Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Catechism, Part 4 of ...?

[If you are reading this post on a site other than Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or reading this somewhere with "" in the address, you are reading scraped and stolen content.]

Q. Is there only one God?
A. There is only one God.

Q. Why is there only one God?
A. There can only be one God because God, being supreme (i.e. the highest) and infinite, cannot have an equal.

By "equal" we mean that X has exactly the same attributes, in the same proportion and manner, in everything Y has. F'rinstance, two cars are each other's equal if they are the same model, year, color, have the same options, same engine and transmission and tires, and if they are in the same condition. A gardener is the equal of another gardener if they do the same work equally well. can't have two persons in chief, unless they share their authority equally, but then they're equals and neither will be the boss. God can't share His power with anyone because He is infinite, and that means "to have all." Anyone else only have the loan of his (or her) power from God. This means--duh--all power and authority come from God. When we disobey our parents* or superiors who are properly placed in authority relative to us, we disobey God Himself.

Q. How many persons are there in God?
A. There are three divine persons really distinct (i.e. "not scrambled together") and equal in all things--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (i.e., "The Holy Trinity").

We use the terms first and second persons "Father" and "Son," because the second is begotten by the first person, and not because of any difference in age. For example I (the father) am older than my son, maybe some people think it works the same with the Holy Trinity. Nuh-uh. God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have existed through all eternity, with one not existing before the other. God the Son is just as old as God the Father, and this is another great mystery. For example: Fire is the cause of light and heat; and yet the heat, light and the fire begin at the same time.

Q. Are the three Divine Persons one and the same God?
A. The three Divine Persons are one and the same God, having one and the same divine nature and substance.

Though they are one God, we can think of it (it doesn't mean this is what it is, it's just one way to wrap our brains around this) in terms of "roles." For example, creation we attribute to the Father; mercy to God the Son; and love and sanctification to the Holy Spirit.

Q. Can we fully understand how the three Divine Persons are one and the same God?
A. We cannot fully understand how the three Divine Persons are one and the same God, because this is a mystery.

We can partly understand it. We know what one God is and we know what three persons are; but how it all works, we are pretty much at as loss here--the mystery, which is a truth which we cannot fully understand. By this we mean it's a revealed truth; which has been made known to us by God or by His Church. It is a truth which we must believe though we cannot understand it.

A good example is something you learn in school. Say, the fact the earth is round, revolves on its axis, and all that. While this is counterintuitive, it's also true and we should have faith and trust in our teachers and textbooks to accept this, even if it doesn't make sens.

If, therefore, we have to believe things we don't grasp based on what people whom we trust (directly or indirectly)...why should the authority of God be any different?

If a 2nd Grader knew as much as a college professor, then there would be no point in going to school. The student would be the equal of the teacher. If we knew all God knows then we would be as great as He. (Remember the bit about the serpent and the tree of knowledge and all that?) Trying to know all that God knows is, as St. Augustine wrote, "like trying to put the ocean in a bucket." OK, maybe it was St. Thomas Aquinas, but either way.

This is the mistake a lot of people make when they try to understand with their limited, human intelligence the infinite knowledge and all the mysterious aspects of God. Because they don't then (and usually smugly) they refuse to believe.

Imagine a 6 year old who decides the Pythagorean theorem is false because he (or she) can't understand it. Now, as the child ages and learns more he (or, as previously stated, possibly she) will understand it more. That same way, when we go from this world to the presence of God, we'll see clearly things that are we can't grasp now. For now, we'll have to take it on God's say-so.

Q. What is a mystery?
A. A mystery is a truth which we cannot fully understand.

When we're talking about "a truth," we mean a revealed truth; that is a truth made known to us by God or His Church. This is the sort of truth which we must believe, even though we don't understand it. F'rinstance, let's say a 7 year old goes to school and is learns the earth is spherical and has two rotations, one on its own axis that brings us days and nights and the other around the sun** that produces our seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

But wait! When you go out into, say, the open prairie of Kansas, all you see is miles -- and I mean MILES -- of flat land and if you schlep out to the Rocky Mountains you notice they rise thousands of feet. If you were certified to operate a bathyscape you could see for yourself how the ocean is several miles deep.

Which might make you scratch your head (assuming you had room in the bathyscape) and ask yourself: "Self, how can the earth be round if we have these oceanic trenches, tall mountains, and flat prairies? These, Self, show me (or, more accurately, my senses) the total opposite. What's more, the fact that things aren't hurling off my desk at a zillion miles per hour prove to me the earth is motionless." But, because you are an intelligent, sensible person, you believe, not what your senses attest, but that the earth is spherical and spinning (kind of like your Aunt Gloria at a wedding reception). You believe this because scientists have no motive in folling you; knows more than you on the matter (having learned more than you on the matter) and having been taught by who themselves knew more after conducting studies and research and went up mountains, down oceanic trenches in bathyscapes and/or stoon in the middle of noewhere in Kansas (possibly Nebraska) and discovered these things and can attest they are true.

Now, if we must believe things we don't understand on the authority of people (who are, frankly, not that impressive) why shouldn't we believe truths we don't understand on the authority of God? DUH! Of course we have to believe Him.

Again, if a 3rd grade student knew all the 3rd grade material the 3rd grade teacher knew, he (or, just as likely, she) wouldn't need to go to school; being equally knowledgeable as the teacher, the student would equal the teacher. Then the 3rd grade student could stay home playing Nintendo and eating pudding from a cup.

So if we knew all that God knows, we would be as great as He. (Quick! Where'd you read that before? Ring any bells?) You might as well try to put ocean into a bucket, to understand the wisdom of God. This is where the assorted unbelievers make their mistake. They want to understand, with their limited*** intelligence the limitless knowledge and unfathomable ways of God. So, when they don't understand, they refuse to believe. Ta-da!

Which doesn't sound so bright from this vantage point. Wouldn't you roll your eyes at a child who refuses to believe the earth is sperical and spinning because our senses say otherwise? As the child grows older and learns more the child will understand. This is why we say to our kids "Just wait until you get older. You'll see."

The same way, when we depart from this life and come into the presence of God, we'll see clearly the things that make no sense now. But, until we actually get there, the best we can do is believe them God's teaching. So if we go around not believing anything we don't understand, pretty soon we'll soon believe nothing and make idiots of ourselves.



* We're NOT talking about abusive or mentally unhinged people or those commanding us to violate God's commandments...get a grip.

** Shut up about Galileo. I know where you're going with this, so DON'T.

*** If that!


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