Section 1 - Implications: A First Circle of Connections
Section 2 - A Second Circle of Connections: Contexts
Section 3 - A Third Circle of Connections: The Logos in the Cosmos
Section 4 - A Fourth Circle of Connections: From Within Creation
Section 5 - A Fifth Circle of Connections: Human Being
Section 6 - A Sixth Circle of Connections: The Trinity
Section 7 - A Seventh Circle of Connections: The Eucharistic Universe
Section 8 - Dimensions: Death
Section 9 - Dimensions: Love and Sex
Section 10 - Conclusion
AN EXPANDING THEOLOGY
Faith in a World of Connections
Anthony J. Kelly CSsR
A Fourth Circle of Connections: WITHIN CREATION
The mystery of creation is our second focus of connections. As a noun, ‘creation' signifies the totality of what God has created, is creating, will create. Moreover, there is nothing that is not God's creation, that does not owe its existence to the Creator. In a radical sense, everything is pure gift. As a verb, ‘' signifies the original and continuing activity of God's creating such a totality, whether the universe is considered in an evolutionary or in the comparatively static mode of classical philosophical theology. Both meanings of the word, as noun and verb, imply, of course, a Creator.
1. Knowing by Negation
Before making a remark on the notion of God as Creator, it will be well to remind ourselves of our imaginative propensities to lead the mind astray. If, for instance, we try to imagine creation as a noun, we naturally tend to imagine a totality of something to which we ourselves are oddly extrinsic. We can have the impression that our thinking and feeling, praying, desiring and exploring are just a faint mode of being, built on the reality of creation, but not really part of it. Creation is thus imagined as a rather objective state of affairs which human beings may, or may not, come to recognise. Here, I simply note, that human response and responsibility are a dimension of the reality of creation.
Then, too, when creation is taken as a verb, referring to God's original and continuous creating, creation may be imagined as a rather superior kind of doing something. The essential jolt to this imaginative fallacy was traditionally supplied by the addition of a mysterious little phrase: God creates ‘out of nothing', ex nihilo sui et subjecti. The divine creative act presupposes nothing already in existence – no raw material; no chain of events; no previous dispositions. God is not conditioned by anything already in existence. There is nothing there, outside the divine reality, which God somehow uses in the act of creation. The imagination, however devout, cannot quite handle that. It tends inescapably to model God as the biggest factor in a world of doers and movers. It tends to locate God in a cosmos of causes, principles and particular energies.
In contrast, the theology of creation understands divine creating, not as one category of causing or doing or deciding, but as a transcendent, therefore unimaginable, mode of causing things to be and to act. The Creator acts in the acting of everything, and causes in the causality of every agent. This notion of creation strains the imagination. We need to recognise that we are dealing with radical mystery, unlike anything in the world. God is the ungraspable ground and energy of all being and acting. These points we will further elaborate in due course. But first we must dwell for a moment on the notion of God.
It is tempting to discuss creation without using the time-(dis?)honoured word, ‘God'. The biblical and philosophical traditions that have formed Christian understanding of creation know other terms. For example, we have the Word, Light, Spirit, Source, Life, Love, Be-ing ( note, a verb, the Thomistic, Ipsum Esse – literally, ‘Sheer To-Be'), limitless Act (i.e., the Actus Purus of Western philosophic tradition), ultimate reality, pure mystery, the final good, the first cause, and many others. Often discussion is blocked by the emotional fixations, fantastic distortions and conceptual straight jackets with which a variety of cultural conflicts have imbued this one word, ‘God'. Nonetheless, we must persevere with it. After all, it does not let us escape from the unredeemed elements in our history. Nonetheless, other terms are available. In dealing with the mystery that transcends human language, we need to keep in play the whole vocabulary, even as we maintain the reverent restraint so characteristic of the Jewish tradition in which the personal name of God was seldom written or pronounced.
The real problem, however, with words, be they marks on a page or vibrations of sound. It resides, rather, in how these terms are used, and in what they are supposed to mean. For the believer, the first and fundamental notion of God is found in an orientation to that limitless, living fullness of being and goodness which, alone, in the deepest sense of the traditional term, ‘saves our souls'. In more contemporary language, the sense of God is intimated as that which fulfils the movement toward self-transcendence. The meaning of God is, as it were, progressively anticipated in our search for ultimate and unconditioned meaning, truth, beauty, value, love and mercy as reach beyond ourselves, and upward to what the world cannot give. Our searching existence is answered in the history of divine self-disclosure. Faith recognises that God is not indifferent to our seeking, but is revealed in the words of the prophets, in the wisdom of the holy ones, in word of sacred scriptures, in the coming of Christ. To that degree, the meaning of God is articulated in a world of questions and answers. However unformulated, the notion of God is tasted in the tang of life itself as it looks to its proper fullness. Unknown, yet ever attractive, such a mystery provokes surrender and adoration. God is the silence in which words fall away, the darkness where our brightest ideas fade in the radiance of another light. God is experienced in the all-welcoming Love in which our restless hearts come home. In transcendent realm of mystery, the final transformation hope tends to, finds assurance. Limitless mystery is the space of ultimate connection and belonging. Hence to faith, God is first an invocable, all-relational ‘You', before the objectifications of ‘It', ‘He/She' come into play.
Not to recognise the anticipatory, ongoing character of the way we mean God makes dialogue with the reverently agnostic all but impossible, be they scientists or meditative searchers. What results is all too often a collision of congealed concepts. In this struggle between fixed ideas, the scientifically enunciated version seems sophisticated, and the religious one, naive. This, I believe, is the problem which continually crops up in the matters we are about to discuss. So it is worth bearing in mind, in recognition of healthy biblical agnosticism, that God is not yet seen face to face, that God ‘no one has ever seen' (John 1:18). Even though God is the object of our love and faith and hope, the mystery is disclosed only in a progressive darkness. With the shattering of our idols, be they erected by our feelings, need for security or intellectual systems of thought, faith is liberated to surrender to the original and ultimate and original mystery so as neither to grasp or contain it.
After this modest flourish of ‘negative theology', let us proceed to the doctrine of creation. Whether we speak of creation as a noun or a verb, such language operates in an horizon in which the One who is creator is present to the believing mind. Faith comes to believe in the Creator, not because it first believes in creation. Rather, believers speak of creation because, however obscurely, they have come to know the One who alone who can create. Admittedly, in the religious case, there is a certain undifferentiated affirmation of creator and creation before philosophical, historical or scientific questions are asked. As contexts develop, the creation question is framed to meet the demands of different mentalities which are evident in all the varieties of philosophy and psychology, of scientific method or aesthetic sensibilities, evolutionary biology and quantum physics. If faith is to seek further understanding, it has to move through many contexts and encounter many different mentalities if, in the end, it is to mature to its full intellectual, ethical and spiritual potential.
2. Different Starting Points
Those who have attained a highly theoretical or scientific mentality approach the question of creation in a form quite different from those who have, say, a specifically spiritual or religious standpoint. These tend to pose the question in terms of a prior faith, as it seeks further understanding or to arrive at a more universal viewpoint. Theoretical thinkers, however, express their queries more in the form terms of a scientific understanding searching for faith of some kind, as questions lead to more questions, in the hope of some final answer or assurance. They might find themselves suggesting that religious believers must wait on the findings of their science or philosophy before belief can be declared legitimate, before God can be reasonably affirmed as compatible with some intellectual, moral or aesthetic scheme. The features of an inevitable clash of views are clear. Those who freely adore the ultimate mystery disclosed to their faith as the source and goal of all, are dismissed as being ‘simple believers', conventionally religious because they know no better.
On the other hand, believers who might legitimately rejoice in an intimacy with the divine Ground of creation can often lag beyond in terms of intellectual development. Intelligence is not part of their way to God. Through lack of leisure, or training or commitment, to say nothing of suspicion, fear or laziness, they can be unfamiliar with the real value of thought, philosophy and science. To them, the religious sense of creation is in danger of being replaced by some purely human method, from whose esoteric procedures they are barred. The ultimate and universal reach their faith is called on, they might feel, to yield a sophisticated elite presiding over the secrets of the universe. Believers are called to become less believers in God, it might appear, to be more believing in regard to the current assertions of science. Hence, the problem. At what point does credibility fade into credulity? And at what point must faith surrender the whole domain of its experience to, say, a mathematical physicist, whose hypotheses may see some place for ‘the mind of God', but who can speak of the universe without any mention of death or love, art or grace, scholarship or revelation, beauty or morality. Such is the problem conveniently instanced in Paul Davies' book, The Mind of God.
