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The Creed 1. God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth

Notes by David Monyak. Last Update October 1, 2000

A copy of these notes in the form of the handout passed out at the meeting can be downloaded from the Download Page.

 

I believe in God,

the Father almighty, 

creator of heaven and earth.

The Apostles' Creed

 

We believe in one God,

the Father, the Almighty,

 maker of heaven and earth,

 of all that is, seen and unseen.

The Nicene Creed

 

Topics

(Questions and topics are organized as in chapter 1 in Credo. The Apostles' Creed Explained for Today. Hans Küng. Doubleday. New York. 1992:)

 

1. History of the Apostles' and Nicene Creed

2. What does believe mean? What is Faith?

3. What does it mean to believe in God the Creator in the era of Modern Physics and Astronomy?

4. What does it mean to believe in God the Creator in the era of  Modern Biology?

5. What does it mean to believe in God the Almighty?

6. hat does it mean to believe in God the Father in the era of feminism?

7. Belief in God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, in a world divided between the three prophetic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam

 

 

1. History of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds

1.1. Apostle's Creed

  • does not go back to the apostles

  • 5th century: is first found in complete form

  • 10th century: Emperor Otto the Great introduces the Apostle's Creed as a replacement for the Nicene Creed at baptism

 

 

1.2. Nicene Creed

  • adopted by the first great ecumenical council in 325 A.D.

  • expanded at a later conference in Constantinople in 381 A.D.

  • gradually became part of the Eucharistic liturgy, first in the East, then in the West

  • by about 1000 A.D. had become part of the regular Roman mass

 

 

2. What Does Believe Mean? What is Faith?

2.1. What is God? 

  • God is that which cannot be defined, cannot be limited 

  • God is "a literally invisible, unfathomable, incomprehensible, infinite reality."

  • God is therefore not an "object" discernable by science

 

"A God who is there, is not God"

(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

 

("God is not vorhanden, simply at hand, at our disposal, like an object on the physical world. Rather we are at God's disposal, and we are given to know God only by grace in revelation, by God's meeting us through the testimony of Bible and church." Owen Thomas, p78)

 

 

2.2. Belief, Faith, and Reason

If God cannot be defined or limited, if God is not a discernable object, then:

  • God cannot be proven (or disproven) rationally 

  • As creatures of space and time, we cannot prove or disprove the existence of a reality outside or beyond the physical reality of space and time that we are familiar with 

  • Our pure, theoretical reason cannot reach to the reality of God (Immanuel Kant)

 

Therefore:

whatever belief and faith is, their foundations cannot be based on intellectual or philosophical arguments that God must/probably/ is likely to exist

 

 

2.3. What is Faith?

(from Küng):

  • an act of the human being as a whole

  • a human being with reason and a heart

  • an act of reasonable trust, which includes: 

    • thought 

    • questioning 

    • doubt 

    • understanding 

    • disposition

 

Augustine of Hippo: 

  • not a matter of believing something (credere aliquid

  • not a matter of believing someone (credere alicui

  • but a matter of believing in someone (credere in aliquem)

 

 

2.4. Conclusion 

I believe in God. . .

means:

  • A commitment, a reasonable trust of a whole human person (reason and heart)

  • to the existence of a:

    • literally invisible, unfathomable, incomprehensible and infinite reality

    • a reality which is the source, ultimate meaning and goal of the universe's and our personal existence

    • the reality of God

 

 

3. What does it mean to believe in God the Creator in the era of Modern Physics and Astronomy?

3.1. Modern Cosmology and the Beginning of the Universe

3.1.1. creatio ex nihilo. God's Creation of the Universe from Nothing

Near the beginning of time, a "Big Bang" -- a great fireball of immense density and temperature -- filled all of space and started its evolution into the expanding universe of galaxies we see today. The theories of Relativity have made clear to us space and time are woven together in a single created fabric called space-time. Models of the universe using the theory of General Relativity lead to a time = 0 where this fabric of space-time was undefined, and immediately after which both space and time abruptly began to exist. In the classical (classical = not including quantum mechanics) theory of General Relativity, our universe of space and time had a clear beginning -- an apparent moment of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilio)

 

 

3.1.2. creatio conservata. God's Sustaining of the Universe

Recent theories of cosmology which try to incorporate quantum physics effects into General Relativity (Quantum Gravity) suggest that the dimension we call time becomes "fuzzy" and turns into a fourth spatial dimension as we approach "time = 0". If true, it means there is no "beginning" to the universe, no "moment" of creation, for as we approach the "beginning" the dimension of time becomes undefined and disappears and we end up in a world of four spatial dimension in which there is no such thing as time.

