New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > G > Relation of God to the Universe

Relation of God to the Universe

Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download or CD-ROM. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...


Essential dependence of the universe on God (creation and conservation)

In developing the argument of the First Cause we have seen that the world is essentially dependent on God, and this dependence implies in the first place that God is the Creator of the world — the producer of its whole being or substance — and in the next place, supposing its production, that its continuance in being at every moment is due to His sustaining power. Creation means the total production of a being out of nothing, i.e. the bringing of a being into existence to replace absolute nonexistence, and the relation of Creator is the only conceivable relation in which the Infinite can stand to the finite. Pantheistic theories, which would represent the varieties of being in the universe as so many determinations or emanations or phases of one and the selfsame eternal reality — Substance according to Spinoza, Pure Ego according to Fichte, the Absolute according to Schelling, the Pure Idea or Logical Concept according to Hegel — simply bristle with contradictions, and involve, as has been stated already, a denial of the distinction between the finite and the infinite. And the relation of Creator to created remains the same even though the possibility of eternal creation be admitted; the Infinite must be the producer of the finite even though it be impossible to fix a time at which production may not already have taken place. For certain knowledge of the fact that created being, and time itself, had a definite beginning in the past we can afford to rely on revelation, although, as already stated, science suggests the same fact.

It is also clear that if the universe depends on God for its production, it must also depend on Him for its conservation or continuance in being; and this truth will perhaps be best presented by explaining the much talked-of principle of Divine immanence as corrected and counterbalanced by the equally important principle of Divine transcendence.

Divine immanence and transcendence

To Deists is attributed the view — or at least a tendency towards the view — that God, having created the universe, leaves it to pursue its own course according to fixed laws and ceases, so to speak, to take any further interest in, or responsibility for what may happen; and Divine immanence is urged, sometimes too strongly, in opposition to this view. God is immanent, or intimately present, in the universe because His power is required at every moment to sustain creatures in being and to concur with them in their activities. Conservation and concursus are so to speak, continuations of creative activity, and imply an equally intimate relation of God towards creatures, or rather an equally intimate and unceasing dependence of creatures on God. Whatever creatures are, they are by virtue of God's conserving power; whatever they do, they do by virtue of God's concursus. It is not, of course, denied that creatures are true causes and produce real effects; but they are only secondary causes, their efficiency is always dependent and derived; God as the First Cause is an ever active cooperator in their actions. This is true even of the free acts of an intelligent creature like man; only it should be added in this case that Divine responsibility ceases at the point where sin or moral evil enters in. Since sin as such, however, is an imperfection, no limitation is thus imposed on God's supremacy.

But lest insistence on Divine immanence should degenerate into Pantheism — and there is a tendency in this direction on the part of many modern writers — it is important at the same time to emphasize the truth of God's transcendence, to recall, in other words, what has been stated several times already, that God is one simple and infinitely perfect personal Being whose nature and action in their proper character as Divine infinitely transcend all possible modes of the finite, and cannot, without contradiction, be formally identified with these.

Possibility of the supernatural

From a study of nature we have inferred the existence of God and deduced certain fundamental truths regarding His nature and attributes, and His relation to the created universe. And from these it is easy to deduce a further important truth, with a brief mention of which we may fittingly conclude this section. However wonderful we may consider the universe to be, we recognize that neither in its substance nor in the laws by which its order is maintained, in so far as unaided reason can come to know them, does it exhaust God's infinite power or perfectly reveal His nature. If then it be suggested that, to supplement what philosophy teaches of Himself and His purposes, God may be willing to favour rational creatures with an immediate personal revelation, in which He aids the natural powers of reason by confirming what they already know, and by imparting to them much that they could not otherwise know, it will be seen at once that this suggestion contains no impossibility. All that is required to realize it is that God should be able to communicate directly with the created mind, and that men should be able to recognize with sufficient certainty that the communication is really Divine — and that both of these conditions are capable of being fulfilled no Theist can logically deny (see REVELATION; MIRACLES). This being so it will follow further that knowledge so obtained, being guaranteed by the authority of Him who is infinite Truth, is the most certain and reliable knowledge we can possess.


About this page

APA citation. Toner, P. (1909). Relation of God to the Universe. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06614a.htm

MLA citation. Toner, Patrick. "Relation of God to the Universe." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06614a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Tomas Hancil.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

CONTACT US