Chapter 10 -God as Creator
GOD is infinite, the utterly sufficient All. There is no need of His nature that is not satisfied by what He is. Not the smallest chink through which anything can be added to His fullness of existence, to the limitless perfection of His happiness. Yet other beings exist, and exist because He brought them into existence. Why? Not only did creation provide nothing that His nature needed, it provided, so to speak, no luxury either; it brought Him no profit, no increase, for there was nothing in it that was not already in Himself in greater, because uncreated, perfection. Why, then, is the created universe here at all?
The created universe exists, we say, for God's honor and glory, each thing necessarily glorifying God simply by being what it is. It is the glory of every being that in some way it serves the Supreme Being. It brings Him no gain, but it can bring us tremendous gain. And apparently it goes with the infinite goodness of God that our gain can be a motive for Him. It is of the nature of goodness that it wants to spread outwards, to confer itself, and God is Supreme Goodness. In some ways one of the most staggering phrases in all Scripture is St. John's statement (John 3:16) that God loved the world. God could love things less than Himself and could act to give them pleasure. So, he brought them into existence.
The Lord has made all things for Himself
We have thus caught some glimpse of why the created universe exists. Until we know WHY a thing exists, we cannot properly know anything else about it. Our interpretation of the details must always be governed by our understanding of WHY THE THING EXISTS AT ALL.
The question WHY is followed by the question HOW? The universe exists because God loved the very idea of it. But how did the universe come into existence?
Science efforts to explain the origin of that something involves looking for some earlier something of the same created order. If this backward progress from cause to earlier cause, suddenly found them faced with nothing, they would be inexpressibly startled. Neither their instruments nor scientific methods are made to cope with nothing. They would have to call upon philosophy and theology. When philosophers and theologians ask why anything exists, the alternative they have in mind is nothing. The question how anything exists is second only in importance to the question why anything exists; and we must consider both in the light of philosophy and theology, which can answer them, not blaming science because it cannot, but not treating the questions as unimportant because it cannot.
We have seen why God exists: He exists because what He is demands existence, cannot not exist. The created universe does not demand existence, but can exist only because God confers existence upon it. God made it. And He made it of nothing. What else was there for Him to make it of? He could not make it of Himself, for He is utterly simple and changeless: there are no parts in Him that could be subtracted from Him. In one sense, the act of creation can be stated quite simply.
God willed that things that had not been should be.
He spoke and they were made;
He commanded and they were created
To create is to make a thing in its totality, that is, to make the whole of it. God does make the whole universe, there is nothing in it that is not of His making, nothing that already existed. That He could do this goes with His infinity. It is the measurelessness of infinite power that it can make a universe with no material at all. If we focus our minds upon the act of creation, and consider what making something out of nothing means, we find it almost totally baffling, not that the mind is blinded by sheer darkness, but dazed both by too much light and by its own lack of habituation to moving by its own strength.
We think we are THINKING about the production of something from nothing by infinite power. In fact, we are trying desperately to FORM SOME MENTAL PICTURE of the process that includes nothingness, which has no image. We must let our mind handle the concepts concerned, without trying to picture them. The concepts concerned are actually very simple. God is infinite. There is no limitation to His being, there is no limitation to His power thus no limitation to His power of making.
This fact that God made us and all things of nothing by a sheer act of His will, implies as its corollary something that is still happening from instant to instant and of the most vital importance to us. BECAUSE GOD MAKES US OF NOTHING, THEN WE CANNOT CONTINUE IN EXISTENCE UNLESS GOD CONTINUOUSLY HOLDS US IN EXISTENCE. There is an emptiness at the center of the being of every created thing, which only God can fill; as we cannot be at all without Him.
A comparison from human experience may help. If I stand in front of a mirror, my image is in the mirror, but only while I stand there. If I go, it goes. Only my continuing presence keeps the image in being. The reason is that the image is not made OF the mirror but only IN the mirror. The mirror is purely receptive, purely passive. The image is sustained by my continuing presence: the universe is sustained by God's continuing presence. Take me away and the image ceases. Take God away and the universe ceases.
In the words of the Roman Catechism part 1, chapter 2:
Unless His continuing Providence were present to the things He created,
and preserved them by the same power by which they were established in the beginning, they would instantly lapse back [into their original nothingness].
The God Who is thus continuously present in us as in all things is the Blessed Trinity. At the very center of our being, Father Son and Holy Spirit are living their infinite life of knowing and loving. The formula for everything from Adam to the Archangel is nothingness made into something and kept in being by the infinite power of the Blessed Trinity. Note especially the phrase MADE INTO SOMETHING. Things are not simply thoughts in the mind of God. He has given them real existence, real BE-ing. The difference between the absolute being of God and the relative being of created thing is what philosophers call the analogy of being. God alone wholly IS with all that IS can mean. You can say of the universe that it is, but you cannot leave it there: you have to keep adding words, and every word you add subtracts. You must say of the universe: "It is, because..."; "It is, but it was not"; "It is; "It is, so long as...". Every one of these and any other additions are limitations, subtracting something from the fullness of what IS can mean. Each thing IS, but dependently, but conditionally, but relatively, partially. But when you have said of God HE IS, you have said everything. Only God is absolute Good, absolute IS.
