God in Catholicism

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Disputa del Sacramento (Rafael)

God in Catholicism is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[1] The Catholic Church believes that there is one true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.


God, being infinite and beyond human comprehension, surpasses any single name.[2] "God revealed himself progressively and under different names to his people, but the revelation that proved to be the fundamental one for both the Old and the New Covenants was the revelation of the divine name to Moses in the theophany of the burning bush..." [3] "I Am Who Am".[4] The word "God" is a translation of the Hebrew word Elohim, which is more of a designation of the deity, than a personal name. "Lord" derives from the Greek word "Kyrios". Jesus almost always used the term Abba, a familiar form of "Father". In 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a directive that in liturgical texts the Tetragrammaton is to be translated as "God", and Adonai/Kyrios as "Lord".[5][6]

"Jesus", the name of the second person of the Bleed Trinity, means "God saves" and was revealed by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31). It expresses both his identity and his mission.[7] Other names or titles found include "Christ" which means "the anointed one", and "Emmanuel" or "God is with us". Veneration of the Holy Name of Jesus is a particular devotion, promoted by Anselm of Canterbury as early as the 12th century.[8]

The proper name of the third person of the Trinity is the "holy Spirit", from the Hebrew word ruah, meaning breath, air, or wind. He is also called the "Paraclete" as in "advocate", sometimes translated as "consoler".[9]


Reason teaches that God is one simple and infinitely perfect spiritual substance or nature. Sacred Scripture and the Church teach the same. The creeds usually begin with a profession of faith in the one true God, Who is the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth.[10] As stated by the First Vatican Council: "The Catholic Church believes that there is one true and living God, the Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, Almighty, Eternal, Immense, Incomprehensible, Infinite in intellect and will and in all perfection; who, being One, Individual, altogether simple and unchangeable Substance, must be asserted to be really and essentially distinct from the world, most happy (blessed) in Himself, and ineffably exalted above everything that exists or can be conceived."[4]

As a personal being, He is intelligent, free, and distinct from the created universe. According to Tatian, "“Our God has no introduction in time. He alone is without beginning, and is himself the beginning of all things. God is a spirit, not attending upon matter, but the maker of material spirits and of the appearances which are in matter. He is invisible, being himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things”God is Creator of all that exists.[11] Francis J. Beckwith explains, "God keeps the universe in existence at every moment, since a universe, even an everlasting and infinitely large one, consisting entirely of contingent beings in causal relationships with each other, could no more exist without some sustaining First Cause than could an alleged perpetual motion machine exist without an Unmoved Mover keeping its motion perpetual.[12]

John Henry Newman in the "Grammar of Assent" said,

"Conscience always involves the recognition of a living object towards which it is directed. Inanimate things cannot stir our affections; these are correlative with persons. If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear... we certainly have within us the image of some Person to whom our love and veneration look,... such as require for their exciting cause an Intelligent Being.[4]

It is in God's nature to love, to forgive, to heal, protect and save. Even when human beings do what is wrong or selfish or evil, God's nature does not change.[13]


God is eternal in that in essence, life, and action He is altogether beyond temporal limits and relations. He has neither beginning, nor end, nor duration by way of sequence or succession of moments. There is no past or future for God — but only an eternal present. This is expressed by Christ when He says in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am."[10] The eternity of God is a corollary from His self-existence and infinity. Time being a measure of finite existence, the infinite must transcend it. God, it is true, coexists with time, as He coexists with creatures, but He does not exist in time, so as to be subject to temporal relations: His self-existence is timeless.

As God is transcendent of all temporal limitations, so also is He transcendent in relation to space. God is both immanent and transcendent; necessarily present everywhere in space as the immanent cause and sustainer of creatures, and on the other hand, He transcends the limitations of actual and possible space, and cannot be circumscribed or measured or divided by any spatial relations.[10]

The Deity, because He is Infinite, cannot be comprehended by finite intelligence. The Divine Perfection, one and invisible, is, in its infinity, the transcendental analogue of all actual and possible finite perfections. By means of an accumulation of analogous predicates methodically co-ordinated, it is possible to form an approximate conception of the Deity. Other attributes are simplicity, perfection, infinity, immutability, unity, truth, goodness, beauty, omnipresence, intellect and will.[14] According to Aquinas, the Simplicity of God means that God has no parts, that He is not composed in any way. In God, essence and existence are the same thing. His wisdom, justice, mercy, and all His attributes are not really distinct from each other nor from His essence.[15]

Only God's omnipotence is named in the Creed: his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything.[16]

God is a spirit, an immaterial substance having intellect and will, although often described in anthropomorphic imagery. When the scriptures attribute to God human emotions such as of hatred, joy, pity, repentance, etc., they do so figuratively.[15]


The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent.[17] In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says, "Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit..." In John 1: 1-18, the evangelist identifies Jesus with the Word, the only-begotten of the Father, Who from all eternity exists with God, and Who is God.[17]

