If you think the universe was formed in the big bang theory as the prevailing cosmological model for the birth of the universe, stars, and planets began in 1927, or the theory of evolution developed after the first edition of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin in 1859, here is a little primer on what was being said over 800 years ago. When Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), medieval Jewish philosopher and theologian wrote his “Guide for the Perplexed,” this was already being discussed. Here is an excerpt for your perusal, and something you can use on those who believe this is a modern concept.

According to Aristotle, none of the products of nature are due to chance. His proof is this: That which is due to chance does not reappear constantly nor frequently, but all products of nature reappear either constantly or at least frequently. The heavens, with all that they contain, are constant; they never change, as has been explained, either as regards their essence nor as regards their place. But on planet earth, we find both things which are constant and things which reappear frequently [though not constantly]. Thus, for example, the heat of the fire and the erosion of stone are constant properties, while the form and life of the individuals in each species are the same in most cases.  If the parts of the universe are not accidental, how can the whole universe be considered as the result of chance? Therefore, the existence of the universe is not due to chance.

The following is, in short, the objection which Aristotle raises against one of the earlier philosophers who assumed that the universe is the result of chance and that it came into existence by itself, without any cause or effect. Some assume that the heavens and the whole universe came into existence spontaneously, as well as the rotation and motion [of the planets], which has produced a variety of things and established their present order. This opinion contains a great absurdity. They admit that animals and plants do not owe their existence or production to chance, but to a certain cause, be that cause nature, or reason, or the like. For example, they do not assume that everything might be formed by chance of a certain seed or semen, but that of a certain seed only an olive-tree is produced, and of certain semen, only a human being is developed.

Having thus examined this theory, Aristotle then proceeds to refute it at greater length. It is, therefore, clear that Aristotle believes and proves that things in real existence are not accidental; they cannot be accidental, because they are essential, namely, there is an unseen cause which necessitates that they should be in their actual condition, and on account of that cause they are just as they really are. This has been proven, and it is the opinion of Aristotle. But I do not think that, according to Aristotle, the rejection of the spontaneous origin of things implies the admission of Design and Will.

For as it is impossible to reconcile two opposites, so it is impossible to reconcile the two theories, that of necessary existence by causality, and that of Creation by the desire and will of a Creator. For the necessary existence assumed by Aristotle must be understood in this sense, that for everything that is not the product of work there must be a certain cause that produces it with its properties; for this cause, there is another cause, and for the second a third, and so on. The series of causes ends with the Prime Cause, from which everything derives existence since it is impossible that the series should continue ad infinitum. He nevertheless does not mean to say that the existence of the universe is the necessary product of the Creator, such as the Prime Cause, in the same manner as the shadow is caused by a body, or heat by fire, or light by the sun.

Even Aristotle holds that the Prime Cause is the highest and most perfect Intellect. He, therefore, says that the First Cause is pleased, satisfied, and delighted with that which necessarily derives existence from Him, and it is impossible that He should wish it to be different. But we do not call this “[evolutionary] design,” and it has nothing in common with [evolutionary] design.  Mankind is pleased, satisfied, and delighted that they are endowed with eyes and hands, and it is impossible that they should desire it to be otherwise, and yet the eyes and hands which a human has are not the results of their [own] design, and it is not by their own determination that they have certain properties and is able to perform certain actions.

The notion of design and determination applies only to things not yet in existence, when there is still the possibility of their being in accordance with the design or not. I do not know whether the modern Aristotelians understood his words to imply that the existence of the universe presupposes some cause in the sense of design and determination, or whether, in opposition to Aristotle, they assumed his idea of determining the outcome by design does not conflict with the theory of the Eternity of the Universe. There doesn’t seem to be a year that goes by without which we read the words, “Astronomers were astounded….” at some new discovery in space. The most recent being that the universe is larger than they ever thought it would be. They will never discover God in the universe because He is bigger than the universe. But they certainly have found His fingerprints, and that should be enough for them to finally accept the first verse of Genesis as real. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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