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Augustine and Creation

From Ken Smith:

From Saint Augustine, “Confessions”, (Penguin Books, 1961)

Book XI, chapter 12: My answer to those who ask `What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?’ is not `He was preparing Hell for people who pry into mysteries’. This frivolous retort has been made before now, so we are told, in order to evade the point of the question. But it is one thing to make fun of the questioner and another to find the answer. So I shall refrain from giving this reply. For in matters of which I am ignorant I would rather admit the fact than gain credit by giving the wrong answer and making a laughing-stock of a man who asks a serious question.

Book XI, chapter 13: You are the Maker of all time. If, then, there was any time before you made heaven and earth, how can anyone say that you were idle? You must have made that time, for time could not elapse before you made it.

But if there was no time before heaven and earth were created, how can anyone ask what you were doing `then’? If there was no time, there was no `then’.

Book XI, chapter 14: It is therefore true to say that when you had not made anything, there was no time, because time itself was of your making. And no time is co-eternal with you, because you never change; whereas, if time never changed, it would not be time.

And later, from his very large work “The City of God” (Penguin Books, 1972):

Book XI, chapter 6: If we are right in finding the distinction between eternity and time in the fact that without motion and change there is no time, while in eternity there is no change, who can fail to see that there would have been no time, if there had been no creation to bring in movement and change, and that time depends on this motion and change, and is measured by the longer or shorter intervals by which things that cannot happen simultaneously succeed one another? Since God, in whose eternity there is no change at all, is the creator and director of time, I cannot see how it can be said that he created the world after a lapse of ages, unless it is asserted that there was some creation before this world existed, whose movements would make possible the course of time.

The Bible says (and the Bible never lies): `In the beginning God made heaven and earth.’ It must be inferred that God had created nothing before that; `in the beginning’ must refer to whatever he made before all his other works. Thus there can be no doubt that the world was not created in time but with time. An event in time happens after one time and before another, after the past and before the future. But at the time of creation there could have been no past, because there was nothing created to provide the change and movement which is the condition of time.

The world was in fact made with time, if at the time of its creation change and motion came into existence. This is clearly the situation in the order of the first six or seven days, in which morning and evening are named, until God’s creation was finished on the sixth day, and on the seventh day God’s rest is emphasized as something conveying a mystic meaning. What kind of days these are is difficult or even impossible for us to imagine, to say nothing of describing them.

And could creationists please take note of those last few words, and stop saying that all the early theologians supported their “six, twenty-four hour days”


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