Creation, Thomistic Philosophy, and the Natural Sciences


#181

Your first paragraph regarding what Christ said about the Law is in error.

John 5:46

New International Version
If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

New Living Translation
If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.

English Standard Version
For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.


#182


(NASA image)

For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it;
for his hands formed the dry land (Psalm 95: 3-5).


#183

The creation of the living creatures on earth occurred on 3 separate days in the Genesis 1-2:3 creation narrative. Plants and trees according to their kinds on day 3; birds and marine animals according to their kinds on day 5; and the land animals according to their kinds culminating in the creation of man, male and female, on day 6. I think a sort of synthesis of the Augustinian and the Ambrosian/Basilian hexamerons (in a certain sense, the two main traditions handed down to the scholastic theologians from the fathers of the Church) of the seven day creation narrative fits well with what the story of the fossil record appears to tell us. According to Augustine, the entire universe was created at once, the heavens with all its stars and our sun and moon, the earth and the seas, but the plants and animals of the earth he considered to be created in potentiality, in seed-like forms which forms would be reduced to actuality or actually existent plants or animals according to various times that God had determined from all eternity for each kind or species of plant or animal.

According to Aquinas’ interpretation of Augustine’s ‘seminal reasons’ or seed-like forms, the efficient cause of reducing the various kinds of the plants or animals from potentially existing to actually existing was either the Word of God himself or certain natural processes of nature. Aquinas only allowed for a natural efficient cause involving the sun or stars for ‘imperfect’ animals such as worms or maggots in putrefaction. According to the science of those times, both Augustine and Aquinas thought that some living creatures such as worms or maggots could be or were generated by putrefaction and principally at least according to Aquinas from the sun or stars as efficient cause. Today, we know that this is not the case in putrefaction or of any inanimate natural process so we can eliminate at least from Aquinas the idea of a putrefactionary kind of natural process of generating worms or maggots which leaves us with the efficient causality of the Word of God himself. Aquinas believed that all animals or plants generated from seed were produced by creation from the Word of God in the first production of them. Apparently, he did not know that worms reproduce from seed and from prior worms or specimens of the same species.


#184

(continued)

The Ambrosian/Basilian interpretation of the Genesis 1 creation narrative treated the days of the creation narrative as successive days involving time unlike Augustine’s interpretation in which he considered the creation days as like one day or a simultaneous creation act. In the Ambrosian/Basilian understanding of the creation narrative, the various kinds of plants and animals were created by God on their respective days of creation. So, if we sort of synthesize Augustine’s idea of the simultaneous creation of the seminal reasons or seed-like forms of the various kinds of plants and animals which would become actually existing in act according to that time that God determined for each one, with the Ambrosian/Basilian actual creation of the various kinds of plants and animals according to time or in time, I think we have an interpretation of the creation narrative involving the creation of the various kinds of plants and animals that fits well with the fossil record.

What I mean is we take Augustine’s idea that the various kinds or species of plants and animals became actually existent in time according to that time that God had determined for each one. But, instead of the idea that all these various kinds or species of plants and animals or any life-form were created simultaneously and all at once in seed-like forms which are actually derived from their exemplar or master forms in the divine intellect (the divine ideas), we use the Ambrosian/Basilian interpretation that they all were actually created in time, i.e., not from the very beginning of creation and time in Gen. 1:1, but according to that time that God had determined from all eternity for each species of any life form in which the fossil record then may give us some idea when they were created by God. Of course, I’m understanding here that the days of the creation narrative are not just 24 hour days but rather indefinite periods of time. At the same time, all the six days of creation and however long that took according to time could be considered as like one day according to Augustine’s view excepting the time factor. In fact, a sort of synthesis of the Augustinian and Ambrosian/Basilian interpretations of the Genesis creation narratives as I’m suggesting here could be applied in a somewhat analogous manner to the formation by God of all the galaxies, stars, and planets in the universe according to various times from out of the elements and elemental atoms that God created in the initial act of creation from Gen. 1:1.


#185

The modernists often skip over the words “by no means enjoy such liberty” and “cannot embrace” in this passage and latch onto the phrase “now it is in now way apparent” in efforts to claim that Pius XII left open the idea of polygenism.


