Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sirach,St. Athanasius and Intelligent Design

Today's Office of Readings was just what I needed on a dreary, rainy day. First the reading from Sirach reminding us that even the very angels "must fail in recounting the wonders of the Lord". Even their powers of understanding and communication cannot grasp it all. Just the same, Sirach recounts them so beautfully that one wonders why this passage was not put into the psalter as a canticle:

The clear vault of the sky shines forth
   like heaven itself, a vision of glory.
The orb of the sun, resplendent at its rising:
   what a wonderful work of the Most High!
At noon it seethes the surface of the earth,
   and who can bear its fiery heat?
Like a blazing furnace of solid metal,
   it sets the mountains aflame with its rays;
By its fiery darts the land is consumed;
   the eyes are dazzled by its light.
Great indeed is the Lord who made it,
   at whose orders it urges on its steeds.....
...The beauty, the glory, of the heavens are the stars
   that adorn with their sparkling the heights of God,
At whose command they keep their place
   and never relax in their vigils.

A weapon against the flood waters stored on high,
   lighting up the firmament by its brilliance,
Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker,
   for majestic indeed is its splendor;
It spans the heavens with its glory,
   this bow bent by the mighty hand of God.

The followup to this achingly beautiful reading is part of a Discourse Against the Pagans by St. Athanasius. There we see a presursor to St. Thomas' proof from order. Although my husband tells me that like St. Thomas, Athanasius simply absorbed it from the Greek world he grew up in. In other words, believing in Intelligent Design is natural and reasonable. Plato and Aristotle knew this. Atheism must take a tortured path to reach its conclusions.  Here's Athanasius:

By his own wisdom and Word, who is our Lord and Savior Christ, the all-holy Father (whose excellence far exceeds that of any creature), like a skillful steersman guides to safety all creation, regulating and keeping it in being, as he judges right. It is right that creation should exist as he has made it and as we see it happening, because this is his will, which no one would deny. For if the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world rolled on in random fashion, one would be justified in disbelieving what we say. But if the world is founded on reason, wisdom and science, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its origin and order to none other than the Word of God. 

Get that? Wisdom, order, science, and beauty all go together. What holds them together can be no other than God.