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God the Author of Nature and the Supernatural
Part One: Creation as a Divine Act


by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.



When the Vatican Council in the first chapter of its Dogmatic constitution on the Catholic Faith defined the purpose that God had in creating the world, and in its fifth canon on the subject further declared that the world was made for the glory of its Creator, it merely confirmed by solemn decree what the Church had always believed.

There was a special need for the Vatican declaration, however, which is no less urgent now than it was in the last century. Philosophers in the rationalist tradition scoffed at the Catholic teaching that the glory of God was the purpose of creation, as though God made the world out of vanity or pride to have creatures give Him praise. Even some Catholic theologians, notably Hermes and Gunther, favored the critics and claimed that if we suppose the first reason for creation was the divine glory, we present God as ambitious and proud. To avoid this conclusion, they said, we must subordinate God's glory to the welfare and happiness of rational beings, so that beatitude in creatures and not the divine praise is the last end of creation.

As expressed, the thesis has two aspects, one looking at the purpose of creation in relation to God, finis operantis; and the other at the finality of creation with reference to the universe itself, finis operis. These two aspects also correspond to the two definitive statements in the Vatican Council, the first in its positive exposition of doctrine, and the second in its negative condemnation of error.


Ultimate purpose or end is an expression which may mean either the good which moved the agent to produce something, or the good that the work itself is intended and suited by its nature and constitution to attain. Taken in the first sense, the purpose is called finis operantis, in the second sense it is finis operis.

These two purposes may be objectively identical, when the agent intends just what the work in question is fitted to achieve; which is always verified in the creative activity of God. But in other cases, they may be quite distinct. When a contractor, for example, builds a house, the finis operis (of the house) is to serve as a dwelling. If the contractor intends to live in the building himself, his purpose or finis operantis is the same as the finis operis of the house; but if his motive is to make a profit on the building project with someone else occupying the home, then the two purposes are different.

Since the ultimate purpose that God in creating was something for whose love He brought the world into existence, it could only have been Himself, namely, His infinite goodness. This goodness, however, should be taken ontologically and not just morally. The divina bonitas here means the infinite fulness and perfection of the divine being. No doubt when we speak of the goodness of God, we always first think of the love by which He confers benefits on us and the world; and this is included in the metaphysical goodness. But by goodness in the thesis we understand the whole ambit of divine perfections.

If God were "moved" by something other than His goodness, he would be moved by something outside Himself, which is a contradiction and against His self-sufficiency. However since God possessed this goodness in its perfection from eternity, it could not "move" Him towards further acquisition. The only possibility was that His goodness would be the divine motive for manifesting His perfections and communicating to creatures the privilege of participating in His goodness through the benefits He conferred on them.

Corresponding to the ultimate purpose that God had in creating is the purpose of the created universe. Necessarily so, because an effect is by nature "directed to the end or purpose of the agent." Consequently if the finis operantis Dei is the divine goodness, the ultimate finis operis mundi creati is ontologically the same. Creatures attain this ultimate end by manifesting the goodness of God and by benefiting from their manifestation - the first in terms of glorifying the Creator and the second in terms of participation and profit to themselves.

Theologians commonly subdivide the two ends, operantis and operis, into three types: qui, quo, and cui. While subtle, the distinctions help to clarify the meaning and purpose of creation as outlined schematically.

                 (Qui: The intrinsic goodness of God to be manifested and communicated.
       (         (Quo: Manifestation and communication of the divine goodness
       (         (
       (         (
       (         (Cui: No intrinsic utility or benefit to God
       (         (Qui: The intrinsic goodness of God to be participated glorified
       (         (
       (         (
       (         (Quo: Glorification of God's goodness by participation
       (         (
       ( Operis  (
                 (Cui: Benefit to creatures:
                      - Quasi to irrational creatures in their possession of
                        perfections through communication from the Creator.
                      - Real to intelligent creatures through beatific knowledge.

