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74

Part One

that men of all times have asked themselves:

120

“Where do we come

from?” “Where are we going?” “What is our origin?” “What is our

end?” “Where does everything that exists come from and where is

it going?” The two questions, the first about the origin and the

second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the

meaning and orientation of our life and actions.

283

The question about the origins of the world and of man has been

the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our

knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of

life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even

greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give

him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he

gives to scholars and researchers. With Solomon they can say: “It is he who

gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the

world and the activity of the elements . . . for wisdom, the fashioner of all

things, taught me.”

121

284

The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated

by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of

the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how

the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of dis-

covering the meaning of such an origin: is the universe governed by

chance, blind fate, anonymous necessity, or by a transcendent, intelligent

and good Being called “God”? And if the world does come from God’s

wisdom and goodness, why is there evil? Where does it come from? Who

is responsible for it? Is there any liberation from it?

285

Since the beginning the Christian faith has been challenged by

responses to the question of origins that differ from its own. Ancient

religions and cultures produced many myths concerning origins. Some

philosophers have said that everything is God, that the world is God, or

that the development of theworld is the development of God (Pantheism).

Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising fromGod

and returning to him. Still others have affirmed the existence of two eternal

principles, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, locked in permanent

conflict (Dualism, Manichaeism). According to some of these conceptions,

the world (at least the physical world) is evil, the product of a fall, and is

thus to be rejected or left behind (Gnosticism). Some admit that the world

was made by God, but as by a watchmaker who, once he has made a watch,

abandons it to itself (Deism). Finally, others reject any transcendent origin

for the world, but see it as merely the interplay of matter that has always

existed (Materialism). All these attempts bear witness to the permanence

and universality of the question of origins. This inquiry is distinctively

human.

120 Cf.

NA

2.

121

Wis

7:17-22.

1730

159

341

295

28