God and His Providence

by Rev. William G. Most

One God

In the first article of the Apostle's Creed we express our belief in the existence of God. He is a pure spirit, that is, He has no matter at all, and no parts.

We call Him Father, since He is the supreme source of everything, the one "from whom all Fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name" (Ephesians 3. 16).

We call Him the Creator, since He has made all things , not out of some previously existing material, but simply out of nothing. He has infinite power. By just willing it, He can do all things. So in Genesis 1 He merely spoke and said, "Let there be light." And light came into existence. Really, He did not speak in our sense of the word; He merely willed it, and it came into being.

To describe Him we use the word attributes. These are the perfections that He has, which we attribute to Him by comparison with creatures. Some of His attributes belong to Him by His very nature; others belong to Him in relation to the world He made.

The chief attributes that are His by His very nature are His unchangeability and eternity. He is unchangeable. Since He has the fullness of being, He could not change into anything higher or better, or acquire anything: "I, the Lord, do not change," He said through the prophet Malachi (3:6). We call Him eternal, not in the sense that there always was time, and in it He always was. No, since He is unchangeable there is no past or future for Him: all is one unchanging present. So when we say that He made the world--a past expression--to His divine mind it registers as present! "Before the mountains were born, before you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are, O God" (Psalm 90:2).

There are attributes that follow upon God's relation to this world. He is omnipotent or almighty because "nothing is impossible to God" (Luke 1:37). The book of Sirach 23:20 says: "Before they were made, all things were known to Him." So He is all-knowing, or omniscient. We say He is present everywhere. In Jeremiah 23:24 He said: "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" Yet He is not present in the sense of taking up space, as we do: we say a Spirit is present wherever it causes an effect. He caused all things to come into being, and keeps them in being. Since He rewards good and punishes evil we call Him all-just. St. Paul wrote (Romans 2:6): "He will repay each one according to his works." He guides and directs the paths of all creatures, and hence the First Epistle of Peter 5:7 can say: "Cast all your care upon Him, for He takes care of you". He is all-good since He is the author of everything that is good, and wills eternal good to us. Psalm 136:1, "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good."

It is strictly correct to say that God is love, since if we said that He has love, there would be a duality, two. But He is totally unity. He is identified with each of His attributes. So He is mercy, He is justice, and therefore in some way, mercy and justice are identified in Him. His justice is His mercy is Himself, and so on for all His attributes.

God's Providence

His providence watches over and guides everything: "No creature is invisible before Him: all are bare and uncovered to His eyes" (Hebrews 4:13). His wisdom "extends from end to end mightily and governs all well" (Wisdom 8:1).

This providence extends especially to man. As we saw from 1 Timothy 2:4, He "wills all to be saved". That will to save us is so great that He did not spare His only Son, but sent Him to a horrible death, to make eternal life open for us (Rom 8:32). Thus He really, "proved His love" (Rom 5:8). For the greater an obstacle the one who loves can get over in trying to bring happiness and well-being to the beloved, the greater the love must be. So He gives His helps, His grace, most abundantly, since the infinite price of redemption (cf. 1 Cor 6. 20; 7:23) paid for an infinite treasury of forgiveness and grace for each individual one, for "He loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). This does not mean that someone could say: Since I have so great an abundance going for me, I can sin greatly most of my life, and pull up short at the end. No, one who sins much becomes spiritually blind, incapable of receiving the graces God so greatly wills to give him.

If we follow up the most basic comparison used by Our Lord Himself in the Gospel we would say: God is our Father. As such, He wants all His children to turn out well. But if someone then throws aside His graces to such an extent that he cannot be saved - becoming blind - then with sorrow the Father must let him be lost. But otherwise, He will save us, not because we earned it, but because He, like any good Father, wants all His children to turn out well. So St. Paul speaks of sinners as not being able to "inherit the kingdom" (1 Cor 6:10; Eph 5:5). When we inherit from our parents, we do not say we earned it: we get it because they are good, not that we are good. But we could have earned to lose that inheritance by being evil. So Paul said in Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin [what we earn] is death; the free gift of God [unearned] is eternal life." As a student once said: "As to salvation, you cannot earn it, but you can blow it."

If we live with this attitude and realization, we fulfill what Our Lord called for: "If you do not change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3).

The very first grace is normally the grace to pray. Other things then follow. St. Augustine wrote well: "See these things, Lord, mercifully, and free us who now call on you. Free also those who do not yet call on you, so that they may call on you, and you may free them" (Confessions 1:9).

When God decided to create the human race, it was inevitable to give them free will--otherwise it would be something other than the human race. He saw this would give an opening to great evils, but also to very great goods. He decided to as it were buy the package.

There is so much evil in the world. Why? Physical evils result from the frailty of creatures, made out of nothing. To stop all of these, God would need to multiply miracles very frequently--but then He would contradict Himself, constantly going beyond the laws of nature which He Himself had established. Moral evils come from the fact that He gave us free will--opening the way, as we said, to great good, and great evil. Again, to prevent these would take miracles of grace constantly, which would be out of order. And it would reduce human freedom also. However, He can and does draw much good out of evil, e.g., evils provide the material for the patience of the just; physical evils give opportunity for much charity.


Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART TWO: The Apostle's Creed
First Article of the Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."

By William G. Most. (c) Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

Electronic text (c) Copyright EWTN 1997. All rights reserved.


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