Jacques Maritain Center : Natural Theology / by Bernard Boedder, S.J.

SECTION 9. -- Proof that God is the immediate Author of Mind and Matter.

Thesis XVII -- Every individual human soul, and every element of matter considered in its original state, is an immediate effect of Divine creation.

93. As we have proved above (§§ 30-39), the human soul is an immaterial substance, a spirit, although a spirit united to matter. Upon this we argue as follows: If the human soul cannot be evolved out of matter, nor be taken from the substance of a spirit, it owes its existence immediately to creation. But it is evident that a material being cannot be changed into an immaterial being; and it is absolutely impossible that a spirit should be divided. (§ 34.) We must then conclude that every human soul comes into existence by creation out of nothing, and as God alone can create things of nothing (Th. XVI.), every human soul is immediately created by God Himself.{22}

94. As regards the origin of matter, in whatever state it may have been originally, it is certain that its existence is due to an exercise of Divine Power, for it is not self-existent, but contingent. (§§ 81, 82.) The question still to be answered in regard to its origin is this: Was matter produced by Almighty God immediately or mediately? Now it must have been immediately created, because mediate production of matter is impossible. For on two suppositions only could it be possible; first, that God could change a spirit into matter, or secondly, that He could communicate to a spirit the power of creating matter. But on the face of them, neither of these suppositions can be held: it is incompatible with the simplicity and characteristic being of a spiritual substance that a spirit should be transformed into matter, and it has been proved already, that the power of creation belongs exclusively to God. (Th. XVI. §§ 90, seq.) We see, then, that the origin of matter is due to immediate Divine creation. In what state it was created, whether in tbe state of elementary matter, or of substances compounded of elementary matter, our reason cannot tell. We must be satisfied with knowing that at least every part of matter considered in the most simple form in which it can exist -- in other words, every element -- has been created by God immediately.{23}

Scholion. The doctrine of creation in its relation to the theory of evolution.

95. From the proof given above it follows that all creatures of the universe are under a certain aspect the immediate handiwork of God. They are all made up of material elements immediately created by Him. It is true, these elements are not now in that state in which they were when they came forth from the abyss of their nothingness. Under the influence of destructive and generative forces put into matter by the Creator, its elementary parts

circulate through immeasurable space, and form the substratum now of this, now of that, species of inanimate or animate matter. But however great may be the changes which matter thus undergoes, its amount is neither diminished nor increased, its original potentiality for the reception of various principles of force (or forms, as scholastics call them), remains always the same. A part of matter determined to a certain mode of being and action by an internal principle of force constitutes a body, or an individual corporeal substance. Under the influence of created forces, the state of matter in an individual body can be so disturbed that the principle of force by which it is determined can no longer continue to maintain its existence. Thus the body loses its existence as this or that individual substance, but it never drops out of existence altogether. The extinction of one principle of force is accompanied by the production of another, the natural result of a new combination of matter. Each body, then, considered in its basis, is God's work; whereas the principles of force, or the forms, through which bodies now existing receive their specific character, are due to the destructive and generative activity of created agents, with the single exception of that principle from which the human body receives its specific determination, namely, the rational soul, the source not only of the intellectual, but also of the sensitive and vegetative, life of man.

96. How far observation has justified, or will justify the theory of evolution, we leave it to biologists to decide. From a mere philosophical point of view we are unable to discover anything in it which would be out of harmony with reason, if only the following principles are kept strictly in view:

(1) There is no evolution but of matter created by God, through principles of force set to work by Him originally, and working throughout all ages of their operation according to laws determined by His infinite wisdom.

(2) A lower principle of force is never by itself alone the total cause of the production of a higher one. Consequently the more perfect offspring of an imperfect species of living beings is not due only to the generative force of that species, but other causes must help to produce it.

(3) A human person is never the effect of evolution.

The generative power of a created agent can predispose matter for the reception of a human soul:{24} but the soul being spiritual, God alone can create it, and join it to matter, from which union there results a man.

These three principles, which are simple corollaries of the theses proved above, contain the most fundamental truths about Divine creation as the cause of this world.

We shall now proceed to answer some questions connected with creation, the solution of which will throw still more light upon the total dependence of all things upon God. These questions are:

1. Is creation the result of a necessary, or of a free volition of God?

2. Could God have created without creating from eternity?

3. If eternal creation be not necessary, is it at least possible?

4. Can a world like ours exist from eternity?

What we have to say upon these questions will form the subject-matter of the five following propositions:

{22} Cf. Sum. Theol. i. 90. 2. et i. 181. 2-3.

{23} Sum. Theol. i. 44. 2. et i. 65. 3. et Compendium Theologica, c. 95. "Elementa secundum se tota non sunt ex aliqua materia praejacenti, quia illud quod praeexisteret haberet aliquam formam . . . oportet igitur etiam ipsa elementa immediate esse producta a Deo. {24} St. Thomas, Sum, Theol. 1a. q. 118. art. 2. ad 4. "Homo generat sibi simile, in quantum per virtutem seminis ejus disponitur materia ad susceptionem talis formae," i.e. of the "rational soul." (Cf. ibid. art. 3. et q. 76, art. 1.)

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