#186

If the Bible is not a science textbook, why treat it as one? The obvious reason is to turn man into something he is not. The Church teaches human beings are a combination of our earthly bodies and souls. Souls are not recognized by science.


#187

They need to read Humani Generis in its entirety.


#188

I have mentioned in prior posts about the possibility of stars being generated by natural processes of nature in the heavens. This is not something I firmly believe in but have left it open as a possibility. Assuming this possibility for the moment which would be a work of divine providence, the question can be asked to what extent are angels involved in star formation processes which I believe I only touched upon briefly in a prior post?

I answer that as the angels are the immediate administrators next to God in carrying out the orders of divine providence over the whole corporeal creation (this is in accord with the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas), then the angels are the next in line to God in the formation of stars and actually do form stars in galaxies, again, assuming the possibility that they can be formed by natural processes of nature as well as God’s delegation of that work to creatures.

St Thomas Aquinas defines divine providence as, firstly, the ordering of all creatures towards their end and, secondly, the execution of that ordering which he terms government. The ordering of all creatures towards their end down to the least details from the beginning of the world to its end is done by God himself while the execution of this plan in time He has disposed to various creatures, in fact, to all creatures in a sense but in a certain hierarchical way in that superior creatures rule and govern inferior creatures.

In the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III on providence, Aquinas says that according to the rational plan of providence, rational creatures rule, govern, regulate, and move in one way or another all other creatures of the world. In the first place are the angelic choirs or orders who have been given the task or ministry of carrying out the plan of providence over the whole corporeal world including human affairs. The lower five orders or choirs of angels have been given this ministry. Aquinas assigns the Virtues and Powers of the second hierarchy to the affairs of the heavens and the movements of the heavenly bodies while the Dominations who also belong to this hierarchy are the ones who command and give the orders of what is to be done. The lowest hierarchy of the angelic host, namely, the Principalities, Archangels, and Angels are assigned the affairs of earth, its natural processes of nature, human affairs and guardianship, and divine revelations and announcements to certain humans. The highest hierarchy to which belong the Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones are the ones who assist at the throne of God and generally the first ones to receive from God the providential orders of what is to be done in the corporeal creation especially concerning human affairs and these choirs relate the orders to the lower choirs.


#189

(continued)

Accordingly, it seems fitting I believe that given there are angels and probably a very great many put in charge of the heavenly bodies, the galaxies, stars, planets, other astronomical objects, and keeping the galaxies and stars in order, that assuming that stars can form by natural processes of nature and God delegating star formation to creatures, that the angels themselves order and organize interstellar material from supernovae explosions and other star activities, into whatever stars if any they might form from this material but most likely after getting instructions after consultation with God or a superior angel.

It is also possible at times though maybe rare that they may allow the interstellar material to form naturally (or not) into stars without manipulating the material depending on what may form from it and again after consultation with God. This last ‘natural’ process seems to be more like a chance or random process of star formation and I don’t believe for the most part that that is what goes in the galaxies. Even though our present knowledge of all the billions of galaxies and stars beyond our own galaxy and naked eye viewing and what is going on in them seems in a certain sense to be irrelevant to our daily life on earth and the eternal salvation of our souls, I don’t believe nothing is going on in these galaxies in a random sort of fashion or without purpose according to the whole cosmic scheme of things.

All the natural processes going on in all the galaxies in the universe are controlled, directed, and regulated principally by God but delegated according to God’s providential plan secondarily to the ministry of angels.

The sheer multitude and number of the stars in the universe seems to have some relation I believe to the very great multitude of the angelic host itself. Aquinas believes that the multitude of angels far exceeds all material multitude. Holy Scripture seems to give this analogy in some sense in Revelation concerning the Woman (the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the Dragon in 11:4 “His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.” Other instances in Revelation and a metaphorical connection with angels and stars are 1:16 “…in his right hand he held seven stars” (the angels of the seven churches); 9:1 “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen [a fallen angel] from heaven to earth…”

Every star is different, some are larger and brighter than others while the less massive and less bright outlast the larger and brighter ones. This is like an analogy in a certain sense to the nine choirs of angels as well as that each angel according to Aquinas is of a different species of angel than any other angel. St Paul alludes to the difference of stars where he writes:

There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory (1Corinthians 15: 40-41).


