Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals generally employ the same theological terms, but we usually define them differently, and this quite often makes communication more difficult than if we spoke different religious languages entirely. The similarity of terms makes us think we are communicating, but when all is said and done both sides go away with the feeling that nothing quite added up, and this raises suspicions of deception. Blomberg and Robinson , 13 3.
What that book notes about vocabulary, we might also note with regard to metaphors. When comparing different religions, people seldom, if ever, think to examine differences in metaphors. Yet such differences can be crucial in understanding other faiths. Thus Latter-day Saints not only encounter religious metaphors in their scriptures but also have a scriptural mandate that encourages the use of metaphorical interpretation for the very elements around them, as a way of knowing God.
Moreover, related to this, we should consider the common attitude of Latter-day Saints when interpreting scriptural events or situations with both literal and metaphorical possibilities. Although very sensitive to the symbolic aspects of scripture, Mormons are very alive to the literal possibilities in their own lives of even the most remarkable or dramatic biblical events.
Some of this tendency to see both the literal and the figurative likely comes from direct exposure to the historical memory shared among members of the Church, detailing miraculous events accessible through numerous pioneer journals and family histories of those who witnessed miraculous events in Mormon history that parallel similar marvels in the Bible. The comparisons can be striking. She observes:. Historical accounts of the corporate movement of the Saints from Nauvoo to the Great Basin are rarely written without mentioning that the Saints who followed Brigham Young westward resolved themselves in a Camp of Israel organized into companies with captains of hundreds, fifties, and tens over them, as had the ancient Israelites during their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land in Palestine.
The fact that many Saints walked across the river without getting their feet wet is enough to serve as a means of separating the Mormon trek from all the other pioneer companies who left for the west from St. Moreover, even as it continued in some ways for virtually forty years, while Saints from across the world traveled through the wilderness to the valleys of the inter-mountain region, this LDS exodus led directly to the building up of a latter-day Zion in the tops of the mountains, a kingdom with a religious leader at its political helm and a temple at its center.
The analogy with the biblical Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee was quickly drawn, and the river connecting the two was named the Jordan River. Now when a Latter-day Saint draws an allusion or uses a metaphor of an exodus to a Promised Land or Zion, that allusion or metaphor can carry multiple layers of meaning, including a very literal and personal one. He further explains that the greater doctrinal differences were introduced through the other books of scripture brought forth by Joseph Smith: the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price , In the discussion that follows, we shall identify and discuss several of the root metaphors within the LDS scriptural canon, especially in the scriptures revealed through Joseph Smith, and some crucial implications that grow from or are integrally connected with these metaphors.
One of the foundational metaphors in the doctrine of the Church is the journey metaphor. The journey and exodus metaphor is further reinforced for members of the Church in their own church history as the early Latter-day Saints encountered opposition and were forced from their homes in unsuccessful attempts to establish their Zion in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, eventually making an epic trek to establish a new Zion in the Rocky Mountains.
The journey metaphor is very much a part of LDS consciousness today, as the previous scriptural and historical examples are overlaid with a more recent pioneer legacy, whether the modern context is applied to recent converts to the church who are the first in their family or community to embrace the gospel or to life-long members who must continue to endure to the end. The metaphor that sees life as a journey is one that is shared with other faiths.
Christians speak of the strait gate and narrow way that leads to God cf. These distinctive features carry some implications of their own, which we shall also consider. A very important feature of the journey metaphor for Latter-day Saints is the considerable importance placed on the word of God as necessary for their forward progression. It is true that other biblically-based faiths associate the word of God with the journey metaphor. But the Book of Mormon gives significant prominence to the important connection between the word of God and forward progression on the journey, even incorporating it into the narrative itself.
This ball, or compass, called the Liahona 6 , would point the direction they should go and would display written instructions for them. But it only worked as they were faithful and obedient 1 Nephi , The symbolism of this on a larger level was noted by a later Book of Mormon prophet, Alma:. And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass now these things were temporal they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land. And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
Alma But the words of Christ, as understood by Latter-day Saints, are not limited to those recorded in ancient prophetic writings but also include the words of living prophets and church leaders, and personal inspiration or revelation. At the center of this plan of happiness is the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The LDS journey metaphor is thus not just about accepting Christ, repenting of sins, and being cleansed, though these are crucial elements. It is also about sustained efforts to learn about and achieve a nature and state similar to His. Elsewhere, Oaks notes:.
To come unto Christ is not satisfied by a mere confession or declaration of belief in Him. It means to follow Him in order to become as He is. So it must be with us, His followers. One significance of a journey in which someone becomes more like God is, as Mormons might see it, that such a person can begin to have a greater understanding of God and His ways, and this relates to eternal life cf. John The Enabling Power of Covenants in the Journey: Latter-day Saints believe the process of becoming like God involves making and keeping covenants, or two-way promises with God.
