May 15, 2011


The Purpose of Creation (Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., May 14, 2011, Ignatius Insight)

We have responsibility for creation because we can understand. Moreover, "because God created everything, he can give us life and direct our lives." Already here we see the fact that the intelligibility of the universe is related to our own end which we need to understand. The "central message of the creation" is found by reading together the beginning of Genesis and the beginning of the Prologue of John's Gospel. The world, the heavens and the earth, find their origin in the Logos within the Godhead. This Logos is not just abstract reason but "Reason that both is and creates sense. The creation account tells us, then, that the world is a product of creative Reason." When we examine creation and all in it, we find order already there.

If we are told that no reason exists in things, no order, we know that this view is contrary to evidence, logic, and revelation. What we ultimately find behind all creation is freedom, reason, and love, not necessity and chance. That is to say, such realities are already found within the Godhead and are placed within the world in due order. "In the beginning is freedom. Hence it is good to be a human person." These sentences mean that God did not have to create anything. He does not "change" if the world exists or does not exist. But if something does exist, as it does, it flows from God's own inner life. Creation will be marked by intelligence and love once we come to see its overall scope. Deus Caritas Est. Deus Logos Est.

We are not accidents thrown up by chance in some obscure corner of the cosmos. Rather, the cosmos exists that we might exist. We exist to carry out the purpose for which we are created. The cosmos is a consequence, in the divine intention, of our eventual creation. In the plan of God, we are intended before the cosmos it intended. The universe is the arena of our freely achieving (or rejecting) the purpose of our creation. God's original intention was to associate other free and intelligent being within His inner life after the manner of their freedom and intelligence in response to His. "Reason is there at the beginning." We also can refuse to accept what we are offered. "And because it is Reason, it is also created freedom; and because freedom can be abused, there also exist forces harmful to creation." That is the history of the Fall in Genesis.

God, in creating free beings who could reject Him, understood that some would reject Him. Thus, He had to respond to their freedom to reject Him with His offer of mercy and forgiveness. Basically, this is what the Incarnation as we know it is about. But we ourselves must "place ourselves on the side of reason, freedom, and loveā€”on the side of God who loves us, so much that he suffered for us, that from his death there might emerge a new definitive and healed life." The one thing that God never does is to make a free being not to be free. This is why history is filled with those also who freely reject the efforts and examples of God to lead us back to the original purpose of creation.

The Old Testament presents "an order of realities." Benedict then shows that the rest on the last day of creation was itself ordered to a transformation whereby the new day of creation began with the Resurrection. But this divine response was not merely an afterthought. "The Covenant is the inner ground of creation, just as creation is the external presupposition of the Covenant." This inner ground of creation indicates the drama that was intended to occur within history. For this to happen, a world had to exist and be prepared to receive human lives that could sustain themselves in the world. The "anthropological principle" that we hear scientists refer to in cosmology is the counterpart of the initial divine intention.

What then is it all about? In a brilliant sentence, Benedict carefully explained the broad sweep of our being to us: "God made the world so that there could be a space where he might communicate his love, and from which the response of love might come back to him." This passage emphasizes the central purpose of creation. For God to communicate His love, some beings capable of loving in return had to exist. Since such beings could not themselves be gods, they needed a place in which they could live. There, they were invited to "respond." They could choose not to do respond, otherwise there could be no true and free love. What Augustine called the City of God and the City of Man are involved in this drama.

Benedict added a further astounding fact. From God's perspective, the heart of the man who responds to him is greater and more important than the whole immense material cosmos." Such a sentence puts things in proper perspective from considerations of abortion, to sinners, to the evils we experience in history. Each person is thus made in the "image" of God, with intelligence, will, and a space in which to decide what he will be. The parable of the lost sheep in the Gospels comes to mind. God searches for what is lost, but He cannot "force" men to choose Him. They have to love him because He is loveable.

Posted by at May 15, 2011 10:33 AM

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