St. Augustine (354 – 430)
Why Creation is Good
The explanation, then, of the goodness of creation is in the goodness of God. This is a reasonable and sufficient explanation whether considered in the light of philosophy or of faith. It puts an end to all controversies concerning the origin of the world.
~ The City of God, Book 11.22. In Fathers of the Early Church, Vol. 14, CUA Press, 2010, p. 219.
How Man Exercises Dominion in Creation
Thus man is “renewed unto the knowledge of God, according to the image of his Creator,” and becoming “the spiritual man judges all things”…. Now, that he “judges all things,” — that means that he has dominion over the fish of the sea and fowl that fly in the heavens, and all domestic and wild animals, and every part of the earth, and all creeping creatures that move upon the earth. This he exercises by virtue of the understanding of his mind, through which he “perceives the things that are of the Spirit of God.”
~ Confessions, Book 13, Chapters :22-23. In The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 21, CUA Press, 2010, p. 436-437.
How God Constructs the World
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him.” Do not imagine that He was in the world in such a way as the earth is in the world… or the trees, cattle and men are in the world. He was not in the world in such a way. But how was He? As the master builder who governs what He has made. For He did not make it in the way a craftsman makes a chest. The chest which he makes is external to him; and when it is constructed, it has been situated in another place. And however nearby he is, he who is constructing it sits in another place and is external to that which he is constructing. … But God constructs while infused in the world. He constructs while situated everywhere. He does not withdraw from anywhere.
He does not direct the structure which He constructs as someone on the outside. By the presence of His majesty, He makes what He makes; by His own presence He governs what He has made.
~ Tractates on the Gospel of John 2.10.2. In The Fathers of the Church, Vol 78, CUA Press, 2010, p. 69.
Every Creature has a Special Beauty
Every creature has a special beauty proper to its nature, and when a man ponders the matter well, these creatures are a cause of intense admiration and enthusiastic praise of their all-powerful Maker. For He has wrought them all in His wisdom. … He creates them tiny in body, keen in sense, and full of life, so that we may feel a deeper wonder at the agility of the mosquito on the wing than at the size of a beast of burden on the hoof, and may admire more intensely the works of the smallest ants than the burdens of the camels.
~ The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book III, Ch. 14.22. In Ancient Christian Writers Series, Issue 41. Ed. John Hammond Taylor. Paulist Press, 1982, p. 90.
Look at His Works
I cannot show you my God, but I can show you his works. “Everything was made by him” (John 1:3). He created the world in its newness, he who has no beginning. He who is eternal created time. He who is unmoved made movement. Look at his works and praise their maker.
~ Sermon 261, 2 (PL 38: 1203). In The Roots of Christian Mysticism. By Oliver Clement. New City Press, 1995, p. 215-216.
Knowledge of God Through Knowledge of Creation
Everywhere let the common water of God have the glory, not the private falsehoods of men.
For it follows, “All the beasts of the wood shall drink” (Ps. 104:11). We indeed see this in the visible creation, that the beasts of the wood drink of springs, and of streams that run between the mountains. But since it has pleased God to hide his wisdom in the figures of such things (as animals and parts of creation), not to take it away from earnest seekers, but to close it to them who care not, and open it to them that knock. It has also pleased our Lord God Himself to exhort you by us to this, that in all these things which are said as if of the bodily and visible creation, we may seek something spiritually hidden, in which when found we may rejoice…. Holy Scripture witnesses this in many places…
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm 104, v.10-11. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 511-512 Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989
The Whole Earth is Full of Thy Works
“In wisdom hast thou made them all.” All therefore hast thou made in Christ…. The earth is full of the creation of Christ. And how so? We discern how: for what was not made by the Father through the Son? Whatever walketh and doth crawl on earth, whatever doth swim in the waters, whatever flieth in the air, whatever doth revolve in heaven, how much more then the earth, the whole universe, is the work of God. But he seems to me to speak here of some new creation, of which the Apostle saith, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God.” All who believe in Christ, who put off the old man and put on the new, are a new creature. “The earth is full of thy works.” On one spot of the earth He was crucified, in o ne small spot that seed feel into the earth, and died; but it brought forth great fruit….
