The Work of God - Catholic Apologetics
"For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Rom. 10, 10).
The word "creed" is derived from the Latin "credo," meaning "I believe." A creed as understood traditionally by the Church is a body of belief set down in precise form to be held by all the faithful.
Creeds have been a means of expressing the Catholic Faith since earliest times. Having received Her commission from Our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel to "the whole creation" (St. Mark 16, 15), the Church in time thought it prudent that the principal articles of belief be reduced to brief formulae which could be recited and memorized by all. Each formula became known as a Symbolum, or sign. Through such means, all the faithful would be "united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1 Cor. 1, 10), thwarting division and schism.
As the visible Mystical Body of Christ, the Church and its members are called upon not only to hold the same beliefs but to express those same beliefs publicly: "For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Rom. 10, 10). This confession is to be "of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1, 13). Hence, the requirement that catechumens recite the Creed before they are baptized and the baptized before they are confirmed.
The principal Creeds of the Catholic Church are the Apostles, Athanasian, Nicene, Pius IVs and the Credo of the People of God. There exist also various special formulas drawn up according to the circumstances of time and place to have the Churchs teaching expressly stated and accepted, for example, those prescribed by Pope Gregory XIII for the Greeks and Pope Benedict XIV for the Maronites. Of all these, the Apostles Creed is regarded by scholars as the most ancient, being traceable in its various parts to the second century AD. According to pious tradition, it was said to have been composed by the Apostles themselves on the original Pentecost Day, when, after the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they each proffered one of its twelve articles.
These twelve articles can be divided into three groups: the first, those referring to God the Father and His work of creation; the second, those referring to Jesus Christ and His work of redemption; the third, those referring to the Holy Spirit and His work of sanctification.
When a Catholic recites the Apostles Creed he does not merely express his own personal beliefs but is affirming eternal truths revealed to the Church by God Himself. Those who reject Creeds as a means of expressing the Christian Faith usually do so because they have abandoned belief in the ancient articles contained within them, often replacing them with personal opinions no more ancient than themselves. Nevertheless, some Protestants over the centuries have formulated a number of their own creeds, namely, the "Augsburg Confession," the "Confession of Basle," the Thirty-Nine Articles, etc., however, these are in substance no more than a collection of the private views, opinions or theories of their original founders, often incorporating articles which are specifically anti-Catholic.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 1, 10, 1 (C. 180 AD):
"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them; and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven in the glory of the Father to re-establish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue shall confess Him, and that He may make just judgment of them all; and that He may send the spiritual forces of wickedness and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless and blasphemous amongst men, into everlasting fire; and that He may grant life, immortality, and surround with eternal glory the just and the holy, and those who have kept His commands and who have persevered in His love, either from the beginning or from their repentance."
Tertullian, Against Praxeas 2, 1 (Post 213 AD):
"We do indeed believe that there is only one God; but we believe that under this dispensation...there is also a Son of this one only God, His Word, who proceeded from Him and through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made. We believe that He was sent by the Father into a Virgin and was born of her, God and man, Son of man and Son of God, and was called by the name Jesus Christ. We believe that He suffered and that, in accord with the Scriptures, He died and was buried; and that He was raised again by the Father to resume His place in heaven, sitting at the right of the Father; and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. We believe that He sent down from the Father, in accord with His own promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and in the Son and in the Holy Spirit...That this rule of faith has been current since the beginning of the Gospel, before even the earlier heretics, - much more then, before Praxeas, who was but of yesterday..."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 5, 12 (C. 350 AD):
"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."
St. Ambrose of Milan, Exposition on the Faith 1 (378 - 380 AD):
"This Creed is the spiritual seal, our hearts' meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
Now the chief truths which Christians ought to hold are those which the holy Apostles, the leaders and teachers of the faith, inspired by the Holy Ghost, have divided into the twelve Articles of the Creed. For having received a command from the Lord to go forth into the whole world, as His ambassadors, and preach the Gospel to every creature, they thought it advisable to draw up a formula of Christian faith, that all might think and speak the same thing, and that among those whom they should have called to the unity of the faith no schisms would exist, but that they should be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 186: 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.