The question of creation is, then, an area where deep methodological questions about the collaborative character of human knowledge is posed. Is there a way of respecting the whole range of the human exploration of meaning, truth, and goodness? There is no point in talking about creation and the Creator of all (including the human mind and heart), if some of the data are declared inadmissable, above all the data which each of us is, within the complexity of our conscious living. After all, we are each alive, conscious, plunged ecstatically in a world of daily meaning, communication and responsibility. In that world, love brings forth what is best in our lives, just as beauty in art or nature continually refreshes our perceptions of the uncanny gift of existence.
This may sound too broad or obscurantist to the hard-nosed scientist. But I have not the slightest intention of denying the value of scientific research. By implying that the totality of reality eludes any exclusively scientific method, I am attempting to locate scientific method in a larger field of human experience and exploration. Indeed, I think that the theology of creation points to a background theme in which all our diverse human creativities can improvise their variations as part of the symphony of reality. The scientist and philosopher, Michael Polanyi, points to the way ahead:
3. From the Biblical to the Current Question
The unique transcendent act of God in calling things into existence is expressed in the Hebrew term, bárá. In the writings of Deutero-Isaiah and Ezechiel the great theme of God as Creator is employed to bolster the hopes of Israel in its experience of captivity. God can bring about a new exodus. God can bring about the radically new because he alone is the creator, because he is dependent on nothing; because he is sheer originality in regard to all reality and history.
The two creation accounts which we meet in the early chapters of Genesis are not expressed under the same degree of historical pressure. They represent a marvellous morning dream of the universe as God's original gift. The world appears as an ordered and differentiated whole. Human beings are introduced into such a totality to share in God's own creativity through responsibility and care. Within such a world, the human community will find nothing to equal God, for God is the world-originating source of all good. Though evil has its opaque presence in human experience, it is not from God; evil is from creatures gone wrong; it is the perversion of creation, neither its original nor final condition. In every reality and behind every moment of history is the utterly free and unconditioned power of divine creativity.
While these themes are familiar, the sense of creation that Christianity inherits from Israel would be truncated if no mention were made of the more immanent, participative emphasis evident in the Wisdom literature. What we find in these writings contrasts with the rather hierarchical and pictorial accounts characteristic of Genesis. While these latter accounts are expressed in terms of visual and auditory imagery, the sensory texture of the Sapiential experience of creation is more kinetic and tactile. The feminine character of creative wisdom is to the forefront, as the divine presence pervades and encompasses all experience. To give one example,
By evoking the translucent depth and energy of divine creation, such a passage suggests the kind of transformation that occurs in the human mind and heart when God is acknowledged as creator, and when the world is recognised as God's creation. Divine wisdom moves in and through the ‘all things' as an attractive, all-pervasive, life-giving reality (Cf. Prov 8:22- 9:6; Sir 1:1-20; 24:1-22; Wis 7:22- 9:18; Cf. Eph 4:6). In this, we have an indication of Israel's true philosophia, the ‘love of wisdom', relishing, in each moment, all reality in its God-given originality and depth. We must wonder at the extent to which the neglect of this kind of biblical Wisdom has left theology somewhat impoverished and awkward when it comes to face the great ecological and cosmic questions of own day.
We are taken closer to the nub of the contemporary question of creation in the following marvellous passage. Here, the biblical sage reflects on less conclusive kinds of wisdom:
Today ‘the good things that are seen' have been immeasurably extended. The magnitude of the energies and the infinitesimal intricacies of pattern and design are so fascinating, and so subversive of former visions of reality, that scientific language verges on the religious and the poetic in its effort to express the numinous value of the cosmos it celebrates. For on a purely scientific level a new enchantment with the beauty and wonder of the cosmos is apparent. Little wonder that there are those who feel they have discovered ‘the gods that rule the world'. In comparison, the God of traditional faith seems little more than a naive projection.
We find ourselves in an exuberant Babel of languages. Different mind-sets and different methods seek to name the ultimate, and a new holistic concern tries to overcome the splintering and reduction of the former perceptions of science and religion. Still, the biblical sage graciously admits that those who confuse the wonders of creation with the wonder of the Creator are ‘little to be blamed'. A realistic search is in evidence: if the real wonders of the world inspire confidence in the beauty, complexity and sheer uncanniness of it all, it is likely that the search will continue for the full mystery intimated in such experience.
And yet there remains the possibility of stopping short: ‘... how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of all things?' Further questioning can be silenced with all the versions, both ancient and modern, of Carl Sagan's proclamation: ‘The cosmos – as known by science – is all there is, all there was, and all there will be'. Or does the bleaker statement of the geneticist Jacques Monod declare a dismal impasse?: ‘The ancient covenant is in pieces: man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe out of which he emerged only by chance'. Yet, for others, the promise of further searching is evident. The eminent physicist, Werner Heisenberg, wrote, ‘Although I am convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking ... Thus, in the course of my life, I have been repeatedly compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought'.
It would not appear as strange to the biblical sage as it does to a modern positivist mentality, to witness the recent tendency of scientists to rehabilitate the question of God in the realm of science in their efforts to explain the uncanny design of the universe. Paul Davies, for example, is a leading populariser of this shift: ‘It may seem bizarre, but, in my opinion, science offers a surer path to God than religion'. The ‘bizarre' character of such an assertion might be more vivid to the modern scientist than to the most venerable philosophical tradition of the West. As Etienne Gilson remarks, himself quoting the scientist, Louis de Broglie,
Davies' ‘bizarre' reaction is the result of his unwitting discovery of a whole philosophical tradition stemming from Plato (the Timaeus), and Aristotle (his Physics and Metaphysics). And though Medieval theological tradition would admit a whole range of complex distinctions between knowing God by reason and assenting to the divine mysteries in faith, its peculiar brand of hardy intellectualism would not be amazed by what Professor Davies has to say. There were a variety of medieval efforts to ‘prove the existence of God' from the fact, the structure, the movement of the world of our experience. In that tradition, every created being exhibited a ‘vestige' of the divine. More obviously, and this is more surprising to the post-Newtonian science of today, the scientific approach to God accords with the conviction of Newton himself in the 28th query at the end of the Opticks: ‘The main Business of natural Philosophy is to argue from Phaenomena without feigning Hypotheses, and to deduce Causes from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not Mechanical'.
Admittedly, as we mentioned above, there is a certain limitation in searching into ‘the mind of God' with no consideration of the relevance of love, death, values, ethics, art, grace or the possibilities of divine self-revelation. Then, too, there is the problem of evil. The mind of God cannot be explored with complete profit if the mind of the explorer is mathematically inured against the drama and struggle for real life. Such an exploration can look like a sophisticated way of escaping from the most radical issues in our lived existence. The more dramatically people are exposed to the tragedy and wonder of life, the more they are tempted to dismiss exclusively mathematical explorations of God as the productions of autistic savants.
But it need not be so. The very fact that so much of the cosmos is found to be so profoundly intelligible and so elegantly beautiful, luminous with that splendor entis, that ‘radiance of being' of which Aquinas speaks, invites the mind into its ultimate adventure: an exploration of the original mystery of it all. But there is a gently insistent question: ‘if they had the power to know so much... how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of all things?'. The poet goes further:
These lines evoke a beautiful expression of medieval wisdom: ‘Creatures, as far as in them lies, do not turn us away from God but lead to God. If they do turn us away..., that is due to those who, through their own fault, use them in ways that are contrary to reason'.
4. Image, Thought, and Exploration
Imagination, however necessary for understanding, is not understanding. While images provoke and focus thought, they do not replace thinking. Hence, the great theological and philosophical doctrines of creation in an obvious sense go beyond the biblical and creedal imagery of God as maker, actor, artisan, potter, and so forth. Philosophy and theology arise when the undifferentiated imaginative life of faith makes contact with the world of theory, be it in philosophy or science. The biblical creation narratives, and the creed's affirmation of the one God, creator of heaven and earth, appeal to the drama and vitality of religious consciousness. To the believer, everything is God's creation. The Creator, the origin, ground and goal of everything, acts in and through everything and all the events of history. Because God is the origin of all, there is a fundamental unity of all things in that one creation. There is nothing outside the creative scope of God. Within this oneness of creation, humankind has its special place as the image of the creator God, as the worker in the garden of creation, as God's steward caring for all that has been declared good, or as the builder of the saving ark. For human consciousness to be fixated in anything that God has made, is to project an ultimacy onto the creature that it cannot bear. Idolatry is the radical displacement of mind and heart into anything less than total meaning and ultimate value. To the biblical mind, idolatry is the most characteristic perversion of the human spirit.
