Why Faith?
Westminster retable

Inspiration and Vision
Articles on a New Synthesis

Westminster retable c1260
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Christ holds the Cosmos
A More Detailed Overview of the Faith Vision

The article below is reproduced in section three of the pamphlet on the FAITH movement Published by The Catholic Truth Society, 40-46 Harleyford Road, London, SE11 5AY

The identity and motive of the Faith movement is to promote a theological vision of Jesus Christ as Lord of the cosmos and of history, and Lord of the individual mind and heart. This section will explore these ideas, and thus constitutes the heart of this pamphlet.

When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment of the law was, he replied: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30). The whole of our human nature is involved—our understanding as well as our will. One of the tasks of preaching the Gospel, then, is to show how our faith makes sense to our minds. We do not have to deny our human reason or our modern scientific knowledge in order to believe in God. In fact, quite the contrary is the case: all reality and all truth proceeds from the one God, and so must constitute one perfect harmony. The more we discover about the amazing world we live in, the more we discover the even more amazing God who created it (cf. Wisdom 13:3-5).

However, this runs clean contrary to the popular opinion of the matter. It is commonly assumed, although quite incorrectly, that science contradicts religion—even that science has disproved the existence of God—and the discoveries of Galileo and Darwin amongst others are often held up as proofs of this.

There are several reasons why popular opinion takes this view. One reason is that many of those who promoted the scientific ideas were atheists, and used—or even abused—the science to promote their own ideologies as well. But another contributory reason was that those who were arguing the case for God were using philosophy and theology which had been worked out several hundred years before the advent of modern science. In fact, their philosophical principles, although brilliantly developed by St Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, were largely those of Aristotle, who lived around 350 B.C. As a consequence, their system of thought—their synthesis of faith and reason—was not adequate to cope with the new questions arising from modern science.

As a result of these difficulties, some people resorted to ‘modernism’, which involved abandoning those Christian doctrines which seemed to be at odds with modern knowledge: others chose to ignore the problem altogether and concentrate on other, less controversial areas of theology. However, neither of these strategies was a satisfactory response to the situation. What was required was a new synthesis of faith and reason, utterly faithful to the deposit of divine revelation, yet showing the deep and beautiful harmony between the truths of revelation and the truths of the natural world.

The Faith movement offers its vision as a solution to these issues. It is our conviction that these ideas show the unity of God’s work of creating the universe and of saving us through Jesus Christ. We know—and Fr Holloway always explicitly said—that these ideas are only a beginning; others will work them out more fully and perfectly. But if they do genuinely synthesise the Catholic faith and modern scientific knowledge then they are of tremendous value, for they vindicate the truth of our faith. More than this, because every deeper understanding of God is not just of academic interest, these ideas will lead to a deeper personal relationship of trust, love and holiness with God. They will also lead to a clearer understanding of the moral life, and will attract others to Christ—for our response to God involves the whole of our human nature as a unity. This is the experience of those involved in the Faith movement. We know personally that this vision has in fact borne fruit in our own spiritual lives and in the lives of others. This is the reason that we try to promote this vision.

God’s Master Key: the Unity-Law of Control and Direction

The central principle of the theology of the Faith movement is to show the majestic unity of God’s plan of creation and salvation. It is a plan formed “before the foundation of the world”, a “purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (cf. Eph 1:4,9-10) All of God’s works proceed from the one wisdom of God, and are centred on the Incarnate Jesus Christ: “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:16-17) This one wisdom, which comes from the will of God, and which orders and directs all things for his purpose, is therefore a law for all created things. Fr Holloway called this law a “Unity-Law of Control and Direction”; his mother called it “God’s Master-Key”.

The Unity-Law of Control and Direction is thus the central idea in the theology of the Faith movement. It is breathtaking in its simplicity but contains great power and depth to develop and to unify faith and reason for this age of science. It has an enormous impact in the whole of theology, philosophy, apologetics and catechetics, especially in regard to their vital relationship with the scientific vision of creation. In the space available here it is only possible to provide a brief overview of this vision. For a much fuller treatment the reader is referred to Fr Edward Holloway’s book, 'Catholicism: A New Synthesis'.

Concept of the Unity-Law

The term ‘Unity-Law of Control and Direction’ may appear rather complicated, but it is designed to show the unity of all God’s works. An explanation of the individual words will help to bring out the overall meaning.>

The will of God for all things is a command or law, as Ps 148 indicates: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, shining stars … He commanded: they were made. He fixed them for ever, gave a law which shall not pass away.” For material things this law appears as the laws of science; for man and the angels it is a moral and spiritual law too.

But the idea of law implies something more: God’s plan for the universe, and for man, is not a chaos but a cosmos; it is ordered and harmonious, as science has shown us. There is therefore a law in the mind of God which orders all things through supreme wisdom and intelligence, and does so in a unified way. We know from science that the various laws of nature link up into more fundamental ‘super-laws’. For example, electricity and magnetism are known to be aspects of one single reality, described by one law. In fact scientists are currently trying to formulate a single ‘Grand Unified Theory’ which will describe the behaviour of the whole physical universe in one law—and there is every hope of eventual success. This same pattern of unification can be seen in the way that all the moral laws are summed up as love of God and love of neighbour (cf. Mark 12:28-31, Romans 13:8-10).

