“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”

It might seem obvious, but I think it is worth our time to note that Christianity teaches that God really exists. It does not present evidence or offer proofs for God’s existence because it rarely contemplates the possibility of atheism. The existence of a supernatural realm was self-evident to most ancient people, and atheism was rare. Psalm 53:1 is a possible exception: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And perhaps the writer of Hebrews had atheism in mind when he said, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (11:6). Overwhelmingly, however, the issue for both the Old and New Testament is not the existence of a god but question of the true nature and identity of God. Isaiah asserts,

I look but there is no one—     no one among the gods to give counsel,     no one to give answer when I ask them. 29 See, they are all false!     Their deeds amount to nothing;     their images are but wind and confusion (Isaiah 41:28-29).

John speaks of the true God as the one we have come to know through Jesus:

20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Paul opposes the idols and gods of Corinth to the one God who is the Father:

We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).

The first affirmation of the Apostles Creed asserts, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” In the Creed, God is identified as “the Father Almighty” and as the Creator. The expression “the Father” is short for “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Interestingly, in his speech to the Athenians Paul also used this brief two-fold way of identifying the God of Christians. He asserted that “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth” (Acts 17:24), and then he drew two inferences from that truth, which he assumes his audience also accepted. (1) God does not need to live in temples made by human hands or to be served by human beings because he made everything and gives “life and breath and everything else” to us (17:24-25). God is self-sufficient and needs nothing! Any concept of God that assumes or implies God’s dependence on creation or any lack in God is severely defective. (2) Since human beings are the image of God, the Creator in whose image we are made cannot and ought not to be reduced to an idol of gold or silver. If we are alive, free, aware, and active, how much more our Creator! Paul reasons here from the widely held belief that the God is the creator of our world to a concept of God worthy of God’s great work of creation.

Next he speaks of the revelation of God’s character and power in Jesus Christ and of his resurrection from the dead:

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Paul names and specifies the Creator by his connection to Jesus Christ. Christ will be the Judge and standard by which God judges the world. I will return to this way of identifying God in future posts. For now I want to extend Paul’s reasoning to other divine qualities that are implicit in the belief that God is “the Maker of heaven and earth.”

In the Bible and in Christian history, creation is the chief example of God’s power. Traditional theology speaks of God’s “omnipotence” because consistency with our confession of God as Creator demands it. The power God demonstrated in creation is not like the power of the Sun, human technology or political organization or any other power within creation. God created the world from nothing. In creating, God gives creatures their total being and existence. No creature can do that. The reason God’s power is called “omnipotence” is that all other powers owe their being and power to God; apart from God they can do nothing.

If God is the creator of “heaven and earth”, that is, of everything, then God has to be everywhere and know everything. God is the cause of all existence, and existing creatures are the effects of God’s causality. And where the effect is, the cause must also be. Hence the Creator must be omnipresent. But the Creator must also be omniscient, that is, God must know all things. God certainly knows what he is and does. And there is no creature that is not the result of God’s doing. Hence God knows all creatures in their total being and doing.

You can see why in his discussion of the Creator Paul quoted the pagan philosopher Epimenides approvingly:For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The Creator is present and active everywhere. God surrounds, indwells, sustains and empowers us. God provides everything we need. Hence we ought to “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17:27).

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” What an amazing confession! How it would revolutionize our lives if we really understood it and lived by it. We are surrounded, indwelt, enfolded, sustained and empowered by the Almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

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6 thoughts on ““I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”

  1. nokareon

    I cannot help but notice that your account of Omnipresence is much more nuanced than the “Sunday School” version of God being everywhere, namely, present in every point in space, like a thread stretched out through every particle in the universe. Rather, it seems to me that your account pertains more to the range of God’s causal influence—more precisely, that there is no setting (spatial or temporal) that is outside the range of God’s causal influence and that is not being actively sustained each moment by Him. Still, I could not help but feel a little bit of bait-and-switch going on, as that more nuanced account really is not what comes to mind when I see the term “Omnipresence” (perhaps because of an oversaturation of the “Sunday School” version in my Baptist upbringing).

    It is really interesting to me that many Atheist unbelievers these days will make the whole landscape of the debate the question of whether or not God exists. Accordingly, the sole criterion for whether or not one is a Christian or Atheist is over whether or not one believes the “God of Christianity” exists. Further distorting matters, I have heard Atheist speakers speak of the Christian God “sending people to Hell for all eternity for not paying attention to Him… once they are in Hell, He turns and says ‘Ha! Try to say that I don’t exist now!” I guess my whole take home point in this paragraph is that it astounds me how different the milieu was for the audiences of Biblical times from where the focus lies now. Of course, Atheists today will take that as evidence that people of Biblical times were superstitious and ignorant—but I find the sort of Henotheism reflected among the nations back then preferable, on the whole.

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  2. ifaqtheology Post author

    This account of omnipresence–which is of course incomplete!–makes use of concepts rather than images. Trying to image God spread out or interweaving or enclosing or permeating the universe leaves us with a spatial and physical idea of God. The conceptual view of a universal cause, though not completely free of images, is to my mind less misleading. Thanks for your thoughts as always!

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    1. Jenell Yarbrough-Brinson

      To create mental images of anything we think upon is natural in the human mind. The problem with any “image” of God is that it necessitates ‘defining’ God, which is to designate what God is made distinct from what God is not. And as God is all there is, there can be nothing God is not. Any “image” we create is therefore incomplete.
      This was so emphasized in early Judaism as to forbid even speaking God’s name, for we can only put a name to something that is distinct from what it is not.

      In the process of study of the psychology of idolatry in a RS course on Christian Ethic, I discovered that I had never really understood what idolatry actually is, and what biblical warnings against creating “graven images” or worshiping “any created thing’ actually meant.
      Due to our common thinking of “graven image” as only in context of carved images, we miss that in ancient times, to engrave wasn’t limited to the creation of artistic visual images. Writing at that time was engraved on stone, or in clay tablets. So when we create a “God image” in context of religious beliefs, describe God, write about God, as this and that, and not this or that, we have created a mental construct of God, a “God Image.”

      Since it is a “God image” of our own human creation that we are inclined to worship in our religions, idolatry is at its basic core, worshiping our own thoughts and ideas, ultimately, worshiping ourselves.

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      1. ifaqtheology Post author

        Janell: I think you are saying something important about the way we speak and imagine God. Patristic and medieval theology understood that every time we affirm something about God we need immediately to negate our word or image. God like (but also unlike) a rock, a father, a mother, a natural law, etc. Thanks!

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  3. nokareon

    This does not really help with achieving emancipation from misleading images, but one that came to my mind on your account is a mycelium of a system of mushrooms that spreads over a large region (there is even one across six countries in Europe!). Because the mycelium spreads over all this area underground, it can cause mushrooms to shoot up on the surface at any given point across its area even though the mycelium itself cannot be seen from the surface. If we extend that mycelium somehow to the size of all of Europe (other than the UK), then the mycelium could cause the effect of mushrooms popping up at any point across the whole continent. I guess that also serves as a metaphor for Divine Action as you have described it before as well.

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  4. falonopsahl

    As a society heavily influenced by modernity, we “know” so much more about the material world than the ancients. But I am always astounded by how much wiser they were than us in so many ways. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad.” How many people today are trying to apply scientific and material knowledge to the theological and spiritual realm, to which science cannot and does not speak? I am grateful the Holy Spirit used the ancients to pass down the wisdom of God so that today we can have a better idea of the nature of our Lord and say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

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