Re: Defense of Theism pt 1

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Tue Jun 21 2005 - 22:18:09 EDT

Well, here's what St. Thomas says in De Aeternitate Mundi:

"We thus ought to determine whether there is any contradiction between these two ideas, namely, to be made by God and to have always existed. And, whatever may be the truth of this matter, it will not be heretical to say that God can make something created by him to have always existed, though I believe that if there were a contradiction involved in asserting this, the assertion would be false. However, if there is no contradiction involved, then it is neither false nor impossible that God could have made something that has always existed, and it will be an error to say otherwise. For, if there is no contradiction, we ought to admit that God could have made something that has always existed, for it would be clearly derogatory to the divine omnipotence, which exceeds every thought and power, to say that we creatures can conceive of something that God is unable to make."

Thomas goes on to give an argument why there is no contradiction in saying this, and concludes with:

"Thus it is clear that there is no contradiction in saying that something made by God has always existed."

I understand St. Thomas to be arguing that God can do so, not that he has done so. So, I'm not sure what you're arguing about, except that maybe Gilson's interpretation is incorrect.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Rich Blinne
  To: Robert Schneider
  Cc: Glenn Morton ;
  Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 9:02 PM
  Subject: Re: Defense of Theism pt 1

  On 6/21/05, Robert Schneider <> wrote:
    Bob comments:

    While, he argues for ex nihilo creation in his treatise On the Eternity of the World, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that even if the world were eternal, it would not rule out God. He argued that, as E. Gilson summarized it, "If God freely willed the world, it is absolutely impossible for us to determine that he necessarily willed it in time rather than in eternity. The sole basis for our opinion is that God made his will known to us by revelation upon which faith is founded. Since reason cannot conclude, and since God has informed us, we must believe that the world began, but we cannot demonstrate it, and, strictly speaking, we do not know it. (History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages , p. 374). [emphasis mine]

  You misread the Angelic Doctor. He is saying that philosophy does not tell us whether the Universe is necessarily not eternal, but Scripture does. The "we do not know it" conclusion in Gilson is nowhere to be found in Acquinas and is alien to his epistomology. The knowledge of faith and the knowledge of sense experience were perfectly complementary in his thought. Note the first line of On the Eternity of the World:

  "Let us assume, in accordance with the Catholic faith, that the world had a beginning in time."

  If our philosophy is to bound by Scripture, we cannot go everywhere that philosophy can take us. Thus we must limit the cosmological argument.
  Note the following from his Summa (First Part, Q.46, 3)

  The words of Genesis, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth," are expounded in a threefold sense in order to exclude three errors. For some said that the world always was , and that time had no beginning; and to exclude this the words "In the beginning" are expounded--viz. "of time." [emphasis mine]

    John Haugh quotes Anglican theologian Keith Ward on the danger of linking creation to temporal beginnings:

    "It is irrelevant to a doctrine of creation ex nihilo whether the universe began or not; that the universe began was usually accepted because of a particular reading of Genesis 1. The doctrine of creation ex nihilo simply maintains that there is nothing other than God from which the universe is made; and that the universe is other than God and wholly dependent upon God for its existence (Ward, "God as a Principle of Cosmological Explanation," in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature, ed. R. J. Russell, et al., p. 247ff, quoted in Haught, Science and Religion, p. 111; Ward's whole paper is a good read.).

  Glenn is starting with a particular reading of Genesis, namely the concordist one. If we are going to attempt to show the God of the Bible, we must limit ourselves to a Universe that was created in the beginning. I am not saying that you cannot make a theistic argument with an eternal Universe, but I am saying you cannot make a Christian one. Glenn stated he wanted something that was subject to be disproven. I've noted one of those things. By not taking a stand on the eternality of the Universe were back to the heads-I-win-tails-you-lose that Glenn rightly is offended by.
Received on Tue Jun 21 22:23:22 2005

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