Ultimately everything in the universe, from atoms to man to the Incarnation of Christ, proceeds from the one transcendent mind of God. As a result the laws of science, the higher moral law, and the even higher spiritual order must link up into one supreme Law in the mind of God. In other words, this law must be a Unity-Law. At its lower end it will embrace the laws of physics, chemistry and biology; at its highest application it will embrace the relationship of man to God, including the Church and the sacraments. In the end the law is only fulfilled in God made flesh, Jesus Christ, who is the very centre, meaning and purpose of the Law.

It is called a Law of control because each of God’s creatures receives the control or influence it needs to achieve its destiny from its interactions and relationships with its environment. In these relationships each thing finds its existence and meaning. This is true whether it be an electron within an atom, a plant seeking the warmth of the sun, or man seeking the warmth of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

It is called a Law of direction because the whole universe manifests a purpose and a goal. This is clearly seen in the development of the material universe, from the Big Bang to the formation of galaxies, stars and planets, in the emergence and evolution of life, right up to the evolution of man. Everything in the universe discovers its true direction through interaction with its material environment. And clear direction for man is also provided by God through revelation, from the dawn of history to its culmination in Jesus Christ, the One who is to come and who is the Way, the Truth and the Life for man.

Manifestation of the Unity-Law: from Creation to Jesus Christ

We now need to look at how God has worked out his great plan of creation and salvation, and so consider in particular how modern science is in complete harmony with the truth revealed by God. We need to ask: why did God create the material universe and how does he sustain it in being and harmony? How is man different from the animals? How does it come about that man has a spiritual soul? How does God provide for man, who is both matter and spirit? What is the ultimate meaning of man and of the whole universe? The following paragraphs outline how the plan of God was unfolded through the Unity-Law of Control and Direction from the beginning of creation to its ultimate fulfilment. They attempt to show the seamless unity and coherence of God’s wisdom and purpose, and to show that all of creation only finds its true meaning in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.>

1. The Unity-Law in Matter

The material universe is revealed to us by science as a balanced and harmonious unity of billions of entities. All material things, from atoms to stars, are controlled by the impact of the other things around them. Everything is interdependent: nothing in the universe can be understood apart from its relationships to other material beings. All these relationships are governed by equational laws of science, which ultimately link up into a highly developed ‘super-law’ which embraces all the physical sciences. There is clearly some sort of Unity-Law operating in the material order. This law is impossible without a centre of control and direction, a supreme Mind, which frames the law in balance and harmony. This Mind is that centred intellect and will that we call God. God cannot be part of matter: he must be transcendent, outside space and time, in order to plan the material universe and to bring it into being from nothing.>

2. Creation through Evolution

Modern science has revealed to us too that the universe has an amazing history of development or evolution from simple beginnings to incredible complexity. Cosmology has shown us that the universe began some 15 billion years ago with a Big Bang—a huge explosion of matter and energy. From this beginning, under the control of the laws of science, matter developed first fundamental particles, then simple atoms of hydrogen. This gas collapsed under the law of gravity to form galaxies and stars. Within the stars heavier elements were synthesised, which were thrown back into space when the stars exploded. From the richer mix of gases and dust now in space rocky planets could form, on which simple and then complex chemicals were produced. This development deepened with the synthesis of the first molecules of life—for under the mighty plan of God, even life emerges from the equation of matter in evolution. The first cells of life continued to develop under the biological laws of evolution, and from this evolutionary tree of life were formed the enormous richness of the plant and animal kingdoms, the myriad species of living things. Every living thing seeks control and direction, which it finds in the complex web of other living and non-living material beings which we call the environment.>

Thus onward and upward the Unity-Law manifests itself in coherent and harmonious development. If it was clear that a transcendent Mind is required to frame the laws of science in harmony and balance, how much more can we see the need of a transcendent God to poise these laws to bring about such tremendous development. Matter has indeed developed by evolution according to the laws of science, but this is no random process—it would be meaningless to call development random. Instead we can see clearly that the whole universe was planned by God, created through evolution.

3. The Unity-Law and the Creation of Man

Under the Unity-Law, matter evolved to higher and higher forms of life, still controlled and directed by the material environment. Eventually, however, a point was reached at the apex of the possible development of matter. At this point a unique mutation occurred, which produced a species with a larger brain than before—a brain too powerful to be controlled by the physical environment any more. However, like anything else in the universe, it could not be self-controlled or self-directed; it still needed to receive control and direction suitable to its nature, and unless this happened, according to the Law itself, the new species would have had too large a brain and would have been a diseased sport of nature. The soul, a new, spiritual principle of control and direction, was needed.>

At this point, and only then, God created a new being, man, who stands at the pinnacle of the evolution of matter, but who also has a directly created spiritual soul. God could not have put a soul into any other physical creature; it would not have been physically prepared for it. In man, matter is controlled and directed not so much by the physical environment as by a personal principle unique to each individual, the spiritual soul—free and intelligent, so that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter had reached the end and goal of its development in producing this unique mutation. The whole purpose of the evolution of matter was the creation of man. Under the Unity-Law creation has now passed to a higher order of being.