The glory of God, which is essential to a proper understanding of creation, often appears in the Scriptures as kabod yehovah (O.T.) and doxa tou Theou (N.T.), and means some kind of manifestation of the divine attributes, which in the bible may be in extraordinary divine appearances, or in the divine interventions which the chosen people experienced in their favor, or in the works of nature, or, after the Incarnation, in the person of Christ. On man's part, these manifestations should be responded to by acknowledgement and praise.

According to St. Augustine, therefore, glory may be defined as "brilliant celebrity with praise (clara cum laude notitia)." In which case it is understood as the effect that should take place in rational beings from the manifestation of God's glory. Schematically it may be described as follows:

                      (Fundamental: The Imitation or participation of
                      (             divine perfections by creatures. 
            (         (
            (         (Formal: Acknowledgement (Loving Recognition) of the
            (                  divine perfections on the part of  
            (                  intellectual creatures.
            (         (Fundamental: The divine perfections in themselves.
            (         (
                      (Formal: The praise which God renders
                               Himself within the Trinity.

Closely identified with the glory of God is the beatitude of intellectual beings, that is angels and men. Since their happiness consists in the possession of the Summum Bonum, namely God; and since this possession arises from knowledge and love and consequent joy, it follows therefore that the happiness of intelligent creatures, which begins (for men) on earth and is consummated in heaven, does not differ really and objectively from the formal glory given to God by His creatures. In other words, the actions which truly make a rational creature happy are the same as those by which God is honored and glorified.

Nevertheless the extrinsic glory of God and the happiness of creatures are clearly distinguishable, as the words themselves indicate, according to their different respective formalities. "Glory" refers to God, "happiness" refers to creatures; and therefore the first belongs to a higher order, so that happiness is rightly considered subordinate (or secondary) to the divine glory. So important is this relative value, that if a rational creature departs from it in action, neither God receives the glory He deserves nor the creature itself is truly happy or satisfied.

Furthermore, when we say that God in creating wants to manifest His perfections and have them acknowledged and loved by His creatures, He likewise implicitly wants the happiness which angels and men derive from this loving recognition.

However, as we know, this secondary end of creatures may be frustrated, whereas the primary end is always attained. Taken as the ultimate purpose of the created world, intellectual creatures are able not to reach beatitude, if they freely refuse to live according to the demands of their nature. But it is impossible for God not to be glorified. This appears first of all from the very fact that persons exist and live, rendering to God fundamental or objective glory. And if by living an evil life, they fail to give God the formal glory which He desires, yet the divine justice by which they are punished will glorify the Creator. So that even though a man sins, the ultimate purpose of the created world is always and necessarily attained.

God has wisely so disposed creation that the two-fold ends, primary and secondary, may simultaneously be attained. Man renders to God the highest glory precisely by reaching beatitude, in which he attains the highest perfection of his nature. And correspondingly, if he acts according to the demands of nature (and supernature) and thereby glorifies God, he infallibly comes to beatitude. Through the knowledge and especially the love of God, since in love is contained the fulfillment of all divine precepts, God is simultaneously glorified and man beatified. Indeed, the more a person loves God, the more perfectly he reaches the two-fold end of his existence.

How do non-intellectual creatures fit into the schema of finality in creation? They are part of the fundamental or objective extrinsic glorification of God, whereas only angels and men are capable of rendering God formal or subjective glory. It is therefore through them or from them that rational creatures draw some (if not all) the material or foundation for glorifying God. Some theologians argue that a purely material world without intelligent beings would be impossible. In creating the universe, they say, God aimed principally at being glorified by those creatures who were endowed with mind and will. If he had omitted to kindle the light of reason and the power of love, at least in some of His creatures, the world would have been “a book without a reader, a voice with no one to listen, an altar without a priest, a dwelling with no inhabitants.While speculative, the question serves to clarify the difference between objective and subjective glorification of God.


From the nature of their principles, Monists and Deists are opposed to the thesis since they either deny a real distinction between God and the created world, or postulate an impersonal force as the soul of the universe, or separate God from creation in a way that makes the ultimate purpose of life independent of the will of the Creator.

More directly adversative are those, like Kant, who deny that the world was created to glorify God. This would be divine egotism and unworthy of the Deity. Thus also Bayle and Edward von Hartmann. Descartes had the same idea, that the world was created exclusively for the happiness of man.

