We are instructed by the writer of the book of Genesis in the story of creation.
The account given of the creation in the book of Genesis is not a fable, but is founded on truth. The sacred writer was enlightened by the Holy Ghost, and his words are a part of the Word of God. Perhaps God gave him a vision of the course of creation. The story is in exact agreement with the conclusions of natural philosophy. All investigations into the crust of the earth show that organic life was developed in the order set forth in Genesis.
1. In the beginning God created the spiritual and material universe.
“In the beginning” i.e., in the beginning of time, when there was nothing else existing except God. Time began with the world, so that before the creation there was no time. Holy Scripture does not tell us when the world was created. The world may have existed for millions of years before the creation of man. The fact that it takes millions of years for the light of some of the heavenly bodies to reach the earth, seems to show this to have been the case. “Created,” i.e., made out of nothing. How God produced the materials out of which the world was made we know riot. Instead of the spiritual and the material world, St. Paul says, “things visible and invisible” (Col. i. 16). The words of Genesis are, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The heaven does not mean the star-bespangled sky, the creation of which is narrated subsequently (Gen. i. 6-8; 14-19). It means the abode of the angels and the saints. The material world is called the earth, because the earth is for men the most important part of the material world. The first words of the Bible, “God created heaven,” are intended to remind man of his last end and future destiny.
The spiritual world consists of the angels, and the heaven where they dwell.
The angels are called the “Morning-stars” (Job xxxviii. 7), because they were created before this material world, and in the morning of the universe. Hell was not created at the beginning of the universe (Matt. xxv. 34), but at a later period, after the fall of the rebel angels (Matt. xxv. 41).
The material world includes all things which are found in the visible universe.
Men are a union of spirit and body, and were created later.
2. The material world was at first without form, without inhabitants, and without light.
God first created the material elements out of which the world was formed. Natural philosophy tells us that the world existed first of all in the form of a vast mass of vapor, and that this vast mass gradually was condensed, under the influence of an intense heat, into the material universe. This is perfectly in accordance with the account of the creation given in Genesis.
3. God gave to the material universe its present form in the course of six days.
The days are probably long periods of time, consisting of many thousands of years; for the seventh day, the day of rest, lasts until the end of the world. Moreover four of the days were already elapsed before the sun was formed, and therefore they cannot have been days as we now understand the word. The word day is chosen because the week of creation was to be a sort of pattern of our present week.
On the first day God made the light.
We read in Genesis that God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The expression, “Let there be,” denotes that something came into existence which did not exist before. This was the luminous matter which is now gathered in the sun; it is not dependent on the sun, but the sun on it. The gaseous matter was at first unformed, i.e., it had no forces. God imparted to it the law of gravitation, by means of which the various particles of matter were set in motion and drawn together, and thus were condensed gradually into a solid mass. By this process warmth, and at last fire, were developed. On the first day fire, the main source of light, was produced by the movement given to the gaseous particles, and the existing vapor was condensed into masses endowed with fire and light.
On the second day God made the firmament.
The words of Genesis are, “God said, Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God called the firmament heaven” (Gen. i. 6, 8). On this day there was a separation, arrangement, and establishment of the created masses, which were divided into parts according to their constitution and magnitude, parted from one another, and arranged in the places that God had destined for them. This planting of the various worlds in their places in space constituted the “firmament,” which God called “heaven,” in which the sun and moon and stars pursue the course that was allotted to each. This firmament is the material heaven, as opposed to the spiritual heaven which is identical with the celestial paradise. The earth on which we live was one of the condensed masses which took its place among the other heavenly bodies. God at the same time divided off the planets that move around the sun, which forms the centre of their system from the fixed stars (v. 7).
On the third day God made the dry land and the plants.
Here the sacred writer concerns himself more especially with our earth. The earth, which was originally a fiery ball of gas, gradually lost its heat, as it cooled down in the midst of space. The great masses of mist divided themselves off into the sea and land. The solid elements were drawn together, and formed the crust of the earth, through which the water forced itself from within. Thus were made the various oceans or seas, and by this upheaval the surface of the earth as it exists at present was gradually formed, with its continents, and islands, its mountains and valleys. Under the influence of the warmth of the earth the moist surface was now ready for the development of organic life. This did not arise out of nothing, like the original primary matter; it was already implanted in the earth by almighty God, and was evolved therefrom as soon as circumstances favorable to its development presented themselves. No organic life can arise from mere inorganic matter. No possible combination of mere inorganic materials can ever produce any kind of organic life. The original germs out of which life arose were already existing in the vapor-cloud out of which the earth was formed, but were not able to develop themselves under the conditions of extreme heat and cold. They remained as undeveloped germs until the more moderate temperature enabled them to produce plants and trees under the influence of warmth and moisture.
On the fourth day God made the sun, moon, and stars.
On the fourth day of creation, the earth, which had been involved in darkness by the thick mist that surrounded it as long as it had not fully cooled down, began to have a clearer atmosphere, and only a few clouds floated over its surface, instead of the dense vapor that had encircled it. The shining bodies in the heaven became visible; the sun began to exercise an influence upon the earth, and produced the alternations of day and night, and the various seasons of the year. The sun had previously a feeble power of radiation, but during this fourth period it assumed its present form. We do not know whether there exist living beings on any of the stars; if there are such, they must be of a very different nature from our own. We know that in the moon there is no atmosphere, no fire, no water, no sound, no rain, no wind, no vegetation, and a long night of three hundred and fifty hours.
