Baltimore Catechism 3

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God and His Perfections




 * Q. 8. What do we mean when we say that God is the Supreme Being?
A. When we say that God is the Supreme Being we mean that He is above all creatures, the self-existing and infinitely perfect Spirit.


 * God is above all created things - the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms, men, and angels. Some likeness of God is in every creature, from the highest to the lowest. The highest angel, however, is but a weak reflection of the infinite perfection of God, who is the infinite Creator and Governor of the universe.

 * > "I am who am" (Exodus 3:14).

 * > "I am the First, and I am the Last, and besides me there is no God" (Isaias 44:6).


 * Q. 9. What is a spirit?
A. A spirit is a being that has understanding and free will, but no body, and will never die.


 * The soul of man is a spirit which does not die because it is simple, having no integral parts, and because it is spiritual, that is, entirely independent of matter in its being and in its own proper acts; it does not depend on creatures for existence and cannot be destroyed by them.


 * Q. 10. What do we mean when we say that God is self-existing?
A. When we say that God is self-existing, we mean that He does not owe His existence to any other being.


 * God is the first and completely independent source of all being. Every other being is given existence, God is His own existence; God is His own life, or He who is. It is a manifest contradiction to hold that God, who is self-existent, could have been brought into being by anyone else.

 * See Scripture, question 8, Exodus 3:14.


 * Q. 11. What do we mean when we say that God is infinitely perfect?
A. When we say that God is infinitely perfect, we mean that He has all perfections without limit.


 * God has in Himself, in an eminent degree, the perfections of all things that ever existed or will or can exist. He is the cause of all perfection in creatures. The perfections of created things are in God in an infinitely superior manner.

 * Every creature, even the highest angel, is finite for it has the limitation of dependence on the Creator for its existence.

 * > "Great is the Lord ... and his greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 144:3).


 * Q. 12. What are some of the perfections of God?
A. Some of the perfections of God are: God is eternal, all-good, all knowing, all-present, and almighty.


 * Q. 13. What do we mean when we say that God is eternal?
A. When we say that God is eternal, we mean that He always was and always will be, and that He always remains the same.


 * If God had a beginning or if He could cease to be, He would be limited and would not be infinitely perfect or self-existing. If God changed, the change would be either for the better or for the worse. In either case God would not be infinitely perfect.

 * Spirits such as angels and the souls of men are eternal in the sense that they will live forever, but both angels and the souls of men, unlike God, had a beginning and are subject to change.

 * > "Before the mountains were brought forth and the earth and the world were born, and from everlasting to everlasting thou art, O God" (Psalm 89:2).

 * > "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" (James 1:17).

 * > "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty' " (Apocalypse 1:8).


 * Q. 14. What do we mean when we say that God is all-good?
A. When we say that God is all-good, we mean that He is infinitely lovable in Himself, and that from His fatherly love every good comes to us.


 * Things are good and lovable in the degree that they are perfect. Since God is infinitely perfect, He is all-good and infinitely lovable in Himself, and all goodness of creatures must come from Him.

 * > "With whose beauty, if they being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they. For the first author of beauty made all those things" (Wisdom 13:3).


 * Q. 15. What do we mean when we say that God is all-knowing?
A. When we say that God is all-knowing, we mean that He knows all things, past, present, and future, even our most secret thoughts, words, and actions.


 * God's knowledge is not gained like ours, by proceeding step by step from things known to those unknown. By knowing Himself perfectly, God knows from eternity all things past, present, and future, and even all things possible. Every creature, in its actions, depends entirely on God, and any goodness in creatures is but an imperfect reflection of God's perfection. Through His infinitely perfect knowledge God knows the extent to which creatures share His perfections.

 * God's knowledge of the future does not take away our freedom, but leaves our wills free to act or not to act.

 * We are responsible for our free actions, which will be rewarded by God if they are good and punished by Him if they are evil.

 * > "Before man is life and death, good and evil: that which he shall choose shall be given him" (Ecclesiasticus 15:18).