The Semirationalists, Hermes and Gunther, claimed that the primary purpose of the created world was man's beatitude, and only secondarily the glory of God. In view of their historic importance as condemned by the Vatican Council, they deserve further explanation.

According to Gunther, the primary end of creation is that God might make them perfectly happy from a motive of pure love on His part. In this way, both the holiness and glory of God are assured, since the creature necessarily glorifies God by its holiness of life. Thus, for Gunther, the divine glory is consequential and secondary to the main reason why God created the world. Hermes further argued that God would be ambitious if He sought His own glory as the final purpose of creation; for this reason man's beatitude must be this ultimate purpose.

Typical adversaries may be found in a variety of philosophical schools and among different approaches to the subjects

1. Edward von Hartmann: Creation out of vanity.

"Why does this God create creatures to a life that in itself is suffering and torture and becomes doubly painful through the punishments appointed for the violation of the divine commandments? Considering his omnipotence, omniscience and infinite wisdom he has no kind of excuse, or escape from responsibility for creation that he carried out with full appreciation of his action. Hence from the viewpoint of theism, nothing remains but to admit that in spite of the misery he foreknew to be involved, he did not omit to create only because he felt the need to have a public to praise and honor him, even though this praise might be the result of blinded folly or a mere hypocrisy springing from slavish fear. And in fact Jewish and Christian theologians, with documented appeal to the sources of revelation, have often enough affirmed that the deepest and decisive motive of creation lies in this that God created the world to his honor, in majorem Dei gloriam, that is to say, out of vanity." Phaenomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins, Berlin, 1879, p. 781.

2. Friedrich W.J. Schelling: Pantheist's Notion of a Developing Deity.

"Pain is something universal and necessary in all life, the inevitable point of transition to freedom. We recall the pains of development in human life in the physical as well as in the moral sense. We shall not shun representing even that primordial essence (the first possibility of the externally manifest God) in a state of suffering of the kind involved in development. Suffering is generally the way to glory, not only with regard to man, but also in respect to the Creator.

God leads human nature through no other course than that through which his own nature must pass. Participation in everything blind, dark, and suffering of God's nature is necessary in order to raise him to highest consciousness. Each being must learn to know its own depths; this is impossible without suffering. Pain comes only from being, and because everything living must first enclose itself in being, and break through from the darkness of being to transfiguration, so the being which in itself is divine must also, in its revelation, first assume nature and thus far suffer, before it celebrates the triumph of its liberation." The Ages of the World, New York, 1942, p. 225.

3. Martin Buber: God's Need of Man in Creation.

"You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you not know too that God needs you - in the fulness of His eternity needs you? How would man be, how would you be, if God did not need him, did not need you? You need God in order to be - and God needs you, for the very meaning of your life. In instruction and in poems, men are at pains to say more, and they say too much - what turgid and presumptuous talk that is about ‘the God who becomes;' but we know unshakably in our hearts that there is a becoming of the God that is. The world is not a divine sport, it is divine destiny.

Creation happens to us, burns itself into us, recasts us in burning - we tremble and are faint, we submit. We take part in creation, meet the Creator, reach out to Him, helpers and companions." I and Thou, Edinburgh, 1937, pp. 81-82.

4. Immanuel Kant: Man's Ultimate Purpose Found in Himself.

"That in the order of ends, man (and with him every rational being) is an end in himself, that is, that he can never be used merely as a means by anyone, not even by God, without being at the same time an end also himself; that therefore humanity in our person must be holy to ourselves, this follows now logically because man is the subject of the moral law - in other words, of that which is holy in itself, and on account of which and in agreement with which alone can anything be termed holy. For this moral law is founded on the autonomy of man's will, as a free will which by its universal laws must necessarily be able to agree with that to which it is to submit itself." Critique of Practical Reason, London, 1948, p. 229.

