Magazine article Tikkun

The Testimony of Faith to the Ultimate Origin

Magazine article Tikkun

The Testimony of Faith to the Ultimate Origin

Article excerpt

SCIENCE CAN NEITHER CONFIRM NOR REFUTE WHAT THE two accounts of Genesis proclaim as their clear message: in the beginning of the world is God. So it is not "in the beginning was the Bang," but "in the beginning was the word, the will, and there was light; there was energy, matter, space, and time."

Creation of Space and Time from Nothing

WHERE WE ARE SPEAKING ONLY IN AN INAUTHENTIC WAY OF A "before" the creation of the world. What was God doing before he created heaven and earth? Augustine, in chapter 11 of his Confessions, already gave a precise answer to this question, which he regarded as impertinent. He was brief and terse: the question was meaningless ; the question about the "before" was superfluous. Why? Because the world was not created in time, but with time; to this degree Einstein agreed with him. So only the creator is "before" the cosmos, only eternity is "before" time; here Augustine goes further than Einstein and addresses God: "Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. It is in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and after all future time." Thus from a theological perspective the act of creation is a timeless act; it comes about through time. And time is created time, created time-space, created space-time.

Now what does it mean to talk of creating the world "from nothing"? In the Bible, as I have said, this is only a later notion, the fruit of Hellenistic reflection. It does not mean the nothing becoming independent, as it were an empty black space before or alongside God. Nothingness must not be confused either with the "vacuum" of modern particle physics, whose "fluctuations" perhaps stand at the beginning of our universe, and which is in no way a nothing, but a something. What is meant rather is absolute nothing, which excludes any material cause in the act of creation. Creation "from nothing" is the philosophical and theological expression of the fact that the world and human beings along with space and time owe themselves solely to God and not to another cause.

But God does not owe himself to any cause. One may not even call God causa sui (cause of himself), as Descartes and Spinoza did. He is not caused at all. He is by definition the uncaused reality, because it is eternal and perfect: Id quo maius cogitari nequit- "that than which nothing greater can be thought" (Anselm of Canterbury, Descartes). The Bible does not philosophize about this. But it does express the conviction that the world is radically dependent on God as the author and sustainer of all being yet also remains independent of God. Christian theology has maintained that creation continues : creatio continua. For our present understanding, only in this way is the coming to being of the world as an ongoing process in time possible as a process that does not exclude the origination of new structures but includes them.

Creation from nothing and ongoing creation must thus be as a unity- both are the condition of the possibility of physical process generally. As U. Luke wrote in Kosmologie (Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2004): "Creatio continua and creatio ex nihih would simply be two names for one and the same creative activity of the eternal God itself timeless and at the same time appointing time. And this one and the same creative activity of God would not Ue beyond in a singularity billions of years away, but would be strictly present to us, beyond our control, but nearer to us than we are to ourselves."

What Is the Meaning of Belief in Creation Today?

IN IMAGES AND PARABLES OF THEIR TIME, THE BIBLICAL accounts of creation answer simple basic questions that also arise for human beings of today and that science cannot answer with its method and language. What are answered in the Bible are not purely theoretical questions but elementary existential questions:

* What was at the beginning? …

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