Miracles as a sign of the good creation

Terence L. Nichols, Marquette University


This dissertation investigates the problem of physical evil in creation. Traditional theodicies explain non-human physical evil (e.g. suffering in animals) by reference to the perfection of the whole creation. Modern theodicies, both evolutionary and eschatological, tend to refer to perfection of the end. This dissertation argues that both the traditional and the modern explanations are unsatisfactory, and instead attempts to trace physical evil to an original sin of humanity. This may seem impossible, since animal suffering antedates humanity by millions of years. Nevertheless, in the light of modern physical theory, we can conceive of both a resurrected creation and a parallel primordial creation, existing in a higher dimension and in a primordial moment, and thus understand how a primordial sin of humanity could have occasioned the disharmony of earthly creation. Physical evil is occasioned by the fact that created physical laws exhibit an autonomy which is independent of the good of sentient creatures. The condition of possibility for this is a weakness in the forms of creatures themselves and a lack of formal order in creation. Miracles, however, reverse this condition: in miracles the Spirit empowers the forms of individual creatures so that they assume sovereignty over the semi-autonomy of restricting physical laws. Like a miracle, the glorified body is constituted by an enhancement of created form, such that the form of the body achieves absolute sovereignty over its matter. Similarly, a resurrected creation can be understood as constituted by the reign of Christ in consort with risen humanity (his church), who exercise a formal ordering and enhancement over all creation such the the disharmony characteristic of fallen creation disappears. Finally, we can conceive of a primordial creation, parallel to the resurrected creation, in which a primordial human sin resulted in the fall not only of humanity but also, because humanity mediates the formal ordering power of the Spirit, of creation itself. This hypothesis comports with present scientific evidence and with the doctrinal tradition of the church. It is the original human sin, the consequent fall of humanity, and therefore of creation itself, which explains the existence of physical evil.

Recommended Citation

Nichols, Terence L., "Miracles as a sign of the good creation" (1988). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8904277.