Not only is this vision in accordance with the discoveries of science; it also agrees with the essential truths revealed in Scripture. In Genesis 1-2 the Bible teaches that the world was created by God from nothing, and that over a period of time God built it up until with man the high-point was reached. It also teaches that man is unique: he is different from the animals because, although he is created from the same earth as they are, he is also filled with spirit and is therefore made in God’s image and likeness.

Some people hold that we must interpret these chapters absolutely literally. The Church teaches that whilst it is permissible to hold to such a literal reading of Genesis, an interpretation such as we give in Faith is also fully in accordance with Catholic doctrine. After all, many great theologians of the Church such as Origen and St. Augustine did not hold that the description of Genesis is an exact historical report of how creation happened. Pope John Paul II has also taught that belief in evolution, rightly understood, is not contrary to Christian Faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church also teaches this.

4. Control and Direction for Man: God as his Environment

According to the Unity-Law, man must find control and direction suitable to his nature. He is part matter but he is also part spirit, beyond matter. He will therefore only find real control and direction in God himself, who is pure and infinite Spirit. God is the true Environment of man: “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As animals find their full meaning and happiness in their material environment of food, water, the warmth of the sun, and so on, so man finds his full meaning and happiness only in God. He will seek beyond matter for wisdom, guidance and love; God’s grace will be for him the “sunshine of the soul”. So religion, which is that natural and supernatural living bond between God and man, is the fulfilment of the Unity-Law of Control and Direction in creation.>

5. The Unity-Law and Revelation

Since under the Unity-Law man naturally seeks God and a personal relationship with him, we expect God to communicate his Truth to the mind of man, and his Love to the heart of man. We expect divine revelation from the first moment of the creation of man. And following the pattern of all God’s works, we also expect this revelation to grow and to develop under the initiative of God controlling and directing man, both individually and socially throughout history. Such a line of developing revelation, such a history of salvation, is found uniquely in Israel. Through the ages God’s People is chosen and formed, with priests, prophets and kings. A pattern of living, the sacred liturgy and moral teaching in the commandments also emerge and develop under God’s guidance. And this People, prompted by God, constantly looks for a further development: the line is Messianic—looking for the One who is to come as the fulfilment of God’s control and direction of man in history.>

6. Jesus Christ: the Fulfilment of the Unity-Law

Like everything else in creation man must come into real contact with what controls and directs him, and this contact must involve his whole person—body and soul. Yet man is controlled and directed, and so fulfilled, only by God himself, who is pure Spirit. How can man as both spirit and body achieve this contact with God? Man could not think of a way, but God had already done so—indeed it was the very centre and fulfilment of his whole plan of creation and salvation. In Jesus Christ God became man, so that every human being could have a real personal encounter with God. Through union with the humanity of Jesus the whole human person enters into direct communion with God, and so receives the fullness of salvation.>

Therefore we find uniquely in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the highest possible fulfilment of man—a fulfilment so wonderful we could never have imagined it. God had already spoken to us in human language and human signs and rites in the Old Covenant; now, in Jesus Christ, he has given himself to us completely in human nature (cf. Heb 1:1-4, John 1:1-18), all the while retaining the fullness of his divinity. In Christ, and in him alone, we find the full meaning of our nature and existence: “Jesus Christ is the foundation and centre of history, he is its meaning and ultimate goal.” (Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 5) Indeed the whole universe was only created for Christ: >

Creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans’, the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’: from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 280, cf. 349) >

Fr Holloway summed it up as follows: >

Without Christ man is meaningless, without man the evolution of life is meaningless, without life the earth is meaningless, but all things have meaning in Jesus Christ, to whom all things, visible and invisible are relative, and to whom all things bear witness in their being. >

Thus the view of the Incarnation presented in the Faith movement is one of Christ predestined before the creation of the universe and before sin, which is known in theology as the Scotist view, following the teaching of Blessed John Duns Scotus.>

However, following the disaster of sin, far from turning away from us, Christ embraced into the very heart of his work of salvation the mystery of redemption. By his life-giving death on the cross and his glorious resurrection he healed the wounds of sin and division and restored us to the destiny God had planned for us from all eternity.

7. Completion of the Unity-Law: Christ in History

Finally, the Unity-Law of Control and Direction points to the Church as essential to Christ’s continuing control and direction of mankind, reaching out over the whole world and down through the ages. The Church will therefore be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. In the Church Jesus will continue to teach the truth in its fullness to all men in every time and place. He will also definitively give his life-giving and healing grace to us in the Church through a sacramental system. Thus the Church’s infallible magisterium and the seven sacraments—most especially the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist—are part of the continuing Unity-Law in its provision for mankind, until the Law reaches its final perfection with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.