Some covenants, as Elder McConkie has observed, are a part of particular commandments such as Sabbath day observance cf. But other very significant ones are formalized as part of essential priesthood ordinances such as baptism, as well as later ordinances with their associated covenants that are performed in Latter-day Saint temples. Although many Christian churches maintain the necessity of certain covenantal ordinances, the role and extent of covenants among the Latter-day Saints are integral to their view of the journey.
And attendance at the temples of the Church distinct from the weekly houses of worship requires adherence to covenants church members have previously made. Let all the people of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and those who journey with them, be organized into companies, with a covenant and promise to keep all the commandments and statutes of the Lord our God. And this shall be our covenant—that we will walk in all the ordinances of the Lord.
Doctrine and Covenants , 4. In this scriptural instruction, covenants were required for the Saints to progress towards their Zion destination. This has symbolic significance for the earthly journey. One of the features of covenants that are associated with specific ordinances in the Church is that they are made available according to the worthiness and preparation of those who would make those covenants, with some ordinances and covenants being preliminary to others.
Thus for example, one who wishes to be baptized and make the covenants associated with that ordinance must demonstrate a commitment to the doctrine and basic commandments of the Church. The temple covenants and ordinances associated with eternal marriage are not available for new members of the Church but require a period of demonstrated commitment to gospel teachings and commandments and further preparation.
We shall now consider some implications of the journey metaphor as it is developed in the LDS scriptures and the words of church leaders. In the metaphor, he explains that they must nourish the seed and subsequent tree regularly to see whether it is a good seed. If they nurture the seed and subsequent tree and it grows, they will then know that it was a good seed, and if they continue to take care of the tree in faith, being patient and diligent, it will grow to a point that they will be able to eat of the fruit, which is precious above all fruit Bateman , It should be recalled that the Tree of Life and its fruit were the desired goal of those who were pressing forward with the iron rod.
In both metaphors, personal responsibility and ongoing efforts are required.
The Church teaches that people should foster their spiritual strength and inspiration by praying and reading their scriptures daily. But even if this instruction were not overtly given, the journey metaphor and the related seed metaphor in the Book of Mormon teach this in a memorable way. Personal revelation is available to each person as a guide on the journey but requires individual preparation. The Book of Mormon shows that each person has the opportunity for spiritual confirmation of truths they have received. This opportunity is in fact a significant part of the message that LDS missionaries share with those whom they teach.
When Lehi had his dream and his son Nephi also wanted to have the same vision, that desire was soon granted 1 Nephi This kind of opportunity for revelatory confirmation is also evident at the end of the book when the last prophet writer, Moroni, invites the reader to ask God whether the contents of the book are true Moroni Speaking on this topic Givens explains:.
The particularity and specificity, the vividness, the concreteness, and the accessibility of revelatory experience—those realities both underlie and overshadow the narrated history and doctrine that constitute the record. The Book of Mormon also makes it clear, however, that personal inspiration and revelation require preparation and obedience.
Science, Religion and Culture
To these brothers Nephi explains:. How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts? Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? Modern revelation to Joseph Smith also confirms that what individuals are able to learn in spiritual matters is dependent not only on diligence but obedience as well Doctrine and Covenants The journey to the Tree of Life takes ongoing faithfulness, effort, and time.
It is not completed by a mere confession of faith. As important as faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism are, they also require that individuals continue in the path and endure to the end. In the LDS view, their efforts must be regular and constant. A Book of Mormon passage explains the following a portion of which we quoted earlier :. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done?
Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. Spencer W. Kimball, who served as the president of the Church, comments on the length and ongoing commitment that the journey would require from individuals:.
Perfection is a long, hard journey with many pitfalls. Eternal vigilance is the price of victory. Eternal vigilance is required in the subduing of enemies and in becoming the master of oneself. It cannot be accomplished in little spurts and disconnected efforts. There must be constant and valiant, purposeful living—righteous living.
Similarly, the Latter-day Saints generally view personal religious conviction as something that is ongoing through regular and continued experiences that reinforce understanding and belief testimony. It is true that, as Givens notes, when Latter-day Saints refer to their conversion, they are generally speaking about a specific moment when they received a spiritual confirmation of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith or that the Book of Mormon or the Church is true , But that experience only serves as a beginning to a lifetime of effort to grow in their testimony.
The idea of an extended journey also entails that there would be time for people to reflect on their progress in the journey, including their direction and personal momentum on the path cf.
