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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE FIRST ARTICLE (CONTINUED): "The Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and
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There are three errors concerning this truth which we must avoid. First,

the error of the Manicheans, who say that all visible created things are

from the devil, and only the invisible creation is to be attributed to God.

The cause of this error is that they hold that God is the highest good,

which is true; but they also assert that whatsoever comes from good is

itself good. Thus, not distinguishing what is evil and what is good, they

believed that whatever is partly evil is essentially evil - as, for

instance, fire because it burns is essentially evil, and so is water

because it causes suffocation, and so with other things. Because no

sensible thing is essentially good, but mixed with evil and defective, they

believed that all visible things are not made by God who is good, but by

the evil one. Against them St. Augustine gives this illustration. A certain

man entered the shop of a carpenter and found tools which, if he should

fall against them, would seriously wound him. Now, if he would consider the

carpenter a bad workman because he made and used such tools, it would be

stupid of him indeed. In the same way it is absurd to say that created

things are evil because they may be harmful; for what is harmful to one may

be useful to another. This error is contrary to the faith of the Church,

and against it we say: "Of all things visible and invisible."2 "In the

beginning God created heaven and earth."3 ''All things were made by Him."4


The second error is of those who hold the world has existed from eternity:

"Since the time that the fathers slept, all things continue as they were

from the beginning of the creation."5 They are led to this view because

they do not know how to imagine the beginning of the world. They are, says

Rabbi Moses, in like case to a boy who immediately upon his birth was

placed upon an island, and remained ignorant of the manner of child-bearing

and of infants' birth. thus, when he grew up, if one should explain all

these things to him, he would not believe how a man could once have been in

his mother's womb. So also those who consider the world as it is now, do

not believe that it had a beginning. This is also contrary to the faith of

the Church, and hence we say: "the Maker of heaven and earth." For if they

were made, they did not exist forever. "He spoke and they were made."7


The third is the error which holds that God made the world from prejacent

matter (ex praejacenti materia). They are led to this view because they

wish to measure divine power according to human power; and since man cannot

make anything except from material which already lies at hand, so also it

must be with God. But this is false. Man needs matter to make anything,

because he is a builder of particular things and must bring form out of

definite material. He merely determines the form of his work, and can be

only the cause of the form that he builds. God, however, is the universal

cause of all things, and He not only creates the form but also the matter.

Hence, He makes out of nothing, and thus it is said in the Creed: "the

Creator of heaven and earth." We must see in this the difference between

making and creating. To create is to make something out of nothing; and if

everything were destroyed, He could again make all things. He, thus, makes

the blind to see, raises up the dead, and works other similar miracles.

"Thy power is at hand when Thou wilt."8


2. In the Nicene Creed.


3. Gen., i. 1.


4. John, i. 3.


5. II Peter, iii. 4.



7. Ps. cxlviii. 5.


8. wis., xii. 18.


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