Now, the philosophical current of creation theology, though it does not disown either vivid religious conviction or the metaphorical expressions characteristic of religious consciousness, operates on a more abstractly metaphysical level. Metaphors, symbols, analogies, models and all other kinds of human language are understood to be simply that, limited by our human mode of knowing. Even our surest theological judgments must include a moment of negation: God is ‘good' – though not good as limited entities are good, but ‘eminently', i.e., in a way that is beyond human comprehension. The negating moment occurs at the heart of any analogical knowledge. It makes for a space of reserve and silence in all theological speech. In the present instance, we need to bear in mind that theology cannot express directly what the Creator is, since the divine is beyond any worldly meaning. Nor can it express what divine creating is, since the divine creative act is not like any familiar instance of ‘making' – which presupposes something, however potential, already existing. Nor can we speak of God's creation. The total dependence of the universe on God for its existence is beyond any relationship we know. Those three notions – the creator, creation as a verb, creation as a noun – however much they arise out of the concreteness of existence, lead to where neither language nor thought are really adequate.
This sense of reserve must carry over into any dialogue with contemporary science. We find ourselves in a new historical context affected by new scientific methods. Scientists are more systematically alert to the relativity of their standpoints. The subjectivity of the scientist is inextricably bound up with the objectivity of his or her judgments. Nonetheless, scientific research is like any other kind of human knowing. It deals with a specialised band of data, forms it into imaginative models, locates its questions in a world of meaning, weighs the evidence for the most probable position, and seeks applications of its findings in accord with a certain scale of values.
It is the same with theology. The theological difference lies, of course, in the kind of data. A reflective faith explores the data of religious experience throughout history. Theologians formulate a doctrine of creation out of a radical, continuing demand to understand what has been revealed and witnessed to. They can never pretend to the possession of some final answer, as though the mystery of God were comprehended. Theology must know its limits, as it experiences the continuing force of the ultimate question, even while any ultimate answer remains locked in silence and darkness. The aim of theology, then, at least in its philosophical form, is to turn the inquiring mind from the reasons sufficient for any judgment of truth to the sufficient reason for sufficient reasons; from the meanings we find in a meaningful world to the meaning of all its meanings.
The doctrine of creation looks more and more like a question. It unfolds as an open structure, open to the source of existence without comprehending it. What God is remains radically unknown, even as the universe points to a meaning beyond itself. In judging that the universe is God's creation, we, and everything else in that creation, is led back to the original and final mystery which is the source of all that is.
In its overture to original mystery, the theology of creation resists all forms of reductionism. The originality of the Creator is not be reduced to something infinitely less. The ultimate depth and breadth of creation is not under the control of any one area of expertise, be it physics or chemistry, biology or sociology, psychology – or theology itself. The reductionist declares that reality is really ‘nothing but' a flow of electrons or chemical reactions or biological drives or cultural projections or psychological needs or social symbols; or, for that matter, a theological system. The reductionist mentality underpins the many forms of fundamentalism, the ‘nothing but-tery' of minds refusing the whole scope of their intelligence.
The doctrine of creation, both in its classic metaphysical form and in its contemporary familiarity with the scientific data, resists any such reductionistic fundamentalism. It insists that the mind stay open and that the heart not rest until the total, all-originating mystery is revealed. Before moving to the contemporary context of the question, let us sample something of the classic medieval account of the meaning of creation. In many ways, it is a surprising resource.
5. Pointers from the Past
In Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas asks whether the consideration of creatures is useful for the enlightenment of faith. His positive answer reveals a sturdy and reverent realism. He first considers the varied elements of creation. For him they each image forth God in some way. By contemplating this varied totality, the mind arrives at an intense and concentrated sense of the divine wisdom. It is as though the created universe of particular beings draws the attentive intelligence into an ever expanding horizon within which the creative wisdom of God can be ever more realistically appreciated. Similarly, it engenders a sense of varied creativity of the divine power at work. But his third reason is more fully expressed:
Here the divine is experienced in creation as an attractive force progressively luring human consciousness into the experience of the fontana bonitas, the fontal goodness that God is.
Thomas' fourth reason appeals to a more intimate sense of participation in the divine. By considering the variety of creation, we human beings achieve in ourselves ‘a certain likeness to the divine perfection and wisdom'. Since God knows (and loves) everything in himself, and as we human beings participate in God's self-knowledge and love through faith, we begin to share in the divine consciousness of creation. To illustrate this luminous new consciousness of creation, Aquinas goes on to quote St Paul, ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord... are being transformed into the same image ...'(2 Cor 3:18).
The created world is appreciated as the manifestation of the Creator and as drawing us to participating in God's own creative wisdom. We can cherish such a vision as a fine resource when faced with the challenge of formulating a contemporary ecological and cosmically attuned theology. Nonetheless, as a corrective to any form of naive holism, there can be no question of confusing creation or nature with God. In fact, Thomas goes on to say that the proper appreciation of creation is necessary, not only for finding truth but also for excluding errors. As we intelligently search through the world of creation, we find that no creature is independent in its existence, and that no element of our world is ‘the first cause' of everything. We need to learn to value the variety of created realities within the englobing mystery of existence, and receive it as a gift. According to this medieval vision, the variety of creation radiates from the one inexhaustible divine origin:
In Aquinas' theology, we find a wisdom that deeply appreciates the variety and precious particularities of creation. Each element of creation has its own quasi-absolute value. It is a particular realisation of the divine. The numinous sense of nature that so many ecologists bring to their commitments today is no doubt living from a subterranean connection with this great medieval vision, for,
And yet there is a further point, too often overlooked, in this classic sense of creation. The mystery of creation, in its variety and unity, not only shares in the beauty and goodness of the Creator. The universe is brought into existence by an act of free creative love. Aquinas builds up to this conclusion in the following passage:
The being and variety of creation is total gift. God's love is not first attracted toward something already existing. Rather, everything inasmuch as it exists, is loved into existence by the divine freedom: amor Dei infundens et creans bonitatem in rebus. Creation, from this point of view, is enacted as a communication of the divine joy in the existence of what is other. It is sheer gift: the [ultimate] Good is diffusive of itself (Bonum est diffusivum sui). The universe, therefore, is a divinely chosen order of being, and not a kind of necessary emanation from, or completion of, a remote deity. In all its variety and connectedness, the created universe is a communication from the heart of God.
The stable world of particular natures linked in a great chain of being is as it envisaged in the great medieval vision differs from the evolutionary universe as it is appears today. In contemporary thinking, the whole is a process before it is an ordered collection of particular natures. But here, I think, two remarks might be made. First, Aquinas exhibits a serene delight in the specific value of each element of creation as loved into being. Each being serves to manifest the divine goodness in a particular way. To that degree, it mitigates the cosmic sadness of an uncritical evolutionary myth. In its sense of the past, such a myth reads like an obituary for the casualties of evolution. The fittest survived; the weakest did not; and even what survives is subjected to the blind, harsh law that values only the future. In contrast, the medieval vision, even while it leaves unknown the mysterious ways of Providence, finds an existential value in things simply because they exist – or existed in a certain way at a certain time. It is a reminder to those who would hurry to frame the laws of evolution to take into account two considerations. First, each individual entity is a world of mystery in the sheer fact of its existence. Before it can be considered a link in the chain of evolution, or as an aspect of the larger emerging complexity, it is, or was, there! The evolutionary potential – or lack of it – of the Marella splendens, or of any of eighty thousand extraordinarily complex creatures unearthed in the Burgess Shale in Western Canada, does not evacuate the fundamental wonder of its existence in the play and contingency of what happened in time. The unique existence of the individual entity is so often ‘the missing link' in evolutionary thinking. Secondly, the seemingly purposeless variety of what once existed or is existing in its unique manner should make us wary of any premature closure on the whole story of what is going on. The human mind is not a detached spectator, but is part of the emerging process. Our reconstructions and extrapolations, whatever the progress of science, access only fragments of the meaning of the whole process. The Thomistic emphasis on the necessary plurality of creation and on the value of each existent not only contests the simplicity of evolutionary myths, but serves to keep evolutionary theory attentive to a truly inclusive wholeness. The system must remain open. The full story awaits, in patience and tentative exploration, the full understanding of creation that resides only in God.
