In his lectures, Father William R. Stoeger, SJ would proclaim the concepts of “Creatio ex nihilo” – Creation From Nothing, and “Creatio continua” – Continuing Creation.
The Creation Narrative
The Creation narrative is much more than a debate on the concept of a “Big Bang” or a “Beginning”. There has been a long-standing, intense, debate among scientists and philosophers regarding these beliefs focusing on the necessity of a Creator being involved. It is believed that science will never be able to access the beginning of Creation, but regardless how it all got started, each of us can look at the Universe and see what is going on today. Therefore, let us consider the concept of Continuing Creation.
Fr. Stoeger teaches that through Continuing Creation, God sustains and conserves existence and order through an ongoing relationship with the laws of nature by working in and through natural causes. * God’s creative action is different from any other kind of action or causality – God as the “Primary Causality” and all other actions as “Secondary Causality.”
- God does not fill gaps except thee gap of needing to ground existence and order.
- God does not act as a natural cause but as the Creator. There is a radical distinction between God and Creation.
- The Creator is transcendent and at the same time immanent within creation.
- God works in and through creation and the laws of nature.
- The Creator provides the Universe the free will to evolve into what it will become.
Saint Pope John Paul 2 also gave a reflection on Creation on March 5, 1986 – Creation Is the Work of the Trinity.
And, or own Vatican Cosmologist, Fr. Gabriele Gionti, SJ explains this Trinitarian structure: “God creates the world, the Universe, in a relationship of Love, which is the Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, through the Son, The Logos, the second person of the Trinity. This “Trinitarian” creation is called “Creatio ex Amore.”
The Vatican Observatory is a community of faith and science, and we are often challenged to defend our faith when it appears to be incompatible with science, i.e., the oft-cited Darwin Controversy. As Fr. Stoeger teaches that God works in and through creation and the laws of nature, Creatio ex Nihilo can be viewed, in a strict scientific context, as Evolution. And the theory of Evolution is another concept that ignites debate between the scientific and faith communities.
Professor Peter Dodson
Professor Peter Dodson, Emeritus professor of Paleontology at the University of Pennsylvania, is a religious scientist with a particular perspective on the evolutionary process. As a “theistic evolutionist” who is a “deeply committed Christian”, he offers a defense of God’s gift of Evolution. His many articles on science and faith provide a unique insight into the understanding of Evolution with a profound love of the Creator.
In 2016 Professor Dodson gave a lecture titled “On Fossils and Faith” at the University of Pennsylvania:
Professor Peter Dodson’s PDF is presented with permission from the author.
“If we do not look to Genesis 1 as a scientific account of Creation, can we find theological reasons to support the concept of evolution? Evolution, the record of change over time, imbues Creation with dynamism. Haught has referred to evolution as Darwin’s Gift to Theology. In what sense can this be so? One key insight comes from God’s own assessment of the work of Creation on the Sixth Day:
“God saw everything that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.”
(Genesis 1: 31)
The affirmation of the goodness of Creation is an extremely fundamental Judeo-Christian understanding. But note also, the imperfection of Creation – in a word, very good means there is still room for improvement. How do you improve on perfection? You cannot. Perfection is a static state that is not consistent with the dynamism seen in the natural world or in human affairs. Creation is not finished – it is ongoing. Thus, the work of Creation was not finished on the Sixth Day. Again, we may ask how this can be? The answer is that God’s love for Creation, all of Creation, is infinite. The infinite, by definition, cannot be poured out in an instant. God’s love is ongoing, and God’s love lifts all of Creation. This lifting we may call Evolution.”
This passage can be an inspiration to all of us to appreciate the beauty of everything in God’s Creation, and I would like to add my personal reflection:
So, what about dinosaurs?
Professor Dodson’s lecture also includes the insight “As a child, dinosaurs fascinated me.” And in 1997 he posted an article on the INTERS.org website titled “God and the Dinosuars.”
In today’s media, especially through movies, we see a fascination with these majestic creatures. Dinosaurs are portrayed as brutal beasts, and until 65 million years ago, when an asteroid collided with our planet, the K/T Event, they were the dominant lifeform for 160 million years. But, like all of God’s creatures in the 3.8 billion years of life on Earth, they were born, lived, and died.
Through his work as a “dinosaur paleontologist”, Professor Dodson proclaims his love for God’s gift of Creation – all of Creation. And as a final word from Professor Dobson, a scientist of profound faith in the Creator, he proclaims –
“Dinosaurs were the jewels of God’s creation. They graced the planet for 160 million years. Like all of His Creation, they gave Him praise. God loved them.”
About the Author:
James Renn is a board member of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, and the coordinator for the Vatican Observatory Foundation’s Ambassador Program, and is himself the Ambassador for the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.
About the Cover Image:
The cover image of dinosaur with a comet in the background was created using AI on the website: starryai.com. This is the first time I’ve played with AI generated artwork – some of my test creations were pretty cool… others were hilarious! – Bob Trembley