 * > "Who hath been tried thereby, and made perfect, he shall have glory everlasting. He that could have transgressed, and hath not transgressed: and could do evil things and hath not done them" ( 10).

 * > "The Lord knoweth all knowledge and hath beheld the signs of the world. He declareth the things that are past and the things that are to come, and revealeth the traces of hidden things" (Ecclesiasticus 42:19).

 * > "For I am God, and there is no god beside: neither is there the like to me" (Isaias 46:9).

 * > "And there is no creature hidden from his sight; but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we have to give account" (Hebrews 4:13).


 * Q. 16. What do we mean when we say that God is all-present?
A. When we say that God is all-present, we mean that He is everywhere.


 * God is everywhere: first, by His power, inasmuch as all things are under His dominion; second, by His Presence. Inasmuch as nothing is hidden from Him; third, by His essence, inasmuch as He is in all things as the cause of their being.

 * > "Whither may I go from thy spirit, or whither may I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I lie down with the dead, thou art present. If I lay hold of the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the farthest part of the sea: Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 138:7-10).


 * Q. 17. If God is everywhere, why do we not see Him?
A. Although God is everywhere, we do not see Him because He is a spirit and cannot be seen with our eyes.


 * Although we cannot see God, the splendid order and beauty of creation should constantly remind us of His wisdom, His power, His goodness, and His nearness to us.

 * > "God is spirit, and they who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24).


 * Q. 18. Does God see us?
A. God sees us and watches over us with loving care.


 * > "The eyes of the Lord in every place behold the good and the evil" (Proverbs 15:3).

 * > "And as for clothing, why are you anxious? Consider how the lilies of the field grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I say to you that not even in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which flourishes today but tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more you, O you of little faith! Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or, 'What shall we drink?' or, 'What are we to put on?' (For after all these things the Gentiles seek); for your Father knows that you need all these things" (Matthew 6:28-32).


 * Q. 19. What is God's loving care for us called?
A. God's loving care for us is called Divine Providence.


 * Divine Providence is God's plan for guiding every creature to its proper end.

 * > "All expect of thee, that thou give them food in season. What thou givest to them they gather up; when thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good. If thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; if thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. If thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth" (Psalm 103:27-30).

 * > "For God will not accept any man's person, neither will he stand in awe of any man's greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all" (Wisdom 6:8).

 * > "Cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).


 * Q. 20. What do we mean when we say that God is almighty?
A. When we say that God is almighty, we mean that He can do all things.


 * God can do anything that is not opposed to His perfection, or that is not self-contradictory. The impossibility of God's doing anything wrong or acting falsely does not limit His divine power, since wrongdoing and falsity in themselves are evil and are manifest defects, they cannot be associated with an infinitely perfect Being.

 * Although God, the first cause of all things, actually does all things, He does not thereby deprive the creature of its power of causality nor of its freedom of action. A creature is never more than a secondary cause, that is, always dependent on God, always a finite being. When this secondary cause is intellectual, it is constituted by Almighty God as a free agent.

 * > "Whatsoever the Lord pleases, he does in heaven and on earth, in the sea, and in all the deeps" (Psalm 134:6).

 * > "How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but thou wouldst not!" (Matthew 23:37).

 * > "For nothing shall be impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).


 * Q. 21. Is God all-wise, all-holy, all-merciful, and all-just?
A. Yes, God is all-wise, all-holy, all-merciful, and all-just.


 * God, the first cause of all things, in His wisdom knows these things perfectly and disposes them to their ends according to appropriate means.

 * If we do not understand why or how God does certain things or permits them to happen, it is because our limited minds cannot understand His secrets nor see the universal plan of creation.

 * Because God is all-holy, He is entirely free from all sin and imperfection and is infinitely good and lovable.

 * Because God is all-merciful, He gives to each creature even more than is its due. He rewards the good more fully and punishes the wicked less severely than they deserve. He is always ready to help His creatures and to forgive repentant sinners.

 * Because God is all-just, He gives to each creature what is due to it. God rewards the good and punishes the wicked partially in this life and more fully in eternity.

 * > "Be ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).