#190

(continued)

Stars, of course, produce material light which is spoken metaphorically when the scriptures speak of spiritual light. Jesus says he is the Light of the world and that we should be the light of the world as his disciples. St John in the beginning of his gospel says of the Word that he is the true light that enlightens every man. At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ face shone as the light of the sun. St Paul says that God dwells in inaccessible light. In the creed at Mass, we profess ‘God from God, Light from Light.” St John, again, says that God is all light and in Him there is no darkness.

In the Scriptures, the abode of the good angels is said to be in the heavens.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host!

Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created (Psalm 148: 1-5).

So, the heavens and all the far off galaxies and stars if not the home of the good angels may be in some manner next or close to it. A few fathers of the Church considered that the natural abode of the angels is a created invisible heaven above the visible heavens which they called the empyrean heaven. This empyrean heaven was the common opinion of the scholastic theologians.

‘He determines the number of the stars,
he gives to all of them their names’ (Psalm 147: 4).

Could this verse though literally referencing the stars in the heavens be an allusion to the angels? Possibly! No doubt that God determined the number of the angels when he created them and gave to all of them their names and it appears He does the same for the stars. But to determine the number of the stars I don’t believe is to rely exclusively obviously on the natures of created and blind creatures which are completely devoid of knowledge and sense which is why such beings are moved, governed, and regulated and which are solely instruments in the hands of God much like an axe which is moved and applied to its action in the hands of an axeman chopping wood.

Putting all this together, it seems fitting in my opinion that assuming the conditions I presented in the beginning of the post I started today, angels are the agents next in line to God who form the stars in galaxies


#191

(continued)

In conclusion and essentially following the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas but including some modern scientific discoveries, I hold that in the beginning of creation God produced out of nothing the entire matter (not to be confused with the matter or mass of modern physics) of the corporeal world under elemental forms including elemental atoms as well as the substance of the heavens and the entire angelic host. Then, or perhaps from the beginning in some measure, He organized the elemental atoms into all the galaxies and stars in the universe that we now observe through powerful telescopes or see with the naked eye. Up until the creation of mankind and the seventh day rest of Genesis 1-2:3, the formation of all stars, planets, and other astronomical phenomenon in all galaxies may have been solely the work of God even assuming the possibility that stars may be generated by natural processes of nature.

Indeed, the Scriptures literally say that God created the stars and I would not fault anybody who believes that God himself created and formed all the stars in the universe as there are no certain and direct scientific observations to the contrary concerning star formation or even that stars can form naturally except theory and belief. And certainly, no human being was around to observe anything going on either in the heavens or on earth before the creation of human beings which appears to be not that long ago in terms of cosmic ages. According to my present understanding of things and belief in Holy Scripture concerning the creation and formation of stars, I place at the top of the list as the first and best interpretation of scripture that God himself formed every star in every galaxy in the universe since the beginning of creation up to its first completion and the seventh day rest of Gen. 2: 1-3.

The second best option concerning stars in my opinion involves their formation by angels but it involves a few provisions. What appears to be indisputable according to the findings of modern astronomy is that stars are corruptible and they are made out of the same elemental matter as our own bodies, so possibly they are generable by natural processes of nature and this is the first provision. The second provision is that assuming the first provision or star formation from natural processes, this only occurs from accumulated interstellar material from possible supernovae explosions and other star activities as well as assuming that God does not take control of this material himself and form stars from it before his seventh day rest and completion of his work in the world’s first institution but delegates it out to the angels before and after the seventh day rest. The angels form the stars by manipulating and moving the interstellar material and elemental atoms. They possess perfect knowledge of all the works of nature and have superior powers. Star formation by the angels is a viable option that is not against the catholic faith, catholic theology, Holy Scripture, or sound philosophy. Indeed, in his own day, Aquinas believed for various philosophical reasons that angels were the movers of the heavenly bodies.


