Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Creation of Man (CCC 355-384)

Catechism Class Three

Not only do observation and reason allow us to come to the conclusion that the universe was made by a Creator, so also do observation and reason allow us to conclude that life on earth, especially human beings, were also the fruits of a Creator's thoughts and actions. But, as with the universe generally, written revelation and faith enlightens our reason to an even greater degree, so that we can know not only where man came from, but why he exists in the first place. For those who have no use for God, the meaning of man's existence has only confounded and confused, leaving them all too often in existential angst and nihilistic despair. For those who accept revelation and faith -- the truth has set them free.

In Love and in Truth, God created man. Man is a created being; he is not self-actualizing, he did not create himself. He is not accidental, and he is not the product of spontaneous animation of matter. Man exists, man lives, only because God the Ultimate Life has breathed His own life into man. We were and are created by a thought of God; each of us is willed by Him as an act of love.

Man is naturally drawn toward God -- even if he does not realize it or argues against it -- because man is naturally drawn toward love and truth, and this love and truth that man seeks has a name, they are a person -- God. Now, God did not have to create the universe or human beings. Rather, He chose to create the universe and humanity. God is complete in and of Himself. As the “I am,” the Logos, God is the only necessary being – we humans are entirely contingent upon Him.

Because we were and are created in truth and love, which is necessarily relational, God created human beings as social creatures, male and female, complementing and needing each other. We are in need of an “other” to complete and fulfill us. Genesis (1:26-28) informs us that “God created Man in his image; in the divine image He created him; male and female He created them.” Thus, we see that there was an original unity of male and female, man and woman; they are designed to be complementary and intended for each other in equal dignity.

In another account of the same truth, Genesis (2:18-25) describes how God said "It is not good for the man to be alone.” God then took a rib from the side of Adam and, from that rib, made Eve, leading Adam to exclaim, "This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” This describes how, as individuals, there is something missing in our very being. For both men and women, there is a gaping hole in our side, and we desperately need an “other” to fill that hole. Without that other, there is a void, an emptiness. We need to have that rib returned to our side to be whole again, to be fulfilled.

Fulfillment requires that we go beyond ourselves. Indeed, the very word suggests that we are not already "filled." We cannot be fulfilled if we are left to ourselves. We can fill part of that hole with a spouse, as with the first spouses, Adam and Eve, but even then God needs to be part of the relationship to bind them together and to fill the remaining void. For those who are single, God is the only one who can fill the entirety of that void because He is the One who is Love, the One who is Completeness. Unless and until the heart is thusly filled, there is a restlessness and a hunger.

Not only were human beings created as social beings, but Genesis (2:7) informs us that God breathed into man, giving him life by His own Holy Spirit, and we were made in the “image of God.” That means that mankind was not created as merely a physical entity, like a stone, and He did not create us as merely spiritual beings, like the angels; rather, He created us with a unified soul-infused body, which comprises one nature of spirit and matter, transcendent and temporal, a bridge between earth and heaven. Moreover, we have the ability to share and participate in God’s procreative power of creating new life and have been explicitly commanded by Him to “be fruitful and multiply.” To be made in the image of God also means that we are persons with an inherent dignity, not things, and that we are possessed with sentience and free will, as well as the capacity for reason and for love.

Indeed, we exist to love and to be loved in truth. That was, and is, God’s plan for humanity; that is the meaning of life -- to live in the truth and love and be loved. And after creating mankind, God did not simply withdraw into heaven, sit back, and do nothing. Rather, He continued and continues to interact with His creation, sustaining and caring for it by His Love and Truth. And the fact that we humans are possessed of a soul means that we are not bounded to the earth ourselves, but are able to transcend it and reach to God.

At the same time, love is not truly love if it is not freely given, and love does not force itself or impose itself upon the other. As such, God does not force Himself or His Love or Truth upon anyone. God is not a puppet master. Thus, He gave us free will, which is the metaphysical truth of independent agency and elective power, including the ability to exercise autonomous and rational control over one’s decisions, thoughts, and actions. The existence of free will means that the actions of the body, including the brain and the mind, are not wholly determined by physical causality -- one does not lift his hand or type these words because they are merely a part of a chain of physical cause and effect that was begun billions of years ago -- rather, one’s thoughts somehow go beyond and transcend the physical body, suggesting the existence of an extra-corporeal aspect to the person, which we call the spirit or soul.

It is because we are both body and spirit that we are able to transcend and overcome the mere biological electro-chemical reactions in the brain. Free will, an ability to choose, includes the ability to freely choose to return God’s love, or the freedom to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him.

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