We are always changing, whether we like it or not.
Thank you for reading.
I admit it, I am over my head. Science, and especially evolutionary biology is way over my pay-grade. Nevertheless, one can’t help but notice the heated debates nowadays over questions about the origin of man’s creation. argh.
My position is this: I realize modern scientific claims are under pressure to conform to scripture. So we have a problem. Scripture is not a scientific text, nor was it intended to be read as a scientific text or source to prove scientific claims. What it does do for sure, is point to a Creator God, maker of heaven and earth and all things visible and invisible. And that’s enough for me. Whatever science comes up with from now on, will point to those realities.
Aquinas to my rescue.
William Carroll’s article (here in part) draws parallels and comparisons among this debates:
1) the ancient debates concerning Aristotle’s claim that the world is eternal, or the world had always been, versus the ancient Christian view that God produced everything from nothing (ex nihilo).
Thomas Aquinas, given that he lived 1225-1273, gathers in the main points obviously directed to debate no. 1. Carroll does a nice job of applying Aquinas’ timeless, wise application of the use of reason, at the very least to hopefully calm modern contentions amidst, dare I say it, evolution vs. ‘evolution-ism’ kinds of questions concerning the world’s origin.
For me evolution refers to the natural order of things, the nature of the process of man’s creation, birth, maturation towards natural death and the like. This holy process is represented via genealogies, allegory, poetry and stories in the holy bible. Evolution-ism, by marked contrast, is a material, atheistic belief system that short-circuits rational dialog and is fueled by scientific ego bashing and theological killing. I fear some of this bashing is filtering through fundamentalist circles as well. Very distasteful and unfortunate.
That all said, this amended article has a formal introduction and more development in the middle. But based on the likes and hits this posts receives, I may post other sections or perhaps not. Just in case, there is a link below for your interest and convenience.
Again, thank you for reading, as the intersection of science and religion is really not my forte’. But given that Aquinas had alot to say about this relationship, I am compelled to post it.
Thomas Aquinas’ Understanding of Creation
“It seemed to many of Aquinas’ contemporaries that there was a fundamental incompatibility between the claim of ancient science that something cannot come from nothing and the affirmation of Christian faith that God produced everything from nothing. Furthermore, for the Greeks, since something must always come from something, there must always be something; the universe must be eternal.
The scientific works of Aristotle and several of his medieval commentators provided an arsenal of arguments which appear, at least, to be contrary to the truths of Christianity. In particular, how is one to reconcile the claim, found throughout Aristotle, that the world is eternal with the Christian affirmation of creation, a creation understood as meaning that the world is temporally finite, that is, has a temporal beginning of its existence? In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council had solemnly proclaimed that God created all that is from nothing [de nihil condidit] and that this creation occurred ab initio temporis. In 1277 the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, issued a list of propositions condemned as heretical, among them the claim that the world is eternal.
(in other words, the debate was, was the world created or had it always been? -kb)
As chancellor of the University of Paris, the bishop was well aware of the debates about creation and the eternity of the world which raged through the thirteenth century.  The controversy was part of the wider encounter between the heritage of classical antiquity and the doctrines of Christianity: an encounter between those claims to truth founded on reason and those founded on faith.
If faith affirms that the world has a temporal beginning, can reason demonstrate this must be true? What can reason demonstrate about the fact of creation itself, as distinct from the question of a temporal beginning? Indeed, can one speak of creation as distinct from a temporally finite universe? These are some of the questions which thirteenth century Christian thinkers confronted as they wrestled with the heritage of Greek science. These questions are distant adumbration of discourse in our own day about the meaning of creation in the context of the insights of evolutionary biology.
A master principle which informs Aquinas’ analysis of creation is that the truths of science cannot contradict the truths of faith. God is the author of all truth and whatever reason discovers to be true about reality ought not to be challenged by an appeal to sacred texts.