No. 187: 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."
No. 194: 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."
ContentsI BELIEVE IN GOD,
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (Ps. 14 ).
In the first article of the Creed we state our belief in one infinite, self-existent Being, a supreme Spirit possessing every perfection in an infinite degree, having no beginning and no end.
Being infinite, God possesses infinite power (omnipotence), knows all things (omniscience), and is present everywhere (omnipresence). Moreover, God is infinitely wise, holy, just, merciful, true and faithful. Outside of Himself all created things depend on God for their existence. Gods providence takes an account of all the works of His hands, and all our thoughts, words and works: "but it is your providence, O Father, that steers its course, because you have given it a path in the sea, and a safe way through the waves" (Wis. 14, 3).
God is one and unchangeable, single in nature: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6, 4). Yet in this one divine nature there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Despite being numerically distinct from each other, these three persons have one and the same indivisible divine nature and substance. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all truly God - yet these three Persons are not three separate Gods, but one God in Trinity. As Persons they are distinct, in substance they are one: "There are three that give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one" (1 John 5, 7).1
In the language of Sacred Scripture, certain qualities are attributed to each Divine Person pre-eminently: power and creation are attributed to the Father; wisdom and redemption to the Son; holiness and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Yet all these attributes are common, and belong equally to the whole Trinity.
The human mind by itself could never have come to the knowledge of the Trinity for it is a supernatural mystery revealed only by Christ: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (St. Matt. 28, 19). Nevertheless, there exist many "proofs," both natural and supernatural, which attest at least to the existence of one all-powerful God:
1) The Argument from Cause: There exists no effect without a cause; there exists no created thing without a creator. The existence of the cause-and-effect relation in the world is irresistibly and intuitively evident to the human mind. Things caused are contingent, that is, dependent upon their causes. Nothing can exist without a sufficient reason for its existence. Further, things caused must be traced back to a first efficient cause which is uncaused. If A comes from B, and B from C, and C from D, and so on, then ultimately one must arrive at a first cause which is itself uncaused and therefore self-existent. This uncaused cause is God.
(2) The Argument from Motion: Motion is any activity that can be exercised by a finite being either bodily or spiritual. It includes, for example, such acts as walking, eating, growing, understanding, and decision-making. More precisely, it involves a movement from potentiality to actuality, as when a being has the capacity to do or receive something and that capacity is realized in fact. Motion being an established fact, there follows the universally true dictum that "whatever is moved is moved by something other than itself." This "something other " must be traced back ultimately to a first mover who is itself unmoved. This first mover is God;
(3) The Argument from Design: A picture suggests an artist, a house a builder. Consequently, the existence of the visible universe with its regular and perfect order reasonably suggests the existence of a higher Being as its creator: "For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works" (Wis. 13, 1). Likewise, St. Paul: "Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse" (Rom. 1, 20);
4) The testimony of the nations: All races and civilizations from recorded history have exhibited a belief in God. This belief, at times distorted by ignorance and superstition, is nevertheless based on the natural instinct implanted in human beings to worship the Divine. Such a universal consensus is the very voice of our rational nature, and if it were wrong, then there can be no trusting in reason at any time and therefore no certainty to be held in anything;
5) Voice of conscience: Every human being possesses within their minds a conscience that speaks to them affirming that certain actions are morally good, and that others are morally evil. This "voice" of conscience is a written law likewise implanted in our natures by the superior hands of God: "They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them" (Rom. 2, 15);
6) Revelation: Revelation directly coming from God gives us the most complete and certain knowledge of Him. Revelation includes everything God has made known to us through the angels, the Patriarchs, the Prophets and, most importantly, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself: "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb. 1, 1-2).
