We risk imagining that God was a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand

I believe in God the Father Almighty…’ That’s how the Creed starts, that’s how we pray it every day, that’s what Christians believe, basing our conviction on Revelation.

The marvelous work of creation goes beyond our capacity of comprehension, consequently, we attribute it without any difficulty to a superior intelligence, to ‘Someone’ entirely superior to us, who shows great magnificence in the act of creation. Briefly described in Genesis, we contemplate creation only amidst the shadows of mystery. However, in recognizing that the universe was made by God, we cannot doubt that it came about according to his wise dispositions, whether it in an instantaneous manner or otherwise. We may admit that the work of the six days was extended for thousands of years, or claim that it lasted one minute. What we cannot do is establish limits to the attribute of God’s omnipotence, which – as the word itself says – can do all things…

Francis

You are addressing the highly complex subject of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into the scientific complexity, which you well understand, of this important and crucial question. I only want to underline that God and Christ are walking with us and are also present in nature, as the Apostle Paul stated in his discourse at the Areopagus: “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read the account of Creation in Genesis we risk imagining that God was a magician, complete with an all powerful magic wand. But that was not so. He created beings and he let them develop according to the internal laws with which He endowed each one, that they might develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time in which He assured them of his continual presence, giving life to every reality. And thus Creation has been progressing for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until becoming as we know it today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives life to all beings. The beginning of the world was not a work of chaos that owes its origin to another, but derives directly from a supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big Bang theory, which is proposed today as the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of a divine creator but depends on it. Evolution in nature does not conflict with the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings who evolve. (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 27, 2014)

Teachings of the Magisterium

Table of Contents

Synod of Constantinople (453)
– If anyone says that the power of God is limited let him be anathema

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely
– To create can be the action of God alone

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)
– The act of creation came about by God’s goodness and omnipotent power
– God protects and governs all things which He created

Benedict XVI
– We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution
– The notion of creation must transcend our naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world

Pius XII
– The Church cannot permit the violation of those principles and laws which direct and govern man in his path to God

John Paul II
– God is Lord of the work of creation
– Nothing could have endured if God did not will it
– The world exists in virtue of divine omnipotence
– Creation manifests the exercise of the omnipotence of God, guided by His Wisdom and moved by Love

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon
– God is not subject to created things, but created things to God

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
– Nothing is removed from the power of God

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– God who created everything also rules everything
– God is master of history: governing hearts and events in keeping with his will
– God created the world according to his wisdom
– God gives his creatures being and existence and brings them to their final end
– Without a Creator the creature vanishes

Catechism of Trent
– Meaning of ‘Almighty’: there neither exists nor can be conceived anything which God cannot do
– Unless preserved by His Providence all things would instantly return into their nothingness

Synod of Constantinople (543)

  • If anyone says that the power of God is limited let him be anathema

If anyone says or holds that the power of God is limited, and that He has accomplished as much as He has comprehended, let him be anathema. (Denzinger-Hünermann 410. Pope Vigilius, Canons against Origen, from the Book against Origen of the Emperor Justinian, 543)

Saint Thomas Aquinas

  • God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely

It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. […] The divine existence, however, upon which the nature of power in God is founded, is infinite, and is not limited to any genus of being; but possesses within itself the perfection of all being. Whence, whatsoever has or can have the nature of being is numbered among the absolutely possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, q. 25, a. 3)

  • To create can be the action of God alone

It sufficiently appears at the first glance, according to what precedes (Article 1), that to create can be the action of God alone. […] And so some have supposed that although creation is the proper act of the universal cause, still some inferior cause acting by the power of the first cause, can create. And thus Avicenna asserted that the first separate substance created by God created another after itself, and the substance of the world and its soul; and that the substance of the world creates the matter of inferior bodies. And in the same manner the Master says (Sent. IV, D, 5) that God can communicate to a creature the power of creating, so that the latter can create ministerially, not by its own power. But such a thing cannot be, because the secondary instrumental cause does not participate the action of the superior cause, except inasmuch as by something proper to itself it acts dispositively to the effect of the principal agent. If therefore it effects nothing, according to what is proper to itself, it is used to no purpose; nor would there be any need of certain instruments for certain actions. Thus we see that a saw, in cutting wood, which it does by the property of its own form, produces the form of a bench, which is the proper effect of the principal agent. Now the proper effect of God creating is what is presupposed to all other effects, and that is absolute being. Hence nothing else can act dispositively and instrumentally to this effect, since creation is not from anything presupposed, which can be disposed by the action of the instrumental agent. So therefore it is impossible for any creature to create, either by its own power or instrumentally—that is, ministerially. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I, q. 45, a. 5)

