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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

BASICS OF CATHOLICISM: 3. GOD AND HIS PERFECTIONS

As we now look to dive directly into the Creed, we begin by considering God Himself as He is.  We have treated the basic question of “why” we exist and the related truth of our being created by God and that God Himself makes known to us our purpose for existence.  These truths are made known by God revealing Himself and His plan in Scripture and Tradition.  Our own right response to God in assenting to Him by way of faith draws us into living these truths both now and toward their fulfillment in eternal life.  Now that we are aware of our purpose, we can go deeper to consider “who God is,” by considering God and His perfections, in keeping with the outline of The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism.  Said another way, we can look at what is the “Divine Attributes,” or those characteristics of God in His perfect nature.

In the Creed (both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed), we first consider that God is “one” and there is no other, as given by Deuteronomy 6:4.  In The New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, God is called the “Supreme Being,” indicating that He is both above all that exists and that He Himself is “Being” itself, in which all other things are able to exist.  In other words, God does not depend on any other to exist and without Him nothing else can exist.  Within His being, he lacks nothing; all that is good, perfect, and true are in Him perfectly – He has no limits.  Accordingly, God is “eternal” (without beginning or end); “all-good,” “all-knowing” (or “omniscient”), all-present, and “almighty;”characteristics that are referred to as His “perfections.”

Earlier, when considering how God revealed Himself through the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition, emphasis was given to God’s external works as a means of showing us Himself.  However, it is necessarily true that our capacity to know God’s interior nature and His perfections is likewise by way of His self-revelation.  Some important Scripture passages for our knowledge of God as He is in His perfections include His revelation of self to Moses in Exodus 3 – when He reveals Himself as “I Am who I Am.” This Name of God reveals both that God “is” (without beginning or end) and that He is also all-present.  In the New Testament, and particularly in the Gospel according to John, Jesus regularly reveals Himself (God) by referring to Himself as “I am,” while speaking more specifically of His nature as (among other attributes) “the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” “the Resurrection and the Life;” “the Bread of Life;” etc. Finally, the Scriptures reveal God’s attributes throughout their very words that are attributed to God, pointing to His mercy, faithfulness, wisdom, and above all, love.  Many examples of such revealing words are to be found in the Psalms and books of the prophets.  Once more, it is to be emphasized that in His perfections, God is lacking in nothing and in every way supreme.

These perfections of God within His very being, as we will see, are equal and perfect in each of the persons of the Blessed Trinity.  It is God as a Trinity of persons that we will consider more specifically in our next installment.

 For further reading:  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 198-231 consider God in his unity (as one God), along with attributes of His being truth and love.  Paragraphs 268-278 speak of God as “Almighty,” including related attributes to his Divine power.  Finally, (for even further depth) paragraphs 279-324 consider even more attributes – though the content of these paragraphs will be taken up in more detail in later articles pertaining to creation and God’s presence in all times and

places.

 

 

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