Arrington , President Heber J. Grant, another modern prophet, said:. The all-important thing for you and me is to discover whether we are walking in the straight and narrow path that leads to life eternal, and if we are not, wherein have we allowed the adversary to blind our minds and to cause us to depart from that path which will lead us back into the presence of God? Each one should search his own heart to find out wherein he has failed, and then he should diligently seek our Heavenly Father for the assistance of His Holy Spirit, that he may come back into the straight path.
The notion of an extended journey also includes the idea that there are others passing along the same path, some at the same time, and others farther ahead or behind. Given the difficulty of the journey and some of the inherent risks associated with it, it is important to help others. Henry B. This might, for example, involve missionary efforts in helping someone to find the path, or it might involve parents teaching the gospel to their children.
Rosemary M. Hold on tight. We will stay on the path together back to our Heavenly Father. The concern for others also relates to the vast initiative of temple work for the dead, wherein members of the Church do ordinances such as baptisms as proxies for those who have died without the opportunity for the necessary ordinance. Mormons believe that the beneficiaries of these ordinances have the personal choice as to whether they will recognize and accept such ordinances on their behalf. Because of the enabling power and necessity of covenants and their associated ordinances to forward progression, Latter-day Saints are motivated to make any necessary sacrifice to receive them and make them available to others.
The history of the Church is replete with examples of those who have travelled great distances at great personal cost and sacrifice to complete ordinances and make covenants that can only be made in temples. Others have sacrificed earthly honors, position, or wealth to honor covenants they have already made. Their belief in the importance of the gospel and its ordinances and covenants prompts them to make the necessary efforts and sacrifices to share these blessings with others through missionary work and even through temple work in behalf of those who have died before having an opportunity to receive the necessary ordinances and covenants.
Both grace and works are necessary for people to reach their divine destination. A close examination of the Mormon journey metaphor can also yield a greater understanding of the role of works in their doctrine and theology. Unfortunately, the debate is often cast in terms of whether salvation is dependent on either grace or works. But the debate is perhaps incorrectly cast because it is framed within two separate metaphors: the evangelical metaphor involves a journey to a destination in which someone has been cleansed and allowed to live with God and Christ; the Mormon metaphor involves a journey back to God and Christ that includes not only cleansing but also personal change, growth, and development.
Furthermore, as Church members are taught, the Bible explains that people can know of the doctrine of God by doing the will of God John Thus the transformation individuals experience on the journey results from turning towards Him and doing the kinds of things He did, not to earn but to learn— and to become like Him. Both the Book of Mormon and the Bible contain literal descriptions of battles, and both books present battle metaphors that teach the need to act valiantly in resisting evil and defending goodness.
In the Book of Mormon the word of God is also identified metaphorically as a sword but one that allows forward progression on the path to God cf. Rust , thus similar to what was shown with the iron rod in the journey metaphor :. Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked.
Helaman The word of God in the Book of Mormon journey metaphor is thus linked with the battle metaphor. And whether we speak of the word of God as the iron rod or a sword, both must be grasped tightly. Integral to keeping the faith is the freedom to worship God. And in another significant aspect of the battle metaphor, some of the highlighted battles in the Book of Mormon are, at least in part, about preserving religious freedom 9.
The Mormon use of the battle or war metaphor is framed around agency the freedom to make choices. In its Book of Moses and Book of Abraham, we are told about the great pre-earthly council in heaven that led to the war in heaven mentioned in the book of Revelation Very importantly, we learn that at that time, Satan had proposed an alternative plan that would deprive people of agency, the freedom to choose Moses The devil and his hosts have a recollection of the council in heaven, the plan that was prepared for those who would inhabit this earth, and the key figures who would help carry out that plan.
While it is commonly assumed that the Devil and his supporters would oppose all who strive to do what is right, it is also reasonable to assume that there would be key events, individuals, and institutions that would be especially targeted. Such targets would especially include those major prophets of the past who opened each new dispensation of the gospel. He was ultimately martyred after completing his work. Elder Callister notes:. The Savior pressed forward in bold assault until every prisoner was freed from the tenacious tentacles of the Evil One.
Mormons view the persecution of the early Christian church and the persecution endured by the Latter-day Saints as similarly motivated. Historically, we can see some startling examples of persecution directed towards the Church and its members, including an extermination order issued by the governor of the state of Missouri, where Latter-day Saints were living at the time Whitman With regard to covenants, which are so crucial to forward progression, and which church leaders have indicated provide protection when kept cf.
Such knowledge, which is available to them through the scriptures and the inspired words of church leaders, is essential for them to prevail in the battle. Without it they are at a disadvantage. As previously noted with regard to the Armor of God metaphor in Ephesians, the word of God is provided as a synonym for the sword of the Spirit.