Vatican Council I (Ecumenical XX)

  • The act of creation came about by God’s goodness and omnipotent power

[The act of creation in itself, and in opposition to modern errors, and the effect of creation]. This sole true God by His goodness and ‘omnipotent power,’ not to increase His own beatitude, and not to add to, but to manifest His perfection by the blessings which He bestows on creatures, with most free volition, ‘immediately from the beginning of time fashioned each creature out of nothing, spiritual and corporeal, namely angelic and mundane; and then the human creation, common as it were, composed of both spirit and body’ (Lateran Council IV, see n. 428; can. 2 and 5). (Denzinger-Hünermann 3002. Vatican Council I – Ecumenical XX, Session III, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, April 25, 1870)

  • God protects and governs all things which He created

But God protects and governs by His providence all things which He created, ‘reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly’ (cf. Wis 8:1). For ‘all things are naked and open to His eyes’ (Heb 4: 13), even those which by the free action of creatures are in the future. (Denzinger-Hünermann 3003. Vatican Council I – Ecumenical XX, Session III, Dogmatic Constitution concerning the Catholic Faith, April 25, 1870)

Benedict XVI

  • We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution

We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. (Benedict XVI. Homily of the Mass of the Imposition of the Pallium and conferral of the Fisherman’s Ring at the beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, April 24, 2005)

  • The notion of creation must transcend our naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world

Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologica, I, q.45, a. 3). (Benedict XVI. Address to members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, October 31, 2008)

Pius XII

  • The Church cannot permit the violation of those principles and laws which direct and govern man in his path to God

In like manner, approval cannot be given to the false principles of those who assert and claim freedom to depict and propagate anything at all, even though there has been established beyond dispute in these past years both the kind and the extent of the damage to both bodies and souls which has had its source in these principles. There is no question here of the true liberty of which We have spoken above, but rather of an uncontrolled freedom, which disregards all precautions, of communicating with others anything at all, even though it be contrary to sound morals and can result in serious danger to souls. The Church encourages and supports everything which truly concerns a fuller enrichment of the mind – for She is the patron and fostermother of human knowledge and the noble arts; therefore She cannot permit the violation of those principles and laws which direct and govern man in his path to God, his final end. Let no one, then, be surprised if, in this matter, where many reservations are necessary, the Church acts with due thought and discretion, according to that saying of the Apostle: ‘But prove all things: hold fast that which is good. From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves’ (1Thess 5:21-22). (Pius XII. Encyclical Miranda Prorsus, August 9, 1957)

John Paul II

  • God is Lord of the work of creation

This God, omnipotent and omniscient, has the Power to create, to call from non-being, from nothing, into being. ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ – we read in Genesis 18:14 – […] ‘For with God, nothing will be impossible’ (Lk 1:37), said the Archangel Gabriel to Mary of Nazareth at the Annunciation. […] This God, infinitely perfect and omniscient spirit, is absolutely free and sovereign also with respect to the very act of creation. If he is the Lord of all that he created, he is, moreover, Lord of the very Will in the work of creation. He creates because he wants to create. He creates because this corresponds to his infinite Wisdom. In creating he acts with the unfathomable plenitude of his liberty, by an impulse of eternal love. (John Paul II. General Audience, September 18, 1985)

  • Nothing could have endured if God did not will it

The reflection regarding the truth of creation, with which God calls the world from nothing into existence, directs the gaze of our faith toward the contemplation of God-Creator, who reveals in creation his omnipotence, his wisdom and love. The omnipotence of the Creator is shown not only in his calling creatures from nothing into existence, but also in maintaining them in existence. ‘How would anything have endured if you had not willed it?’ asked the author of the book of Wisdom (11:25). (John Paul II. General Audience, March 5, 1986)

