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§ 2. Mediate and Immediate Creation.
But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i.e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preëxisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the Mosaic account of the creation. God, we are told, “created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Here it is clearly intimated that the universe, when first created, was in a state of chaos, and that by the life-giving, organizing power of the Spirit of God, it was gradually moulded into the wonderful cosmos which we now behold. The whole of the first chapter of Genesis, after the first verse, is an account of the progress of creation; the 557production of light; the formation of an atmosphere; the separation of land and water; the vegetable productions of the earth; the animals of the sea and air; then the living creatures of the earth; and, last of all, man. In Gen. i. 27, it is said that God created man male and female; in chapter ii. 7, it is said, that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” It thus appears that forming out of preëxisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. We all recognize God as the author of our being, as our Creator, as well as our Preserver. He is our Creator, not merely because He is the maker of heaven and earth, and because all they contain owe their origin to his will and power, but also because, as the Psalmist teaches us, He fashions our bodies in secret. “Thine eyes,” says the sacred writer, “did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps. cxxxix. 16.) And the Bible constantly speaks of God as causing the grass to grow, and as being the real author or maker of all that the earth, air, or water produces. There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes.
Augustine clearly recognizes this idea. “Sicut in ipso grano invisibiliter erant omnia simul quæ per tempora in arborem surgerent; ita ipse mundus cogitandus est, cum Deus simul omnia creavit, habuisse simul omnia quæ in illo et cum illo facta sunt quando factus est dies: non solum cœlum cum sole et luna et sideribus, quorum species manet motu rotabili, et terram et abyssos, quæ velut inconstantes motus patiuntur, atque inferius adjuncta partem alteram mundo conferunt; sed etiam illa quæ aqua et terra produxit potentialiter atque causaliter, priusquam per temporum moras ita exorirentur, quomodo nobis jam nota sunt in eis operibus, quæ Deus usque nunc operatur.”519519De Genesi ad Literam, v. 45; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1836, vol. iii. p. 321, d. 422 a.
Thus far there is little room for diversity of opinion. But when the question is asked, How long was the universe in passing from its chaotic to its ordered state? such diversity is at once manifested. According to the more obvious interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, this work was accomplished in six days. This therefore has been the common belief of Christians. It is a belief founded on a given interpretation of the Mosaic record, which interpretation, 558however, must be controlled not only by the laws of language, but by facts. This is at present an open question. The facts necessary for its decision have not yet been duly authenticated. The believer may calmly await the result.
The theistical advocates of the Nebular Hypothesis assume that the universe was an indefinitely long period in coming to its present state. God, intending to produce just such a universe as we see around us, instead of by a flat calling the sun, moon, and stars, with all their marshalled hosts, into existence, created simply nebulous matter diffused through space; invested it with certain properties or forces; gave it a rotatory motion, and then allowed these physical laws under his guidance to work out the harmonious system of the heavens. As He is as truly the maker of the oak evolved from the acorn, according to the laws of vegetable life, as though He had called it into existence in its maturity by a word; so, it is maintained, He is as truly the creator of heaven and earth, on the nebular hypothesis, as on the assumption of instantaneous creation. This, however, is merely a hypothesis which has never commanded general assent among scientific men. It is, therefore, of no authority as a norm for the interpretation of Scripture.
The same theory of gradual, or mediate creation, has been applied to account for all the phenomena of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. This has been done in different forms. According to all these theories there must be something to begin with. There must be matter and its forces. There must even be life, and living organisms. To account for these we are forced to accept of the Scriptural doctrine of an immediate creation ex nihilo by the power of God.
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