My second remark accords more with the evolutionary worldview, and hence implies historical limitations in the ‘good natured' universe of Aquinas. For the good that God is creating is not yet fully realised. The whole ‘groaning' (Rom 8:18-28) totality of creation is awaiting its liberation. Our human role places us in creation as free agents, called to collaborate with the divine creative energy at work. Human freedom is not in competition with God, but God's most promising creation within the created world. Human history is destined to work with God to bring about a good that is still emerging. As human existence participates in the divine knowledge and love, it turns ‘an incomplete and seemingly futile universe toward construction of a world that is good'. In this more eschatological perspective, human freedom not only bears the guilty burden of appalling destructiveness; it is the condition of the good, the happy outcome, the efflorescence of love in the final ecology of the world.
But that is to anticipate. The reflective faith of Aquinas moves in a universe redolent of the goodness, beauty and simplicity of its divine origin. To identify the universe as God's creation is to appreciate it in its radical depth. Admittedly, the metaphysical language, along with the Ptolemaic models of its expression, are oddly abstract compared with our modern apprehensions of reality. So we ask, what are the characteristics of this new worldview?
6. Dimensions of Creation Today
A sense of creation today has to include new data in its vision, hitherto not only inaccessible but unimaginable in the past. The psalmist of old saw, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth his handiwork' (Ps 19:1). Solomon's wisdom was limited to fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the stars, the luminaries of the firmament. But the might of thunderstorms, the light of the sun and moon, the twinkling stars, the steady glow of the planets, the shimmering Milky Way, are all only a tiny fraction of the realities that intrigue the modern mind. For instance, today the glory of the heavens includes the icy rings encircling Saturn, the satellites of Neptune, the delicate blue of the earth seen from the moon, our 100 billion sun galaxy in a universe of perhaps a one hundred billion galaxies. Our telescopes and computations extend to the ultra-energetic quasars, to explosive enormous supernovas, even to the space-time rifts of ‘black holes'. We know, too, that a million earths could be hidden in the sun; that light blazing through space at 300,000 km per second takes 100,000 years just to span our particular galaxy. Though Alpha Centuri is our nearest star, it is still four light years away. From the quark, with its numerous variations, to the quasar, it is a universe of incredible proportions.
Today's sense of the immeasurably great and the immeasurably small dimensions of physical matter has to include, too, hitherto unimaginable expanses of time; and within that time, the evolutionary dynamics that have produced this human world. Human consciousness, trembling before the uncanny extent of the fifteen billion year history of this universe, comes to realise that these thousands of millions of years are, quite literally, our past. All the seemingly chancy gropings of the universe have come up with what now is. In some uncanny sense, the universe from its beginnings ‘knew we were coming'. As one philosopher of science puts it, ‘if the universe were in fact different in any significant way from the way it is, we wouldn't be here to wonder why it is the way it is'. In the first few seconds of this 15 billion year-old universe, there appeared all the fundamental particles and constants without which life on this seemingly insignificant little planet would have been impossible. The velocity of light, the charge on the electron, the mass of the proton, the constant emissions of energy, are exactly what they should have been if life were to teem in all its forms on earth. A slight difference then would have meant no life now. If the charge on the electron had been slightly different, if the reaction between two protons had been slightly different, if the force of gravity had been slightly different, then the universe as we know it, would never have come to be. All those millions of hydrogen atoms formed fifteen billions years ago, which today in various combinations make up the composition of the human body, would have turned into the inert gas, helium. There would have been no water, no life, no you, no me... 
The chancy, incredibly ‘iffy', uncanny present of our world depends on an expansion rate of infinitesimally calibrated precision. In his A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking estimates that if the rate of the expansion of the universe one second after the Big Bang had been smaller even one part in a hundred thousand million, the whole would have collapsed before it reached its present size. But if the rate of expansion had been greater, the universe would have become an enormous bubble of gas blown out too quickly to allow the stars to form. And if there were no stars, there could be no formation of the heavy elements that are essential for the biological processes characteristic of this planet.
In short, if the universe had been too much in a hurry to be merely big, it would have had no time for life to happen. Therein lies, perhaps, a parable basic to all existence. Though ‘small is beautiful' might not a universal axiom, beauty, cosmically speaking, does consist in the right proportion.
The cosmos now appears as an immense field of energy, structured in terms of four forces. A strong force holds protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei. If there had been a one per cent difference in its strength, there would have been no carbon formed inside the stars, and consequently no material for the production of DNA molecules. A weak force allows for radioactive decay. If this force had been even slightly stronger, all hydrogen would have dissolved into helium: with the result that there would be no water, and even no sun to warm things into life on earth. An electromagnetic force orders the path of light and the behaviour of charged particles. If this had been stronger, the stars would have been too cold to explode as supernovas, and so to cast forth their heavy elements to be the raw materials for life's emergence. Then, too, the force of gravity holds all physical entities together in fields of mutual attraction. If that had been different, the other forces would have acted in different ways, and the present happy outcome would have been precluded by a heaven of cold stars, or an inferno of billowing gases. Again a cosmic parable. If the universe were a world of unrestrained force, it would have had no place for life.
Further, it is estimated that, in the constitution of matter, there is a tiny asymmetrical ratio of particle and anti-particle. If, for example, every proton had been perfectly matched by an anti-proton, there would have resulted a kind of mutual cancellation. But there is a faintest edge of excess breaking the symmetry, even if this is computed in terms of one in a billion. It is this minute excess, this infinitesimal asymmetrical surplus, that becomes a window of opportunity for the emergence of the universe as we now know it. Again the cosmic parable: if the universe had been intent on mere balance, closed against all conflict, repressive of any excess, nothing could have happened.
And yet, here we are, in this moment of time, alive on this planet, immersed in this universe, just as both earth and universe are alive to themselves in us. Our bodies, minds and hearts are part of an awakening cosmic mystery. Paul described the whole of creation as groaning in one great act of giving birth. He saw us human beings as groaning too, for the fulfilment that is not yet; more mysteriously, he understood the creative Spirit of God groaning within us to inspire hopes worthy of the mystery at work (Rom 8:18-28). Such a vision is not far removed from that of Eric Chaisson of Harvard:
Our present day sense of creation brings together an appreciation of how we human beings are from God – ‘children of God' in biblical language – and ‘children of the universe', born of the earth. We are made in the image of God, and yet we are earthlings: we live only in a genetic solidarity with myriad other forms of life on this planet. If they serve and sustain us, we are called to a responsible stewardship of them. We human beings are related in a web of life with some millions of other species. Waratahs and wallabies, kookaburras and king prawns, frill-necked lizards and ferns – each a strand in the one web of life. They are all our relatives in a wondrous cosmic solidarity. Elements of the stars are in the phosphorous of our bones. The same hydrogen which makes the stars burn, energises our bodies and powers our imagination.
While so much has changed as knowledge has expanded, it is worth noting that in the biblical vision of creation, other and higher forms of life were presumed. Their presence is now largely mediated to us only in the various liturgical prefaces in which the assembly is invited to join with ‘angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim' in a cosmic hymn of praise. At least to evoke that largely forgotten biblical dimension of the cosmos suggests a more wonderful view of the living universe than that of the flat materialist anthropocentrism that has got us into so much trouble. The cosmic feelings and symbols of solidarity with all that is both below and above our form of life cannot but promote a greater awe and fresh questioning in the presence of so much that is still unknown. While the realm of created supra-human intelligence is largely ignored in current preoccupations, it still has a suggestive power. It functions as a symbol, to say the very least, of dimensions of reality that have yet to be considered in our efforts to understand the commonwealth of life and the community of consciousness in the universe of our present perceptions.
In short, our present perceptions of time and space, of the particular evolutionary dynamics that science can discern, of the whole emergent process of universe preceding any structure of determined natures, all provoke a fresh posing of the age-old question of creation. From one authoritative source we hear, ‘If the cosmologies of the ancient Near Eastern world could be purified and assimilated into the first chapters of Genesis, might not contemporary cosmology have something to offer to our reflections upon creation?'. 