  • The world exists in virtue of divine omnipotence

‘I believe in God, creator of heaven and earth’, we will reflect on the mystery that contains all of created reality, in its proceeding from nothing, admiring at the same time the omnipotence of God and the joyful surprise of a contingent world that exists in virtue of this omnipotence. We may recognize that creation is the loving work of the Most Holy Trinity and revelation of his glory. (John Paul II. General Audience, January 8, 1986)

  • Creation manifests the exercise of the omnipotence of God, guided by His Wisdom and moved by Love

If creation manifests the omnipotence of the God-Creator, the exercise of the omnipotence is definitively explained through love. God has created because he was able to, because he is omnipotent; but his omnipotence was guided by Wisdom and moved by Love. This is the work of creation. (John Paul II. General Audience, October 2, 1985)

Saint Irenaeus of Lyon

  • God is not subject to created things, but created things to God

Neither the nature of any created thing, therefore, nor the weakness of the flesh, can prevail against the will of God. For God is not subject to created things, but created things to God; and all things yield obedience to His will. Wherefore also the Lord declares, ‘The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God’ (Lk 18:27), […] yet the scepticism of men of this stamp shall not render the faithfulness of God of none effect. (Saint Irenaeus of Lyon. Against Heresies, Book V, Ch. V)

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem

  • Nothing is removed from the power of God

Nothing, therefore, is removed from the power of God. Of him the Scripture says: ‘For all things are your servants’ (Ps 119:91). (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Baptismal catechesis, 8, 5)

Catechism of the Catholic Church

  • God who created everything also rules everything

Of all the divine attributes, only God’s omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything (cf. Gen 1:1; Jn 1:3) also rules everything and can do everything (Ps 115:3). God’s power is loving, for he is our Father. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 268)

  • God is master of history: governing hearts and events in keeping with his will

The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the ‘Mighty One of Jacob’ (Gen 49:24; Is 1:24), the ‘Lord of hosts’, the ‘strong and mighty’ one (Ps 24:8-10). If God is almighty ‘in heaven and on earth’ (Ps 135:6), it is because he made them. Nothing is impossible with God (Jer 32:17; Lk 1:37), who disposes his works according to his will (cf. Jer 27:5). He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will (cf. Esth 4:17b; Prov 21:1; Tob 13:2): ‘It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?’ (Wis 11:2). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 269)

  • God created the world according to his wisdom

We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom (cf. Wis 9:9). It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God’s free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: ‘For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’ (Rev 4:11). Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: ‘O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all’; and ‘The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made’ (Ps 104:24; 145:9). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 295)

  • God gives his creatures being and existence and brings them to their final end

With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence… (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 301)

  • Without a Creator the creature vanishes

The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator. God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:13; cf. 1Cor 12:6). Far from diminishing the creature’s dignity, this truth enhances it. Drawn from nothingness by God’s power, wisdom and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for ‘without a Creator the creature vanishes’ (Gaudium et Spes 36, 3). Still less can a creature attain its ultimate end without the help of God’s grace (cf. Mt 19:26; Jn 15:5; Phil 14:13). (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 308)

Catechism of Trent

  • Meaning of ‘Almighty’: there neither exists nor can be conceived anything which God cannot do

From these various modes of expression it is clearly perceived what is comprehended under this single word almighty. By it we understand that there neither exists nor can be conceived in thought or imagination anything which God cannot do. For not only can He annihilate all created things, and in a moment summon from nothing into existence many other worlds, an exercise of power which, however great, comes in some degree within our comprehension; but He can do many things still greater, of which the human mind can form no conception. (Catechism of Trent, 1013)

  • Unless preserved by His Providence all things would instantly return into their nothingness

We are not, however, to understand that God is in such wise the Creator and Maker of all things that His works, when once created and finished, could thereafter continue to exist unsupported by His omnipotence. For as all things derive existence from the Creator’s supreme power, wisdom, and goodness, so unless preserved continually by His Providence, and by the same power which produced them, they would instantly return into their nothingness. (Catechism of Trent, no. 1015)

One thought on “We risk imagining that God was a magician, complete with an all-powerful magic wand

  1. Pope Francis has gone too far! I mean – to deny even that God is omnipotent! Is he Catholic??? Or even Christian? Or even a believer…

    Like

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