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm CIV.24, No. 31 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 516. Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989.
Contemplation Increases Knowledge of Creation’s Goodness
“The earth is full of Thy creation.” Of what creation of Thine is the earth full? Of all trees and shrubs, of all animals and flocks, and of the whole of the human race; the earth is full of the creation of God. We see, now, read, recognize, praise and in these we preach of Him; yet we are not able to praise respecting these things, as fully as our heart doth abound with praise after the beautiful contemplation of them.
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm CIV.24, No. 32 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 517. Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989.
Commentary on the Earth is the Lord’s
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the encompass of the world, and all they that dwell therein”; when the Lord, being glorified, is announced for the believing of all nations; the whole compass of the world becomes His Church. “He hath founded it above the seas.” He hath most firmly established it above the waves of this world, that they should be subdued by it, and should not hurt it.
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm XXIV, v.1 Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 61. Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989.
Defects in Nature are Part of Creation’s Harmony
It would be ridiculous… to regard the defects of beasts, trees and other mutable and mortal things as deserving of condemnation. Such defects do indeed effect the decay of their nature, which is liable to dissolution; but these creatures have received their mode of being by the will of their Creator, whose purpose is that they should bring to perfection the beauty of the lower parts of the universe by their alteration and succession in the passage of the seasons; and this is a beauty in its own kind, finding its place among the constituent parts of the world…. Therefore it is the nature of things considered in itself, without regard to our convenience or inconvenience, that gives glory to the Creator… And so all nature’s substances are good, because they exist and therefore have their own mode and kind of being, and, in their fashion, a peace and harmony among themselves.
~ Quoted in Andrew Linzey, Compassion for Animals: Readings and Prayers, SPCK Publ., London, 1988, pg. 9.
God as Beauty
How late I came to love you, O Beauty so ancient and so fresh, how late I came to love you! You were within me, yet I had gone outside to seek you. Unlovely myself, I rushed toward all those lovely things you had made. And always you were with me, I was not with you. All these beauties kept me far from you — although they would not have existed at all unless they had their being in you. You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath and I pant for you. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace.
~ Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 27.38. In The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 21, CUA Press, 2010, p. 297.
The Heavens as a Book
“For I shall see Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers.” We read that the law was written by the finger of God, and given through Moses, His holy servant: by which finger of God many understand the Holy Spirit. We understand consistently with this that the books of both Testaments are called “the heavens.” Now it is said too of Moses, by the magicians of king Pharaoh, when they were conquered by him, “This is the finger of God.” …
Accordingly the heavens above may also be interpreted as books, where he says, “For thy glory has been raised above the heavens:” so that the complete meaning should be this, For thy glory hath exceeded the declarations of all the Scriptures. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou has made perfect praise,” that they should begin by belief in the Scriptures, who would arrive at knowledge of Thy glory, which has been raised above the Scriptures, in that it passes by and transcends the announcements of all words and languages. Therefore hath God lowered the Scriptures even to the capacity of babes and sucklings as it is sung in another Psalm “And he lowered the heaven and came down” (Ps. 18:9). … Hence, then is the rash and blind promiser of truth, who is the enemy, destroyed, when the heavens, the works of God’s fingers, are seen, that is, when the Scriptures, brought down even to the slowness of babes, are understood…. For these heavens, that is, these books, are the works of God’s fingers; for by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the saints they were completed.
~ Commentary on Psalm 8:3, nr. 7-8 A. Cleveland Coxe translation, 1888, Eerdmans Printing, Co., 1989, p. 29.
How the Holy Trinity is Seen in Creation
“And God saw that it was good.” The assertion of the goodness of the created work corresponded with the goodness that was the reason for its creation. Now, if this goodness is rightly interpreted as the Holy Spirit, then the whole united Trinity is revealed to us in its works…. The visible and tangible signs… signify the invisible and intelligible God, not only the Father, but also the Son and the Holy Spirit, from whom are all things, through whom are all things, and in whom are all things.