Quantum cosmology reminds us that we should not give special import to a "moment of creation"  All points of space-time are equally dependent on God and equally require an explanation. God is best thought of as creating and sustaining all of space-time. The theological concepts of creatio ex nihilo (creation from nothing) and creatio conservata (God's continued sustaining of the physical universe) are the same.

 

 

3.1.3. The Theological Issue:  What is the fundamental relationship between the world and God? 

God is the primal ground, primal author, creator of the universe

 

"God . . . works as the creative and perfect primal basis and thus as the guide of the world, immanent in it and superior to it, while fully respecting the laws of nature, which have their origin in God" - Küng

 

Belief in God is compatible with a variety of models of the world

 

 

3.2. Questions Physics and Astronomy Cannot Answer

The question of ultimate primal origins of the universe and of human beings:

  • what was "before" the Big Bang?

  • why is there something and not nothing? (the basic question of philosophy .. Leibniz and Heidegger)

 

These questions cannot:

  • be answered by science,

  • be dismissed as useless or meaningless

 

 

3.3. The Bible is a Testimony of Faith, not a Scientific Textbook

The language of the Bible is not a language of facts but a metaphorical picture language. The bible is not a scientific textbook, but does seek to interpret "scientific facts" 

 

 

3.3.1. The Two Biblical Accounts of Creation

There are two biblical accounts of creation (both seek to "interpret" the scientific facts of creation as believed at the time they were written):

  • Earliest Version (about 900 B.C.E.) Genesis 2:4b to 2:25. 

  • Later Version (about 500 B.C.E.) Genesis 1:1 to 2:4a

 

They seek to give a testimony of faith to the question: what is the fundamental relationship between the world and God?

 

The Order of Creation

Genesis 1 (About 500 B.C.E.) Genesis 2 (about 900 B.C.E.)
 Light

Man

Firmament Garden
Earth, plants Vegetation
Sun, moon, stars Rivers
Birds, fish Beasts, birds
Humans (male and female) Woman

 

 

3.3.2. What the Biblical Accounts of Creation Tell Us

These stories of creation (which clearly contradict each other if interpreted as scientific accounts of creation), are meant rather to give a testimony of faith to the ultimate primal origin of the universe. They tell us:

  • there is but one God 

  • God is the ultimate origin of each human being 

  • God is not in competition with an equally powerful evil counterforce. (there is no "dark side" comparable to God) 

  • all that is in the creation: night, day, waters, lowliest creatures, the human body and sexuality, are fundamentally good

  • human beings are the goal of creation 

  • God's word is creative

    • one "model" of God the creator in the early church was called emanation

    • Creation is the overflowing of the creative energy of God. 

    • Just as light comes from the sun and reflects its nature, so the creation comes from God and reflects God's nature (A similar metaphor is used in the Nicene Creed to speak of the Son coming from the Father: "light from light")

 

 

3.4. Conclusion

I believe in God. . . creator of heaven and earth.

means:

  • the ultimate and primal origin of the world and human beings is grounded in meaning and purpose and value

  • that our lives are not ultimately meaningless passages from nothingness to nothingness

 

 

4. What does it mean to believe in God the Creator in the era of Modern Biology?

4.1. The Confrontation of Evolution With the Classical Theory of Redemption

The Classical theory of Redemption:

  • a perfect primal state 

  • the sin of the Garden of Eden by the first human couple 

    • the "original sin" 

  • this original sin transmitted down to the present by sexual procreation

    • hence the need to baptize infants (Augustine)

Problem: evolution tells us there never was a single human couple who could sin for all of humankind

 

 

4.2. The Science of Biological Evolution

Evolution: evolution of life, and the ascendancy of higher forms of life: 

  • self-organization of molecules 

  • natural selection, survival of the fittest (self-regulation)

 

The tension between chance and necessity in the development of life 

  • mostly chance?: "Pure change, absolutely free but blind, blind freedom at the very root the stupendous edifice of evolution" Jacques Monod. 

  • natural laws guide chance (view of most biologist today)

 

No apparent need for any special intervention by a creator God

 

 

4.3. Questions Biology Cannot Answer

Therefore:

  • we do not need to postulate God to explain the transition of inanimate matter to life

  • But it equally cannot be used to postulate the non-existence of God (i.e. it cannot prove that human beings, the products of evolution, do not need to believe in God) 

  • it cannot answer the questions: 

    • where does this whole process come from? 

    • what is it for? What is it goal?

 

"The mystery is not how evolution takes place, but that it takes place"

- von Ditfurth, French scientist

 

 

5. What does it mean to believe in God the Almighty?

5.1. What Does Almighty Mean?

"almighty" 

  • Greek pantocrator = "ruler of all" 

  • Latin omnipotens = "capable of doing everything." English: omnipotence

 

Expresses God's superiority and effectiveness (not opposed by any force of like potency, God's sovereign power over creation.

