The Creed: The Father
I believe in God
The Father Almighty
Maker of Heaven and Earth
“I believe in God”
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 2.13.3
The transcendence of God
God is not as men are; and that His thoughts are not like the thoughts of men (Isaiah 55:8). For the Father of all is at a vast distance from those affections and passions which operate among men. He is a simple, uncompounded Being, without diverse members, and altogether like, and equal to himself, since He is wholly understanding, and wholly spirit, and wholly thought, and wholly intelligence, and wholly reason, and wholly hearing, and wholly seeing, and wholly light, and the whole source of all that is good— even as the religious and pious are wont to speak concerning God.
Origen, On First Principles 1.1.1,5–6
Incorporeal, incomprehensible, immeasurable
1. I know that some people will say, even according to our Scriptures, that God is a body. For in the writings of Moses they find it said, “Our God is a consuming fire,” and in the Gospel of John, “God is a Spirit,” and they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Fire and spirit, according to them, are to be regarded as nothing else than a body. Now, I should like to ask these persons what they have to say respecting that passage where it is declared that God is light; as John writes in his Epistle, God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. Truly He is that light which illuminates the whole understanding of those who are capable of receiving truth, as is said in the thirty-sixth Psalm, In Your light we shall see light.
5. Having refuted, then, as well as we could, every notion which might suggest that we were to think of God as in any degree corporeal, we go on to say that, according to strict truth, God is incomprehensible, and incapable of being measured. For whatever be the knowledge which we are able to obtain of God, either by perception or reflection, we must of necessity believe that He is by many degrees far better than what we perceive Him to be. For, as if we were to see any one unable to bear a spark of light, or the flame of a very small lamp, and were desirous to acquaint such a one, whose vision could not admit a greater degree of light than what we have stated, with the brightness and splendor of the sun, would it not be necessary to tell him that the splendor of the sun was unspeakably and incalculably better and more glorious than all this light which he saw?
6. But it will not appear absurd if we employ another analogy to make the matter clearer. Our eyes frequently cannot look upon the nature of the light itself—that is, upon the substance of the sun. But when we behold its splendor or its rays pouring in, perhaps, through a window or a some small opening that admits light, we get a sense of how great is the supply and source of the light of the body. So, in like manner, the works of Divine Providence and the plan of this whole world are like rays, as it were, of the nature of God, in comparison with his real substance and being. Therefore, as our understanding is unable by itself to behold God himself as he is, it knows the Father of the world from the beauty of his works and the comeliness of his creatures. God, therefore, is not to be thought of as being either a body or as existing in a body, but as an uncompounded intellectual nature, admitting within himself no addition of any kind. We cannot believe believe him to have within himself a “greater” or a “lesser.” He is in all parts Μονάς, and, so to speak, ῾Ενάς, and is the mind and source from which all intellectual nature or mind takes its beginning.
Augustine, On the Nature of the Good 1, 19
On the immutable nature of God—and the mutable nature of creation
1. The highest good—the good than which there is no higher—is God. Consequently, he is unchangeable good, hence truly eternal and truly immortal. All other good things are only from him, not of him. For what is of him is himself. And consequently, if he alone is unchangeable, then all things that he has made are changeable, since he has made them out of nothing. For he is so omnipotent, that he is able to make good things—great and small, celestial and terrestrial, spiritual and corporeal—out of nothing, that is, out of what is absolutely non-existent. But because he is also just, he has not put those things that he has made out of nothing on an equality with that which he begot out of himself. Therefore no good things—whether great or small, through whatever gradations of things—can exist except from God. But since every nature, so far as it is nature, is good, it follows that no nature can exist save from the most high and true God.
19. Magnificently and divinely, therefore, our God said to his servant: “I am that I am” and “You shall say to the children of Israel, he who is sent me to you” (Ex. 3:14). For he truly exists because he is unchangeable. For every change makes what was not into something that exists. Therefore, the one who truly exists is unchangeable. But all other things that were made by him have received being from him—each in its own measure. To him who is highest, therefore, nothing can be contrary, except what does not exist. Consequently, just as everything that is good has its being from him, so also everything that exists by nature does so from Him—for everything that exists by nature is good. Thus every nature is good, and everything good is from God; therefore every nature is from God.
Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names 4
God is not a being among beings
“The God who is” (Ex. 3:14) transcends everything by virtue of his power. He is the substantive cause and maker of being, subsistence, of existence, of substance, and of nature. He is the Source and the measure of the ages. He is the reality beneath time and the eternity beyond being. He is the time within which things happen. He is being for whatever is. He is coming-to-be amid whatever happens. From him who is come eternity, essence and being, come time, genesis, and becoming. He is the being immanent in and underlying the things which are, however they are. For God is not some kind of being. No. But in a way that is simple and indefinable he gathers into himself and anticipates every existence. . . . He was not. He will not be. He did not come to be. He is not in the midst of becoming. He will not come to be. No. He is not. Rather, he is the essence of being for the things which have being. Not only things that are but also the essence of what they are come from who precedes the ages. For he is the age of ages, the “predecessor of the ages” (Psalm 55:19, LXX). (trans. Lubheid, 98)
“The Father Almighty”
Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 7.4–5
The name “Father” implies a Son
4. The very mention of the name of the Father suggests the thought of the Son, just as, in turn, the mention of Son implies the thought of the Father. For, if He is a Father, He is surely Father of a Son. Thus we say: “In One God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible”; and add: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ.” That no one may irreverently suppose that the Only-begotten is second in rank to heaven and earth, before naming these we named God Father, that the thought of Father might suggest the Son; for between Son and Father there is no being whatsoever.
5. Though God, improperly speaking, is Father of many things, by nature and in truth He is Father of One only, the Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not attain Fatherhood in the course of time, but He is eternally Father of the Only-begotten. Not that He was Sonless before and afterwards became a Father by a change of purpose, but before all substance and all intelligence, before times and all the ages, God has the prerogative of Father, exalting Himself in this dignity before all others. He did not become a Father by passion, or from union, or in ignorance, or by emanation, or diminution or alteration; for “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” A perfect Father, He begot a perfect Son, delivering all things to Him whom He begot.
Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 8.4
Nothing is excluded from God’s dominion
The Holy Scripture and the true doctrine know but One God, who has dominion over all things, yet tolerates many things because He so wills. For He rules over idolaters, but out of forbearance endures them; He rules over the heretics also, who reject Him, but puts up with them patiently. He rules over the devil, but tolerates him in His long-suffering; but it is not for want of power, as though defeated, that he endures him, for “he is the beginning of the Lord’s creation, made to be mocked,” not by Himself, for that would be beneath His dignity, but “by the angels” who were made by Him. He has allowed the devil to live for two reasons, that he might suffer greater shame by defeat, and that men might be crowned with victory. O all-wise providence of God which takes wicked purpose as a basis of salvation for the faithful! . . .
Nothing, therefore, is excluded from the dominion of God, for Scripture says of Him: “All things serve you” (Ps. 118:91). All things indeed are His servants; but one, His Only Son, and one, His Holy Spirit, are outside all these; and all things that serve Him serve their Lord through the One Son in the Holy Spirit. God, then, rules over all things, and in His forbearance endures even murderers and robbers and fornicators, having determined a fixed time for requiting each, that they who, granted a long reprieve, remain impenitent may suffer the greater condemnation. There are kings of men who reign upon the earth, yet not without power from on high.
For of Him and in Him is the fairest figure of all things, unchangeable; and therefore He Himself is One, who communicates to everything its possibilities, not only that it be beautiful actually, but also that it be capable of being beautiful. For which reason we do most right to believe that God made all things of nothing. For, even although the world was made of some sort of material, this self-same material itself was made of nothing; so that, in accordance with the most orderly gift of God, there was to enter first the capacity of taking forms, and then that all things should be formed which have been formed. This, however, we have said, in order that no one might suppose that the utterances of the divine Scriptures are contrary the one to the other, in so far as it is written at once that God made all things of nothing, and that the world was made of matter without form.
“Creator of Heaven and Earth”
Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 4–5, 8
4. For it is necessary that things that are made should have the beginning of their making from some great cause; and the beginning of all things is God. For He Himself was not made by any, and by Him all things were made. And therefore it is right first of all to believe that there is One God, the Father, who made and fashioned all things, and made what was not that it should be, and who, containing all things, alone is uncontained. Now among all things is this world of ours, and in the world is man: so then this world also was formed by God.
5. Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God. And, since God is rational, therefore by (the) Word He created the things that were made; and God is Spirit, and by (the) Spirit He adorned all things: as also the prophet says: By the word of the Lord were the heavens established, and by his spirit all their power. Since then the Word establishes, that is to say, gives body and grants the reality of being, and the Spirit gives order and form to the diversity of the powers; rightly and fittingly is the Word called the Son, and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. Rightly then does Paul His apostle say: One God, the Father, who is over all and through all and in us all. For over all is the Father; and through all is the Son, for through Him all things were made by the Father; and in us all is the Spirit, who cries Abba Father, and fashions man into the likeness of God. Now the Spirit shows forth the Word, and therefore the prophets announced the Son of God; and the Word utters the Spirit, and therefore is Himself the announcer of the prophets, and leads and draws man to the Father.
8. The Father is called, in the Sprit, “Most High,” “Almighty,” and “Lord of Hosts,” so that we may learn that God is the creator of heaven and earth and all the world, and maker of angels and men, and Lord of all, through whom all things exist and by whom all things are sustained; merciful, compassionate and very tender, good, just, the God of all, both of Jews and of Gentiles, and of them that believe. To them that believe He is as Father, for in the end of the times He opened up the covenant of adoption; but to the Jews as Lord and Lawgiver, for in the intermediate times, when man forgot God and departed and revolted from Him, He brought them into subjection by the Law, that they might learn that they had for Lord the maker and creator, who also gives the breath of life, and whom we ought to worship day and night: and to the Gentiles as maker and creator and almighty: and to all alike sustainer and nourisher and king and judge; for none shall escape and be delivered from His judgment, neither Jew nor Gentile, nor believer that has sinned, nor angel: but they who now reject His goodness shall know His power in judgment, according to that which the blessed apostle says: Not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance; but according to thy hardness and impenitent heart thou treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who shall render to every man according to his works. This is He who is called in the Law the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of the living; although the sublimity and greatness of this God is unspeakable.
Athenagoras, On the Resurrection of the Dead 12
The argument [for the resurrection of the body] from cause will become clear if we consider whether man was made at random and in vain, or whether he was made for some purpose. And if he was made for some purpose, whether he would simply live and continue in the natural condition in which he was created, or for the use of something or someone else. And if with a view to use, whether for that of the Creator Himself, or of some one of the beings who belong to Him, and are by Him deemed worthy of greater care . . . .
God can neither have made man in vain, for he is wise, and no work of wisdom is in vain; nor for his own use, for he lacks nothing. But to a Being absolutely in need of nothing, no one of his works can contribute anything to his own use. Neither, moreover, did He make man for the sake of any of the other works that He has made. For nothing that is endowed with reason and judgment has been created, or is created, for the use of another, whether greater or less than itself, but for the sake of the life and continuance of the being itself so created. For reason cannot discover any use which might be deemed a cause for the creation of men, since immortals are free from want, and in need of no help from men in order to their existence; and irrational beings are by nature in a state of subjection, and perform those services for men for which each of them was intended, but are not intended in their turn to make use of men: for it neither was nor is right to lower that which rules and takes the lead to the use of the inferior, or to subject the rational to the irrational, which is not suited to rule.
Theophilus, To Autolychus 2.10
[The prophets] have taught us that [God] made all things out of those that are not. For nothing was coeval with God; rather, being his own place and in need of nothing and existing before the ages he wished to make humans so that he might be known to them. After all, it is that which is generated that is in need, whereas the ingenerate is in need of nothing . . . [quoting Gen. 1:1–2]. This is what the divine scripture teaches at the outset, that matter is in some way generated, having been generated by God, and that from it God had made and fashioned the cosmos.” (trans. Grant)
Psuedo-Dionysius, The Divine Names 5–6, 20, 23, 31, 33
On creation, goodness, and evil
5. Every being and all the ages derive their existence from the Preexistent. All eternity and time are from him. The preexistent is the source and is the cause of all eternity, of time and of every kind of being. Everything participates in him and non among beings falls away. “He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). . . . It is only because of their participation in Being that they exist themselves and that things participate in them. If they have being as a result of the participation in Being itself, all the more so is this the case with the things which participate in them.
6. The first give therefore of the absolutely transcendent goodness is the gift of being, and that Goodness is praised from those that first and principally have a share of being.