7. A Refinement of Method
Any renewed theology of creation has to be acutely aware of the profound cultural shift that has occurred. The traditional doctrine of creation has been in no small way dependent on a classical form of culture dominant in Western history until recent times. For example, a sense of God was culturally presumed; atheism was simply not an intellectual option. Then, there was the common inheritance of philosophical categories – causality, matter and spirit, the variety of relationships, the distinction between living and non-living things in an ordered, hierarchically differentiated universe. The classical philosophical tradition went ‘beyond physics', i.e., meta-physics. It explored beings and the Being from which they exist. It elaborated the attributes of God, sheer ‘To-Be', in a complex language of affirmation, negation and unknowing affirmation. It remains, however, that classical philosophical and theological thinking lived to a large degree in a fixed and stable universe. It envisaged a hierarchy of forms in an ordered whole. Reality was predictable because of the stable natures of things. Natural law could be formulated because everything participated in a structured organic whole. True, the last few centuries, owing to the influence of Newton and Descartes, natural law tended to become more and more unnatural as the model of the universe as a machine became dominant.
Only with difficulty – here the complex history of the condemnation of Galileo is the dramatic instance – did philosophical theology get beyond a geocentric to a heliocentric universe. Its Aristotelian ideal, however remote, was certitude, the explanation of all things according to their causes. Certitude was possible owing to the ordered metaphysical world that was presumed. Everything was analogically related in the one universe of being; everything participated in the one all-creating mystery – God, sheer Be-ing, Pure Act, the First Cause. In such a universal order, human beings existed, lived and acted. The ‘why' of it all was the pre-eminent issue. The deep context was the spiritual experience and aspiration of the human being. The path to truth was found in contemplative reflection. Today, that quiet, reflective path has yielded to the rigours of scientific method.
In contrast to such an ordered, participative, God-deriving wholeness, modern scientific culture suffers in some pervasively methodological sense from the ‘absence of God'. Not dependence on the divine, but the autonomy of freedom and intelligence are the prized values in a post-Enlightenment world view. Modern scientific culture characteristically appeals to empirical data and verifiable experiment. Its aim, in all the variety of its methods, is to give an account of the accumulated sense- experience of the world. Here, the human person was less an actor participating in universal ordered existence, and more a spectator analysing and controlling reality from a particular empirical access to a limited band of data. Scientific knowledge confronted the world as an object to be mastered, rather than by participating in its order and direction.
The result, predictably, was the reduction of the metaphysical to the physical; and to those particular levels of the physical which specialised science could control. Reality appeared as ‘nothing but' this or that material, physical, chemical, genetic reality. The focus of modern science was no longer on the ‘why', but on the ‘how' of things, in their emergence and makeup. In such a context, God, was at first, and then at best, identified as filling the gaps when no data is available. You could still appeal to God for the explanation when no suitable experiment could be devised to come up with a better answer. But with the advances of science, this ‘god of the gaps' was by degrees edged out of calculation. The only truths accessible to the human mind are those declared as verifiable through modern experimental techniques. God could not be found a surgeon's scalpel, nor seen through a scientist's microscope, nor calculated as a factor in the mathematician's theorem, nor evident as a component in the world system.
Moreover, if modern scientific methods speak of causes at all, it is radically different sense from former philosophical categories of causality. Up to the beginning of this century, as we mentioned above, the world of nature was regarded as determined and fundamentally, even mechanically, predictable. Today indeterminacy is recognised at the microlevel; and, because of the complexity of the causal chains and links, unpredictable at the macrolevel. This causal uncertainty is compounded in the megaworld of intergalactic distances and cosmological processes unfolding over billions of years. While a causal, certain account of reality might remain as a remote ideal, scientific methodology tends to be more pragmatic. It limits itself to techniques of correlation as it surveys the limitless phenomena and mutually conditioning events in the physical world. It largely prescinds from the older causal language, content with approximation, the convergence of probabilities, and the testing of hypotheses. The making of wholesale causal connections will always seem premature, while notions of metaphysical causality are the sediment of the naive realism of a pre-scientific era. The structured universe of the past has been displaced by the dizzily unimaginable. If the past sense of creation was based on a structured cosmic order, the theology of creation needs now to be renewed. For that cosmic order has vanished into the seeming randomness of evolution; and that past world of fixed natures has yielded to the statistical probabilities of emergence.
How, then, can the question of creation be posed in such a startlingly different context? One way out this impasse is to insist on a broadening the experiential base of human reflection. We can begin with the realisation that it is human reflection – the activity and manifestation of human minds. In both the past and in the present, the emphasis on objectivity is so great that the human mind is regarded as one thing in a world of other things. Thus Aquinas in a homily asserts,
The value of objectivity is evident in Thomas' confident intellectual commitment to ‘the things that do not know how to lie'. The challenge today is re-appraise the seemingly simple requirement of being objective. It demands an integration of the subjective dynamics of the mind in the process of being objective. It is not enough to downplay the subjective as the area where lying is possible, through deceit, bias, foolishness. But a vital insight occurs when one begins to notice that any objective statement about what is the case is the complex outcome of the conscious drive to self-transcendence. We need to focus on what is given, questioning its meaning, weighing the evidence, to arrive at a responsible, however conditional, true statement. Lonergan's axiom applies: ‘genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity'. Subjectivity is authentic when the subject concerned is present to itself precisely as responding to all the demands of reality. To know any truth, I need to attend to all the pertinent data, refine my sensibilities, vitalise my imagination, ask the unwelcome questions, consider the possible answers in broad and differentiated fields of meaning, and ponder the emerging evidence in a disinterested commitment to truth. This enable me finally to take my place as a trustworthy agent in the vast collaborative exercise of illuminating the manifold mystery of existence and of forming a more human world.
In genuine scientific objectivity, all such activities are present. But the typically overlooked domain of data to be considered is the data of consciousness itself, above all the consciousness of scientists themselves in their acts of understanding. The experience of intelligence is not irrelevant. More deeply, awareness of the dynamics of intellectual activity leads to a re-evaluation, within the experience of exploring the universe, of what was once simply called, ‘soul', ‘spirit', ‘mind', or ‘heart'. Aquinas considered that ‘the human soul understands itself by its understanding, which is its proper act, perfectly demonstrating its power and nature'. A modern scientist observes,
There is deep spiritual significance in recovering a sense of soul and human subjectivity. Aquinas, early in his career, he wrote as he reflected on the human soul as the most mysterious entity within creation, ‘God is the greatest of all goods and more proper to each one than anything else can be because he is closer to the soul than the soul is to itself'.
In other words, the question of God can never be satisfactorily raised if science methodically excludes from its considerations scientists themselves, as they experience their own intelligently conscious activities. Out of that experience of intelligence and responsibility, there can arise the intimation of God. It will not be a God as a patriarchal projection, nor as a temporary stop gap, nor as a particular cosmic force, not as primeval matter or universal order; but as the ecstatic intelligence and love that gives rise to the universe in which knowing and responsive selves can operate. God is the Light of meaning. In that light the human mind participates, as it progressively elucidates what is, and grows in responsibility with a concern for what should be.
In this way, the experience of God can occur in a way in a far more intimate fashion than was the case in the classical form of the question. The former notion pivoted on the insight that no existent reality, nor all such realities taken together, was the explanation of why anything or everything actually existed. The objective inexplicable reality of the world was the starting point for proving the existence of the Creator, as first cause, final end, supreme perfection and so forth. The trouble with this approach is that it no longer poses the question of the Creator God intimately enough. So often, the universe of reality was considered as though the human mind were some kind of neutral observer, a spectator, existing in another realm, somehow outside the whole emergent process. A poet asks the relevant question: ‘but who wants to be an onlooker? Every cell of me/ has been pierced through by plunging intergalactic messages'.
The conscious experiences of observing, imagining, understanding and valuing are dimensions of the actual universe. These activities are the aspects of creation with which we are most familiar. They make the question of creation freshly and piercingly intimate. It is question posed from within. It is foreshadowed in the very activity of knowing, by the very fact that everything is in principle intelligible. The character of the universe is felt in the ultimate attractiveness of the values of truth, goodness, justice, compassion. By including in our explorations the experience of wondering, knowing, and responsible selves, we arrive at a sense of being beholden to an Other, the source, enablement and fulfilment of the thrust to self-transcendence. We find ourselves, not at the controlling centre of the universe, but as participating in its limitless mystery.