St. Basil the Great tells of an ancient custom among Christians when they lit the evening lamp to give thanks to God with the prayer: "We praise the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit of God".[17] "The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior's grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father."[18]


The divinity of Christ is an essential teaching of the Catholic faith. Jesus has two distinct natures in one person; a Divine nature as God, and a human nature as man.[19] "The Gospels report that at two solemn moments, the Baptism and the Transfiguration of Christ, the voice of the Father designates Jesus his "beloved Son". Jesus calls himself the "only Son of God", and by this title affirms his eternal pre-existence."[20]

By the expression "He descended into hell", the Apostles' Creed confesses that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and through his death conquered death and the devil "who has the power of death".[21] The Nicean Creed states,

•I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.[22]


In the New Testament, the phrase "Kingdom of God" or "Kingdom of Heaven" has various shades of meaning. It means, then, the ruling of God in the hearts of the faithful; those principles which distinguish believers from the kingdom of the world and the devil; the benign sway of grace; the Church as that Divine institution whereby one may make sure of attaining the spirit of Christ and so win that ultimate kingdom of God Where He reigns without end in "the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God".[23]

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains that detaching oneself from the things of this world (Mt 19:24), doing the will of the Father (Mt 21:31), and bearing good fruit (Mt 21:43) are necessary to enter the Kingdom of God.[24] It refers to the effective rule of God over his people."In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish,... This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the Parousia of Jesus."[25] At the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, he proclaims "“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”[26] The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God is thee third Luminous Mystery.[27]

Jesus not only proclaims the coming of the kingdom by his word but in his actions of healing and forgiveness makes the kingdom actually present. "The kingdom is understood by most Roman Catholic theologians to be both present and future; it is both "now" and "not yet"."[28] "...the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church.'[29]


The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). "Theology" refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and "economy" to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions.[30]


The Catholic Church has always defended the use of sacred images in churches, shrines, and homes, encouraging their veneration but distinguishing between veneration and worship. In Western art, God the Father is conventionally shown as a patriarch, with benign, yet powerful countenance and with long white hair and a beard, a depiction largely derived from the description of the Ancient of Days in the Old Testament.[31]

The Holy Spirit is almost always depicted as a dove.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church 203 and 205
  2. ^ Kerper, Michael. "What is God's Name?", Parable Magazine", January/February 2011
  3. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, §204
  4. ^ a b c Conway C.S.P., Bertrand L., "The Existence and Nature of God", 1929
  5. ^ Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Letter to the Bishops' Conferences on the 'Name of God'", June 29, 2008
  6. ^ "The Name of God in the Liturgy", USCCB
  7. ^ CCC §430
  8. ^ Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England by Jessica Brantley 2007 ISBN 0-226-07132-4 pages 178-193
  9. ^ "The Name, Titles, and Symbols of the Holy Spirit", The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, May 15, 2013
  10. ^ a b c Toner, Patrick. "The Nature and Attributes of God." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 13 July 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ Tatian, "Address to the Greeks
  12. ^ Beckwith, Francis J., "Who is God?", The Catholic Thing, June 22, 2016
  13. ^ Sánchez, Patricia Datchuck. "The Nature of God", National Catholic Reporter, March 28, 2014
  14. ^ Fox, James. "Divine Attributes." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 13 July 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ a b Coppens S.J., Charles. "God's Quiescent Attributes", The Catholic Religion
  16. ^ CCC §268
  17. ^ a b c Joyce, George. "The Blessed Trinity." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 13 July 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  18. ^ CCC §2157
  19. ^ Gaskin, Gerard. "Jesus Christ, the Person", The Catholic (Universal) Catechism
  20. ^ CCC §444
  21. ^ CCC §632
  22. ^ "What do Catholics Believe?", Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing
  23. ^ Pope, Hugh. "Kingdom of God." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 14 July 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  24. ^ Mirus, Jeff. "Entering the Kingdom of God: What Does This Mean?", Catholic Culture, May 22, 2014
  25. ^ NAB, note to Matthew 3:2
  26. ^ CCC §541
  27. ^ "Third Luminous Mystery: Proclamation of the Kingdom of God", USCCB
  28. ^ Dollard, Jerome R. “Eschatology: A Roman Catholic Perspective.” Review & Expositor, vol. 79, no. 2, May 1982, p. 367 doi:10.1177/003463738207900217
  29. ^ Pope Paul VI. "Lumen gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", §48, November 21, 1964
  30. ^ CCC §236.
  31. ^ Bigham, Stephen. Image of God the Father in Orthodox Theology and Iconography, 1995. ISBN 1-879038-15-3
  32. ^ Bourlier, Cyriil. "Introduction to Medieval Iconography", Artnet News, October 28, 2013

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "The Nature and Attributes of God". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.