5. Charles Hartshorne: Postulate of an Imperfect God Made Happier by Men.

"Love is more than goodness, wisdom and power; it is also happiness as partly arising from sympathy with the joys of others. This happiness will of course change with changes in the joys of others. But does not God see in advance all the joys that will ever exist? Is he not all-knowing? It has been shown that this argument, plausible as it is, is fallacious...Is it not the essence of the future that it consists of what may or may not exist, that is, of what is unsettled, indefinite, undecided? If so, then God, who knows things as they are, will know future events only in their character as indefinite, or more or less problematic, nebulous, incomplete as to details.

Fortunately for the world, the root of the difficulty has been discovered. Great philosophers like Bergson and Whitehead, theologians like Tennant, James Ward, Pfleiderer, Macintosh, Calhoun, Berdyaev, and many others have been clarifying the relations between love and perfection in God, and I believe that never again will it be possible for generation after generation of leaders of thought calmly to take it for granted that God must be conceived as motionless in pure perfection and self-sufficiency, incapable of receiving anything from man in any real sense, incapable of anything that ever has been meant by love.

A changeless being can have no purposes, for purposes refer to the future and the future is related to the present by change. A changeless being cannot love, for to love is to sympathize with, and through sympathy to share in, the changes occurring in the person one loves." Reality As Social Process, Boston, 1953, pp. 158-160.

Dogmatic Value

In the first part of the thesis, it is Defined Doctrine that God's purpose in creating was to manifest His perfections in the benefits He confers on creatures, and not in order to increase His happiness or become more perfect (DB 1783).

In the second part, it is likewise Defined Doctrine that the world was created for the glory of God (DB 1805).

That the finis ultimus of creation and of the created world is God's goodness may be taken either as De Fide ex Jugi Magisterio, or as Theologice Certa by reasoning on ecclesiastical documents. If we further refine the meaning of the bonitas Dei and say it is the ontological and not merely moral goodness of God, the doctrine is Common Teaching among theologians. It is likewise Theologice Certa that the extrinsic glory of God is primary, and the beatitude of intellectual beings secondary as final end of the created world; and Theologice Certa that, unlike human destiny, this primary end cannot be frustrated.

Theological Proof

Part One: “God's ultimate purpose in creating is His own goodness: to manifest His perfection through the benefits He bestows on creatures, not to increase His happiness nor to acquire any perfection.”

  1. Ecclesiastical Documents

    1. The Vatican Council defined: “Hic solus verus Deus bonitate sua et omnipotenti virtute non ad augendam suam beatitudinem nec ad acquirendam, sed ad manifestandam perfectionem suam per bona, quae creaturis impertitur…condidit creaturam” (DB 1783).

      Thus we have expressed both the bonitas Dei and the purpose in explcit terms, namely, that God sought not any advantage to Himself but only to show forth His perfections in the benefits He confers on creatures. The further question, as to whether this document deals with the finis operantis is answered in the affirmative from an examination of the acts of the Vatican Council. Those who helped draft the statement at the Council explained it was written “against the critics who calumniate the Catholic Church as denying that the goodness of God was the finis operantis” of creation (Collectio Lacensis, VII, 86, 109-110).

    2. The Catechism of the Council of Trent explains at length the reason that motivated God to create the world. "He was not impelled to create by any other cause than a desire to communicate His goodness to creatures. Being essentially happy in Himself, He stands not in need of anything, as David expresses it, I have said to the Lord: you are my God, for You have no need of my goods’ (Psalm 15: 2). As it was His own goodness that influenced Him when He did all things whatsoever He would, so in the work of creation He followed no external model or form. But contemplating and, as it were, imitating, the universal model contained in the divine intelligence, the supreme Architect, with infinite wisdom and power - attributes peculiar to the Divinity - created all things in the beginning (Part I, article 1).

      We may also note that in assembling the Vatican definition) the Catechism of the Council of Trent was referred to as a source from which the concept of causa movens seu impellens as the bonitas Dei was drawn.

  2. Sacred Scripture

    One of the most familiar themes in the Bible is the character of the world as having been created by God, not for His own profit or advantage but to manifest His perfections in the gifts He bestows on creatures.

    1. God is not only the beginning but the end of creation:

      "From Him and through Him and unto Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever, amen" (Romans 11:36).

