The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
- Book 2: God the Creator
- Section 1: The Divine Act of Creation
- Chapter 2: The Continuous Preservation and Governing of the World
- The Preservation of the World
- God keeps all created things in existence. (De fide.)
- Against Deism, according to which God, the Creator, having created it, leaves
the world to run itself, the Church declares that God continuously preserves in existence created
things. The Vatican Council teaches: “God, by His Providence, protects all that He has created,”
that is, He preserves it from relapsing into nothingness. “If His Providence did not preserve
all things with the same power with which they were created in the beginning they would fall
back into nothingness immediately.”
- St. Thomas points out that the preservation of Creation is really a continuation
of the creative activity of God.
- Proof from the Sources of Faith
- Holy Writ bears constant witness to God’s Activity in conserving the world.
- “And how could anything endure if thou wouldst not, or be preserved, if not
called by thee?” (Wisdom. 11:26)
- “My Father worketh until now; and I work.” The working of the Father refers
to the preservation and governing of the world. St. Paul ascribes the preservation as well as
the creation of the world, to Christ." (John 5:17
- “And by Him all things consist.” (Hebr. 1:3): “He upholdeth all things by
the word of His power.” (Colosians. 1:17)
- St. Augustine comments on John 5:17: “Let us therefore believe
that God works constantly, so that all created things would perish, if His working were
- St. Thomas speculatively establishes the Divine preservation of the world
on the fact that God is not merely the cause of the becoming of things, but also the origin
of their being. On this account, the creature depends on God, not merely in its becoming,
that is at the point of time in which it is produced, but also in its existence and, indeed,
in every moment of its existence.
- Freedom of Annihilation
- As God has freely created creatures, He is free also to annihilate them
through the withdrawing of His conservating influence, and so allow them to relapse into
- “But we trust in the Almighty God, who, at a beck, can utterly destroy
the whole world.” (2 Macc. 8:18)
- However, Revelation teaches that, in point of fact, God does not desire
the complete annihilation of His creatures. (Wisdom 1:13 et seq)
- “God hath not pleasure in the destruction of the living. For He created
all things that they might be.” (Wisdom 11:27; Proverbs 1:4; 3:14).
- Divine Providence and the Government of the World
- God, through His Providence, protects and guides all that He has created. (De fide.)
- God, by His Providence protects and governs all that He established, reaching mightily
from end to end and ordering all things sweetly.
- Holy Writ attests the operation of Divine Providence in numerous passages. The Old
Testament specially stresses the Providence of God for the people of Israel and for individual figures
of Israelite history for example, Joseph, Moses, Tobias). The Psalms are permeated by a belief in
- He hath made the little and the great, and He hath equally care for all.”
- Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, teaches that the Providence of the Heavenly
Father extends even to the most insignificant creatures, the birds of the air, the lilies and the
grass of the field, and that it is vouchsafed in special measure to the creatures endowed with
- In the same way, St. Paul also proclaims the universality of the Divine Providence:
“It is He who giveth to all life and breath and all things.” Acts 17:25.
- The Apostle St. Peter warns people to have trust in the Divine Providence: “Casting
all your care upon Him, for he hath care of yours” (Peter 5:7).
- St. Thomas establishes the Divine Providence speculatively on the existing
co-ordination between the world and its end. Since everything is created according to the idea
of God, then also the idea of the regulation of all things to an end exists from all eternity
in the Spirit of God. St. Thomas bases the universality of the Divine Providence on the
omni-causality of God: God’s causality, as Primum Agens, extends to every individual being.
As every active principle is active for the sake of an end, so everything that God operates,
that is, every created being, is adapted to an end, and is therefore the object of the Divine