SESSION 1—14 February
The Church and Creation
I. WHAT WE BELIEVE—THE CATECHISM (
Why belief in Creation is fundamental to faith
282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves: "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" The two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.
283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: "It is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements. . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me."
284 The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent and good Being called "God"? And if the world does come from God's wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?
290 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara – always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.
291 "In the beginning was the Word. . . and the Word was God. . . all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made." The New Testament reveals that God created everything by the eternal Word, his beloved Son. In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth.. . all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." The Church's faith likewise confesses the creative action of the Holy Spirit, the "giver of life", "the Creator Spirit" (Veni, Creator Spiritus), the "source of every good".
295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all"; and "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made."
God creates "out of nothing"
296 We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance. God creates freely "out of nothing":
If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.(St. Theophilus of Antioch)
God creates an ordered and good world
299 Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: "You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight." The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of the invisible God", is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the "image of God" and called to a personal relationship with God.152 Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work. Because creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "And God saw that it was good. . . very good"- for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world.
God transcends creation and is present to it.
300 God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens." Indeed, God's "greatness is unsearchable".But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures' inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our being." In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self".
God upholds and sustains creation.
301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:
For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living
II. THE BIBLE AND CREATION
A. There are two creation stories in Genesis: the creation of the world (1:1-19); the Fall (2:4-3:24). The first was written/ redacted later (about 450 BC, after the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon) and may have been inspired by the Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish;
Differences between Genesis and Enuma Elish accounts of Creation:
One God, Creation out of love*
Many Gods, creation resulting from fights,wars
Story begins with creation of world and man
Story begins with quarrels amongst the gods
Universe created from chaos..void
Universe created from corpse of dead god
Man created to love God
Man created to do work for gods
*"(God) looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good."
B. Other Biblical references to Creation: Psalms declare the glory of God’s Creations (see Psalm 19, particularly); Book of Wisdom (see especially Wisdom 13:5); Isaiah (see 45:7, 45:12, 65:17); Sirach (see especially Sirach 18:1, and writings of St. Augustine).
ST. AUGUSTINE AND
St. Augustine held that God created the universe from nothing. Two fundamental (and surprisingly modern) notions were introduced by Augustine: based on Sirach 18, Creation was instantaneous (6 days were a metaphorical device); not all animal forms were present initially at creation—for some, the potential or seed to develop later in a different form was given initially. St. Augustine argued that time began with the creation. He also stressed that one should not use Scripture to contradict what reason and experience ("Science") tells us about the world:
"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."(De Genesi ad litteram; the Literal Meaning of Genesis, an unfinished work.)
ST. THOMAS AND CREATION.
St. Thomas ("The Angelic Doctor") argued that true Creation is neither a movement, nor change, so that with Augustine, he concludes that Creation was "ex nihilo" (out of nothing). (This view of Creation does not necessarily require a beginning in time—i.e. the universe could be eternal and still be created.) Moreover, all things are kept in existence by the continuous creation of God. Were this not so, they would cease to exist. He looked to the Scripture to explain Creation, but distinguished between those scriptural writings that belong of "their very nature (per se) to the substance of the faith and other things which only in the circumstances (per accidens) pertain to the faith" (see first web reference, Msgr. John McCarthy, Roman Theological Forum).
V. CARDINAL RATZINGER: A CONTEMPORY CATHOLIC VIEW OF CREATION.
Scripture, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, is not meant to be a textbook of science. Rather, it is a tool to strengthen faith. Genesis is but the first step in a scriptural road that explains Creation. The Old Testament points to the New Testament, and for the Christian, the definitive account of Creation at the beginning of John’s Gospel. Cardinal Ratzinger argues strongly against the materialistic view that the universe and man are the result of random chance.