Wittgenstein ruminated on the fact that there is anything at all; Einstein marvelled at the intelligibility of the universe. Rilke recommended that poets be ‘bees of invisible', and another poet, Judith Wright, felt in her whole being a consonance with universal energies. More specifically, we can reflect on ourselves, as caught up and carried along in a great cosmic unfolding, precisely as it presents us with ourselves in this actual world. To us it has been given to participate in the universe, celebrate its varied wonder, contribute to its direction in love, and yield to its promise in hope. We can come to an ecological awareness, as relationally located in the whole web and wave of cosmic realities that nourish body, mind and heart. The world shimmers with intelligibility in our minds, thrills with value in our hearts, and bursts into our imagination with its beauty. At that moment, we are not dispassionate observers, but ecstatic participants. To quote Judith Wright again,
And then, as the theologian, Robert Faricy, put it,
8. The God of Creation
The question of creation and its Creator are inscribed into the dynamics of self-transcending experience. What is the creativity that has sustained and moved evolutionary self-transcendence is made possible? What is the Light enabling us to understand it? What is the primordial unity in which this ‘all' is a ‘uni-verse, a communion, a co-existence, that has enabled the chaos of atoms and molecules, of life forms and consciousness, of relationships and processes, to emerge into this precious instant of consciousness, of awe and responsibility?
The classical way of affirming the reality of creation was to demonstrate the necessary existence of the Creator. Contemplative reflection on the available world of human experience led to the conviction that nothing we directly know is ultimately self-explanatory. That comparatively simple way of philosophical contemplation yields today to controlled experiment, and brilliant mathematical deduction. The enormous intricacy of the ‘how' of the emergent process of the physical world seeks intelligibility in ‘Theories of Everything'. These are elaborated as all-embracing mathematical schemes amalgamating all the fundamental forces and particles of physics together with the structure of space and time. Compared to such, the philosophical tradition looks vague and amateurish – until one realises that many scientists are themselves loath to allow their own science to pretend to swallow the universe whole in this way. Yet there are others content to enclose the intelligibility of the universe in some great container of mere facticity. The universe simply happens to be what it is; and that is that, requiring no deeper explanation. To appeal to an ultimate, let alone divine principle of explanation, looks suspiciously like a new version of the God of the gaps. It is crucial then to return to the point: God is not the missing factor in a mathematical or physical account of the way things are; but the all pervasive mystery inherent in our best knowing, the Light in which the universe is luminous to itself in the human mind.
As Herbert McCabe perceptively observes, past efforts to prove the existence of God were an implicit affirmation of the validity of scientific research. There are interesting parallels in the experience of art. The God-question is a way of insisting that there can never be a finished explanation of everything We exist, as it were, in an open system, opening into a limitless expanse of mystery from within our exploring intelligence. The human mind can never get to some intellectual place beyond the universe. Our explorations, be they intellectual, moral or artistic, remain within it, to converge in different ways on the original and ultimate question, posed in the relativity, the provisionality and the dynamics of our knowing. The excess of implied meaning and the drive toward the sufficient reason of all our relative sufficient reasons preclude any scientific or philosophical totalitarianism. Admittedly, the doctrine of creation can be abused by the religious obscurantist. Such did happen with Galileo, and is happening today with the more fundamentalist versions of ‘Creationism'.
On the other hand, the search for the Creator arises out of the experience of anomalies in any world-picture that excludes the God-question.. You can take any particular actually existing entity, be it a pebble or your pet dog or yourself or scientific thinking itself. The more you explore the conditions of such success in being or acting, the more you are involved in an excess of mystery. As a contemplative searcher writes,
Different levels of answers deal respectively with, say, molecular structure, biochemical organisation, evolutionary genus, social organisation and scientific method itself. No doubt one can spend a life-time devoted to an expertise in any one of them. But at no point are we forbidden to pose the radical question: Why is there this something rather than nothing? If we are ecstatically immersed in a world of meaning, truth, value and beauty, what is the ultimate ground and goal of such ecstatic self-transcendence?
Of course, you can refuse to ask the ultimate question, and conclude that despite the intelligibility (in principle) of everything within the universe, there is no mystery of super-meaning implied. The human mind can refuse its ultimate adventure. On the other hand, embarking on this ultimate adventure does not mean comprehending the mystery implied. Aquinas would say, we can know that God is but never what God is. Indeed, we know God best when we come to realise that we do not know God. Human knowledge is negative, anticipative, analogical, but never direct. What the ultimate actually is, leaves intelligence at a loss. God is not one thing among many. God plus the universe don't add up to two similar things.
With this dark affirmation of God born out of the radical questionability of the world, you don't end up knowing more about the universe, except in the sense of recognising its emergence from an incomprehensible fullness of Be-ing, life and goodness. The intellectual ‘removal of God' from intra-mundane categories is not meant to render him absent. Rather, the reverse: God does not exist within the world as a part, or aspect, of what is. The universe exists in the boundless ocean of divine communicative Be-ing. The universe, in owing its being to Be-ing, participates in the divine reality, and thus stands forth from nothingness. Hence, to say that the cosmos or nature is God's creation, is to set the whole of our actual and potential experience of the world in a field of mystery, of super-meaning, gift, transcendent freedom and purpose. The doctrine of creation makes space for the presence of the Creator as an all-embracing, all-originating mystery. God is ‘removed' from any intra-worldly system or function: God is a specific instance of some generic form of reality. This insight also allows the reality of creation to be what it is, with its own laws, processes, and independent being. When there is no confusion of the creator with creation, creation is given to us to explore, while the mind and heart that do the exploring are themselves dimensions of that one creation.
God, from this point of view, is ‘Be-ing that lets beings be' (Macquarrie). God is more intimately present to each and every existent reality than it is to itself. Aquinas explains,
Understand the ‘to be' of the creature here as a process of becoming, and you have the modern form of the doctrine of continuous creation. In the words of Denis Edwards,
Such a statement owes much to the evolutionary perspective of Karl Rahner. Though it might seem rather foreign to the classical medieval tradition, it can be understood, not so much opposed to the classic tradition, but as completing it. We need not pretend that the Scholastics had any familiarity with the contemporary evolutionary model of reality. Still, there is a precious insight to be found in Thomist thinking. It is this: created autonomy does not set the creature against the creator, but is a deeper manifestation of the creative presence of God. The more autonomous and self-transcendent a created reality, the more the intimate presence of the Creator to it. In other words, the Creator truly gives being and action to creation, enabling it to act. If our modern evolutionary optic understands a self-transcending surplus or excess in the emergent process of the world, this does not diminish the creative presence of God, but manifests it more fully. As Aquinas pithily notes, ‘To detract from the perfection of the creature is to detract from the perfection of the divine power'.
I would suggest, too, that a sense of the mystery of creation places the current evolutionary model of reality in a gracious context. If that evolutionary model slips out of a larger context of intelligibility, it gives the impression of having an all-mastering comprehension of the emergent meaning of world. We soon begin to persuade ourselves that we actually know where we have come from and where we are going. The past and the present are emptied of any significance save in terms of endless, perhaps aimless, further development. Nothing has value in itself. When a species dies out, and most do, its existence is not to be reduced simply to a failure in finding a place in an evolutionary future. Nor does the singular individual have significance only as a member of a species.
In contrast to such a monodimensional viewpoint, the doctrine of creation places each individual existent in a world which is not ultimately explicable, either in terms of present evolutionary science, or in any more successful future version – unless it calls on philosophical and theological reflection to provide a larger perspective. For each individual existent possesses its own gifted significance in a universe of being. It participates in the mystery of Being in its own right. The full significance of this can be understood and appreciated only by the Creator of each and everything, living or not, living now or living in the past. Evolutionary science certainly enhances our understanding of life as one interconnected movement, and throws light on the complex dynamics of development and survival. Yet it does not explain everything about the mystery of life and existence. A sense of creation appreciates the significance of all existence and all life, irrespective of our comprehension of its evolutionary value or success. Simply to have existed is an ultimate mystery and an irreducible gift.
The sense of creation found a spiritual expression in the autobiographical words a great woman mystic. She wrote, ‘The day of my spiritual awakening was when I saw, and knew I saw, all things in God and God in all things'. A genuine theology of creation lives in an atmosphere of adoration, thanksgiving and reverence. To exist is most radically to be not from or for or with oneself alone. It is to ‘ex-ist', to be out of oneself. It is to live ecstatically, centred in the originating mystery which moves and attracts the universe to its fulfilment. Consenting to such a universe, ‘a truly wise person kneels at the feet of all creatures'.
An atheistic denial is seldom a rejection of God in the terms we have been employing here. The special antipathy that the non-believer feels is focused on premature and often naive religious or philosophical descriptions of God. If these suggest a smug religious answer suppressing intelligent questioning, the antipathy is intensified. When the devout mind naively proclaims God simply as a big (male) person, or as a disappointed manager of human affairs, or as the cosmic architect, or as the clockmaker who has slightly over-wound his artefacts, or as the superforce in the cosmic process, things are a little too simple.
