March 12, 2013

The Mystery of God, The Creator

Catechism Paragraphs 279 – 324

“The mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  280  It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head ‘all things in (Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.’ (Eph 1:10) 1043   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?’  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.  282   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?  284   Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins.  The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason, even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error.  This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of the truth: ‘By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.’ 286   God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation.  287   Creation is revealed as the first step toward this covenant (with the Jewish people), the first and universal witness to God’s all-powerful love.” 288  

“The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father.  This creative cooperation is clearly affirmed in the Church’s rule of faith: ‘There exists but one God … he is the Father, God the Creator, the author, the giver of order.  He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom,’ ‘by the Son and the Spirit’ who, so to speak, are ‘his hands.’  Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.”  292  

“Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God.’   St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things, not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it, for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness.  293   The glory of God consists in  the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created.  God made us ‘to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.’ (Eph 1:5-6)  The ultimate purpose of creation is that God  ‘who is the creator of all things may at last become all in all, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and beatitude. (1Cor 15:28) 294   We believe (God’s creation) 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.’ (Rev 4:11) 295   Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them.”  (Cf Ps 51:12)   298  

“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   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.’ (Acts 17:28) 300   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.” 301  

“The universe was created in a state of journeying toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.  We call divine providence the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward his perfection.  302   Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: ‘Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat?  Or What shall we drink? … Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well’” (Ps 22; 32; 35) 305  

“God is the sovereign master of his plan.  But to carry it our he also makes use of his creatures’ cooperation.  This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness.  For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own … and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan.  306   God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ (Phil 2:13)  Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it.” 308 

“But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it?  … With infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world ‘in a state of journeying’ toward its ultimate perfection.  In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature.  With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.  310   Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love.  They can therefore go astray.  God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.  He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good out of it.  311   God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures.  From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that ‘abounded all the more’ (Cf Rom 5:20), brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption.  But for all that, evil never becomes a good.  312   We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him. (Rom 8:28) 313   Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God ‘face to face,’ will we fully know the ways by which --- even though through the dramas of evil and sin --- God has guided his creation to that definitive Sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.” 314

This last paragraph, above, is so well done.  The words I excerpted from the catechism tell clearly the Church’s teaching on the existence of good and evil in creation, a subject so confusing to so many --- especially at a time when evil or suffering enters their lives.  In their fears and sorrows, confusion reigns, but the catechism can clear the mists, for those who would seek to understand.

Can God do anything?  Is he almighty?  Anyone who calls on God in need believes that he is all-powerful.  God created the world out of nothing (science has never done this, nor ever will).  He is the Lord of history.  He guides all things and can do everything.  How he uses his omnipotence is of course a mystery.  Through the prophet Isaiah he tells us “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. (Is 55:8)”  YOUCAT Q40

Does science make the Creator superfluous?  The creation account is not a scientific model for explaining the beginning of the world.  “God created the world” is a theological statement that is concerned with the relation of the world to God.  God willed the world; he sustains it and will perfect it.  YOUCAT Q41

Can someone accept the theory of evolution and still believe in the Creator?  Yes, although it is a different kind of knowledge; faith is open to the findings and hypotheses of the sciences.  Theology has no scientific competence, and natural science has no theological competence.  Natural science cannot dogmatically rule out the possibility that there are purposeful processes in creation; conversely, faith cannot define specifically how these processes take place in the course of nature’s development.  A Christian can accept the theory of evolution as a helpful explanatory model, provided he does not fall into the heresy of evolutionism, which views man as the random product of biological processes.  EVOLUTION presupposes the existence of something that can develop.  The theory says nothing about where this “something” came from.  Just as “evolutionism” oversteps a boundary on the one side, so does CREATIONISM on the other.  Creationists naively take biblical data literally.  YOUCAT Q42

EVOLUTION: Viewed from a Christian perspective, evolution takes place as God’s continuous creation in natural processes. 

CREATIONISM: The idea that God himself by his direct action created the world all at once, as if the book of Genesis were an eyewitness account.

“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.  Each of us is the result of a thought of God.  Each of us is willed; each of us is loves; each of us is necessary.”  Pope Benedict XVI (Apr 4, 2005)

Next week we’ll look at all that God created:  angels, the visible world, and man.

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