Aristides of Athens, Apology to the Emperor Hadrian Caesar 1 & 4 (C. 140 AD):
"When I saw that the world and all that is in it is moved by a force, I understood that He who moves and maintains it is God; for whatever moves something is stronger than that which is moved, and whatever maintains something is stronger than that which is maintained. I call the One who constructed all things and maintains them God: He that is without beginning and eternal, immortal and lacking nothing, and who is above all passions and failings such as anger and forgetfulness and ignorance and the rest...Let us proceed, then, O King, to the elements themselves, so that we may demonstrate concerning them that they are not gods, but corruptible and changeable things, produced out of the non-existent by Him that is truly God, who is incorruptible and unchangeable and invisible."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 2,13,3 (C. 180 AD):
"Far removed is the Father of all from those things which operate among men, the affections and the passions. He is simple, not composed of parts, without structure, altogether like and equal to Himself alone. He is all mind, all spirit, all thought, all intelligence, all reason, all ear, all eye, all light, all fountain of every good; and this is the manner in which the religious and the pious are accustomed to speak of God."
Tertullian, Against Marcion 1, 18, 2 (Inter 207-212 AD):
"It is our definition that God must be known first from nature, and afterwards He is authenticated from instruction: by nature, from His works; by instruction, from His revelations."
Minucius Felix, The Octavius 18, 4 (Inter 218-235 AD):
"If upon entering some home you saw that everything there was well-tended, neat and decorative, you would believe that some master was in charge of it, and that he was himself much superior to those good things. So too in the home of this world, when you see providence, order, and law in the heavens and on earth, believe that there is a Lord and author of the universe, more beautiful than the stars themselves and the whole world."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4, 5 (C. 350 AD):
"This Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not circumscribed in any place, nor is He less than the heavens...He knows beforehand the things that shall be, and is mightier than all. He knows all, and does as He will. He is not subject to the consequences of events, neither to astrological geniture, nor to chance, nor to fate. He is in all things perfect, and possesses equally every absolute of virtue, neither diminishing nor decreasing, but remains ever the same and unchanging."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
The meaning of the above words is this: I believe with certainty, and without a shadow of doubt profess my belief in God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, who by His omnipotence created from nothing and preserves and governs the heavens and the earth and all things which they contain; and not only do I believe in Him from my heart and profess this belief with my lips, but with the greatest ardor and piety I tend towards Him, as the supreme and most perfect good.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 199: "I believe in God": this first affirmation of the Apostles Creed is also the most fundamental. 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...
No. 200: ...The confession of Gods oneness, which has its roots in the divine revelation of the Old Covenant, is inseparable from the profession of Gods 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."
No. 201: To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! 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."
No. 202: 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." At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is "the Lord." To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. 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:
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 (Lateran Council IV).
"In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1, 1).
It is in the book of Genesis that we find recorded the story of Creation. St. John writes in the first chapter of his Gospel: "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (1, 3). We are told that the world did not always exist, but was created in time. The visible universe, all living things, angels and men, sprang into being: "Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created" (Ps. 148 , 5).
God made all things, heaven and earth, out of nothing ("Ex nihilo") by His Word. A creator is one who makes a thing out of nothing. Only God can create, all other things are creatures. It is fundamental that we believe in creation, out of nothing, of heaven and earth by one Almighty personal God whose power now sustains His creation (Fourth Lateran and First Vatican Councils). In an era where science purports to advance at the expense of religion it remains obligatory for Catholics to reject any notion or theory which excludes God from being the author of either all matter or life.
God had no necessity to create the universe but, being infinitely good, He wished to impart some of His goodness to created beings. St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things "not to increase His glory, but to show it forth." The First Vatican Council elaborates:
This one, true God, of His own goodness and "almighty power," not for increasing His own beatitude, nor for attaining His perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which He bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel "and from the beginning
According to philosophers, God's Intellect contemplates His own Essence and understands the infinite ways in which it can be imitable in creatures. The natures of all beings are therefore dependent on God's own Essence and hence are said to belong to the Essential Order. Whether God brings such creatures into existence depends on His Will. All creatures created by God are said to belong to the Existential Order.