      "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Apocalypse 22:13)

    2. Yet the world is not so created that God receives anything from creatures to His profit:

      "God, who made the world and all that is in it, since He is the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples built by hands; neither is He served by human hands as though He were in need of anything, since it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things" (Acts 17:25)

    3. Creatures show forth God's perfections by divine intention:

      "The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the sky shows forth the work of His hands. Day unto day pours forth speech, and night unto night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes forth through all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world" (Psalm 18:2-5).

      "For my own sake, my own sake I do this. For how should my name be profaned: And my glory I yield to no other. Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel whom I called. I, I, am the first, I also am the last" (Isaias 118:11-12).

  3. Patristic Evidence

    According to St. Ireneus, "When God in the beginning formed Adam, it was not because He had need of man but because He wished to have someone on whom to confer His blessings" (Contra Haereses 4, 14). And Origen, "when in the beginning He created the things He willed to create, He had no other motive for His action than His own self, that is, His goodness" (De Principiis 2, 9). St. Augustine says, "It is enough for a Christian to assume that the goodness of the Creator was the sole cause of creation" (Enchiridion 9). Also St. John Damascene, "Because God is good, and better than all other beings, He was not satisfied with enjoying His own contemplation. From the excess of His bounty He willed that others should exist who would be benefited by His goodness and partakers of His own riches" (De Fide Orthodoxa 2, 2).

  4. Theological Reason

    In reasoning theologically, that is, on the basis of revelation, there are three things we need to establish: that when God created the world He acted with a purpose, that this purpose ultimately could have been only His infinite goodness or perfection, and that in being moved by this motive He could not have sought to profit Himself but only to communicate His goodness to creatures.

    That God acted with a purpose when creating follows logically from the fact that He is an intellectual being, who does not act out of blind impulse but with full knowledge and will. Such a being always acts with a defined purpose, unless hindered by ignorance, passion or fear, which are impossible in God. The same purposefulness in the Creator may be deduced from reflection on the purposefulness, or subordination of means to ends, in creation.

    This purpose of God in creating could only have been His infinite goodness, or fulness of divine perfection. In the nature of things, the finis operantis is always something good in and for the one who acts on account of it, while the finis operis may (in creatures) be elsewhere than in the agent. With God, however, there is no other intrinsic goodness except His own, which is the proper object of His will, and for the sake of which He wills all that He wills outside it. If His goodness were not the ultimate reason that moved Him to create the world, then He would not be an all-perfect, self-sufficient and necessary being.

    If we finally ask: How does God will His goodness or perfection as the ultimate end of creation, and how does He direct creatures to this end? - the answer must come from an analysis of God's nature. Since He is all perfect and has the fulness of being, He cannot be motivated to increase the infinite, which is a contradiction. If He is moved by His goodness, it can only be to communicate it to others. In other words, God's purpose in creating is His bonitas communicanda. St. Thomas explains this by saying that a person can act for an end in two ways, either from a desire for it or out of love for the same. Desire is directed to a good that is not yet possessed, whereas love has for its object a good already possessed. It is proper to creatures to act from a desire for the end, since they can be perfected by some form of goodness which they do not yet possess. But not so with God. He acts out of love for the end, since His perfection cannot be improved or increased. This means that He loves His perfection (bonitas), and therefore wills that it be reproduced as far as possible, namely, through things that are similar to it. Consequently when we say that God wills and does everything for the sake of His perfection, we should understand this in the sense that He wills to pour out His perfection on others, for their benefit and not for His.

Part Two: "The ultimate purpose of the created world is this same divine goodness: primarily to be manifested by creatures in giving glory to God, and secondarily to be participated by them for their benefit."

  1. Ecclesiastical Documents

    The Vatican Council, after declaring that God was not necessitated in creating the world, even by His love, then further defined that, uSi quis...mundum ad Dei gloriam conditum esse negaverit: Anathema sit” (DB 1805). From the Acts of the Council we learn that this canon corresponds to the previous positive statement on the purpose of creation being to manifest God's perfections by the blessings which He bestows on creatures. Therefore the external glory of God which is the ultimate purpose of the created world is also, but secondarily, the purpose of creation quoad mundum, i.e., to benefit the beings which God has made.