20. Evil does not come from the Good. . . . Evil is not a being; for if it were it would not be totally evil. . . . Evil, qua evil, never produces being or birth. All it can do by itself is in a limited fashion to debase and to destroy the substance of things. . . . Evil, then, is neither good nor productive of good, and everything is good to the extent that it draws near to the Good. Perfect goodness reaches out to all things and not simply to immediate good neighbors. It extends as far as the lowliest of things. In some beings it is present in full measure, to a lesser extent in others, and in the least measure in yet others. It is there in proportion to the capacity to receive it. Some share completely in the Good, others participate in it more or less, others have a slight portion only, and to others, again, the Good is but a far-off echo. The Good is present in proportion to this capacity. . . . To put the matter briefly. All beings, to the extent that they exist, are good and come from the Good and they fall short of goodness and being in proportion to their remoteness from the Good. . . . However, that which is totally bereft of the Good never had, does not have, never shall have, never can have any kind of being at all. . . . Even the person who desires the lowest form of life still desire life and a life that seems good to him; thus he participated in the Good to the extent that he feels desire for life and for what—to him at least—seems a worthwhile life. Abolish the Good and you will abolish being, life, desire, movement, everything. . . .
23. The Good is the creator and preserver of good things. If they are called evil it is not in respect of their being, since they owe their origin to the Good and were the recipients of a good being, but rather because being is lacking to them by virtue of their inability, as scripture puts it, “to hold on to their original source” (Jude 6). . . . [Even devils are not naturally evil.] Their evil consists in the lack of the angelic virtues! If they are declared to be evil, the reason lies in their weakness regarding their natural activity. Their deviation is the evil in them, their move away from what befits them. It is a privation in them, an imperfection, a powerlessness. It is a weakness, a lapse, an abandonment of the capacity they have to be perfect. . .
31. The Cause for all good things is one. If, however, evil is contrary to the Good, then evil must have numerous causes. And it is not principles and powers which produce evil but impotence and weakness and an inharmonious commingling of discordances. Evil things are not immobile and eternally unchanging but indeterminate, indefinite, and bearing themselves differently in different things. . .
33. Given the fact of Providence, how can there be evil? . . . . If not being is without some share in the Good and if evil is a deficiency of the Good and if no being is completely devoid of the Good, the Providence of God must then be in all beings and nothing can be lacking it. Providence even makes good use of evil effects to turn these or others to good use individually or collectively. It provides for each particular being. Therefore we should ignore the popular notion that Providence will lead us to virtue even against our will. Providence does not destroy nature. Indeed its character as providence is shown by the fact that it save the nature of each individual, so that the free may freely act as individual or as groups, insofar as the nature of those provided for receives the benefactions of this providing power appropriate to each one.
Maximus the Confessor, Ambiguum 7.2
The Logos and the logoi
The one Logos is many logoi. This is evidenced in the incomparable differences among created things. For each is unmistakably unique in itself and its identity remains distinct in relation to other things. He will also know that the many logoi are the one Logos to whom all things are related and who exists in himself without confusion, the essential and individually distinctive God, the Logos of God the Father [citing Col. 1:15–17 and Rom. 11:36]. Because he held together in himself the logoi before they came to be, by his gracious will he created all things visible and invisible out of non-being. . . .
We believe that a logos of angels preceded their creation, a logos preceded the creation of each of the beings and powers that fill the upper world, a logos preceded the creation of human beings, a logos preceded everything that receives its becoming from God, and so on. It is not necessary to mention them all. The Logos whose excellence is incomparable, ineffable and inconceivable in himself is exalted beyond all creation and even beyond the idea of difference and distinction. This same Logos, whose goodness is revealed and multiplied in all the things that have their origin in him, with the degree of beauty appropriate to each being, recapitulates all things in himself (Eph. 1:10). Through this Logos there came to be both being and continuing to be, for from him the things that were made came to be in a certain way and for a certain reason, and by continuing to be and by moving, they participate in God. For all things, in that they came to be from God, participated proportionally in God, whether by intellect, by reason, by sense-perception, by vital motion, or by some habitual fitness. . . .
The logoi of all things known by God before their creation are securely fixed in God. They are in him who is the truth of all things. Yet all these things, things present and things to come, have not been brought into being contemporaneously with their being known by God; rather, each was created in an appropriate way according to its logos at the proper time according to the wisdom of the maker, and each acquired concrete actual existence in itself. . . . All created things are defined, in their essence and in their way of developing, by their own logoi and by the logoi of the beings that provide their external context. Through these logoi they find their defining limits.