A perceptive French philosopher employs a suggestive array of images to mitigate the tendency to think of God in an extrinsic and static manner: ‘A current of intelligibility and coherence is there; a river flows by without banks, but not without direction... A song rises which is pure music... a flux which is pure movement...'.  Rabut goes on, ‘If meaning is music, the Source is not the record player or the violin, it is rather the musical inspiration...'. Then follows a remark, reflecting on the experience of meaning and the question it poses:
In the preceding pages, we have been pursuing such a philosophical meditation, connecting it, where possible, to the God of faith, ‘The One God who is above all and through all and in all' (Eph 4:6). A later chapter on the Trinity will extend these reflections.
9. Creation and the Big Bang
The philosophical and theological account of creation here outlined is quite compatible with the recent scientific theory of the Big Bang. On the one hand, it would be disastrous for any theology of creation to welcome this recent scientific model as a confirmation of itself. Perhaps some version of the ‘Steady State Theory' might re-emerge, or the Big Bang be located in some kind of cosmic oscillation of expansion and contraction. Who amongst theologians is to say? But what theology does emphasise is that the mystery of creation does not imply that God is a pre-temporal pyrotechnician igniting a gigantic firecracker. For creation theology, the primary image is not a gigantic explosion as it is modelled in the domain of physical or mathematical imagination, but a theopoetic Word: ‘and God said, “Let there be...” '. It is a Word creative of this particular world, out of an infinity of divine possibilities. If science does, in fact, continue to pursue its metaphor of the Big Bang, all theology can only say is something like this: if God created a temporal world, then its genesis would no doubt look something like the way in which contemporary physics is describing it. But God does not have to be factored into the physical explanation as a particular, categorical cause. Rather, God is the cause operating in all causality and creativity, a ‘transcendent' cause as the philosophical tradition would name it. Divine Be-ing is not a filler of gaps, but that original matrix in which ‘we live and move and have our being'(Ac 17:28), to quote Paul (probably citing Epimedines), ‘above all, through all, in all' (Eph 4: 6). Because the Creator is not the hypothetical explanation of the Big Bang of our cosmic origins, the divine reality is sought in a much larger horizon. For any intelligent exploration, a source of meaning implied, even if not directly known, in the existence of a universe in which science and questions about such origins continue to be possible.
Debate in this area could be clarified by pondering the following contrasts. Creation is about adoration; the Big Bang is a plausible scientific hypothesis. Creation is about the totality of gracious mystery implied in every ‘now'; the Big Bang is about a mathematically imagined ‘then'. Creation is about the sheer limitless actuality that enables things to be, Pure Act; the Big Bang is more akin to the initial potentiality of a cosmic event, perhaps closer here in many respects to ‘prime matter' in the language of Greek philosophy. This kind of pure potentiality can never be directly known, even if it remains an essential, undifferentiated potentiality always expressing itself in new forms. Further, creation locates us in a God-given, theological genesis of the universe. The Big Bang locates us in the evolutionary genesis of a cosmos. Creation is about how everything depends on God. The Big Bang is about our common emergence from one cosmic origin. Creation narrates the story of how the eternal God acts in freedom and love to call this universe into existence. The Big Bang begins the story of the universe as a temporal and spatial cosmic reality. Creation is about an all-comprehending providence. The Big Bang is about the singularity of a physical and mathematically computed event, and its resultant dynamic structure. Creation is about abiding mystery. The Big Bang is about the solution of a physical problem, albeit of cosmic proportions. Creation understands the meaning of the universe as a participation in the Light of God. The Big Bang has its origins in a perception of the universe bathed in cosmic radiation. Creation is, finally, a poetic holistic sense of how all being, intelligence, value and beauty are inspired by the mystery of an abiding Source. The Big Bang is an elegant mathematical formulation of the details, the proto-language, of cosmic origins.
Hence, while theology and science have plenty of opportunity to initiate a new phase of conversation on the meaning of the cosmos as it comes into human consciousness, only confusion results if various methodologies uncritically borrow from one another without appreciating the different contexts and aims of the distinct disciplines. Hence, from the religious point of view, reserve is justified in regard to Pius XII's enthusiasm for the Big Bang theory as endorsing the traditional doctrine of creation in time.After all, it may be that science must be left free to investigate the possibility of a universe unfolding in phases, oscillating between a series of big bangs and big crunches. There is no point in burdening such a theory with the constraints of a religious doctrine of a creation in time, which is neither affected by, nor originally concerned with such a scientific hypothesis. On the other hand, theology should show both a little embarrassment and humility in the light of Robert Jastrow's touching conclusion to his God and the Astronomers:
Irony and rhetoric aside, such a statement hardly justifies the slightest tincture of theological smugness – if only for the reason that such a declaration could be so profitably reversed. You could say that theologians, however secure in their religious faith, and in fact because of it, are panting up steep slopes of new knowledge in order to find fresh cosmic connections in their understanding of creation. To that degree, the scientists have been sitting on the peaks, waiting for theology to arrive. The real point, however, is that both theology and science are joined in the holy rivalry of humility. Neither is waiting for the other ‘at the top'. Both disciplines might, nonetheless, profitably construct a shared base-camp from which to embark on joint expedition up those mysterious slopes.
Just how much the creative Word of God will resonate with the findings of science will remain on the agenda for decades to come. Venerable theological theorems treating of how God, the first cause, acts through all the variety of secondary causes are long overdue for revision. For divine transcendent causality does not imply that God is simply a bigger agent, but that God is God-in-action in every aspect of creation. Such action is outside all finite categories. If quantum physics has rendered obsolete naive versions of physical causality, Christian theology, for its part, has yet to explore to the fullest extent how God's presence in the world is a modality of the self-communication of God in Word and Spirit. The divine processions within the trinitarian mystery ground and inform the universal process. Beyond merely physical efficient causality, the causality of participation and of the relationality of mutual love and presence must be more fully explored. 
At the other extreme, the world of ‘secondary causes' is now revealed as one of amazing and intricate sequences, in which a dramatic, explosive first cosmic event is solidly probable. The magnitudes and potential of this first in the order of physical reality, i.e., the Big Bang, so stuns the modern imagination that religious accounts of the first, as ‘in the beginning...' feel temporarily tongue-tied. Theology will begin to be worthy of the Creative and Incarnate Logos only after a long season of dialogue with the logoi of cosmology and ecology, to mention the two that concern us here.
10. The Experience of Creation
What we have sketched just a few elements of the conversation that is emerging. In the meantime, the poetry of creation celebrates the uncanny occurrence of all existence. It is so simply and graciously ‘given', in all its differentiation, interconnectedness, and longing for completion. It remains as a summons to participate in what is still in the making, and as a liberation from what resists the movement toward cosmic communion.
When the universe dawns within our minds and hearts as God's creation, then the divine Be-ing is recognised as the matrix from which all being emerges. It is the mysterious field in which everything participates. It breathes an atmosphere in which thinking – to borrow a word-play from Heidegger – is most fittingly ‘thanking-thinking'. Existence can only be thought as a gift. There are data, indeed, to be considered; but more fundamentally, there is the donum, the gift. Acknowledging the gifted character of existence engenders a mood of thinking that is not centred in itself. The mind does not aspire to be a cosmic know-all. Rather, thinking is like clearing a space in the midst of a larger mystery. It speaks its words out of, and into, an original silence. Whatever clarification theology has to offer is attained only in reverence for a limitless unknown, in a more complete surrender to what is Other. Hence, the first and last movement of thought is neither control nor analysis nor solution of problems. First and last, thinking is thanking, a gratitude growing from the roots of our being, and expanding in the light of wonder and ever fresh discovery. In mind and heart we feel the necessity of giving thanks to Someone for the uncanny gift of existence.
A wider world of collaboration is opening up, in which faith and science can meet without defensiveness or embarrassment. The following words are something of a Christian protocol for such dialogue:
We have focused this extended reflection on the theme of creation. I suppose the most obvious emphasis is that our thinking on such a theme happens from within the mystery of Creation, not from some position apart from it. I have highlighted the negative character of our knowing in a way that allows for different standpoints. That point was further instanced by the way the modern creation question is occurring, somewhat in contrast to the biblical expression. From there, we proceeded to note some features of the change taking place in our perception of cosmic reality. As a resource for further reflection, we attempted a critical retrieval of some major elements in the medieval inheritance. That, in turn, led to an emphasis on the new dimension of the cosmos known to us today, and the refinement of method that was demanded. From there we went on to the central issue of the God of creation. Then, by contrasting the theology of creation theology with the Big Bang hypothesis, we found a point of humility at which both dialogue and spirituality of creation were possible.
