement of what he said.

Note nowhere he says that gos is not a divine being.

A demiurgo is more of the new age concept of the “universe”. That is what means when he says that the big bang does not come out of the chaos of the universe out of nothing. In the new age the concept of god is replaces by the concept of this “divine universe” that we are part and that make us divine and Gods ourselves. It is totally a new age concept that he isbrefering to. Basically he iabsaying God is not the new age concept neither the agnostic concept.

But God can do everything…

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