The Center of Christian Faith

KENNETH BAKER, S.J.

The object toward which Catholic faith is directed is God himself.

For we profess in the Creed "I believe in one God." The idea, however, that exists in the minds of different people in correspondence to the word "God" is not the same for all men and for all cultures. Many men have taken their idea of God from material things, thinking that he is the sun, the moon, the heavens, the earth, various animals, life forces, and so forth.

The Catholic Christian notion of God is based upon God's revelation of himself to man in the Old and New Testaments. God has graciously revealed himself to man in the course of salvation history, beginning with Adam and culminating in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. But even in the Old Testament, God revealed himself gradually to mankind through Israel, his chosen people. It is not until he personally appears in the flesh in Jesus Christ that we get a more profound understanding of the one God in three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The one God that Christians believe in is the same God who guided the Israelites through their long, tortuous history. During that time he was preparing them for the full revelation of himself in his only Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Through the preaching, miracles, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, a small group of believers was gathered together into the "Church" that professed its faith in the Triune God. By the divine assistance that "small flock" grew in numbers and extension so that it has by now touched practically every human culture and people on the face of the earth.

It is extremely important for Catholics to realize that the God they profess in the Creed is not just some abstract idea, like the God of philosophers, who is logically deduced from the material world. Such a God is only an idea that may or may not refer to the eternal source of all being and reality. The more successful attempts along this line only reach God, as it were, from the outside. They tell man nothing about the inner nature of God, about God's plan for the world, about God's concern or unconcern for each and every living person.

The God we Christians believe in has come incredibly close to us in Jesus of Nazareth. In and through Jesus he has told us about his own inner life. In Jesus he has and is reaching out to us in a gesture of love and he is asking (not forcing) us to respond in kind. That is the God we believe in and that is the God preached by the Church.

Even though, through Jesus, we know much about God, we must always remember that our knowledge is not very comprehensive — it is in fact very defective. We know clearly what God wants us to do and what his plan is for the world, but we do not see clearly how God can be one and three at the same time: one nature and three divine Persons. At this point we approach the supreme mystery of the Christian faith. Jesus prays to his father and sends the Holy Spirit upon his Church. We have all been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Thatthere are three Persons subsisting in one God we know from the New Testament, from the faith of the Fathers of the Church, from the liturgy and the preaching of the Church. How this can be we do not see. It is part of the merit of faith that we humbly accept this august, revealed truth on the Word of God.

See the index of chapters from Fundamentals of Catholicism which have been reprinted to CERC here.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Kenneth Baker, S.J. "The Center of Christian Faith." In Fundamentals of Catholicism Vol. 1 Part 1, Chapter 3 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 25-27.

This article reprinted with permission from Father Kenneth Baker, S.J.

THE AUTHOR

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 Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.


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