God the Author of Nature and the Supernatural
Part One: Creation as a Divine Act
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
THESIS III: 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.
THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE CREATED WORLD IS THIS SAME DIVINE GOODNESS:
PRIMARILY TO BE MANIFESTED IN GIVING GLORY TO GOD, AND SECONDARILY TO BE PARTICIPATED
BY CREATURES FOR THEIR BENEFIT.
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.
GLORY OF GOD(
( (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.
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.
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.
- Ecclesiastical Documents
- 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
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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).
- 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).
- 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."
- 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
- Sacred Scripture
- 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"
- Correspondingly the secondary purpose of creation is for the benefit of creatures,
notably the rational beings who can reflect on Gods 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:
- 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 peace...at 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).
- 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).
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- The Greater Glory of God. Behind the comparative degree,
greater glory of God, stands the mystery of mans 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 Gods 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.
- 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,
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.
- Give the Latin equivalent of the present thesis.
- What historical circumstances occasioned the Vatican definition?
- What part of the thesis refers to the finis operantis and what part
to the finis operis of creation? And why?
- Briefly define finis and explain what element in the concept of finality
applies to God and what element in final causality does not.
- 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.
- Distinguish the terms finis qui, quo and cui as regards both
the finis operantis and finis operis of creation.
- Explain the meaning of manifest with relation to God's perfections.
- Define glory, and show where the glory of God fits into the scheme of finality
- How does God's intrinsic glory differ from the extrinsic?
- How does fundamental (objective) glory differ from formal (subjective) glory,
whether intrinsic or extrinsic to God.
- How do imitation and manifestation constitute the fundamental extrinsic
glory of God?
- What exactly does formal extrinsic glory of God mean, i.e., what are its
- How does beatitude, whether inchoate on earth or perfect in heaven, fit
into the context of external glory to God?
- Identify and explain the finis of creation which can be frustrated,
and the finis which cannot.
- How is God glorified even by the demons and lost souls in hell?
- What is the function of irrational creatures with respect to God's glory?
- How are the Semirationalists against the present thesis?
- What part or aspect of the thesis is defined doctrine, or theologically
certain, or only common and certain doctrine?
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
- 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