Re: Van Till's Ultimate Gap

From: George Murphy (
Date: Thu Sep 04 2003 - 22:48:53 EDT

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    Howard J. Van Till wrote:
    > >From: George Murphy <>
    > > Aquinas rejected the eternity of the world on theological grounds. Whether
    > you
    > > feel that the basis for his theological conclusion (i.e., the authority of
    > > scripture)
    > > was adequate or not is not the question. You have the right to disagree with
    > his
    > > theological method or conclusions, but don't portray him as accepting a
    > > view that he
    > > simply didn't accept.
    > George,
    > We seem to be having a spat about whether there is a distinction between
    > "theological" and "biblical" grounding of a conclusion.

            I think it's more than a "spat." It's a basic difference concerning the
    criterion for theology.

    > 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
    > revelation.
    > 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."

            This is pretty much what I said. The idea of a universe eternally dependent
    upon God is philosophically possible. & it would be theologically possible if the basic
    source of theological authority for Aquinas (scripture) didn't rule it out. But since
    that source did (as he understood it) rule it out, it couldn't be held theologically.

    George L. Murphy

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