 * > "Thou art just, O Lord, and all thy judgments are just; and all thy ways mercy, and truth, and judgment" (Tobias 3:2).

 * > "The Lord is merciful and kind; slow to anger and plenteous in mercy" (Psalm 102:8).

 * > "The Lord is just in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psalm 144:17).

 * > "Of his wisdom there is no measure" (Psalm 146:5).

 * > "And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, Holy, Holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory" (Isaias 6:3).

 * > "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" (Romans 11:33).


 * Q. 22. Can we know by our natural reason that there is a God?
A. We can know by our natural reason that there is a God, for natural reason tells us that the world we see about us could have been made only by a self-existing Being, all-wise and almighty. 2


 * See Scripture, question 3, Psalm 18:2.


 * Q. 23. Can we know God in any other way than by our natural reason?
A. Besides knowing God by our natural reason, we can also know Him from supernatural revelation, that is, from the truths found in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition, which God Himself has revealed to us.


 * Supernatural revelation is the communication of some truth by God to a creature through means that are beyond the ordinary course of nature. Some revealed truths, for example, the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, are strictly beyond the power of the human mind. We could never know such truths unless God revealed them. Other truths, for example, the immortality of the soul, while not beyond the power of the human mind, are objects of revelation because God has revealed them in a supernatural way. Although these latter truths could be known without revelation, they are grasped with greater ease and certainty once God has revealed them.

 * God's public revelation of truths to men began with Adam and Eve and ended at the death of Saint the Apostle.

 * Divine revelation contained in the Old Testament is called pre-Christian. It can be divided into: first, Primitive revelation, made to Adam and Eve; second, Patriarchal revelation, made to the patriarchs, for example, to Abraham and Lot; third, Mosaic revelation, made to Moses and the prophets. Christian revelation contains the truths revealed to us by Jesus Christ, either directly or through His apostles.

 * The Church does not oblige the faithful to believe private revelations given, at certain times, to individuals. For our edification, however, the Church permits the publication of some private revelations. Those to whom private revelations are given are obliged to believe them when they are certain that the revelations are from God.

 * Sacred Scripture, or the Bible, is the word of God written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and contained in the books of the Old and the New Testament.

 * Inspiration is the act by which God moves and directs the sacred writers faithfully to commit to writing all those things and only those things that He wishes them to write. The sacred writers act as free instruments of God, who is the principal author of Sacred Scripture.

 * Tradition is the unwritten word of God - that body of truths revealed by God to the apostles, and not committed by them to writing but handed down by word of mouth. These truths, which were later committed to writing, particularly by the Fathers of the Church, have been preserved and handed down to the present day.

 * > "But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

 * > "There are, however, many other things that Jesus did; but if every one of these should be written, not even the world itself, I think; could hold the books that would have to be written" (John 21:25).

 * > "So then, brethren, stand firm, and hold the teachings that you have learned, whether by word or by letter of ours" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

 * > "All Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16).

 * > "God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1).




 * The most excellent knowledge that man can have is the knowledge of God. Our own natural reason tells us that there must be a Supreme Being who created the entire universe. He alone is existence; all other things are given existence by Him. With our natural reason we can know also that the Creator possesses all possible perfections or all good qualities. He is the cause of all perfection in creatures; hence, the perfections of all created things must be in Him in an infinitely superior manner to what they are in creatures.

 * In order that men may know Him and His perfections more surely and more profoundly, God has given us divine revelations, which furnish us with clearer knowledge about His nature than reason could provide, and also manifest some truths about Him which natural reason could never learn by its own efforts. The first of God's revelations for the human race were given to Adam and Eve, and God continued to make such revelations until the death of the last apostle, St. John. Since that time there have been no new revelations for all mankind, although there have been private revelations for certain individuals. Moreover, there has been a growth of public revelation in the sense that, as time went on, men have gradually come to a deeper and clearer knowledge of the truths which God revealed of old. Thus, it was only after hundreds of years that

 * Catholics clearly perceived that the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception is contained in revelation. The revelations given by God for the human race are contained in Sacred Scripture, or the Bible which is the written word of God, and in divine Tradition, which is the unwritten word of God, since it was handed down, without being written, by those who received it from God, namely the apostles.

