|Suggested readings on this subject are listed at the end of the article.|
God the Father: Creator & Author of Life
By Rev. Thomas G. Caserta
Perhaps the first task of developing a hermeneutic, the science of interpreting texts and doctrine, of the Father as creator and author of life, is a repentance of mind from anything which can lead us, in the words of St. Paul, "to water down the word of God." (2 Cor 4:2)
Our hermeneutic must be one of true explanation not invention. To speak of the Fatherhood of God as our being given a share in his divine life is to say something dramatically needed by our contemporary world. If we fail to do this out of a desire to explain our faith in terms people wish to hear, we will have succumbed to the very circumstances against which Paul warned. In his letter to Timothy, he instructs: "The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes. And then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths." (2 Tim 4:3-5)
One of the sure signs that we have turned from sound doctrine to myth is a refusal to acknowledge the rights of God. We hear in our time, as well we should, a great deal about human rights. But when was the last time we considered the rights of God as the creator and author of life? Any author has certain rights over what he has created. If this is true on the human level, is it any less true for the divine author of life?
Paul's letter to the Romans helps us understand this concept fully. In one of the most famous passages in Romans, Paul talks about the reality of sin. He writes, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles. (Rom 1: 18-23) This "ungodliness" of which Paul speaks translates from a Greek word that can also be translated as "impiety," which is the root of all sin. It is the result of turning from sound doctrine to fables. Paul clearly states the principal evidence of this ungodliness as the refusal to honor and give thanks to God.
The creature fails to see the Father as creator and author of life, and instead, seeks to appropriate the qualities of the creator to himself. The result of this violation of the Father's right to honor and thanks is both frightening and disastrous. Raniero Cantalamessa powerfully states the case describing Paul's use of "impiety." Fr. Cantalamessa observes, "He immediately explains what this impiety exactly consists of, saying that it is the refusal to glorify and thank God. In other words, in the refusal to acknowledge God as God and in not rendering him the respect that is his Sin is basically the denial of this 'acknowledgement'. It is the attempt on the part of the creature to cancel out on his own initiative and almost with arrogance, the infinite distance that exists between him and God ... It is something much more sinister and terrible than can be imagined or expressed. If the world knew what sin really is, it would die of terror." (Cantalamessa, 22)
This is not easy for us to realize. We tend to still see sin as something outside ourselves which we do. It takes nothing less than the Holy Spirit, "who convinces the world of sin and righteousness," to teach us the true meaning of sin. Apparently Kierkegaard is correct when he observes, "To have a weak understanding of sin is part of our being sinners."
We are challenged to repent of our own idolatry of self while at the same time we are promised the peace that surpasses all understanding. When we acknowledge the Father as creator and author of life, we untie the knot of our impiety. We begin to realize along with the creatures of the earth in Augustine's Confessions that, "I am not God." In this way his grace, which is infinitely greater than our sin, can restore the right order of creation. When we can truly say and believe with the liturgy that, "All things are of your making and all time and seasons obey your laws," we are acknowledging the right of the Father as creator and author of life to our honor and thanksgiving. We boldly declare that, Milton's portrayal of Satan notwithstanding, it is not better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
Our interior lives suffer from the horizonalizing of spiritual things. God is no longer Father, the creator and author of life. He is spoken of as metaphorprojection, energy force, and any variety of other terms which reduce him merely to our idea of him. We are uncomfortable with the searingly immanent transcendence of God spoken of in the Scriptures and tradition. So we seek to tame the whirlwind of divinity. Christian community is reduced to the most banal of handshaking fellowships instead of a dynamic locus for encounter with the divine. The Eucharist can (and often is) celebrated as a mere fellowship meal devoid of the mystical presence of the One who proclaimed without a shred of demurrer that, "I and the Father are one."
Aclear light of adoration is one of the most crying needs of Christian life today. Adoration of the Father as creator and author of life takes us beyond a mono-dimensional view to the richness of Christian life and prayer where the creator is encountered through his creation. No mere equal will quell the restlessness of our hungry hearts. We need at the very foundation of our desires a God to adore.
Fr. Thomas G. Caserta holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is an Assistant Professor in the Theology Department of St. Johns University. This article was condensed from his presentation at the 1998 Association of Diocesan Liaisons Conference, Jamaica, NY
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for more information on suggested readings on this subject:
Fundamental Theology by
Heinrich Fries, Robert J. Daly (Translator) $29.95,
(1996622 pages) and Principles of Catholic
Stones for a Fundamental Theology by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,
Mary F. McCarthy (Translator), List Price:
Price: $22.37 (1987--398 pages). Suggested for your library:
Dictionary of Fundamental
by Rene Latourelle, Rino Fisichella. List price $75. Available at
sfSpirit.com for $52.50.
For the feminist point of view, read Beyond Patching : Faith and Feminism in the Catholic Church (1991--$7.16) and New Wineskins : Re-Imagining Religious Life Today (1986--$11.16), by Sandra Schneiders
Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the February 1998 edition of the San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.