Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives
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God the Creator
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
This article on God the Creator will be unusual. It will consist of nearly twenty paragraphs. Each paragraph will be introduced by a one-sentence statement. These statements will summarize the content of each paragraph.
Taken together, they will form a synthesis of the Catholic Churchs teaching on the basic truth about God as the Creator of the universe. No successive statements will be related. But they are all statements of the Churchs infallible teaching about God as the One who created the universe.
God is the Being who cannot not exist. There cannot have been nothing from all eternity Otherwise nothing would now be in existence. From nothing comes nothing. There had to be in existence a Being who existed from all eternity. This Being is the First Cause of everything else in existence. However, God must exist not only to account for the existence of everything else. He must exist even though He had created nothing outside of Himself. His nature is to exist. His essence is His existence. In other words, the existence of God is not only the logical conclusion to explain the origin of the created world. The existence of God is the very name by which God is identified. When He told Moses that I Am who Am, He was defining Himself as the Deity
God so loved the world that He did not have to make creatures. God was absolutely free to either create or not create anything or anyone. Our problem is projecting our own experience on to God. Our love for anyone is expressed by our doing something for the one we love. We are not free not to manifest our love for others. But God is sovereignly free. He loved the world He made from all eternity. But He was not constrained to express this love by bringing the world into existence. God had and has absolutely no need of creatures. He is all-perfect. He did not have to create the universe in order to obtain or gain anything which He had not already perfectly possessed from all eternity. We need to love as the deepest expression of our being. We need to show our love. And we grow by loving and manifesting our love. Unlike God, we become more perfect, the more we love and the more we manifest our love for others.
Only God can create. Only God can create because only He can produce something which did not exist before He made it. Only He is almighty, which means that by His own free will He can bring beings into existence out of nothing.
When creating, God does not part with something of Himself. God does not part with anything of Himself when He creates, There is a heresy called Emanational Pantheism, which claims that the world is a radiation or emanation of God like the sun, moon and stars, whose light is a physical radiation from their source so, this theory claims, the whole universe is not really distinct from God. It is only a shedding of the divinity which parts with something of itself in producing what we call creation. Condemned by the First Vatican Council, this erroneous theory denies the infinity of God, and makes Him literally part of the changeable world in which we live. This is not the God of Christianity.
God continues to create. God continues creating every time He brings a human soul into existence; He infuses the soul into the body prepared for it by the parents. God individually, personally, and immediately creates each human soul at the time that a human child is conceived.
This is not the best world that God could create. We do not say that, absolutely speaking, this is the best possible world that God could create. To claim this would be to deny His omnipotence. Yet we may say that, in creating this world, He chose to create a universe that would correspond to His own divine planwhich includes His mysterious decision to allow human creatures to bring moral evil into the world by their sins, and physical evil as a consequence of their willful disobedience to the will of God.
There was no time before creation. There could have been no time before creation because time is the measure of change. Since God is unchangeable, there could have been no time because there were no changeable creatures before creation.
God did not create from all eternity. We know this from divine revelation. But we can also conclude this from human reason. A creature without a beginning is impossible. Why? Because the succession involved in a change constitutes the essence of time. An unchangeable creature is a contradiction in terms. Change belongs to the very nature of a creature.
Gods love did not require that He create. To claim this is to deny Gods infinity. If He had to create, this would mean that He was not really God. He would need someone or something to make Him more perfect. But then He would not be what He is, namely perfect Being.
God had to reveal creation so that everyone could know how the world was made. We would say that God had to reveal the fact of creation so that everyone would know how the world was made. This fact is shown from the experience of human history. Left to themselves people come up with the most bizarre and contradictory explanations of the worlds origin. Due to original sin, our minds are darkened regarding many fundamental truths. The most fundamental truth on which the whole of human living depends is the fact that God created the world out of nothing. To accept this is to have a rational foundation for religion and morality
All of the Persons of the Trinity created the world. It was not only the first Person of the Trinity who created the world, it was all three Divine Persons. Whatever God does outside of Himself, is always done by all three Persons together. Thus the Council of Florence (1438-45) defined that, The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the Creator of all things visible and invisible. This applies to all creatures, whether material or spiritual and whether natural or supernatural. Certainly we attribute creation to God the Father, as in the Apostles Creed. But this is only in a manner of speaking. Since the First Person is the origin of the Second Person, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, it is only proper to attribute the origin of the created world to the Father. Actually, though, we know that all three Divine Persons are equally and uniquely the Creator of the universe.
God does not change because He is infinitely perfect. God does not change because He is already absolutely perfect. He therefore cannot change because there is nothing He can acquire which He does not already have. And there is nothing He can lose because, if He could, He would cease to be the infinite Godwhich is a contradiction in terms.
God is absolutely free in what He does, as the expression goes, outside of Himself. This follows logically on all that we know of God as Necessary Being. God must exist. His essence is to exist. God must be the eternal Community of the Holy Trinity. The Father must generate the Son, and the Holy Spirit must proceed from the Father and the Son. However, God is free to either create or not to create, to create the world He actually created, or any one (or many) world(s) He would want to create. All of this divine activity depends on His sovereign and omnipotent freedom.
There must be three Persons in God. There must be three Persons in God with the same necessity that there must be God. We speak of God as the Necessary Being. The first necessity is that of existence. God must exist. The second necessity is that of plurality of persons. Not only must God exist, but He must exist as the Divine Community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In other words, the infinite Society of the Holy Trinity cannot not exist. God must be a social Being, in whose image and likeness all human societies have been created.
Each of the three Persons is infinite, eternal and truly God. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is mysterious for many reasons. Among these reasons is that, although God has only one Divine nature, each of the three Persons is equally infinite, equally eternal, equally true God. Yet we dare not say that there are three gods. That would be the heresy of Tritheism. We do not comprehend how this is possible but we do believe.
Although God is unchangeable, He is not a static Deity. This is the favorite term used by those who do not believe in an infinite God. Their error is to identify activity with improvement. They see the world of creation all around them constantly changing. And they mistakenly transfer their ideas about the changing world to what they should recognize is an unchangeable God. The most devastating form of this error is a so-called process theology. It claims that god is constantly growing, always improving and in a never-ending process of development. This is the fundamental error of Hegelian philosophy, which is the bedrock of Marxism, which is the foundation of Communism.
If God could change, He would not be God. If God could change, He would, of course, not be the God of Christianity. In fact, He would not be the God of pre-Christian Judaism. He would be the god of what we have come to call paganism. All the gods of the pre-Christian religions, outside of Judaism, and all the gods of post-Christian religions, except those derived from Judaism or Christianityhave been and are changeable deities. What man has done over the centuries, is to have formed God to his own human image and likeness. Indeed this is almost a definition of idolatry. It is the worship of ones own changeable self instead of the unchangeable God.
God is infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection. This means that He has the fullness of being. He is all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful and eternal. The term we use in theology is to say that God is pure act. Pure actuality implies that there is no potentiality in God. He cannot acquire anything which He does not already have. Nor can He lose anything that He does have.
Because God is our Creator, we are His totally dependent creatures. God, as our Creator, had and has complete dominion over us.
We are not only dependent on Him to bring us out of nothing into existence. We continue to depend on Him constantly for continuing in existence. God not only was, He is, our First Cause, sustaining our being and activity.
We not only depend on Him for what we are and do, we depend on Him for what we hope to be and become into the endless reaches of eternity.
The realization of this total dependence on God is the bedrock of our obligation to obey God. He has the right to command and forbid us, and the corresponding right to reward or punish us as our sovereign Lord.
God is present in all His creatures. This means several things:
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