Philosophy of Evolution: Not Atheistic

Definitions and Distinctions


Atheism is the denial of the existence of God.24

Creation is the production of something from nothing of self and nothing of the subject.25 God is the First efficient cause, so that all other beings derive existence from God (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 44. 1; Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 65. 1). God is the exemplary cause of creation, since all things exist in the Divine Wisdom as the divine ideas or exemplars (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 44. 3). God is the final cause, and the end is His own Divine Goodness (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 44. 4). Finally, in His perfect freedom and omnipotence, God can will to produce any combination, or order, of possible imitations of Himself. The order He chooses is produce the universe as we find it existing (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 47. 1; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 2. 45; Aquinas De Potentia 3. 15; Aquinas De Potentia 3. 16).

Transcendental causality in creation is different from the causality of creatures. Only God can create.26 The creative power of God reverses that of creatures in exploring the material, formal, efficient, and final causes. God begins by being the final cause of all, then the agent cause as God gives existence to the creature’s form (formal cause) in (not "from") the material (material cause). "So it follows that God operates intimately with all the causes" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 105. 5).27

Programmed Evolution: Pope John Paul II notes that Evolutionsim may be envisioned as a kind of programmed creation, in which God has written into creation the laws for its evolution.28 St. Thomas appears to endorse the dynamic order similar to a programmed evolution in Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 22.: "Hence the more final and the more perfect an act is, the more is the appetite of matter inclined to it. Therefore the appetite whereby matter seeks a form must tend toward the last and most perfect act to which matter can attain, as to the ultimate end of generation. Now certain grades are to be found in the acts of forms."29

Providence is the Divine Reason ordering all creatures to the end to which they have been created.30 St. Thomas follows Boethius in defining Providence as "divine reason, residing in the supreme ruler of everything, which disposes all things" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 22. 1; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 64).31 An analogous example is the general and his army preparing for victory. Creation brings "existence" to all things deprived of it; providence intervenes to bring "order" to creation to preserve it; so Divine Providence arises with creation and in a certain sense completes it. Since Providence is the Divine Intellect and Will, considered as governing realities, Providence is eternal. However, the execution of this order in creatures takes place in time. This execution is Divine Government.

Divine Conservation in being: directly is the dependence of the creature on the conserver so that the creature cannot exist without it; indirectly is the removal of the causes of corruption. Divine Conservation is "direct" dependence for existence.32 Proof of Divine Conservation is that every effect depends on its cause precisely in that respect in which the latter is its cause; but God is the cause of being so that if the cause of being ceases, then the effect of being will instantly cease. Since God is the cause of everything that exists, God must conserve everything in being by acting in it at every moment of its existence (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 104. 1; Aquinas Summa Contra Gentiles 3. 65; Aquinas De Potentia 5. 1). Divine Conservation is not a new act distinct from the creative act, but creation and conservation are one (Aquinas De Potentia 5. 2; Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 104. 1. ad 2). It is a continuation of the action of giving being. "Continuation" does not mean "for a long time," because the action is without motion and without time (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 104. 1. ad 4).

Divine Concourse is the activity with which God as principle cause underpins the causality of creatures, free or not, in their actions. St. Thomas notes, "Thus the rational creature, beyond the government (supra gubernationem) with which he directs himself in so far as master of himself, need to be governed by God" (Aquinas Summa Theologiae 1. 103. 5. ad 3).33

Truth can be known either empirically or rationally.34 Empirical truth is immediately known by observation or experiment. Rational (or analytic) truth is known if the predicate has a necessary connection with the subject. Rational truth by terminology alone (secundum se tantum) is most perfectly knowable but in fact is not immediately known, e. g. the immateriality of the human soul. Rational truth for man (quoad nos) is most perfectly knowable and also perfectly known, e.g. the whole is greater than the part. These distinctions are of some importance, because the existence of God is essentially known secundum se, but not immediately known quoad nos, which is why demostration is necessary.35

Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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