~ City of God, 11:24:457-458, and The Trinity, 2:15:25:81-82, quoted by Jame Schaefer, “Acting Reverently in God’s Sacramental World,” in Francis Eigo, editor, Ethical Dilemmas in the New Millennium, Villanova Univ. Press, 2001, p. 43.
One of the great Latin Fathers, St. Augustine was a black Numidean and convert from Manicheanism who became Bishop of North Africa. His writings depict the cosmos afire with a radiant beauty which everywhere portrays the fecund qualities of God. Nature is so transparent of the magnificence and “up-building” of God, says Augustine, that it can instruct those who are astute regarding the right conduct of human life. Augustine continually taught that creation is good, for he saw a trinitarian dimension permeating everything in the cosmos. The often quoted phrase, “vestigium Trinitatis,” or the “vestiges of the Holy Trinity” originates in his writings. He is known for molding the structure of the Church in Africa as well as the mind of the Church in the West.
The Beauty of Creation
How can I tell you of the rest of creation with all of its beauty and utility, which the divine greatness has given to man to please his eyes and serve his purposes? …
Shall I speak of the manifold and various loveliness of sky and earth and sea; of the plentiful supply and wonderful qualities of light, of sun, moon and stars; of the shade of trees; of the colors and perfume and song; of the variety of animals, of which the smallest in size are often the most wonderful — the works of ants and bees astonishing us more than the huge bodies of whales?
Shall I speak of the sea, which itself is so grand a spectacle, when it arrays itself as it were in vestures of various colors, now running through every shade of green, and again becoming purple or blue? Is it not delightful to look at the storm and experience the soothing complacency which it inspires…? What shall I say of the numberless foods to alleviate hunger, the variety of seasonings to stimulate the appetite which are scattered everywhere by nature, and for which we are not indebted to the art of cookery? How many natural herbs are there for preserving and restoring health? How graceful is the alteration of day and night! How pleasant the breezes that cool the air! How abundant the supply of clothing furnished us by plants, trees and animals! Can we enumerate all the blessings which we enjoy?
~ The City of God, Book XXII, Chapter 24. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II. Ed. Philip Schaff. Charles Screibner’s Sons, 1907, p. 504. Digitalized by Ohio State University in 2013.
God’s Governance of the World
God’s governance is not by domination and not by the exercise of heteronomous [subject to different laws of growth] might, but by allowing each creature and thing its own autonomy within law…. God’s governance is not just spiritual, but physical and includes the most scorned creatures. He governs all things in such a way that he allows them to function and behave in ways proper to them.
~ The City of God, Book VII, Chapter 30.In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II. Ed. Philip Schaff. Charles Screibner’s Sons, 1907, p. 140. Digitalized by Ohio State University in 2013.
The Book of Nature
Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? Why, heaven and earth shout to you: “God made me!”
~ Sermon 126.6 in the Angelo Mai collection, Miscellanea Agustiniana 1:355-68, ed. G. Moran (Rome, 1930), in Vernon Bourke, trans. The Essential Augustine, Hackett, Indianapolis, 1974, p.123.
A Utilitarian Concern for Nature Misses its Beauty
They (the heretics and pagans) do not consider how admirable these things (of creation) are in their own places, how excellent in their own natures, how beautifully adjusted to the rest of creation, and how much grace they contribute to the universe by their own contributions, as to a commonwealth, and how serviceable they are to one another and even to ourselves, if we use them with a knowledge of fit adaptations. And thus divine providence admonishes us not to foolishly vituperate things, but to investigate their purpose with care, and where our mental capacity or infirmity is at fault, to believe that there is a purpose though hidden.
~ The City of God, Book XL, Chapter 22. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. II. Ed. Philip Schaff. Cosimo, Inc., 2007, p. 217.
God’s Providence Orchestrates Creation
God is the unchanging conductor as well as the unchanged Creator of all things that change. When he adds, abolishes, controls, increases or diminishes the rites of any age, He is ordering all events according to his Providence, until the beauty of the completed course of time, whose parts are the dispensations suitable to each different period, shall have played itself out, like the great melody of some ineffable composer.
