From: Howard J. Van Till (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Sep 04 2003 - 20:54:27 EDT
>From: George Murphy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Aquinas rejected the eternity of the world on theological grounds. Whether
> feel that the basis for his theological conclusion (i.e., the authority of
> was adequate or not is not the question. You have the right to disagree with
> theological method or conclusions, but don't portray him as accepting a
> view that he
> simply didn't accept.
We seem to be having a spat about whether there is a distinction between
"theological" and "biblical" grounding of a conclusion. Here's what I have
in mind, illustrated by the following excerpts from an essay, "Aquinas and
the Big Bang," by Catholic scholar William E. Carroll. [see
"An eternal universe seemed incompatible with a universe created ex nihilo,
and so some medieval Christians thought that Greek science, especially in
the person of Aristotle, ought to be banned, since it contradicted the
truths of revelation. Aquinas, believing that the truths of science and the
truths of faith could not contradict one another-God being the author of all
truth-went to work to reconcile Aristotelian science and Christian
The key to Aquinas' analysis is the distinction he draws between creation
and change. The natural sciences, whether Aristotelian or those of our own
day, have as their subject the world of changing things: from sub-atomic
particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be
something that changes. The Greeks are right: from nothing, nothing comes;
that is, if the verb "to come" means a change. All change requires an
underlying material reality.
Creation, on the other hand, is the radical causing of the whole existence
of whatever exists. . . . . To create is to give existence, and all things
are totally dependent upon God for the very fact that they are. God does not
take nothing and make something out of "it." Rather, anything left entirely
to itself, separated from the cause of its existence, would be absolutely
nothing. Creation is not some distant event; it is the continuing, complete
causing of the existence of everything that is. Creation, thus, is a subject
for metaphysics and theology, not for the natural sciences.
Aquinas saw no contradiction in the notion of an eternal created universe.
For, even if the universe had no temporal beginning, it still would depend
upon God for its very being. . . . .
Adhering to the traditional reading of Genesis and the doctrinal
proclamation of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), Aquinas believed that the
universe had a temporal beginning. Aristotle, he thought, was wrong to think
otherwise. But Aquinas argued that, on the basis of reason alone, one could
not know whether the universe is eternal. Furthermore, if there were an
eternal universe it still would be a created universe."
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