Lesson 2: The Almighty is Father

God the FatherTo confess “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth” is to take a significant position in the modern world. One way to highlight this is to consider the implications in light of Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si.

The first thing that jumps out is Almighty God is described as Father. Modern science and technology deal with nature as an indifferent object. The creed proclaims the environment is filled with meaning and purpose, because our benevolent God is involved in its processes. The encyclical puts it this way in #76: “In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature” for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion.”

From this perspective, creation is a gift of love. In his Small Catechism Martin Luther says this means “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; … that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”

It also means that it is God the Father’s love that makes the world go round. There is a benevolent intent, no matter how hidden, underlying creation. In #77 the encyclical says, “This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things…”

Francis cites two implications of this perspective. The first is the need to beyond the technological paradigm when evaluating things and making decisions. He goes on at some length acknowledging technology has provided wonderful benefits to society. However, he makes clear we must also use the arts, ethics, and religion if we are to have the meaning and purpose necessary for responsible living. At the same time, he never offers a complete explanation what that paradigm includes. Many who do technological studies use Neil Postman’s definition that claims technology’s thought forms include the belief that 1) the primary, if not the only goal of human labor and thought is efficiency; 2) that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment; 3) that in fact human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity; 4) that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; 5) that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value; and 6) that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.

The second implication is we can discern the intention of the benevolent Father God by examining the life and ministry of Jesus. #99 “In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: “All things have been created though him and for him” (Col 1:16).80 The prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) reveals Christ’s creative work as the Divine Word (Logos). But then, unexpectedly, the prologue goes on to say that this same Word “became flesh” (Jn 1:14). One Person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross…From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy.”

Francis refers to Jesus’ teachings revealing the goodness of creation. #97 “The Lord was able to invite others to be attentive to the beauty that there is in the world because he himself was in constant touch with nature, lending it an attention full of fondness and wonder. As he made his way throughout the land, he often stopped to contemplate the beauty sown by his Father, and invited his disciples to perceive a divine message in things.”

I think Jesus’ mighty acts also show us what we should be doing. He is constantly healing the damaged creation when he restores health to the sick and maimed, calms seas, and provides food. One of the major
ramifications of our understanding of creation is that God created all good. If that is so, then even if it has been corrupted, God can make it right, if he wants to. The Bible is all about proclaiming that he not only wants to, but also is already about this task. We are invited to join him in his loving project of saving the world.

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