Creation in a Word

A Landscape from a Geology Field Excursion at WCC
Genesis says simply that God created. It sounds simple God - created. But is it necessarily so? What does it mean to create? And how basically does God act?

This question centers a recent debate I've been having in Field Science class with some fellow students on life, creation, science and morality, but is just that, a question.

I've lived and thought thinking that I knew the answer, but have in fact evaded it. Simply I thought "God created" in the sense of the phrase as "creationism" but had never considered what I meant by my words. So coming here to W.C.C. and hearing of "Thomistic evolution" shook and scared me. Why were professors and fellow students talking about evolution, let alone as one described as being "for the greater glory of God".

Evolution in the sense I considered it, and in the sense in which it is popularly described is the antithesis to the "God-created" view, a worldview instead if taken to the extreme of mindless, purposeless, -less-ness, an accident, no accidents in the millions that led to life - and man. But on the contrary, this could not have been what my professors (and I hear, Aquinas) thought or meant.
Fossilized tracks of an ancient creature

The question asked that exposes all this is again, "What does it mean to create?" Did God create a mound of matter and arrange it with some sort of physical divine "hands"? God made man out of the dust of the earth, yes, but in general, we believe in "ex nihilo" creation, that God made the universe and everything in it from nothing.

Furthermore, this "from nothing" creation extends beyond the original creation moment (or time). God holds everything in existence at every moment, holding it somehow from being nothing, so his creative act of love for the universe thus extends beyond the initial moment of creation, this sustenative action probably best described as Divine Providence. 

But as God created the world ex nihilo and sustains it in each moment, he does so somehow outside of the physical. Again, he does not seem to maintain the world with hands, feet, and tools as does man, but instead through, something:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, Douay-Rheims)
Brief interlude, but the ways and actions of God are of course beyond man's full comprehension, but here we can at least say that there is something of God that influences His world.

Returning to creation, we can say that this creating, alike God's sustaining, is unique with no true  analogs in the doings of man. But I propose to imagine, for the moment just as a what if question, God created the world as something with us as an end, a purpose, but as a developing thing, not really alive, but in a sense (the world as a whole) glorifying its creator by the way to which it is naturally to tend. This would be that God created the world as a particle or collection of matter, but so perfectly, and more than that, with a sustaining purpose, that according to what it is, it produces life as a necessity, as obedience to its Creator.

Science in the secular humanist sense has operated as a way of "explaining" more and more, crowding out the idea of God in the public consciousness, as more and more of nature is "explained" by so-called "natural causes" and there is less and less philosophical room for God's direct action or what we call miracles. This causes a backlash of fear among believers: what if science explains away God? But here we have a beautiful objection. There is no real difference  between the actions of God as miracles and his actions through the hand of his work. Both have Him as cause. Thus, God has a hand - the world! It performs his work, his will, seemingly even with knowledge:
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4, RSV)
The heavens "are telling the glory of God", they are working out his glory. They are his handiwork, and as all that we see is of God, the world's "natural causes" are God working, God commanding, God running the world through it (or as Thomas I believe suggests through the intermediaries of the choir of angels known as the Powers).

But what does this have to do with evolution?

While I am still skeptical of the scientific evidence for it, evolution as a progression in some sense of species, a development in nature, can fit, and fit even better than it does in a secular mindset within the view of God as ultimate Creator. God set up the world for a purpose, and his initial orders are fulfilled. God is the source of knowledge, and the knowledge in DNA comes from Him (unlike in secular theory where DNA and life come the same way a jet is assembled from a tornado passing though a junkyard). Instead God allows secondary causes to share in his creative work, to obey Him, and rejoice at doing so.

This is a beautiful view as it shows us, man, as the culmination of creation, of billions of years of physical time, but as nothing to God, who created billions of years, billions of light-years of space, and  infinite physical stories so that He could have one story, the salvation history of his workings among men.

While evolution in the secular sense can definitely not be true, as with the soul, for example, which is specially created by God outside of the physical (although evolution of the body may be seen as plausible in this cumulative sense), evolution in this Catholic, Thomistic sense can, as several professors have intimated, be a glory of God if it is God's hand. To see this look up, look at the firmament proclaiming God's handiwork. Its message joyfully obeys God with you as the end. The fossil that you have seen in a museum was a creature that lived and died under God's watch and care to end in the world that we now live in, to end in us completing the heavens' work, to glorify God and physically receive him, and to eventually, with His grace, come to Him in eternity.

Receive Him, Glorify Him.