Elder Packer provides a related metaphor that seems to strengthen the implication about the necessity of accessing the word of God. In mortality, we are like one who enters a theatre just as the curtain goes up on the second act. We have missed Act I. The production has many plots and sub-plots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are the heroes and who are the villains. It is further complicated because you are not just a spectator; you are a member of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!
Ignorance of His word, if left unmitigated, makes people vulnerable to destructive influences. One important implication in the LDS battle metaphor is that good works are insufficient by themselves for salvation. It has been a common claim by some outside the Church that Latter-day Saints think they can be saved by works, or at least that their beliefs about salvation attach too much significance to the role of works cf.
Wilcox , 79 This grace is not only important in cleansing people from sin but, as we have noted, in enabling them to make personal improvements in their lives. Another important implication of the battle metaphor is that people must be wary of threats to their freedoms or personal agency, whether through repressive governments or addictive substances. The drama of life is not viewed as merely the conflict between good and evil, but rather a conflict with an organized adversary whose evil plans and designs precede their mortal existence and who has tricks and stratagems to enslave and destroy them.
Elder Lee of the Quorum of the Twelve, who later became a president of the Church, discusses agency both with regard to governments and personal addictions and the role Satan has in enslaving people:. His mission, then, was to destroy the agency of man. I think when I see the hand of dictatorship laid bare and the ugly monster that would subvert all mankind to the will of such dictatorship, I fancy I see in that nation thus guided the evidence of that power of this one who would thus destroy agency.
Elder Packer has provided a similar warning about narcotic addiction , , but the principle would clearly apply to any seriously addictive influences. But the framing of the battle metaphor is not exclusively found in the issue of agency. Other key parts of the plan, such as an understanding of the Savior and His atonement, are also seen by Latter-day Saints to be particularly targeted. For example, he seeks to discredit the Savior and the priesthood, to cast doubt on the power of the Atonement, to counterfeit revelation, to distract us from the truth, and to contradict individual accountability.
He attempts to undermine the family by confusing gender, promoting sexual relations outside of marriage, ridiculing marriage, and discouraging childbearing by married adults who would otherwise raise children in righteousness For Latter-day Saints to acknowledge the importance of agency and respect the right of others to make their own choices is not to say that Latter-day Saints are to take a passive stance in the midst of evil or destructive forces in the society or world around them. Elder Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve has explained:.
We must realize that we are at war. The war began before the world was, and it will continue. The forces of the adversary are extant upon the earth. All of our virtuous motives, if transmitted only by inertia and timidity, are no match for the resolute wickedness of those who oppose us. In a general conference address given by Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, priesthood holders, including the youth, were specifically admonished to prepare themselves spiritually for the battle they would wage through missionary work:.
We are at war, and for these next few minutes, I want to be a one-man recruiting station. The significance of the battle metaphor and the pervasive descriptions of battles in the Book of Mormon have led many to look for spiritual symbolism and significance even in some of the details of the Book of Mormon battle accounts. One popular youth speaker, for example, has published an entire book that discusses the war chapters from the Book of Mormon, showing the various spiritual lessons that we can gain from those chapters Bytheway The container metaphor has at least two different aspects to it.
Both of these aspects of the container metaphor are used by Latter-day Saints and other Christians. For example, both groups view the physical body as something that can be filled with the Spirit of the Lord. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
The container metaphor is also used for other blessings that the righteous and obedient may receive. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. Mormon doctrine is distinctive in the way it develops the container metaphor. The LDS metaphor of containers, whether speaking of revealed truth, the institutional church, or even the potential development of individuals, often conveys an unlimited capacity for expansion.
The expanding container is also related to the LDS notion of the scriptural canon. In the Book of Mormon the Lord chastises people for assuming that the scriptural record is finite and complete:. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure.
And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever. David F. Another aspect of the container metaphor is related to the covenant relationship that members of the Church perceive themselves to have with God. They do not merely see themselves as entering the Church organization and the metaphorical flock but into covenants as well.
We noted earlier that covenants are connected in the journey metaphor with forward progress. Thus the container notion of entering covenants is vital.
Instruction on prayers for healing - Cong. for the Doctrine of the Faith
We shall now consider some additional implications of the LDS container metaphor. The LDS metaphor of an expanding container is suggestive of a view that salvation and damnation are not about whether individuals achieve a static condition but rather whether they achieve a dynamic condition. Although on one level the LDS use of the term salvation is comparable to the way other Christians use the term, for Latter-day Saints one sense of the word salvation refers to exaltation Oaks a. This blessed state involves not only life with God but also living as He lives, a dynamic condition that allows a continuation of families and increase, a continued progression of sorts.