#192

(continued)

I place as the third and possibly rare option depending on God’s determination and again assuming that stars can form naturally, a natural process of star formation from interstellar material without manipulation of the atoms by either God or the angels though not, of course, without providential guidance of any kind from either God or angels which is impossible. I limit these last two options to accumulated interstellar material because I hold that God himself formed every galaxy in the universe and at least all the first generation stars which God need not have formed into stars all at the same time but could be separated by millions and billions of years depending on how he organized the material or subsequent supernatural acts of formation. In the first and best interpretation of scripture I listed above in my opinion in which God himself forms every star in every galaxy from the beginning of creation up to his seventh day rest, this includes any second, third, or more generation stars that he may have formed from accumulated material in the interstellar medium.


#193

Interesting series of posts. However, it now appears that most of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy, and that the universe itself is flat. What does it rest on? Nothing? Stars explode, galaxies collide and so-called black holes have such a high amount of gravity that even light cannot escape. Their gravitational attraction being very large compared to their size.


#194

How does St. Thomas propose that angels take part in the creation or direction of heavenly bodies? Obviously God has the power to create as the primary cause, so would he (St. Thomas) consider that the angels are secondary causes in the origination of new stars, planets, galaxies, etc.? Also, how would a non-corporeal being be granted the ability to interact with matter? Although there are plenty of examples in Scripture of angels temporarily taking human form, I am not sure how that can be applied to their creation of celestial bodies.


#195

[quote=“bobperk, post:194, topic:491411, full:true”]
How does St. Thomas propose that angels take part in the creation or direction of heavenly bodies?

Well, in regard to the ‘creation’ of heavenly bodies by angels, St Thomas did not propose such a thing. For him, all heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, stars, and the body of the heavens itself were created by God. He thought, however, that these bodies were moved by angels either individually such as in the cosmology of Ptolomy who thought that the sun, moon, and stars each had there own motions in the heavens or collectively such as Aristotle thought who thought that the sun, moon, and stars were set in various concentric spheres in which case as the sphere was moved, the objects in the sphere such as stars moved with it. So, an angel either moved a whole sphere in a rotary motion and the objects such as stars in the sphere moved with it though the stars did not themselves move but were set in place in the sphere. Or, as in the Ptolomy scheme, each star or the sun and moon were moved individually in a circular motion as in this scheme each star was not set in place as in the sphere model and which only moved with the motion of the sphere.

St Thomas following Aristotle also considered that the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars were incorruptible, i.e., made out of a different element which was called the quintessence or fifth element than the corruptible elements of earth, namely, earth, water, air, and fire. However, I think St Thomas considered this more of an opinion rather than of some demonstrative proof because other philosophers had different opinions some believing that the heavenly bodies were made out of the same earthly elements of earth, water, air, and fire, or as Plato thought, the element of fire. He touches upon some of these opinions in his treatise on the work of the second day in the Summa Theologica and actually considers how they all could work in one way or another. From observation, the heavenly bodies do not seem to change except in their motions so we can’t really fault St Thomas for thinking in his time that they may be incorruptible. Indeed, it is said today that red dwarf stars can burn hydrogen for many billions, hundreds of billions and even a trillion or trillions of years before dying out and may in a sense be considered incorruptible as the world I don’t think is going to last that long before the end comes and the second coming of Christ.

Today, we have learned that the heavenly bodies are made out of the same elements that we find on earth and in our own bodies and also that stars die out after a period of fusion burning. The prevailing scientific theory today concerning star formation is essentially that if a certain quantity of hydrogen atoms are gathered together, the force of gravity on this quantity of atoms will eventually result in a star. Other factors and forces are involved which the scientists are continually finding out and which they attempt to incorporate in their models, fudging various factors and forces here and there until a star is born in a computer simulation.


#196

(continued)

The whole process is not entirely understood nor has it ever been observed of course. It is not as easy as it may sound reading internet articles on star formation and it is entirely based on the presumption that stars can form by natural processes of nature. Personally, I’m not so sure that stars can form by natural processes of nature. However, if it is possible and essentially involves according to the prevailing theory the gathering together of at least a minimum quantity of hydrogen atoms which by the force of gravity eventually forms into a star, than it is no problem for an angel to do this by moving certain quantities of atoms around and controlling other factors and forces involved.