The created universe really is existing in the real order, not simply thought or dream or illusion. It is really something, not simply nothingness masquerading as something. What has been failed to grasp is the majesty of created being in comparison with nothingness. We must keep both truths steadily in mind, if we are to see reality right. Created being is small enough in comparison with the uncreated:
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Wisdom we find the two truths perfectly balanced:
The whole world before
Thee is as the last grain of the balance,
and as a drop of the morning dew that falls down upon the earth;
but all the same:
Thou lovest all things that are,
and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made:
for Thou didst not make anything hating it.
And how could anything endure if Thou wouldst not?
or be preserved if not called by Thee?
Creation is the work of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, we should know once it has been revealed to us that God is Three Persons in one nature: for the nature is the principle of operation, that BY WHICH God acts, and this principle is wholly and in utter equality possessed by all Three. The Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) speaks of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one principle of all things, creator of all things visible and invisible.
The Council of Florence (1439) gives us a further clarification: it compares the fact that Father and Son are not two principles but one in the spiration of the Holy Spirit with the fact that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three principles but one in the creation of the universe. We should keep in mind the sequence (realizing that it is not a sequence in time but in order of being) - The Father generates the Son; Father and Son as one principle spirate the Holy Spirit;
Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one principle create the universe.
But though creation is the work of the Three Persons, it comes under the Law of Appropriation in two ways. In the first place the Father is always called Creator. To Him who is Origin within the Godhead, the origination of all things external to the Godhead is naturally attributed.
But there is an appropriation of creation to the Second Person as well, showing us why it was to be the Second Person who should become man to restore the created order from the profound catastrophe into which it was plunged by Adam's sin. Consider first the FACT of this appropriation to the Son.
We have already looked at the opening words of St. John's Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
All things were made by Him,
and without Him was made nothing.
This had already been foreshadowed in the Old Testament, where Wisdom says:
I was with Him, forming all things.
And indeed before St. John wrote his Gospel, the same thing was already clearly stated in other books of the New Testament. We find in Hebrews (1:2)
Whom He hath appointed heir of all things,
by Whom also He made the world;
and again, in Colossians (1:14-17)
In the Son of God,
in His blood,
we find the redemption that sets us free from our sins.
He is the true likeness of the God we cannot see;
His is that first birth which precedes every act of creation.
Yes in Him all created things took their being, heavenly and earthly...
Clearly Scripture envisages two elements in creation, and appropriates one to the Father and one to the Son. The Father creates: He creates BY or THROUGH the Son. We may see this as the Father's WILL to create, EXECUTED BY the Son. Or again as the Father creating, that is, bringing the first elements of being out of nothingness - the direct work of Omnipotence - and the Son as forming those first elements into the created order we know - the work of Wisdom as distinct from Power. This may be the explanation of the wording of the first chapter of Genesis: In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth.
The verb CREATED is not used again except for MAN (whose soul is in fact a fresh creation) and whales (if there is any significance in this, I do not know what it is). With these two exceptions, the verb used is MADE. We can see that creation involved both Omnipotence and Wisdom: Omnipotence was needed to make something from nothing; but that it might not be just anything, but an ordered purposeful system of things, Wisdom was needed too. As a work of Omnipotence, it is attributed to the Father, as a work of Wisdom to the Son. [The Holy Spirit is also called creator - e.g. in the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. This refers directly to the creation of the NEW MAN in grace. But in so far as the creation of the universe was to express divine love, there may be an appropriation to the Holy Spirit also.] Here lies a great truth, that all making is in some way self-expression: the maker expresses himself in the thing he makes.
We can also say that the maker makes in accordance with an idea or image in his mind.
The Father had already uttered Himself, expressed Himself wholly as the Son, the Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. God is not only infinite activity, but infinite productivity from which, proceeds the Word and the Holy Spirit; and since it is the same God, His finite productivity mirrors His infinite productivity. He had expressed Himself once in the uncreated, and thereby produced the Word. He now expressed Himself in the created order. That is as nothingness can receive the expression of Him, and thereby produced the universe. We can catch some glimpse of the relation between God uttering Himself in the uncreated as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and God uttering Himself, so far as He can be uttered in nothingness, as Creation.
If making is according to an image in the mind of the maker, the image already in the mind of God was the Second Person of the Trinity: and it is now relevant to add one further truth to what has already been said of the Second Person as the image of the First. In the Word, the Father utters Himself totally: therefore, in the Word He utters His knowledge, all His knowledge: and this means His knowledge not only of Himself, but of all the beings He can create. The Second Person expresses the idea of all creatable things as they are in the Divine Nature. That is why St. Thomas can say that in the Word God utters both Himself and us.