The next connecting theme, The Human Question, will serve to emphasise in another context many of the large matters already treated, and to raise more pointedly the issue of human creativity within the world of God's creation.
. Admittedly, this more philsophical understanding does not go back to Genesis, which speaks more of a primal chaos. The ex nihilo character of creation was explored more in reaction to later Gnostic and Manichean teachings that supposed a non-created evil, material principle.
. For a broader context, see Gabriel Gomes, Song of the Skylark I: Foundations of Experiential Religion (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991) 171-210.
. Lonergan, Method …, 341-3.
. See Thomas Aquinas, STh, I, q. 12, a. 13, ad 1: ‘..we are united to God as to one unknown'.
. Paul Davies, The Mind of God. Science and the Search for Ultimate Meaning (London: Simon and Schuster, 1992).
. Michael Polanyi, ‘Faith and Reason', Journal of Religion 41 (1961), 244. For a fuller treatment, see his Personal Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958).
. These accounts were composed relatively late, probably in the fifth century B.C. For the biblical debate, see the works of Von Rad, Westermann and Anderson.
. See Denis Carroll, ‘Creation', The New Dictionary of Theology, 246-258.
. Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980) 23.
. Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity (New York: Knopf, 1970) 180.
. Werner Heisenberg, ‘Scientific and religious Truths', in Quantum Questions , Ken Wilber, ed. (Boston: Shambhala, 1984) 39.
. Though others who could be mentioned are Stephen Hawking, P. W. Atkins, Robert K. Adair, and Harald Fritsch.
. Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983) ix.
. Etienne Gilson, ‘En marge d'un texte' in Louis de Broglie, Physicien et Penseur (Paris: Michel, 1953) 153.
. As an indication of the medieval fascination with science, see Walter Principe, ‘ “The Truth of Human Nature” according to Thomas Aquinas: Theology and Science in Interaction', in Philosophy and the God of Abraham. Essays in Memory of James A. Weisheipl, R. James Long, ed. (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1991) 161-177.
. Quoted in Michael J. Buckley, ‘Religion and Science: Paul Davies and John Paul II', Theological Studies 51/2, June 1990, 313.
. Judith Wright, ‘The Forest', A Human Pattern. Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1990) 104.
. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, q. 65, a. 3.
. For a constructive discussion of the role of metaphor in theology, see Sallie McFague, Models of God. Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age (London: SCM, 1987).
. Such an emphasis is, of course, no merely theological position. The statement of The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) is always a healthy reminder of limitation: ‘..between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying a greater dissimilitude' ( Neuner-Dupuis, #320).
. See Arthur Peacocke, God and the New Biology, xiv, 6. E. F. Schumacher, in A Guide …, p. 5, quotes Viktor E. Frankl to the effect that ‘the problem is not that specialists are specialising but that specialists are generalising'.
. How much so is exemplified in the Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy. Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1992).
. Thomas Aquinas, ScG, l. 2, c. 2.
. ScG, l. 2, c. 3.
. ScG, l. 2, c. 45.
. STh I, q. 47, a. 1.
. STh I, q. 20. a. 2.
. Apart from an abundance of exciting documentation and marvellous instances of the variety of the past, Stephen Jay Goulding, Wonderful Life. The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (London: Penguin, 1989) is a striking model of scientific reconstruction, even as it poses profound philosophical questions.
. F. Stefano, ‘The Evolutionary Categories of Juan Luis Segundo's Theology of Grace', Horizons 19/1, Spring 1992, p. 9.
. Mark Doughty, ‘This Impossible Universe', The Tablet, 26 September, 1981, p. 929.
. For a fuller discussion see Stanley L. Jaki, God and the Cosmologists, Scottish Academic Press, 1990; John Polkinghorne, Quarks, Chaos and Christianity. Questions to Science and Religion (New York: Crossroad, 2000).
. For a more philosophical approach see John Jefferson Davis, ‘The design argument, cosmic “fine tuning”, and the anthropic principle', Philosophy of Religion 22 (1987) 139-150.
. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York: Bantam Press, 1988).
. Hawking, A Brief History…, 121-123.
. For some further explanation of these four forces and the efforts to bring them together in a ‘Grand Unified Theory', see Ian G. Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science (London: SCM Press, 1990) 126-8.
. Toolan, ‘Nature is a Heraclitean Fire'…, 18-19.
. For a fuller discussion of the Anthropic Principle', see Barbour, Religion in and Age of Science, 135-148.
. Donald Nicholl, ‘Symphony of the Universe', The Tablet 16 April, 1988, 432.
. For an accessible elaboration of this point, see Denis Edwards, Made From Stardust (Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1992).
. A significant instance of retrieval, see Walter Wink, Unmasking the Powers. The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986). For a more traditional but imaginative treatment, Louis Bouyer, Cosmos, the Word and the Glory of God (Petersham, Mass: St Bede's Publications, 1988) 194-216. In a much larger ecumenical perspective, Bede Griffith, A New Vision of Reality. Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith (London: Fount, 1992) especially 108, 199f, 236f, 268, 271, 274.
. From an address to the Vatican-sponsored seminar commemorating the three hundredth anniversary of Newton's Philosophiae Naturae Principia Mathematica (Origins 18/23, 17 November, 1988) 376.
. See Arthur Peacocke, God and the New Biology (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1986) 21-26; 59-62.
. Christopher Mooney, ‘Theology and Science: A New Commitment to Dialogue', Theological Studies 52/2, June 1992, 289-330, note 55, p. 320.
. Thomas Aquinas, Sermo V, in Dom 2 de Adventu (Vives XXIX), 194.
. Lonergan, Method…, 265; 292: ‘Genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity. To seek and employ some alternative prop or crutch invariably leads to some measure of reductionism'.
. STh I, q. 88, a. 2 ad 3.
. Melvin Konner, The Tangled Wing. Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit (New York: Harper and Row, 1982) 435.
. Thomas Aquinas, III Sent., d. 29, 1, 3, 3.
. Judith Wright, ‘Connections', A Human Pattern. Selected Poems (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1990) 237.
. Judith Wright, ‘Five Senses', A Human Pattern, 222.
. Robert Faricy, All Things in Christ (London: Fount, 1981) 56.
. Denis Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1991) 44-54. From a philosophical point of view, see the outstanding Mark Wynn, God and Goodness. A Natural Theological Perspective (London: Routledge, 1999)
. Davies, The Mind of God, 165.
. Herbert McCabe, God Matters (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1987) 2-9.
. George Steiner, Real Presences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1989).
. McCabe, God Matters, 3.
. David Steindl-Rast, in Fritjof Capra and David Steindl-Rast with Thomas Matus, Belonging to the Universe (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991) 99-100.
. STh I, qq. 12-13.
. Kathryn Tanner, God and Creation in Christian Theology. Tyranny or Empowerment? (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988). This work studies the deep grammar of the classical theological tradition.
. ScG, l. 1, c 25.
. STh I, q. 8, a. 1.
. Edwards, Jesus and the Cosmos, 53-55. For a different context, see J. Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ (London: SCM, 1990) 297-301.
. ScG l. 3, c. 69.
. Mechtild of Magdeburg, as cited in Wink, Unmasking the Powers, 166.
. From a feminist perspective, see Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who is. The Mystery of God in a Feminist Theological Perspective (New York: Crossroad, 1992).
. Olivier Rabut, God in an Evolving Universe, trans., W. Springer (New York: Herder and Herder, 1966) 11.
. Rabut, God in an Evolving Universe, 151. On music as the most suggestive experience of creation see Steiner, Real Presences, 218.
. Rabut, God in an Evolving Universe, 151.
. For a digest of the latest scientific findings and theological reactions, see Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science, 125-135.
. For an appreciation of prime matter and its possible relevance to modern cosmology, see Sheldrake, The Rebirth of Nature, 88-89.
. Pius XII, ‘Modern Science and the Existence of God', The Catholic Mind, March 1952, 182-192.
. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978) 116.
. See Kelly, Trinity of Love, 189-202.
. For further reflection, see John Polkinghorne, Science and Creation. The Search for Understanding (London: SPCK, 1988) especially 51- 68.
. John Paul II, ‘Letter to the Reverend George V. Coyne, S.J., Director of the Vatican Observatory', Origins 18/23, November 1988, p. 378.