Natural processes of nature or an angel is not ‘creating’ a star in the technical sense of creating which can only be done by God. The angel is simply utilizing or organizing and moving around (the elemental atoms) what has already been created by God. Again, I’m not sure that such natural processes and simply a minimum quantity of hydrogen atoms is all that is necessary for stars to form. It may be that there are unknown hidden forces of nature besides those forces already known that prevent a quantity of hydrogen atoms collapsing into a star and sort of balances out the force of gravity and which can only be overcome by God or possibly by an angel.

The angels are involved in the natural forces and processes of nature and cause various phenomena by utilizing them like instruments according to God’s providential ordinances as we find in many passages of the Bible. For example, in Hebrews 1:7:

Of the angels he says,
“Who makes his angels winds,
and his servants flames of fire.”

This verse is an allusion to Psalm 104:4:

who makest the winds thy messengers,
fire and flame thy ministers.

The messengers and ministers here are the angels of Hebrews 1:7 who cause winds and fire and flame probably refers to lightening.

Just before Psalm 104, Psalm 103: 20-21 says:

Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
hearkening to the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
his ministers that do his will!

Consider the angels who do his word and his ministers (angels) that do his will with the command and word of Psalm 147: 15-18:

He sends forth his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts forth his ice like morsels;
who can stand before his cold?
He sends forth his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.

Consider the works God permits Satan to do to Job’s family. The angels are involved in quite a few of the works in the book of Revelation. In 7:1, there are four angels who hold back the four winds of the earth. There is an angel in charge of the waters in 16:5. Jesus permits the demons he exorcised from a person to go into the swine and they go headlong into the sea.


#197

[quote=“bobperk, post:194, topic:491411, full:true”]
Obviously God has the power to create as the primary cause, so would he (St. Thomas) consider that the angels are secondary causes in the origination of new stars, planets, galaxies, etc.?

Well, as I said yesterday, I do not consider that angels or natural causes are secondary causes of galaxies but I considered these second causes as possible star formation causes within already formed galaxies by God. I considered that if stars can form by blind natural processes of nature than angels can also form stars or prevent star formation by movement and arrangement of the material in a cloud of gas and dust . Gas planet formation would have a similar process to star formation I think but I have a real difficult time considering rocky planet formation by natural processes , less difficult time with angels, and no difficulty at all with God of course. Considering our own solar system, I believe all of it was formed immediately by God. Of course, God himself can produce and effect all what nature or angels can and infinitely more and he can produce the effects of second causes without the second causes at all. I believe God formed all the galaxies himself as he himself arranged and organized all the elemental atoms he created. I don’t believe God created a random scattering of elemental atoms all over the heavens and sat back and watched what would come of it which could be conceived as absolutely nothing but only individual atoms dotted and scattered across the heavens. It all depends on what God wants to create and form. He is the creator of his creation and the creation is subject to Him and not vice-versa.

St Thomas says that angels can locally move bodies and I have not read where he places some kind of limit on what size whether small or large these bodies may be. He actually thought that angels move the heavenly bodies which are rather large and if they can move large bodies they can also locally move small ones of whatever size such as rocks or atoms or parts of atoms. As I said in a prior post, St Thomas believed that all the heavenly bodies were created immediately by God.

Also, how would a non-corporeal being be granted the ability to interact with matter?

Our spiritual soul moves our body and its members. With our will we can command our arm to move upwards and it will straightway move upwards or we can command our body to walk or run. Similarly, the angels who are pure spirits can locally move bodies by contact of power but not as informing them as our soul is the form of our body. Also, God can move any body whatever and he is a pure spirit. Spirits have powers or spiritual forces or energies such as their intellect and will that are superior to bodies and bodily powers or forces which can be commanded by the spiritual powers especially by the spiritual will.


#198


(Hubble deep field image of galaxies, 2014, the smaller dots are galaxies farther away)

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Gen. 1: 3-5).


#199

‘So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air’ (Gen. 2: 19).


#200


(Peregrine falcon - fastest animal on earth, can reach dive or ‘stoop’ speeds over 200 mph)

“Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars,
and spreads his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes his nest on high?” (Job 39: 26-27).


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.