Showing items filed under “The Rev. Paul Klitzke”

Theology Matters: God the Father: How Was This Revelation Handed Down to Us?

"God is always bigger than the boxes we build for God, so we should
not waste too much time protecting the boxes." - Richard Rohr

The complexity of God exceeds our capacity for understanding.  Even in an age of advanced scholarship and information systems, we still rely on metaphors to generate an understanding of that which defies explanation, God.  Any improvement we have experienced in this realm is connected to our ability to cultivate better metaphors or
explanations of those metaphors we still use and cherish.

The origin of God as 'Father' is uncertain, although it is undoubtedly pre-Christian.  The scriptures tell us that we (humans) are made in God's image which supports descriptions that liken God to Mother or Father.  In contrast, Numbers 23:19 reminds us that God is not human. Yet, parental images would be universally understood.  Even as some struggle with their own relationship with their own father or mother,
they can often consider this description of God in terms of what an ideal Mother or Father would be to a child.  Further yet, these images conjure an array of characteristics we attribute to God, protector, care-giver, support, all framed in love that knows no bounds.

The image of God as Father (and Mother) emerges throughout scripture. The prophets of the Hebrews scriptures offer numerous examples, perhaps most notably:
"For you are our father,
    though Abraham does not know us
    and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
    our Redeemer from of old is your name." (Isaiah 63:16)

And for good measure:
"For a long time I have held my peace,
    I have kept still and restrained myself;
now I will cry out like a woman in labor,
    I will gasp and pant." (Isaiah 42:14)

Of course, the image of God as Father emerges more fully as Jesus arrives and walks among us.  The vast majority of scriptural references can be found in the Gospels, as Jesus seeks to offer understanding of God.  The emphasis here is such, that if we are
considering how the image of God as 'Father' is formed in Christendom, everything else will pale in comparison.  Jesus depicts God as heavenly Father, caring for all creation.  Jesus also expounds on this image, referencing God Almighty as "my Father" or "my Father in heaven."  Here, I believe I have often been distracted in
contemplating the connection between 'Father' and 'Son' as parts of the Trinity, rather than considering the nature of the Trinity to be realized by relationship itself.

The revelation of God as 'Father' continues prominently through Church history.  Given the prominence of the metaphor throughout Jesus teaching, it is no wonder that our early Church Fathers continue this line of thinking.  Our Creeds explore the notion of God as 'Father,' although in a far more limited capacity than they speak to the other
persons of the Trinity.  The Nicene Creed begins,

"We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen."

This represents a mere nine percent of the creed, whether counted as words or
characters.  One could argue that the Father is also characterized in relationship to 'Son' and 'Holy Spirit' later in the creed.  If we are to include those references we may reach 14 percent.  Indeed, even with very few words the Father is attributed a great deal in the Creed.

Perhaps then, we return to the universal nature of this metaphor to see both how it is revealed to us and how it is to be understood. It is not surprising the human history is full of examples of how God is likened to a Father, it the most perfect Fatherhood we might imagine.

It is not surprising that this imagine withstands the tests of timenand continues to expand for us still today.  Even Thomas Aquinas, known for his great theological insight, much of which was captured in his 'Summa Theolgica' noted that he had "not yet begun to understand 'God the Father'.  So, if you are still developing your understanding, you are in good company. 

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What Can We Know of God with Our Minds?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8-9

In my first reading of the question I was to address, I misread it as “What can we know of the mind of God?” I wondered if simply answering, “nothing” would suffice, even as I contemplated the nuances of how God’s mind may be revealed to us both through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

I was grateful to return to the assignment and realize that the question was in fact, “What can we know of God with our minds.” I was again tempted to oversimplify and answer, “everything”. Our God is the God of all creation, anything and everything we know is of God. So then, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, all that we know with our minds, is in fact of God.

While tempting, these all-or-nothing answers are not entirely satisfactory. Indeed, God is known through all things but what of God? Philosophically there are few definite to be known, whereas others fields of science are more versed in known entities. Scientific advancement has revealed a great deal about creation, well beyond casual observation.

I had the good fortune of attending a presentation by some leaders from NASA about the telescopes planned for Mauna kea (Maui). The lead presenter spoke at length about general advancements of science, leading us toward to current progression of telescope technology. He explained that despite other advancements, location of these instruments was critical to maximizing their potential. He went on to explain, with no small amount of fascination that our definitive knowledge of further and further systems continued to expand. It is also interesting to note that throughout our progression of understanding the expansiveness of creation, so too our understanding of smaller and smaller aspects of creation come to light.

He observed that science still offered no definitive answers to the beginning of the universe, nor could it. But, whatever set the course of creation in motion was still at work. Indeed, it seems that creation is still being created, even at an ever-increasing pace. He paused to note that they did not know, or name this force. I muttered to those nearby that I had a few suggestions in this department.

I see science and faith as old friends. Perhaps they have a spat every few generations, but I am hopeful for their restoration. I believe this hope is well founded, as some in the science community who have been reluctant to believe in God because of what could be known are now also able to see that some force beyond creation (named or unnamed) has certainly interceded. The calculable odds of creation and all of its complexity simply happening are unfathomable.

No matter how much knowledge we accumulate, mystery remains. While God can be observed through the knowledge, I imagine God resides more so in the mystery. So then, can the knowledge found in philosophy, theology and doctrine be easily differentiated from our scientific knowledge? Is it similar to the difference of knowing something and experiencing it to be true?

Mercy, grace and love are not easily quantifiable. Yet, I know they exist. I have experienced mercy, grace and love from other persons. I have experienced mercy, grace and love of God. I believe these are principle expressions of God. I know with my mind, that part of my role as a Christian and as a priest of the church is to make God’s mercy, grace and love known to others as well.

The Rev. Paul Klitzke is the rector of Church of the Ascension in Dallas.

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