On the other hand, damnation is a static condition in which any forward progression or increase is stopped. The LDS view of an expanding container suggests an interaction of grace and works. Once again, their relationship is crucial in the development of each individual:. Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
Doctrine and Covenants For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace. And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. Doctrine and Covenants , That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
This is a further indication of the view that the LDS emphasis on works should not be construed as denying the salvific power and transforming grace of Christ, but instead acknowledges that the Lord has a plan for the highest possible development of His children, which also requires their active participation in self-improvement. The grace of Christ enables this improvement. Furthermore, the organizational structure of the Church anticipates expansive membership growth. This metaphor is suggestive of a structure that can be dramatically expanded and increased.
And the extensive missionary effort of the Church unfolds within this dynamic. Perhaps the most significant LDS scriptural metaphor is the metaphor of restoration. This metaphor is of such primary significance that many other metaphors are subsumed under it. The central metaphor of restoration encompasses other semantic hyponyms or sub-metaphors, indeed a complex web of ideas that includes not only such concepts as redemption and resurrection, but also restitution, regeneration, recovery, repentance, recompense, reward, and remembering.
All of these words and concepts, as the prefix re- manifests, involve a notion of movement toward or acquisition of some state again. But it seems that within the LDS scriptural canon, the notion of a restoration is itself sometimes used as a source concept to better understand other target concepts and thus operates metaphorically. The restoration metaphor is at the heart of the journey metaphor but also relates to the battle and container metaphors.
The Atonement of Christ as Restoration. Moses This latter condition allows, among other things, the development of faith.
Grace in Christianity
But without an atonement that would undo the effects of these two types of death, no one could ever return or be restored to dwell in the presence of God. And Joseph Smith revealed that both the Father and the Son have physical bodies of flesh and bone Doctrine and Covenants For "no one can say Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit," who "searches everything, even the depths of God No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God. When St.
Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from flesh and blood," but from "my Father who is in heaven. Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason.
Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions or to trust their promises for example, when a man and a woman marry to share a communion of life with one another.
If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to "yield by faith the full submission of In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace. What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but "the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives. The grace of faith opens "the eyes of your hearts" to a lively understanding of the contents of Revelation: that is, of the totality of God's plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the center of the revealed mystery.
Augustine, "I believe, in order to understand; and I understand, the better to believe. Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are. To be human, "man's response to God by faith must be free, and The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.
Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus. His kingdom Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: "Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith. Faith makes us taste in advance the light of the beatific vision, the goal of our journey here below.
Then we shall see God "face to face," "as he is. Now, however, "we walk by faith, not by sight"; we perceive God as "in a mirror, dimly" and only "in part. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it. It is then we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to Abraham, who "in hope Faith is a personal act-the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.
But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers.
I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith. It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes, and sustains my faith. Everywhere, it is the Church that first confesses the Lord: "Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you. Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.
We do not believe in formulas, but in those realities they express, which faith allows us to touch. The Church, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth," faithfully guards "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith.
Through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples, and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father. Irenaeus of Lyons, a witness of this faith, declared: The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself.
It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words. Faith is a supernatural gift from God. In order to believe, man needs the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. The Church's faith precedes, engenders, supports, and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. Cyprian, De unit.
We believe all "that which is contained in the word of God, written or handed down, and which the Church proposes for belief as divinely revealed" Paul VI, CPG, Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" Mk Thomas Aquinas, Comp. Whoever says "I believe" says "I pledge myself to what we believe. From the beginning, the apostolic Church expressed and handed on her faith in brief formulae for all. But already early on, the Church also wanted to gather the essential elements of its faith into organic and articulated summaries, intended especially for candidates for Baptism: This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions, but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith in its entirety.
And just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments. Such syntheses are called "professions of faith" since they summarize the faith that Christians profess. They are called "creeds" on account of what is usually their first word in Latin: credo "I believe".
They are also called "symbols of faith. The Greek word symbolon meant half of a broken object, for example, a seal presented as a token of recognition. The broken parts were placed together to verify the bearer's identity. The symbol of faith, then, is a sign of recognition and communion between believers. Symbolon also means a gathering, collection, or summary. A symbol of faith is a summary of the principal truths of the faith and therefore serves as the first and fundamental point of reference for catechesis. The first "profession of faith" is made during Baptism.
The symbol of faith is first and foremost the baptismal creed. Since Baptism is given "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," the truths of faith professed during Baptism are articulated in terms of their reference to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. And so the Creed is divided into three parts: "the first part speaks of the first divine Person and the wonderful work of creation; the next speaks of the second divine Person and the mystery of his redemption of men; the final part speaks of the third divine Person, the origin and source of our sanctification.