On the fifth day God made the fishes and the birds.
On the sixth day God made the animals and, last of all, man.
The animals were next made in order to proclaim the power of their Creator by their number, variety, greatness, strength, and cleverness, and also to serve man, to nourish him, clothe him, and labor for his benefit. Man was produced the last of all the animals, and surpasses them all in dignity, and in the possession of reason and free will. Man is the crown of God’s creation. God prepared the world for his reception, that he might enter and take possession of it as a king takes possession of his kingdom. The world would not have been complete without man; all else was made for his sake. In all the rest of the work of creation God simply said “Let it be,” but before He created man He is represented as taking counsel with Himself. This is to show the importance and the dignity of man.
4. On the seventh day God rested from all His work that He had done.
God’s rest consists in this, that on the seventh day He brought nothing more into existence. It was the working out, without any further creative action on the part of God, of the order that He had established. The fact that God rested does not mean that He ceased from working (John v. 17). God must continue to work in the world, else it would cease to exist. As God rested after His work, so we shall one day rest in Him when our work is done.
From the story of creation we learn that God made the world after a fixed plan.
God in creation proceeded from the lower to the higher. He first made all things that were necessary for what was afterwards to come into life, e.g., He made first the plants and then the animals that needed them for food. In the first three days He separated the various parts of the world from each other; in the three following days He developed and adorned creation. The three first days correspond to the three last; for on the first He made light, on the fourth luminous bodies; on the second He separated water and air from each other, on the fifth He filled the water with fishes and the air with birds; on the third He made the dry land and on the sixth He filled it with animals.
From the account of creation we also learn that the world is not eternal.
The heathen thought that the world sprung from the accidental concurrence of a number of eternal atoms. But the present wonderful order could not possibly have arisen by chance, and the atoms are all dependent on one another, and therefore could not be eternal. The atoms, too, could never have put themselves in motion. Others thought that the materials of the world were eternal, and that God simply arranged them. Others imagined that the world was developed out of the divine essence (the Pantheists). But this would make the world indivisible and unchangeable, and we know that this is not so. God indeed is everywhere, but the world is not God; it is something different from Him, and separated from His being.
From What, and for what End has God Created the World?
1. God made the world out of nothing, simply because it pleased Him to make it.
Man can only make anything out of pre-existing materials. God made the materials. Men have to employ implements, they have to labor, and require a certain time to produce their work. God spoke, and the world was made. He did not need even to speak; all that was needed was that He should will what He desired done.
All that God created was very good.
God Himself commended His own works (Gen. i. 31). The world was very good, because it in no way diverged from the divine idea but was in perfect accordance with it. God praised His own works, because no one else could praise them sufficiently. We also should praise God in His works, as the three young men did in the fiery furnace at Babylon. Evil is evil, because creatures make a bad use of their free will. Nothing that exists can be bad in itself, but everything must at least be in some way good.
2. God was moved to make the world by His great goodness.
His object was to make His reasonable creatures happy.
As a good father shows pictures to his children, to please them and make them love him, so God has manifested His works to His reasonable creatures, to make them happy and earn their love. God made all earthly things for our good; some for the support of men (plants and animals), some for their instruction, some for their enjoyment, some for their trial, as sickness, suffering, etc. “All things that I see upon the earth,” says St. Augustine, “proclaim that Thou hast made them from love of me, and call upon me to love Thee.” God did not need the world. He made it for our sakes.
3. The end of creation is necessarily to proclaim to men the glory of God.
In every work we have to distinguish between the end of the maker of the work, i.e., that which moved the artificer to make the work, and the end of the work itself, i.e., that for which the work is destined. In a clock, e.g., the end of the maker of the clock is his own profit; the end of the clock is to indicate the time. In the world the motive of the Artificer is God’s great goodness; the end of the work is God’s glory and the happiness of His reasonable creatures. The motive of the countless number and variety of living and life less beings and the innumerable number of the stars, is that angels and men may know and admire the majesty of God. The end and object of the existence of angels and men are that they may unceasingly behold and praise God (Is. vi. 3). St. Augustine says, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and how unquiet is our heart so long as it finds not its rest in Thee!” Even the devils are compelled to contribute, in spite of themselves, to the glory of God; for by their punishment they show how holy and just God is, and God employs them also for the perfection of His elect through resistance to their temptations. Even the lost in hell manifest the justice and holiness of God and His hatred of sin. “God has made all things for Himself; the wicked also for the evil day” (Prov. xvi. 4). Yet God did not make the world with a view to any increase in His glory; for God is infinitely happy in Himself, and has no need of anything or anyone outside of Himself.
Since we are made for the glory of God, we should in all our works have the intention of honoring God.
St. Paul instructs us that, “whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. x. 31). Nothing is easier than to give glory to God, since we can direct our most minute actions to this end. When we wake in the morning, and often times during the day we should renew this intention.
This article, 5. HISTORY OF CREATION is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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