 * The various perfections of God are mentioned in many passages of Scripture, as is evident from the many quotations from the Bible given in the preceding part of this lesson. Catholics should try to familiarize themselves with some of the principal texts which speak of God and of His infinite perfections. Moreover, the prayers employed or recommended by the Church abound with references to God and to His perfections. The liturgy of the Mass frequently speaks of the wonderful qualities of the Most High.

 * Some of God's perfections have a special relation to ourselves. For example, when we think of God's goodness, we are inspired to love Him, not only because He is good to us but also because He is all-good in Himself. Thus, we make an act of divine charity, the most excellent of the virtues. Again, the truth that God is all-present and hence always near us, should help us to avoid sin. The realization that God is all-knowing should remind us that He is aware of even our most secret thoughts and desires. The thought of His providence, of His loving care over us to help us to attain everlasting happiness, should inspire us to have unbounded confidence in Him. In trials and temptations, we should remember that we are not alone; our loving Father is always near us.

 * RESOLUTION: Acquire the habit of remembering frequently that God is at your side and of concentrating briefly on one of His infinite perfections. Then in your heart make an act of adoration or of love.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 2





 * (Select the word or phrase in the parentheses which most exactly and most completely fills out the sentence).


 * When we say that God is self-existing we mean that (He is the cause of His own existence ... He does not owe His existence to any other being ... He loves Himself more than He loves any other being).

 * Spirits are eternal (in the sense that they will live forever ... in the same sense that God is eternal ... in the sense that they never change).

 * When we say that God is in all things as the cause of their being, we are referring to His presence by (presence ... power ... essence).

 * God (wills ... cannot prevent ... permits) sin.

 * The first public revelation was given to (Adam and Eve ... Christ ... Moses).

 * Public revelation ended with (Christ ... St. Peter

 * God rewards the good (as much as they deserve ... more than they deserve ... less than they deserve).

 * Public revelation (is still going on ... is all contained in the Bible ... is contained in the Bible and in Tradition).

 * Private revelations (must be believed only by those for whom they are made ... must be believed by everyone ... must be believed by no one).

 * The principal author of a book in the Bible is (the man who wrote it ... the Church ... God).





 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * What should we be inspired to do when we consider the goodness of God?

 * Julius, an irreligious High School boy, claims we are forced to do all the things we do; he says that we are not free. Is this true? What is the reason for your answer?

 * At this very moment, God knows what we shall do tomorrow. Does this mean we shall be forced to do those things tomorrow? Explain.

 * Sometimes in religious art, the eye of God is represented within an equilateral triangle. What perfection of God is thus illustrated?

 * In three or four sentences tell why the remembrance of the Presence of God is a great aid in practicing virtue and in avoiding sin.

 * Remembering that God's eye ever rests upon us, should we be frightened or encouraged? Tell us the reason for your answer.

 * Occasionally atheists and scoffers at religion put such silly questions as these: "Can God make a square circle?-or a stick with only one end?" How do you answer such nonsense?

 * Passing the announcement board of a Catholic church, Chester, a Protestant lad, notices the advertisement of a sermon: "The Mercy of God." He asks his Catholic friend, Alfred, what it means. Help Alfred to give the right answer.

 * The timepieces of earth are regulated from the movements of the heavenly bodies. These timepieces - our watches and clocks - are made by intelligent beings outside of the timepieces themselves. Who then, made the Master Timepiece, - the heavenly bodies?

 * Define: Supernatural Revelation; Divine Providence.

 * Brigid is fond of spiritual books, especially the life of her patroness, recounting the wonderful revelations made to her. Other saintly men and women of God also have been favored with such revelations. How are these revelations classified? Are they the same as the supernatural revelations spoken of in this lesson?

 * Explain in what sense there has been, for many centuries, (a) no growth or public revelation, and (b) such a growth.

 * Leander wonders how it was possible for the prophets to describe the details of Our Lord's passion and death many centuries before they took place. Can you explain this to Leander?


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