According to a comparison often used by the Fathers, we call them articles. Indeed, just as in our bodily members there are certain articulations which distinguish and separate them, so too in this profession of faith, the name articles has justly and rightly been given to the truths we must believe particularly and distinctly. Ambrose, it is also customary to reckon the articles of the Creed as twelve, thus symbolizing the fullness of the apostolic faith by the number of the apostles. Through the centuries many professions or symbols of faith have been articulated in response to the needs of the different eras: the creeds of the different apostolic and ancient Churches, e.
None of the creeds from the different stages in the Church's life can be considered superseded or irrelevant. They help us today to attain and deepen the faith of all times by means of the different summaries made of it. Among all the creeds, two occupy a special place in the Church's life:. The Apostles' Creed is so called because it is rightly considered to be a faithful summary of the apostles' faith. It is the ancient baptismal symbol of the Church of Rome.
Its great authority arises from this fact: it is "the Creed of the Roman Church, the See of Peter, the first of the apostles, to which he brought the common faith. The Niceno-Constantinopolitan or Nicene Creed draws its great authority from the fact that it stems from the first two ecumenical Councils in and It remains common to all the great Churches of both East and West to this day. Our presentation of the faith will follow the Apostles' Creed, which constitutes, as it were, "the oldest Roman catechism. As on the day of our Baptism, when our whole life was entrusted to the "standard of teaching," let us embrace the Creed of our life-giving faith.
To say the Credo with faith is to enter into communion with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and also with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us and in whose midst we believe: , This Creed is the spiritual seal, our hearts' meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul. Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything.
The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works. The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of the world it does so in relation to God.
The other articles of the Creed all depend on the first, just as the remaining Commandments make the first explicit. The other articles help us to know God better as he revealed himself progressively to men. These are the words with which the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed begins. The confession of God's oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of God's existence and is equally fundamental. God is unique; there is only one God: "The Christian faith confesses that God is one in nature, substance, and essence. For I am God, and there is no other To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength. Jesus himself affirms that God is "the one Lord" whom you must love "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as "Lord and giver of life" introduce any division into the One God: , , 42 We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite immensus and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.
God revealed himself to his people Israel by making his name known to them. A name expresses a person's essence and identity and the meaning of this person's life. God has a name; he is not an anonymous force. To disclose one's name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally. God revealed himself progressively and under different names to his people, but the revelation that proved to be the fundamental one for both the Old and the New Covenants was the revelation of the divine name to Moses in the theophany of the burning bush, on the threshold of the Exodus and of the covenant on Sinai.
He is the faithful and compassionate God who remembers them and his promises; he comes to free their descendants from slavery. He is the God who, from beyond space and time, can do this and wills to do it, the God who will put his almighty power to work for this plan. This divine name is mysterious just as God is mystery. It is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what he is-infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God," his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men.
By revealing his name God at the same time reveals his faithfulness which is from everlasting to everlasting, valid for the past "I am the God of your fathers" , as for the future "I will be with you". God, who reveals his name as "I AM," reveals himself as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them. Faced with God's fascinating and mysterious presence, man discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God's holiness.
Before the glory of the thrice-holy God, Isaiah cries out: "Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips. Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel do not pronounce his name. After Israel's sin, when the people had turned away from God to worship the golden calf, God hears Moses' prayer of intercession and agrees to walk in the midst of an unfaithful people, thus demonstrating his love. The divine name, "I Am" or "He Is," expresses God's faithfulness: despite the faithlessness of men's sin and the punishment it deserves, he keeps "steadfast love for thousands.
Over the centuries, Israel's faith was able to manifest and deepen realization of the riches contained in the revelation of the divine name. God is unique; there are no other gods besides him. He transcends the world and history. He made heaven and earth: "They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and following it the Church's Tradition, understood the divine name in this sense: God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end.
All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is. God, "He who is," revealed himself to Israel as the one "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. In all his works God displays not only his kindness, goodness, grace, and steadfast love, but also his trustworthiness, constancy, faithfulness, and truth. God is Truth itself, whose words cannot deceive. This is why one can abandon oneself in full trust to the truth and faithfulness of his word in all things.
The beginning of sin and of man's fall was due to a lie of the tempter who induced doubt of God's word, kindness, and faithfulness. God's truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world. God, who alone made heaven and earth, can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to himself. God is also truthful when he reveals himself-the teaching that comes from God is "true instruction.
In the course of its history, Israel was able to discover that God had only one reason to reveal himself to them, a single motive for choosing them from among all peoples as his special possession: his sheer gratuitous love. And thanks to the prophets Israel understood that it was again out of love that God never stopped saving them and pardoning their unfaithfulness and sins.
