God, Man and Nature: The Problem of Creation in Cartesian Thought

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The problem of creation, which has largely disappeared from contemporary scientific discourse, was central to the scientific revolution. What modern scientists recognise as the only relevant relation – that between the knower and the known, man and nature — was understood three centuries ago as secondary to God's relation to the created order and his relation to created minds. For most early modern natural philosophers, both the manner in which and the degree to which the universe could be understood depended on how God had acted in creating it, how he continued to act in sustaining it, and how he had made the human mind — profound theological questions indeed. Over the centuries Christian thinkers, though reaching a consensus on the reality and goodness of the creation, have differed widely on the precise nature of created minds and the created order. The spectrum of views manifests an underlying dialectic between God's unconstrained will, which utterly transcends human comprehension, and God's orderly intellect, which serves as the model for the human mind. Often this has been expressed in terms of the distinction between God's absolute power to do whateverases and God's ordinary power to uphold the creation in an orderly and faithful manner. Individual thinkers typically acknowledge that God has both will and reason, both absolute and ordinary power, but usually emphasize one over the other.


Davis, E. B. (1991). God, man and nature: The problem of creation in cartesian thought. Scottish Journal of Theology, 44(3), 325–348. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0036930600025655