  2. Sacred Scripture

    1. Evidence that the primary end of the universe is to glorify God was given above, in treating of the ultimate divine purpose in creation, to which may be added numerous other passages:

      "Every one that calls upon my name, I have created Him for my glory, I have formed him and I have made him" (Isaias 43:7).

      "Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty firmament. Praise Him for His mighty deeds. Praise Him for His abundant greatness. Praise Him with the Blast of the horn…Let everything that breathes praise the Lord" (Psalm 150).

      "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those men who in wickedness hold back the truth of God, seeing that what may be known about God is manifest to them. For God has manifested it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen - His everlasting power also and divinity - being understood through the things that are made. And so they are without excuse, seeing that, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless minds have been darkened" (Romans 1:l8-21).

    2. Correspondingly the secondary purpose of creation is for the benefit of creatures, notably the rational beings who can reflect on God’s gifts and rejoice in their possession on earth, while also destined to enjoy God Himself in their final destiny. Since this is the master idea of revelation, that by serving God on earth we merit eternal happiness, it may be found at least implicitly on almost every page of Scripture in the New Testament, with clear anticipations of the same already in the Old Law:

      1. In the Book of Wisdom we find clearly expounded the doctrine of just retribution after death. "Righteousness is immortal" (1:15). Death is a misfortune only for the man who dies in sin; for the virtuous it opens a way to a blessed immortality, to communion with God who rewards human piety (3:9, 4:10). Man was created for union with God (6:21), and all who sacrifice their lives in persecution may hope for this blessed union with absolute certainty (3:4); when they die they are "in rest...after a little affliction they shall experience great blessings" (3:3, 4:7, 3:5). Death for them is a token of divine favor (3:5), an early death (4:11) a blessing, an apparent passing away (3:2). On earth they may have lacked many things which are considered blessings, like money and children, but they will receive adequate compensation "in the temple of the Lord," i.e., in heaven (3:13-14). At times beatitude is viewed as a grace (4:15), at other times as a reward (2:22, 5:15); the deduction to be made is that the reward of eternal happiness is God's free gift, beyond anything a man may have suffered or deserved (3:5).

      2. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches in great detail the function of man's purpose on earth, on the level of precept and counsel, to glorify God by his good actions and thus merit the Kingdom of Heaven. Always the composite of virtue practiced = reward received. Thus

        "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."

        "Blessed are you when men reproach you...Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven."

        "Take heed not to practice your good before men…otherwise you shall have no reward with your Father in heaven."

        "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consunes, nor thieves break in and steal."

        "He who does the will of my Father in heaven, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew, chapters 5-7).

  3. Patristic Evidence

    The teaching of the Fathers on the ultimate end of creation being to glorify God is unanimous. "God made all things," according to St. Theophilus, "although before they were not, so that His majesty would be known and recognized from the works that He made" (Ad Autolycum 1, 4). "What we adore," wrote St. Clement of Rome, "is the one God, who made this whole mass out of nothing and fashioned it as an ornament to His majesty" (Letter to the Corinthians 1, 33). Tertullian copies this passage verbatim in his classic Apology.

    In the same way, though more extensively, the Fathers expand on the doctrine of revelation that the correlative purpose of creatures is to be benefited by giving glory to God. There is a text on the subject in Athenagoras (II century), reputed the first to elaborate a philosophical defense of God as Three in One, that is so pertinent it deserves to be quoted at length:

    Since man was created neither in vain nor without cause - for nothing made by God lacks a cause in the mind of the Maker - nor yet for the need of the Creator nor of any of His creatures, it is plain that God made man, in the first and most general aspect of the matter, for Himself and for His goodness' and wisdom's sake, that was to be made manifest upon the face of all His handiwork.
    In the aspect that most nearly concerns creatures themselves, He created man for the sake of the life of man the creature, a life not to be kindled for a brief space and then snuffed out. Such a fleeting mode of life He did impart to crawling things, no doubt, and to winged things and those that swim, or, in more general terms, to all irrational creatures. But to those who bear in themselves the image of the Creator, whose nature involves the possession of mind and who partake of rational judgment, He has set apart an eternal existence, that knowing their Maker and His power and wisdom, and being guided by law and justice they may share in an undisturbed, everlasting existence along with those helps by which they mastered their preceding life, though they were in frail and earthy bodies. The Resurrection of the Dead, 12, 41-43.

