An Ordinary Viewpoint

Who is God? - III



Personal

It is a truth of our Catholic Faith that human reason, even when exercised by fallen human nature and unaided by divine intervention, would be capable of demonstrating with certainty the existence of God, and consequently knowing that God is personal and that God is one. Tertullian said, "The Supreme Being must be unique and without equal. If God is not one, then He is not God." This is why God in His divine revelation teaches that pagans are to be blamed for not honoring the God that they should have known by their natural reason through a consideration of His creatures (Romans 1:20). Of course, these facts about God Himself He also revealed, thereby reinforcing and supporting such naturally knowable truth. Both divine revelation and natural reason also teach humanity that deriving from monotheism, the truth of the oneness of God, the fact that God is completely distinct from all of His creatures. Pantheism, in all of its forms, is a violation of human reason as well as a denial of divine revelation. Finally, human thought correctly used must, therefore, come to the necessary conclusion that God must be adored and worshiped, that is, that all human beings instinctively know that they are required to practice religion and that God must be obeyed. At least implicitly, all humans, even those unfortunates who have not yet heard the Gospel, are required by their human condition as rational animals to practice at a minimum natural morality and always to proclaim in regard to their Creator, "Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:10). Their ultimate salvation depends on this. In God, as Saint Paul teaches, we human creatures "live and move and have our being... since it is He Who gives to all men life and breath and all things" (Acts of the Apostles 17:25-30).

Human reason along with divine revelation teaches that God is provident and personal. He is not merely some kind of impersonal "force" or "power". Hence, it is quasi-blasphemous to use such expressions as "May the force be with you". Nor may God be considered a sort of impersonal "ether" penetrating the universe, but He is the Existent Essence, (Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai -God and Lord), and in and identical to that divine Essence is an all-knowing Intelligence and absolute Free Will. The theologian and philosopher John of Saint Thomas says it is legitimate to speak of God as the Self-Subsistent Intellection.

Attributes

What are called the attributes of God are in reality identical to His divine Essence. From a creature’s point of view, however, attributes can be considered in their individual significance and in their relationship to each other. Sometimes this relationship folds into the realm of supernatural mystery. For instance, divine revelation tells us that God is all-Just and also all-Merciful. From our human angle absolute justice and absolute mercy seem fundamentally incompatible and in some measure contradictory. Yet, in God there can be no contradiction because that would be a an imperfection and God is absolutely perfect. We know with the certainty of faith that total justice and complete mercy somehow fit together in God, but we also realize that how this is possible is something beyond our human capacity to fully grasp.

Among the attributes of God which are in His very Being are simplicity and unicity. God is one in Himself and, therefore, utterly simple, which is to say, in Him there is no composition, neither physical, metaphysical, nor logical. God is infinite, that is, without any limits. His infinity has no indefiniteness or indetermination possible, since that would involve imperfection. God, therefore, is utterly unchangeable and impassible. All beings as beings are good, true, and beautiful. But, created beings, in this, are merely an extremely pale reflection of the Supreme Being, Who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in Himself. God is almighty, omnipotent, and thus can do all things without limit. However, He cannot contradict Himself or His perfect wisdom for that would mean imperfection in Him. (He cannot make a stone so heavy He Himself could not lift it. There is no limit to His infinite power.) God is perfect Intelligence and perfect Free Will. He is identical too with His supreme freedom, His supreme wisdom, His ubiquity, and His omniscience.

Knowing and Loving

In God there is no "before and after" but a only total "now". He knows, of course, the past, present, and future, but He also knows "futurables", that is, all possibilities and probabilities past, present and future. He knows every "what would be if". (For instance, He knows what you would be doing if you would have been born in China in 2300 A.D. instead of now in America, or what you would have done and what would have happened to you had you been born in a cave in Africa in the year 20 B.C., etc.) It is in God’s total knowledge, linked with His total freedom, that we can situate some notion of His loving reality in our personal predestination (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 1:5). He even keeps track of the number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7).

In the Old Testament God confided to Israel that His revelation to them and His choosing them as His special possession was motivated out of sheer gratuitous love (Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:8; 10:15). It was out of that love that His prophets explained that He never stopped loving them and pardoning their infidelities and sins (Isaiah 43:1-7; Hosea 2; Jeremiah 31:3). In the New Testament, however, His everlasting love (Isaiah 54:8) reached its climax and conclusion with the giving of His most precious Gift: "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son" (John 3:16). As the Easter proclamation sings to God: "To ransom a slave You gave away Your Son". The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, "Saint John goes even further when he affirms that God is Love (1 John 4:8). God’s very Being is Love. By sending His only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed His innermost secret (1 Corinthians 2:7-16; Ephesians 3:9-12). God Himself is an eternal Exchange of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and He has destined us to share in that exchange."

Testimony

The Catechism reminds us of the great Jewish Sabbath Prayer" "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29). Saint Augustine tells us, "Even when He reveals Himself, God remains a mystery. If you understood Him, He would not be God." The Catechism goes on to say, "Faith in God leads us to turn to Him alone as our first Origin and our ultimate Goal, and neither to prefer anything to Him nor to substitute anything for Him. The God of our faith has revealed Himself as He Who Is, (Yahweh), and He has made Himself known to us as "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6)." "Behold God is great and we know Him not" (Job 36:26). Saint Joan of Arc said, "Therefore we must serve God first." Saint Teresa of Jesus said, "Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone is enough." Let us always keep those saintly words in our hearts and minds.

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