God's love for Israel is compared to a father's love for his son. His love for his people is stronger than a mother's for her children. God loves his people more than a bridegroom his beloved; his love will be victorious over even the worst infidelities and will extend to his most precious gift: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
God's love is "everlasting": "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you. But St. John goes even further when he affirms that "God is love": 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: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange.
Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life. It means coming to know God's greatness and majesty: "Behold, God is great, and we know him not. It means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: "What have you that you did not receive? It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men: Everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.
It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him: , , My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you. My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you. It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. If God is not one, he is not God" Tertullian, Adv. 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.
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Even when he reveals himself, God remains a mystery beyond words: "If you understood him, it would not be God" St. The God of our faith has revealed himself as He who is; and he has made himself known as "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" Ex God's very being is Truth and Love. Christians are baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.
It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith. This paragraph expounds briefly I how the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, II how the Church has articulated the doctrine of the faith regarding this mystery, and III how, by the divine missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, God the Father fulfills the "plan of his loving goodness" of creation, redemption, and sanctification. The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology theologia and economy oikonomia. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia.
God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions. The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the "mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Many religions invoke God as "Father. Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, "his first-born son. Most especially he is "the Father of the poor," of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection. By calling God "Father," the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature.
The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God.
He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father. Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"; as "the image of the invisible God"; as the "radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature. Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea that the Son is "consubstantial" with the Father, that is, one only God with him. The second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in , kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene Creed and confessed "the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.
At work since creation, having previously "spoken through the prophets," the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them "into all the truth. The eternal origin of the Holy Spirit is revealed in his mission in time. The Spirit is sent to the apostles and to the Church both by the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once he had returned to the Father. The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus' glorification reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople : "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone, The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son filioque. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.
The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in at Constantinople. But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in , even before Rome, in at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and receive the Symbol of The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin liturgy between the eighth and eleventh centuries.
The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of disagreement with the Orthodox Churches. At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he "who proceeds from the Father," it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son filioque.
It says this, "legitimately and with good reason," for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as "the principle without principle," is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed.
From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis, and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify its Trinitarian faith, both to deepen its own understanding of the faith and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people's sense of the faith. In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop its own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: "substance," "person" or "hypostasis," "relation," and so on.
In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, "infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand. The Church uses I the term "substance" rendered also at times by "essence" or "nature" to designate the divine being in its unity, II the term "person" or "hypostasis" to designate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and III the term "relation" to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others.
The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity. The divine persons are really distinct from one another. The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.
Gregory of Nazianzus, also called "the Theologian," entrusts this summary of Trinitarian faith to the catechumens of Constantinople: , , 84 Above all guard for me this great deposit of faith for which I live and fight, which I want to take with me as a companion, and which makes me bear all evils and despise all pleasures: I mean the profession of faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I entrust it to you today.
By it I am soon going to plunge you into water and raise you up from it. I give it to you as the companion and patron of your whole life. I give you but one divinity and power, existing one in three, and containing the three in a distinct way. Divinity without disparity of substance or nature, without superior degree that raises up or inferior degree that casts down Each person considered in himself is entirely God I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendor.
I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasps me God is love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the "plan of his loving kindness," conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: "He destined us in love to be his sons" and "to be conformed to the image of his Son," through "the spirit of sonship.
It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church. The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons. For as the Trinity has only one and the same nature, so too does it have only one and the same operation: "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.
Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, "one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are. Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them.
Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him. The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: "If a man loves me," says the Lord, "he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him": , , , O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.
May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action. The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life.
God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Incarnation of God's Son reveals that God is the eternal Father and that the Son is consubstantial with the Father, which means that, in the Father and with the Father, the Son is one and the same God. The mission of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in the name of the Son Jn and by the Son "from the Father" Jn , reveals that, with them, the Spirit is one and the same God.
Augustine, De Trin. By the grace of Baptism "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," we are called to share in the life of the Blessed Trinity, here on earth in the obscurity of faith, and after death in eternal light Cf. Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do.
But within the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, especially in the divine missions of the Son's Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Of all the divine attributes, only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: to confess this power has great bearing on our lives. We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God's power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it when it "is made perfect in weakness.
The Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. If God is almighty "in heaven and on earth," it is because he made them. Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his will. He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: "It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?
God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us "I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. God's almighty power is in no way arbitrary: "In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God's power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect. Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering.