 

 

5.2. God's Omnipotence in the Bible

(from Owen Thomas, p.92)

Manifest in:

  • creation

  • sustaining of creation

  • judgment and deliverance of the people of God

    • accompanying signs and wonders

  • names of God:

    • Yahweh's title: sabbaoth "God of hosts"

    • el shaddai = "God Almighty" in the Septuagint, New Testament and English translations

 

 

5.3. Tensions and Problems Created by an "Almighty" God

  • may create the impression of a God who is above the world, a great king in absolute detached splendor, untouched, unsoiled by the suffering of creation

  • implicitly raises questions why this almighty God who can do anything stands by in utter silence and watches suffering and evil continue in the world

 

 

5.4. Is God a Great King in Detached Splendor, Above the Sufferings of Creation?

God is not an "architect or watchmaker" existing outside of creation

"God does not work into the world from above or outside as the unmoved mover"

 

God is "the all-embracing, all-permeating, infinite reality"

Küng:

"God does not work above the world process but in the world process: in, with and among human beings and things"

 

" God is origin, center, goal of the world processes"

 

"God is not just active at individual, particularly important points or gaps in the world processes, but works as the creative and perfect primal basis and thus as the guide of the world, immanent in it and superior to it, while fully respecting the laws of nature, which have their origin in God"

 

God is:

  • "infinite and ungraspable"

  • "the sea which is not drunk up"

  • "the horizon which cannot be swept away"

  • "the sun from which earth and human beings cannot be detached"

 

The concept of God as "in, with and among human beings and things" is what we mean by the sacramental nature of the universe will be discussed further in our series on the sacraments.

 

 

5.5. How Can an Almighty God Stand By in Silence Amid Suffering and Evil?

We will take up the question of how God can "stand by in silence" amid suffering and evil in the Creed 3. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus. Also see notes in Theology 1: The Doctrine of God.

 

 

5.6. Conclusion

I Believe in God . . . the Almighty

When we profess a belief in the God, "the almighty"

  • we acknowledge God's superiority to us, our "creatureliness" 

  • we need not feel God is detached, above us, away from us, unaffected, unmoved by our suffering

 

 

6. What does it mean to believe in God the Father in the era of feminism?

6.1. God Transcends Masculinity and Femininity

  • God is not male 

  • God is not masculine or feminine, but transcends masculinity and femininity

  • all terms for God are: 

    • analogies 

    • metaphors 

    • ciphers 

    • symbols

 

 

6.2. The Problem Posed by the Limits of Our Humanity in Speaking of God

A limitations of our humanity: 

we have no higher names than human names: "father" and "mother" mean more to us as human beings than "the Absolute", or "Being"

 

 

6.3. Conclusion 

I believe in God, the Father . . .

we must pray:

  • to God who transcends masculinity and femininity, 

  • post-patriarchally, 

  • using one of the highest and most meaningful names we have as human beings ("father" and "mother") to evoke our awareness of God's fatherhood and motherhood towards us 

when we say, as Jesus taught us, Abba, "Our 'Father'"

 

 

7. Belief in God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, in a world divided between the three prophetic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam

7.1. The Common Beliefs of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Three religions (the three prophetic religions which believe in one and the same God of Abraham) believe in God, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth: Judaism Christianity Islam

 

All have in common: 

  • belief in the one and same God of Abraham

    • Abraham: the great witness of the one true and living God 

  • history is not cyclic but directed to a goal 

  • revelation of Holy Scriptures 

  • the ethic of fundamental humanity in the Ten Commandments

 

 

7.2. Conclusions 

As we pray, we should remember we pray in common with the Jews and Moslems to the one God, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth

 

 

References and Sources Used

Christian Theology. An Introduction. Second Edition. Alister E. McGrath. Blackwell Publishers. 1997.

**Credo. The Apostles' Creed Explained for Today. Hans Küng. Doubleday. New York. 1992

Introduction to Theology. Revised Edition. Owen C. Thomas. Morehouse Publishing. Harrisburg. 1983

Loving the Questions. An Exploration of the Nicene Creed. Marianne H. Micks. Cowley. Boston. 1993

 

** majority of material from this book

 

 

 

The Creed

 

1. God the Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth

2. Jesus Christ, the Son of God

3. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus

4. The Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus

5. The Holy Spirit, the Church, the Communion of Saints

6. The Resurrection of the Dead and Eternal Life

7. Epilogue on the Creed: Father Joe's Perspectives and Answers to Questions