All creatures are made in the likeness of God. Everything created by God in some way or another reflects one or more of His infinite perfections. Hence, in opposition to Gnosticism in its various historic forms, all created things are good in themselves: "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good" (Gen. 1, 31). God cannot create anything evil in its essence, for that would be contrary to His own essential goodness.
The Existential Order of creatures is basically as follows: (i) minerals; (ii) plants; (iii) animals; (iv) humans and (v) angels. Each subsequent level is a higher order of creation possessing and reflecting more of God's own infinite perfections. Minerals possess no life; plants possess vegetative life; animals possess vegetative and sensitive life; humans possess vegetative, sensitive and intellective life; angels, being pure spirits without a body, possess intellective life greatly superior to humans. While, as stated earlier, all creatures are made in the likeness of God, humans and angels are both in the image and likeness of God by virtue of possessing an intellect and will to understand and love like Him.
After creating the universe, God did not abandon it to mere chance but by His power continued to preserve and govern it. He has a care for all things and directs them to the end for which He created them: "because he himself made both small and great, and he takes thought for all alike"; "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" (Wis. 6, 7; 11, 24).
However, if God is good and directs all things, why is there so much sin and misery in the world? The existence of sin is not due to the creating hand of God but to our own malice in rejecting God and turning to creatures. God forbids sin, yet permits its existence because of the certainty that a greater good will flow from it. For example, Adam's fall, as tragic as it was for him and all his posterity, was the occasion for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us: "O happy fault, which brought to us so great a Redeemer." God uses threats to deter us from sin and grace to avoid it, but having created us with free will, leaves us to follow it.
As for sufferings, persecutions, afflictions etc., these God also permits for our good: "Good things and bad, life and death, poverty and wealth, come from the Lord" (Sir. 11, 14). God desires the sinner to acknowledge the chastisement and change his ways that he may not perish everlastingly. He would wean and purify the just man from the world that he may abound in merit and receive in heaven the reward due to his patient suffering.
The Shepherd of Hermas, Mand. 1, 1 (C. 140 -155 AD):
"Believe first of all that God is one, that He created all things and set them in order, and brought out of non-existence into existence everything that is, and that He contains all things while He Himself is uncontained."
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4, 20, 1 (C. 180 AD):
"God had no need of others to make what He had already determined of Himself to make, as if He had not His own hands. For with Him always are the Word and the Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, through whom and in whom He had made all things freely and spontaneously; and to whom He spoke, saying: Let us make man in our image and likeness."
St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 2, 4 (C. 181 AD):
"And what great thing were it, if God made the world out of existing matter? Even a human artist, when he obtains material from someone, makes of it whatever he pleases. But the power of God is made evident in this, that he makes out of what does not exist whatever He pleases; and the giving of life and movement belongs to none other, but to God alone."
Origen, Fundamental Doctrines 2, 9, 6 (C. 220 AD):
"...God, the Creator of all things, is good and just and almighty. He, when in the beginning He created those things which He wished to create, that is, rational beings, had no other cause for creating them except on account of Himself, that is, His own goodness."
St. Augustine of Hippo, The City of God Against the Pagans 11, 24 (Inter 413-426 AD):
"But in that place where it is said: God saw that it is good, it is sufficiently indicated that God created what He did create, not because of any necessity nor to supply for any need of His own, but solely by reason of goodness, that is, because He is good."
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
For God formed the world not from materials of any sort, but created it from nothing and that not by constraint or necessity, but spontaneously, and of His own free will. Nor was He impelled to create by any other cause than a desire to communicate His goodness to creatures. Being essentially happy in Himself, He stands not in need of anything; as David expresses it: I have said to the Lord, thou art my God, for thou hast no need of my goods.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 290: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth": three things are affirmed in these words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb "create" - Hebrew bara - always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists (expressed by the formula "the heavens and the earth") depends on the One who gives it being.
No. 295: 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 Gods 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." Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all..."; and "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made."
No. 300: God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens." Indeed, Gods "greatness is unsearchable." But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our being." In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self."
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