God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus "the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ's power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that "nothing will be impossible with God," and was able to magnify the Lord: "For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
Once our reason has grasped the idea of God's almighty power, it will easily and without any hesitation admit everything that [the Creed] will afterwards propose for us to believe-even if they be great and marvellous things, far above the ordinary laws of nature. With Job, the just man, we confess: "I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" Job Faithful to the witness of Scripture, the Church often addresses its prayer to the "almighty and eternal God" "omnipotens sempiterne Deus God shows forth his almighty power by converting us from our sins and restoring us to his friendship by grace.
If we do not believe that God's love is almighty, how can we believe that the Father could create us, the Son redeem us, and the Holy Spirit sanctify us? The profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is "Creator of heaven and earth" Apostles' Creed , "of all that is, seen and unseen" Nicene Creed.
We shall speak first of the Creator, then of creation, and finally of the fall into sin from which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to raise us up again. Creation is the foundation of "all God's saving plans," the "beginning of the history of salvation" that culminates in Christ. Conversely, the mystery of Christ casts conclusive light on the mystery of creation and reveals the end for which "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": from the beginning, God envisaged the glory of the new creation in Christ.
And so the readings of the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the new creation in Christ, begin with the creation account; likewise in the Byzantine liturgy, the account of creation always constitutes the first reading at the vigils of the great feasts of the Lord. According to ancient witnesses the instruction of catechumens for Baptism followed the same itinerary.
Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves: "Where do we come from? They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions. 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 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 discovering 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? 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 the world is the development of God Pantheism. Others have said that the world is a necessary emanation arising from God 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. Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason, even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error.
This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: "By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. The truth about creation is so important for all of human life that God in his tenderness wanted to reveal to his People everything that is salutary to know on the subject. Beyond the natural knowledge that every man can have of the Creator, God progressively revealed to Israel the mystery of creation.
He who chose the patriarchs, who brought Israel out of Egypt, and who by choosing Israel created and formed it, this same God reveals himself as the One to whom belong all the peoples of the earth, and the whole earth itself; he is the One who alone "made heaven and earth.
Thus the revelation of creation is inseparable from the revelation and forging of the covenant of the one God with his People. Creation is revealed as the first step toward this covenant, the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love. And so, the truth of creation is also expressed with growing vigor in the message of the prophets, the prayer of the psalms and the liturgy, and in the wisdom sayings of the Chosen People.
Among all the Scriptural texts about creation, the first three chapters of Genesis occupy a unique place. From a literary standpoint these texts may have had diverse sources. The inspired authors have placed them at the beginning of Scripture to express in their solemn language the truths of creation-its origin and its end in God, its order and goodness, the vocation of man, and finally the drama of sin and the hope of salvation.
Read in the light of Christ, within the unity of Sacred Scripture and in the living Tradition of the Church, these texts remain the principal source for catechesis on the mysteries of the "beginning": creation, fall, and promise of salvation. The totality of what exists expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth" depends on the One who gives it being.
In him "all things were created, in heaven and on earth He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. The Old Testament suggests and the New Covenant reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father. This creative cooperation is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith: "There exists but one God He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom," "by the Son and the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands.
Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: "The world was made for the glory of God. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it," for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand. The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us "to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, " for "the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man's life is the vision of God: if God's revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word's manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.
We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom, and goodness: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created. In wisdom you have made them all"; and "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.
God creates freely "out of nothing": If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants. Scripture bears witness to faith in creation "out of nothing" as a truth full of promise and hope.
Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom: I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.
Thus also mankind comes into being. Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: "You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight. Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.
Because creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "And God saw that it was good On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world. God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self. With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end.
Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence: , For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living. Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator.
The universe was created "in a state of journeying" in statu viae toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call "divine providence" the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection: By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, "reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well. The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history.
The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases. And so we see the Holy Spirit, the principal author of Sacred Scripture, often attributing actions to God without mentioning any secondary causes. This is not a "primitive mode of speech," but a profound way of recalling God's primacy and absolute Lordship over history and the world, and so of educating his people to trust in him.
The prayer of the Psalms is the great school of this trust. Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children's smallest needs: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures' cooperation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God's greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. To human beings God even gives the power of freely sharing in his providence by entrusting them with the responsibility of "subduing" the earth and having dominion over it.
God thus enables men to be intelligent and free causes in order to complete the work of creation, to perfect its harmony for their own good and that of their neighbors. Though often unconscious collaborators with God's will, they can also enter deliberately into the divine plan by their actions, their prayers, and their sufferings. They then fully become "God's fellow workers" and co-workers for his kingdom. The truth that God is at work in all the actions of his creatures is inseparable from faith in God the Creator.
God is the first cause who operates in and through secondary causes: "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Drawn from nothingness by God's power, wisdom, and goodness, it can do nothing if it is cut off from its origin, for "without a Creator the creature vanishes. If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice.