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Cosmology and Creation: The Spiritual Significance of Contemporary Cosmology . Paul Brockelman. Oxford University Press USA ().
Table of contents

To the consideration that God creates not out of necessity, but for love, one must add that God creates also for His glory. Through the human person, who gratuitously received the seal of such filiation, the whole of creation can give glory to the Father, in the Son and with the communion of the Holy Spirit. In response to the Kantian objection regarding a supposed "egoism of God," one can answer in underlining that the glory of God and the good of the creature coincide, in as much as there is no other good for the human person than that of participating in the communion of Trinitarian relationships as sons in the Son.

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From the very circumstance of his origin man is already invited to converse with God. For man would not exist were he not created by God's love and constantly preserved by it; and he cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and devotes himself to His Creator" Gaudium et spes , n. In a history of freedom marked by the fall of an original sin, this call develops into a history of virtues and faults, implies the acceptance of finitude and death, and has to undergo the logic of a "new creation" see below, VI.

As a consequence of the negation of dualism, Christian faith in the goodness of creation states the conviction that omnipotence belongs solely to good and not to evil. God created everything good cf. DH : it is not the world or matter which are opposed to God, but sin. The relationships between the Creator and the creature are marked by providence, because the radical distinction that God has from the world does not prevent Him from taking care of it.

Goodness and perfection of creation indicate that the world is also, in its specific order, perfect and complete.

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This does not mean that God could not have created things in a different way. To clarify this serves to guarantee the full liberty of the Creator, because a universe possessing an absolute, not a relative perfection, might limit the power of the divine action, binding it to a unique and necessary creative project. Affirming a relative, not absolute perfection of the world ultimately strengthens the distinction between God and the world, because a most perfect and necessary universe would finish by assuming the philosophical attributes of the Absolute cf.

Only in a "relatively perfect" creation God can freely give Himself to the creature and love creation gratuitously. In relation to physical cosmology, the possibility that the universe had its origin in the rapid and inflationary expansion of many independent space-time domains, a multi-universe in which ours would be only one out of many, would not invalidate either the relative perfection of creation, or the unity of the creation. Although in a more complex logic and still to be clarified, all these possible domains, whatever their individual cosmic evolution may be, would belong to the same creative plan and would depend upon the same action with which God creates everything from nothing.

To the God Creator of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, invoked as our Father who are in Heaven , one can associate a "familiar" and a "cosmic" dimension, the idea of nearness and that of holiness, the character of being transcendent and that of having an immanent presence in all things cf. Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity , San Francisco Both these dimensions ought in the end to subsist in every image of God capable of nourishing an authentic religious relationship.

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A God totally unable to be reached from us would lose any meaning, whereas a merely immanent God would not satisfy our longings for eternity and salvation, which motivate us to look beyond our own anthropological horizon. In biblical Revelation, the image of a Holy God, Someone who is Other-than-world, coexists with that of a God near humanity and its history, to the point of becoming one of us.


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Revelation suggests to the philosophical thought that the categories of transcendence and immanence can be composed in a non-conflictive way. The most important source for understanding such newness is once again the doctrine of creation ex nihilo , and the image of a God who is simultaneously uncreated and therefore transcendent and Creator and thus immanent as a cause in its effect. Greek philosophy did not grasp the possibility of holding these two properties together.

Of Being, Platonic philosophy predicated the eternity, immutability and being without beginning, whereas the relationships with creatures and in the creatures were entrusted to a Demiurge. One of the strongest points of Patristic teachings was exactly to show the difference between the Christian God and the pagan gods, who did not have the condition of being at the same time both uncreated and creators. Only a God who transcends the world as the uncreated Creator can be, in the words of St. The difficulty in combining these two poles derives from the fact that transcendence and immanence are often understood in their "cosmic" aspect only, i.

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In this way of looking at things, transcendence would express detachment, separation, while immanence would express the presence which sustains from within; the first would be more in tune with something to be overcome and the second more in tune with something to be established. The two concepts manifest therefore a certain alternative.

The same notion of "transcendence" would thus become distorted because, understanding it solely as the distance between God and the creatures, one ends up with placing the two terms - God and his creation- on the same plane, a space-time plane. In Sacred Scripture, however, the transcendence of God has a much richer meaning. It does not have the idea of separation only, nor does transcendence mainly designate the incommensurability of God. It expresses, rather, His moral sanctity, how inscrutable His ways are.

The divine transcendence is not a sign of a fleeing ineffability, but rather the witness of the unfathomableness of His designs, which remain a true abyss compared to any human prediction cf. Is It is an "essential superiority" of God over creation, not a simply spatial transcendence.

On the other hand, divine immanence is not limited to the metaphysical sustaining of all that exists, but involves the intimate knowledge of things, of the hidden intentions of human beings; it entails God's providence towards that which is small and apparently void of meaning; it is not dimensional immanence, but the fact that every creature is in God's loving and watchful care cf. Ps The simultaneous and non-contradictory immanence-transcendence of God presented to us by Revelation overcomes the risk of pantheism , in which God, confused with the world, becomes materialized or the creature becomes divine, but also that of deism, which sooner or later ends up by conceiving a world without God.

