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By Deal W. Hudson

3/11/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

His is an absolutely singular oneness of the Father begetting the Son and whose love for each other begets the Holy Spirit

That the Cross was an unprecedented act of love was not recognized as such by His contemporaries until He appeared to them and His inscrutability was gradually replaced by His light.  His Church through prayer, worship, and reflection would, over the next three centuries, piece together a new theology of God, a new understanding of God as Love. Love that exists first all in God, a Love shared between the three persons of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Cross and Resurrection would lead the Church to formulate a Trinitarian understanding of God to account for all revealed by God about Himself in both the Old and New Covenants. 

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/11/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: culture, creed, trinity, apologetics, nicene creed, love, faith, credo, philosophy, Mass, Liturgy, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - It's entirely appropriate that our first affirmation of belief is "one God." But being the first only serves to underscore a possible misunderstanding of God's oneness - that God is "1."  When we affirm our God is "one," a numeric understanding is far from adequate.  The oneness of our God accounts for the existence of everything that exists, including all the other numbers, all the way to infinity. 

Yes, the oneness of our God does stand in contrast to the many gods - polytheism - of the ancient worlds, those gods who served as personifications of forces in nature, the desires and aspirations of the human person, and the fear of misfortune.  As Chesterton and other apologists have argued, the belief in these deities does not represent a counter-argument to the God of Jews and Christians but rather is confirming evidence of our natural, created desire to reconnect with the source of our existence.  The theologian Paul Tillich called this an "ultimate concern" that inevitably expresses itself through human action, making, imagining, and theorizing.

Monotheism itself is a leaden word, which when written or spoken has all the vitality of an Egyptian pyramid in the desert - massive but inert. The Christian God, as well as the Jewish, is quite the opposite. The Yahweh of the Old Testament creates all things, knows all things, directs all things, raises up prophets and kings, and prepares His Kingdom.  No pyramid, regardless of the engineering feat or human effort required to build it, can represent the dynamic grandeur or awesome sublimity of Yahweh.

With the coming of Christ, the Incarnation of the Word, all that was implicitly stated, virtually present in Yahweh, was finally revealed: but that which was added, embodied in the Christ crucified, was, according to St. Paul, foolish to the Greeks and an obstacle to the Jews (I Cor,1:23).  The Greeks, who by St. Paul's time had produced the most sophisticated philosophical tradition in human history, regarded the Cross as oxymoronic at best and at worse a silly assault on the principle of non-contradiction: what is God cannot die, especially a God who resembles the ultimate form of the Good in both Plato and Aristotle. 

The Jews viewed the Cross as a "stumbling block" in a way similar to the Greeks - they were disposed to view God not as He who dies but as He who rules as a King.  It wasn't simply His Cross that confused them but His entire manner, His background, and His message. Where they expected ferocious leadership they met a man of the people whose wisdom, charisma, and vulnerability appealed most of all to those who felt vulnerable in the face of both religious and political authority. To those Jews who believed themselves the wisest and most pious, this man was a pretender. 

That the Cross was an unprecedented act of love was not recognized as such by His contemporaries until He appeared to them and His inscrutability was gradually replaced by His light.  His Church through prayer, worship, and reflection would, over the next three centuries, piece together a new theology of God, a new understanding of God as Love. Love that exists first all in God, a Love shared between the three persons of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Cross and Resurrection would lead the Church to formulate a Trinitarian understanding of God to account for all revealed by God about Himself in both the Old and New Covenants. 

We are now at some distance from the number 1 in thinking about our "One God." Even placing our God as first in a hierarchy starting with the first and descending through the second, third, fourth, and so on does not come close to describing His oneness.  His is an absolutely singular oneness of the Father begetting the Son and whose love for each other begets the Holy Spirit. This eternal dynamism of Love upholds all that exists; pure act acting as the beginning and end of all finitude, especially of those finite creatures in Whose image they are made.

Or, as the greatest of Christian poets, Dante Alighieri, wrote at the end of the journey towards the vision of God, "the Love that moves the sun and the other stars" ("amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle," Par. 33.145).

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

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Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

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