~ Letters 138:i.5. Quoted in Augustine of Hippo, A Biography, Peter Brown, University of California Press, 1969, p. 317-8.
The Reasons for Evil in the World
Evils abound in the world in order that the world may not engage our love. But what is this evil in the world? For the sky and the earth and the waters and the things that are in them, the fishes and the birds and the trees are not evil. All these are good. It is the actions of men who make the world evil.
~ Sermones ad Populum, 1st sermon, 80:8. Alternate translation in Quoted in Clarence Glacken, Trances on the Rhodian Shore. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967, p. 197.
God’s Providence Rules Creation
Many foolish men, unable to contemplate and discern creation, in its several places and rank, performing its movements at the nod and commandment of God, think that God does indeed rule all things above, but things below He despises, casts aside, abandons, so that He neither cares for them nor guides nor rules them; but that they are ruled by chance. What sort of Providence is this? they say. “If it were God that gave rain, would He rain into the sea? Getulia is thirsty and it rains into the sea.” They think that they handle the matter cleverly.
He that argues thusly is already satisfied. He thinks himself learned, but he is not willing to learn, and he would find that everything happens upon earth by God’s Providence, and he would wonder at the arrangement of even the limbs of a flea. Attend to this, beloved. Who has arranged the limbs of a flea and a gnat that they should have their proper order, life, motion? Consider one little creature, even the very smallest. Consider the order of its limbs and the animation of its life and how it moves. How does it avoid death, love life, seek pleasure, avoid pain, exert diverse senses, vigorously use movements suitable to itself? Who gave the sting to the mosquito for it to suck blood with? How narrow is the stinger whereby it sucks? Who arranged all of this? If you are amazed at these smallest of things, praise Him who is great.
Hold this, my brothers, let none shake you from your faith or from sound doctrine. He who made the Angel to dwell in heaven, the same also made the worm to dwell upon earth. He made not the angel to creep in the mud nor the worm to move in heaven. Observe then the whole, praise the whole. He then who ordered the limbs of the worm, does He not govern the clouds?
~ Commentary on Psalm 148. 8. In Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Edition, Vol. VIII, “St. Augustine’s Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” p. 675. Ed. Philip Schaff. Eerdmans, 1989.
The Mystery of “Leviathan” in Creation
There is also in that sea something which transcends all creatures, great and small. What is this? Let us hear the Psalm: “There is that Leviathan, whom Thou has formed to make sport of him.” This is a great mystery; and yet I am about utter what you already know. You know that a certain serpent is the enemy of the Church; you have not seen him with the eyes of the flesh, but you see him with the eyes of faith.
This serpent, our ancient enemy, glowing with rage, cunning in his wiles, is in the mighty sea. “Here is that Leviathan, whom thou hast formed to make sport of him.” Do thou now make sport of the serpent; for, for this end was this serpent made. He, falling by his own sin from the sublime realms of the heavens, and made devil instead of angel, received a certain region of his own in this mighty and spacious sea. What thou thinkest his kingdom, is his prison…. How much can he do? Unless by permission, he can do nothing. Do thou so act, that he may not be allowed to attack thee, or, if he be allowed to tempt thee, he may depart vanquished, and may not gain thee.
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm 104, v. 35-36. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 517. Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989.
From the Works of Creation, Love the Creator
Learn in the creature to love the Creator, and in the work Him who made it. Let not that which was made by Him take hold of thee, so that thou lose Him by Whom thou also art thyself made.
~ Expositions on the Book of Psalms. Commentary on Psalm 39. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church Vol. XII, pg. 112-119. Ed. Philip Schaff. Erdmans, 1989.
The truth is that all of these actions and energies belong to one true God, who is wholly present everywhere, is confined to no frontiers and bound by no hindrances, is indivisible and immutable, and though His nature has no need of either heaven or of earth, He fills them both with His presence and His power
~ The City of God Book 7, Chapter 30. In The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 8, Eds. Gerald Walsh and Demetrius Zema. CUA Press, 2008, p. 387.