Kerygmatic Development

Since the finality of creation cuts across the whole of Christian living, the applications and implications of the subject are infinite. Certain aspects, however, stand out either for their practicality or because they have been the object of criticism by adversaries and misunderstanding among Christians.

  1. No Selfishness in God Seeking His own Glory: More than one philosopher in ancient times and up to the present has misinterpreted the basic principle of theism on God's purpose in creating. Projecting their own concept of purpose from men to God, they cannot (or will not) see how we may speak of God seeking His own glory and yet not be selfish in doing so. Behind this error is the implicit claim that God is not infinite and absolutely perfect. For if He is, then, however hard it is for us to conceive, sound metaphysics constrains us to say that no other ultimate purpose is possible for God. Only in the postulate of a finite deity, as suggested by Hartshorne, Brightman and James, can even the idea of selfishness in the Creator occur.

  2. The Greater Glory of God. Behind the comparative degree, greater glory of God, stands the mystery of man’s freedom and the capacity we have to give or not give, to give more or less glory to the Creator. In context, the glory is formal and subjective, the loving recognition of God by His rational creatures. Consequently the element of more or less may be variously understood. God is more glorified, other things being equal, the more people come to know Him and acknowledge His goodness, wisdom and power. He is also more glorified, the more know-ledge of Him grows into love. He is likewise more glorified, the greater intensity men put into their love of God, the more effective and not merely affective, and above all, the more selfless is their affection for their Creator.

  3. Counsels and Precepts as Instruments of Divine Glory. Consistent with the preceding is the function of a life of the counsels as distinct from the divine precepts as means of glorifying God. By definition, the counsels go beyond the call of duty and imply a degree of generosity which is not strictly binding under sin. Consequently one of the surest means of increasing the glory of God is to motivate men and women to dedicate themselves to a life of the counsels of perfection. Correlative with this dedication is the call upon their deeper knowledge and especially more intense love of God, since the counsels are precisely expressions of greater generosity.

  4. Happiness in Relation to God's Glory. Two things should be kept in mind on the relationship of happiness to God's glory, that the two are causally connected, and that, in fact, one is part of the other. On their inter-relation something has been said in the thesis. To be emphasized is the proportionality which exists between my giving glory to God (by loving acknowledgment) and the happiness which He gives me already in this life and especially in the next. True this happiness on earth may be interwoven with pain and trial, but the deep-souled interior joy that comes of doing the will of God is divinely guaranteed; it is part of the structure of the supernatural life and so built into its nature that the fruits of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the enjoyment which comes from the Spirit, are a logical consequence and terminus of fidelity to divine grace. Moreover it would be a mistake to so distinguish God's glory and our supernatural happiness as to suspect that the latter does not also glorify the Creator. He is glorified in the very act of our enjoying Him, and has so ordained it, while telling us that our love of Him is more perfect if not subordinated to what we shall inevitably receive - supernatural happiness - if we duly love and serve God.

  5. God as Final and Efficient Cause of Creation. It makes quite a difference whether we look upon God as the First Cause and maker of the universe, or consider Him as the terminus or finality for which the world is made. Both aspects of our relation to God are true and both need consideration, yet depending on the emphasis a whole series of different religious and ascetical truths follows.

    When we think of God as efficient cause, we isolate the fact that He made the world and ourselves out of nothing by an act of His sovereign will. The divine attributes we accent are His power and goodness. The consequences for us are or should be a complete submission to the divine will as our Creator and Lord. Our response should be fidelity to the laws of God in perfect obedience, and the motive which is stressed is a reverential fear of God’s justice for infringement of His infinite rights.