On the specific questions of creation out of nothing and the eternity of the world, 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 subatomic particles to acorns to galaxies. Whenever there is a change there must be something that changes. The ancient Greeks are right: from nothing, nothing comes; that is, if the verb “to come” means to 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 cause completely something to exist is not to produce a change in something, is not to work on or with some existing material. If, in producing something new, an agent were to use something already existing, the agent would not be the complete cause of the new thing. But such complete causing is precisely what creation is. To build a house or paint a picture involves working with existing materials and either action is radically different from creation. To create is to cause existence, and all things are totally dependent upon a Creator for the very fact that they are.
The Creator does not take nothing and make something out of nothing. Rather, any thing left entirely to itself, wholly separated from the cause of its existence, would be absolutely nothing. Creation is not some distant event; it is the complete causing of the existence of everything that is. Creation, thus, as Aquinas shows, is a subject for metaphysics and theology; it is not a subject for the natural sciences. Although Scripture reveals that God is Creator, for Aquinas, the fundamental understanding of creation is accessible to reason alone, in the discipline of metaphysics; it does not necessarily require faith.
Aquinas thought that by starting from the recognition of the distinction between what things are, their essences, and that they are, their existence, one could reason conclusively to an absolutely first cause which causes the existence of everything that is.  Aquinas shows that there are two related senses of creation, one philosophical, the other theological. The philosophical sense discloses the metaphysical dependence of everything on God as cause. The theological sense of creation, although much richer, nevertheless incorporates all that philosophy teaches and adds as well that the universe is temporally finite.
(in other words, Aristotle was not saying that the world was literally eternal, but that it had ‘become’ through a Creator God. He did not presume to know how it became. He was simply identifying with the philosophical sense. -kb)
Aquinas saw no contradiction in the notion of an eternal created universe. He thought that it was a matter of biblical revelation that the world is not eternal. He also thought that reason alone could not conclude whether the world had a temporal beginning. But even if the universe were not to have had a temporal beginning, it still would depend upon God for its very being, its existence. The root sense of creation does not concern temporal origination; rather it affirms metaphysical dependence. For Aquinas, there is no conflict between the doctrine of creation and any physical theory. Theories in the natural sciences account for change.
Whether the changes described are cosmological or biological, unending or finite, they remain processes. Creation accounts for the existence of things, not for changes in things. An evolving universe, just like Aristotle’s eternal universe, is still a created universe. No explanation of evolutionary change, no matter how radically random or contingent it claims to be, challenges the metaphysical account of creation, that is, of the dependence of the existence of all things upon God as cause. When some thinkers deny creation on the basis of theories of evolution, or reject evolution in defense of creation, they misunderstand creation or evolution, or both. “
[sigh] Peace be with you.
12. See Luca Bianchi, L’errore di Aristotele: La polemica contro l’eternità del mondo nel XIII secolo (Firenze: La Nuova Italia Editrice, 1984); Il Vescovo e i Filosofi: La condanna parigiana del 1277 e l’evoluzione dell’aristotelismo scolastico (Bergamo: Pierluigi Lubrina Editrice, 1990); and Censure et liberté intellectuelle à l’université de Paris (XIIIe – XIVe siècles), (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1999).
13. An account of Aquinas’ first magisterial discussion of creation can be found in Baldner and Carroll, Aquinas on Creation.
14. The complete dependence of the creature on the Creator means that there is a kind of priority of non-being to being in any creature, but this priority is not fundamentally temporal. It is, as Aquinas said, a priority according to nature, not according to time. Both Albert the Great and Bonaventure argued, contrary to the view of Aquinas, that to be created necessarily means to have being after non-being. Thus, unlike Aquinas, they inextricably linked creation with temporal origination. See Baldner and Carroll, Aquinas on Creation.
William E. Carroll “Creation, Evolution, and Thomas Aquinas.” Revue des Questions Scientifiques171 (4) 2000: 319-347
Reprinted with permission of the author, William E. Carroll.
William E. Carroll is Professor of History at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. He is the author of La Creación y las ciencias naturales. Actualidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino (Santiago: Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Press, forthcoming December 2001) and Aquinas on Creation which he co-authored with Steven E. Baldner (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1997) and Nature and Motion in the Middle Ages, editor (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1985)
Copyright © 2000 Revue des Questions Scientifiques