How did Aquinas resolve the conflict between Aristotelian philosophy and the Christian Doctrine of the beginning of the world?

Essay by oxfordwomanUniversity, Master'sA-, May 2004

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In brief Aquinas was able to resolve the conflict between the Aristotelian notion of a world that out of logical necessity has no beginning and the Christian doctrine that God created the world from nothing and as such had a beginning by allowing for the possibility of a created eternal world. Before the above is discussed it is important from the outset to make the distinction between an eternal world and eternity as it applies to God. When we talk of an eternal we mean one without a beginning, it always was. God's eternity is true eternity, that is he alone is outside time because he is unchanging, and time is the measure of change. (Cf. ST 1a q 10). With this having been clarified, the rest of this essay shall concentrate on the following things. Firstly, what the exact nature of the conflict was, secondly, outline what possible positions there were to take on the issue, and the way in which Aquinas sought to find a resolution of the problem.

In the thirteenth century the Christian doctrine of creation contained four major tenets: God alone created the universe, that He created the universe out of nothing at all, that He created the universe immediately without any secondary causes, that He created the universe with a temporal beginning. The Aristotelian contention that the universe out of logical necessity has no beginning and always was, is in opposition to the Christian doctrine. If the universe always was out of logical necessity it is not contingent on God, in other words it is not dependent on God for its existence, moreover, if it always was it never begun. In addition, if the universe always was, it was not created out of nothing; there was something there as well as God. These...