    On the other hand, when we think of God as final cause, we consider Him as having made us for union with Himself in the beatific vision. The attribute stressed is God's infinite love. The consequences for us are to inspire our gratitude for infinite generosity, and our response should be a desire to grow in union with God, and to share this union with others. The motive upon which we concentrate is love of God's goodness, to be possessed for all eternity.

  6. Glory to God in the Act of Perfect Charity. Because of its practical importance and close relation to the finality of creation, the meaning of an act of perfect love of God should be clarified. Evidently such an act is the highest expression of formal external glory which God can receive from His creatures. By definition it means loving God for Himself, with the selfless love of friendship. In other words, I place an act of perfect charity when I love God for His own sake, that is, on account of His goodness as it is in itself and not as beneficial to the person loving.

    The divine goodness as an object of charity is nothing mysterious. It comprehends all the divine perfections: His infinite wisdom, power, liberality, mercy, magnanimity, beauty…whether taken together or (as most theologians teach) even taken singly.

    These attributes may be considered under two aspects: absolutely, as they are in God, and terminatively, in so far as they produce some benefit in creatures. However, this does not mean that divine perfections like mercy and liberality cannot be the object of the love of benevolence, although certainly they bear a relation to the world outside of God. It all depends on the aspect under which we consider them. Viewed as perfections proper to God, as emanating from Him, as deriving from their source in His goodness, they are adequate motives for making an act of perfect love of God. But taken from the creature's viewpoint as benefits to me, either individually or as a member of society, God's liberality and mercy are the objects of hope or gratitude, but not formally of theological charity. Charity may, indeed, arise from hope and gratitude, and these may be present along with charity, but the latter is itself motivated by no personal benefit accrued or desired. Its motive is the divine perfections in so far as they are God's.


  1. Give the Latin equivalent of the present thesis.

  2. What historical circumstances occasioned the Vatican definition?

  3. What part of the thesis refers to the finis operantis and what part to the finis operis of creation? And why?

  4. Briefly define finis and explain what element in the concept of finality applies to God and what element in final causality does not.

  5. Clearly distinguish between finis operantis and finis operis, and show why these may be distinct among creature agents but not with God, with whom they are always the same.

  6. Distinguish the terms finis qui, quo and cui as regards both the finis operantis and finis operis of creation.

  7. Explain the meaning of “manifest” with relation to God's perfections.

  8. Define glory, and show where the glory of God fits into the scheme of finality in creation.

  9. How does God's intrinsic glory differ from the extrinsic?

  10. How does fundamental (objective) glory differ from formal (subjective) glory, whether intrinsic or extrinsic to God.

  11. How do imitation and manifestation constitute the fundamental extrinsic glory of God?

  12. What exactly does formal extrinsic glory of God mean, i.e., what are its essential elements?

  13. How does beatitude, whether inchoate on earth or perfect in heaven, fit into the context of external glory to God?

  14. Identify and explain the finis of creation which can be frustrated, and the finis which cannot.

  15. How is God glorified even by the demons and lost souls in hell?

  16. What is the function of irrational creatures with respect to God's glory?

  17. How are the Semirationalists against the present thesis?

  18. What part or aspect of the thesis is defined doctrine, or theologically certain, or only common and certain doctrine?

  19. In proving the finis operantis from the Vatican Council, explain the term “bonitos Dei” as used in the document. And from the same source show that the Council had finis operantis in view when framing the definition.

  20. Quote and briefly explain a Scripture text showing that God's purpose in creating was His own glory; and another text showing that it was for the benefit of creatures.

  21. Prove from theological reason that God's purpose in creation was indeed His own goodness, yet to be manifested and shared, not to be increased or obtained.

  22. How can we argue from the Vatican Council that the ultimate primary purpose of the created world is to glorify God and secondarily to benefit from participation in the divine perfections?

  23. Use one text from the Old or New Testament to show that the secondary function of creation is to benefit from a sharing in God's goodness.

  24. When we say that man was created to glorify God, is this ultimate purpose achieved already on earth or must it wait to be fulfilled in heaven? Explain.

  25. In what sense is beatitude an essential part of God's extrinsic glory, since we say that glory is achieved even though a person rejects God and is punished eternally?

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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