In the Creed the Church attaches two attributes to the heavenly Father. She says that the Father is almighty and that he is the maker of heaven and earth. Let us reflect a few moments on what it means to say that God the Father is almighty.
When we say that the Father is almighty we mean first of all that his power is absolute or unlimited. This means that he can do everything that is "do-able". The only thing that God cannot do is something that would involve an intrinsic contradiction. For example, God cannot make a square circle because it is a nothing. Likewise, he cannot create a man who does not have a rational soul. For being able to think and love are essential to the very idea of being a man.
"Almighty" is the same thing as "omnipotent", which means to have all power, and it is the English translation of the Latin word used in the Creed omnipotens. The omnipotence of God also presupposes his creative power. To create something means to produce it completely, without any preexisting material whatsoever. Whenever a man makes or "creates" something, he always has some material at hand to work with. One needs bricks, wood, nails, etc. in order to build a house. God's creative power is independent of all preexisting matter. He can produce things, as they say, "out of nothing"; "nothing" is not understood here as "something". When God makes something he produces its whole reality without the assistance of anyone or anything.
Some philosophers have said that God could produce things that are intrinsically contradictory. Such statements are false because they rest on the erroneous assumption that the intrinsic possibility of things is based not on the essence of God, but on his free will. Catholic thinkers have shown that before God can make anything it must first be possible as seen in his own essence. These reflections may seem abstract to some, but they are very important to our basic understanding of God. He is indeed all-powerful, as we profess in the Creed, but he is not at all capricious. Everything God does he does for our greater spiritual good and also for our temporal welfare, so long as the latter is subordinate to the former.
Thinking about the almighty power of God should lead us to thoughts of deep humility, especially when we consider how weak we are. All the hydrogen bombs in the world are as a spark when compared with God's power. And a certain ambiguity always seems to surround human power - it can be employed either to aid us or to destroy us. Such is not the case with the almighty power of God. Our God is a loving God who makes his sun shine on the just and the unjust. In the physical universe he uses his power for our benefit. But his power also extends to the realms of the spirit. Here we find the amazing world of the angels, the realities of heaven, hell and purgatory, and the life of divine grace that is poured out upon us through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the area of our own personal experience we have all come into contact with the power of God, whether it be a flaming sunset, a roaring ocean or the flutter of a yellow butterfly. But God's power is so vast that these are mere shadow reflections of the real thing. Since he loves us we glorify him and, with the psalmist, praise him for his almighty power.
See the index of chapters from Fundamentals of Catholicism which have been reprinted to CERC here.
Kenneth Baker, S.J. "The Almighty Father." In Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1 Part 1, Chapter 4 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 30-32.
This article reprinted with permission from Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.
Rev. Kenneth Baker, S.J., has served for the past thirty years as editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1947. In 1970 he served as president of Seattle University and in 1971 became editor of the Homiletic & Pastoral Review. In 1973 he published his translation of the Philosophical Dictionary and adapted it to American usage. In 1975 he became president of Catholic Views Broadcasts, Inc., which produces a weekly 15-minute radio program that airs on 50 stations across the United States. He has built and run three community television stations. In 1983 he published a three-volume explation of the faith called Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1, Creed and Commandments; Vol. 2, God, Trinity, Creation, Christ, Mary; and Vol. 3, Grace, the Church, the Sacraments, Eschatology.Copyright © 1995 Kenneth Baker, S.J.
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