The Creation Of The World
by Rev. Roderick MacEachen
Everything that exists was created by God. "The Lord made Heaven and earth and the sea and all things that are in them." God made all things out of nothing. In the book of Wisdom it is said: "Thy Almighty hand which made the world of matter without form." This might simply means that God first created the matter, then gave it a form. St. Paul says: "By faith we understand that the world was framed by the word of God: that from invisible things visible things might be made." By this the Apostle simply means to say that the world was made from nothing. St. Thomas says: "Invisible things may be taken to mean the archetypal ideas that exist in the mind of God."
God alone can create. No other being could create even the smallest atom. There have been men who held that some substances were created by angels. The Manicheans taught that there was a principle of evil who was the creator of all things evil. The words of the Prophet speak for god: "I am the Lord, that make all things, that alone stretch out the heavens, that establish the earth, and there is none with me."
Creation is not the work of one Divine Person. It is the work of the Triune God. The creative act is common to all three persons of the Blessed Trinity. The Lateran Council, c. 14, says: "The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, consubstantial and co-equal and co-omnipotent and co-eternal are one principle of all things; the Creator of all things visible and invisible." The three Divine Person act together in the work of creation. They are one Creator as they are one God.
Creation was a free act of God. He was free to create or not to create at will. "Our God . . . hath done all things whatsoever he would." Creation is primarily an expression of God's bounty. The world perfectly manifests the idea God wished to express. It possesses all the perfection God wished to give. Hence, it is out of place to ask whether creation could be more perfect. God created all corporeal and spiritual beings. He established the most beautiful harmony amongst them. All things are fitted for their proper destiny. They are suited to the end for which God made them. Cod created the world, first, for His Own glory, then, for the good of His creatures. This is the greatest object things could have for their existence. Hence, the world may be said to be the best possible.
God created the world not from eternity but in time. This is clear from the words of Christ: "Glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had before the world was, with thee." The Book of Genesis describes the creation of the material world. God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning of time. It was then but a shapeless mass. On the first day God divided light from darkness. On the second day, He made the firmament and divided the seas from the land. On the fourth day, He made the luminaries of the heavens. The sun was created to shine by day and the moon and stars to shine by night. On the fifth day, God made the animals of the sea and the fowls of the air. On the sixth day, He made the animals that live upon the land and also created man. On the seventh day, He rested from His labors and blessed the day. He then commanded man to consecrate this day to the Lord. It was called the Sabbath.
It is clear from Scripture that God did not create all things at one time. However, the Church has never defined the meaning of the six days. Saint Augustine held that God created all things simultaneously. He held that the six days refer to the six different works as they appeared to the minds of the angels. Many others held that they were six natural days of twenty-four hours each. The Church condemned others who asserted that the Biblical account of creation was mixed with myths and fables.
There is no longer doubt that a certain length of time elapsed between each successive act of creation. Yet the Church has not decided what length of time is designated by the word "day." The Hebrew word "iom" from which "day" is translated may also mean an indefinite period of time. The mention of evening and morning creates no difficulty. These are also noted for the first three days. But since the sun and moon had not yet been created, these could hardly have been natural days. Evening and morning may be taken to mean respectively the shapeless and the completed state of things.
The opinion, now almost universally held by Catholic theologians, is that the six days refer to geological periods. It is impossible to determine the length of these periods. However, it seems certain that the earth developed into its present form through the operation of natural causes. Mountains were formed by contractions and eruptions. Valleys were leveled by floods. These changes of the earth's surface still continue today. Many remains of animals and plants have been found in the deep strata of the earth. No trace of man, however, is to be found there. This would indicate that animals and plants existed thousands of years before the creation of man. The sun, the stars, and the planets also may have been formed gradually in the course of long ages. Changes are still observed in the stars and planets. God could, indeed, have created the world as it now exists. Yet it seems incredible that God should have given the appearance of volcanic eruptions to certain regions and that He should have placed fossils and remains of animals down deep in the earth. This would be like making sport of human intelligence. For it is, indeed, within the sphere of man to study nature.