Bonaventure’s Creation Theology

Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio is certainly the most famous of Alexander von Hales’ students and has assimilated much of his teachings.

The starting point of his creation theology is his notion of God. Bonaventure reflects on God as Trinity. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and this love between Father and Son is the Holy Spirit. This love in God between Father and Son in the Holy Spirit is now, according to Bonaventure, so great and fruitful that God wishes to make a gift of this love beyond Himself. Thus, creation is the result of this “abundance” of God’s love.

San BonaventuraHowever, since God’s love is concrete and not general, God conceives of all individual creatures in his Son, His Word. These creatures, which are conceived by the Father in His Son, His Word, will then be created through love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus each creature is a realized expression and thought of the love of God. Therefore, all creatures are revealing the Word of God, the Son, and God’s love. Therefore, Bonaventure also speaks of the first book that God has written in creation. For creation, arising from love, is an image of God’s Word and thus is really a ‘book’ speaking of God and His love.

Now humanity is the creature which received the grace to read this book of God and, therefore, to find God. For this reason alone, humanity is meant to encounter all creatures with special reverence. Unfortunately, humanity, through our own fault and sinfulness has lost this ability to read the book of creation. Thus our relationship not only to God, but to all creatures, is severely disturbed.

Bonaventure again sees a way out in an initiative by God whose Word, His Son, incarnates in the world in the truest sense of the word. God’s Word becomes flesh in order to liberate humanity and creation from the dilemma of sin and to bring to perfection all creation. God through God’s Son becomes flesh, the matter of Creation; God unites with flesh and the matter of all creatures.

We need to realize very clearly here, that for Bonaventure this is not simply the incarnation of God’s Son in order to redeem humanity. Rather, what is at issue here is His incarnation in order to lead all of Creation to the fullness of life.

Gesù nel grembo di MariaNow, the second ‘book’ is written by the life and death of Jesus Christ. When humanity reads and abides by this second book we will again be able to read the first book of creation, and the relationship between humanity and God and all creatures will be renewed. By means of the first and second book, humanity is in a special relationship with all creatures, which help us to find God. This, however, does not yet conclude Bonaventure’s creation theology.

For Bonaventure, the risen Jesus Christ remains present in a mysterious way in the history of the world and in creation, in the cosmos. Thus, this world and this cosmos are not godless. Rather, God, by His Word, His Risen Son, remains present In the entire universe. At this point, we can already speak of a theological idea of the cosmic Christ. Thus, the entire cosmos is sanctified and called to a community with God. Again it is humanity who now bears a special responsibility for all creatures and the entire cosmos. The reason why humanity is the head of creation is this: because we are renewed by Jesus Christ, we are able to find and love God by means of all creation.


PaesaggioLike Francis, the Franciscan tradition after him places the human relationship to nature, to all creatures, in connection with love. By creation, yes, even by each individual creature, we humans are called to love. Creation is a supplication for the love of humanity with which we answer to God’s love, which is revealed in creation. At the same time, we humans are called by this love to a large community with all creatures and with God. Creation is the expression of this large community to which we all belong.

At the same time, Creation for us is a message, a communication. Creation has something to communicate and tell us. We humans should listen to creation since we will be able to learn something through it about our life and the meaning of life. At the same time, creation is a place where God is present, where Christ is present, who incarnated in the world and in the cosmos. God is not only transcendent, God is also very close. It is by the presence of God that creation gains in beauty; it is a work of art.


P. Johannes B. Freyer, OFM


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