Beginning this Friday I am teaching a five-week course in Basic Theology at our church. The sign-ups have been larger than expected so we are anticipating a big crowd of eager learners. I've been preparing for this since June. Since we begin with God the Father on Friday I'd like to share what some of the early theologians on the sidebar to the left have had to say about the who God is.
Clement of Alexandria said: "The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked the disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet, with a towel wrapped around His waist - He, who is the Lord of the universe!" He also said "The Lord has turned all our sunsets into sunrise." As one who thought God himself could not be known, Alexandria pointed us to the Son of God, Jesus, who came to be known in the incarnation and he is amazed at Christ.
Irenaeus responded to a common question we still hear today, " 'Could not God make people perfect right at the beginning?' someone may ask. Take the example of a very small child. The mother can give her baby grown-up food, but the baby is still unable to take adult nourishment. Similarly, God could have given humanity perfection right at the beginning, but humanity could not have received it because it was only a child.
For that reason Our Lord, who sums up all things in himself, when he came on earth in these last days, came not in the full glory which he could have done, but in a form we could see. Certainly, he could have come in his imperishable glory, but we should not have been able to bear the greatness of his majesty.
Therefore, like giving milk to infants, the perfect Bread of the Father revealed himself to us on earth in human form, so that we might be nourished by his Word like babes at the breast and so by degrees become strong enough to digest the whole Word of God."
Reflecting on the glory of God, Irenaeus also said, "The glory of God is in man fully alive."
Origen spoke to the essence of who God is by identifying a common problem for us, i.e. how to speak of God within the limits of our language and minds. He said, "But God, who is the beginning of all things, is not to be regarded as a composite being, lest perchance there should be found to exist elements prior to the beginning itself, out of which everything is composed, whatever that be which is called composite."
Saint Augustine spoke to the relationship between God and evil and suffering by saying, "God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist." But he also offered, "God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering."
Thomas Aquinas, as you may be aware, spoke of the "five ways" of God:
1. God is simple.
2. God is perfect.
3. God is infinite (i.e. unlimited or immeasurable in greatness).
4. God is immutable (i.e. incapable of change).
5. God is one.