Only a God who is at the same time transcendent and immanent can guarantee the autonomy of created reality and trace back the logic of this autonomy to a creative plan which transcends the creature. Thomistic philosophy, which elaborated with originality Aristotelian metaphysics in the light of Revelation, suggested to solve the correlation between transcendence and immanence of God in relation to the creature thanks to the composition between the "act of being" and the "essence.


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While the essence expresses the specificity and autonomous nature of every entity, the composition of essence with the act of being makes it such that God can operate in all things. A guarantee of this autonomy is found in the fact that every being receives by creation a specific "nature" as principle of its own operations. The metaphysical nature that every being has received form God, a kind of "point of contact" between the Creator and creatures, is part of God's global plan over all of creation. To such a plan every creature contributes autonomously, by being and operating "according to that which it is" for a philosophical development, cf.

Tanzella-Nitti, A further cue towards a greater understanding of autonomy of creation is offered by the notion of "participation," which Christian thought has re-elaborated from Platonism.

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The supreme causality of God allows every created effect to participate in His being and in His transcendental perfections "taking part therein, without being a part therein. The notion of participation resolves in a definitive way the pantheistic temptation by clarifying that God is the being of every thing, not as if He were a constitutive part of their essence, but because He is their only cause.

On the anthropological level, the essence and the nature of a personal being are basically expressed by his or her freedom.

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Considerations similar to those explained above can favor the understanding of the relationship between the causality of God and the causality of human freedom. The self-transcendence of the human being, witnessed by the cultural and spiritual history of humankind, does not have as its end a kind of alienation, nor an annihilation of one's own being.

It is rather the transcending towards Him who founds the individuality and freedom of every human being. In recognizing oneself as dependent upon God, the human person does not lose his or her own autonomy, but again finds him or herself, and finds God again too, as immanent to his or her own "Self. We have already observed that the correct way of understanding the origin of all things from God is not that of looking to creation as a special, privileged instant, but as a continuous causal relationship.

In a world thus conceived, to recognize that the Creator is the first and final cause of all that He created, leads to the idea of "governance" and "providence. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls" Wis Scripture speaks of a providential paternity of God over all things cf. Wis and , over nature and over living beings cf. Ps ; Mt 6, , over the human person cf. Ps ; Ps ; Mt , and in a special way over the weak and the small Ps ; Mt The centrality and Headship of Christ over creation mean that the whole of divine providence is in the end an action of Christ Himself on creation, action which by means of His Spirit continues to be a creative action.

But also the human person, in conforming him or herself to Christ, can participate in this action, thus becoming part of divine providence.

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The "Christian" character of this dynamic will however lead to an encounter with the Cross, an obligatory step for converting evil into good, and to show that even evil can be accepted in order to obtain a higher good: "indeed, all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" Rom For the believer, faith in providence represents "a religious horizon of understanding reality," within which, lifting oneself over and beyond the natural causes which determine the diverse events, every thing can be recognized as a gift of God, an invitation of the Creator, an opportunity to respond to His call.

The privileged place of trust in providence and of its recognition is, therefore, prayer.

With regards to the history of the world, Christianity certainly has an "optimistic" viewpoint. At the same time, because of the logic of the cross and the reality of sin, it may be also qualified as "realistic," thus distancing itself from the idealistic vision of the myth of eternal progress or of social utopia.

Also within Greek thought, the gods occupied themselves with humanity, but everything advanced according to a law which they could not completely control, because of the necessities of matter or fate. Providence acting in the Christian cosmos, on the contrary, depends upon one sole God who also created matter and who desired a universe whose history is also written by human liberty. Christian providence does not limit itself to guarantee the existence of a law in which every part has a place within the whole, nor does it tend to solely make it such that every part resigns itself to accept the place which it is to hold in function of the good of the whole.

It is above all a providence which wants the good of the parts, in as much as they are parts, and takes care to value their role, assuring that the part entrusted to each one is the best possible cf. Sanguineti, The human person, elevated to the dignity of cooperating with divine providence, must therefore bring to fulfillment a creation not yet concluded: "When man develops the earth by the work of his hands or with the aid of technology, in order that it might bear fruit and become a dwelling worthy of the whole human family and when he consciously takes part in the life of social groups, he carries out the design of God manifested at the beginning of time, that he should subdue the earth, perfect creation and develop himself.

At the same time he obeys the commandment of Christ that he place himself at the service of his brethren. Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history, and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvellous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth, delighting in the sons of men cf.

Prv 8, " Gaudium et Spes , n. In the Modern Age, the problem raised initially in the first half of the 19th century with the hypotheses of J. Lamarck regarding the morphological variations which characterized living beings throughout the course of time Zoological Philosophy , , to then be put forward crucially through the works of Darwin about the origin of the species and natural selection On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection , ; The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex , For its part geology had already suggested that the history of the planet involved a temporal range rather longer than what the biblical accounts on the origins appears to propose.