Most of us were taught that, along with being omniscient and omnipresent, God is omnipotent. But it’s hard to love a God Almighty.
Omnipotent isn’t in the Bible. It’s a term coined by thinkers influenced by Greek philosophy, who saw God as infinitely above us, the pinnacle of perfection. He—and the omnipotent deity definitely has a Y chromosome—is perfectly in control of everything. From way up there in heaven, He makes everything happen down here.
But what about when bad things happen to good people? Does God make that happen? Epicurus is bound to ask, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
Confronted with the obvious problems of omnipotence, we have scrambled for all kinds of work-arounds—some way to save this “God” from being a deity with zero affect. It’s better to acknowledge that the distant, theoretical God of Greek philosophy isn’t the God of the Bible. The Old Testament presents us with a God who, for better and for worse, is deeply in relationship with human beings. God doesn’t really control things—a love relationship cannot be controlled. Nobel Laureate and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once remarked that one of his professors asked the students who was the most tragic character in the Hebrew Bible. Some said, Moses or Abraham, but the professor said, “No—it’s God. Because nothing turns out the way he planned.”
And when God became human in Jesus, omnipotence really collapsed. Now we are presented with a God-Man who inverts all our human power pyramids, a God who suffers with us, who willingly lays down his need for control and insists we do the same.
Yes, we have an all-powerful God—just not in the way we were told. God’s power—if we can even imagine such a thing—“is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). It shows us how love can triumph over all the things we cannot control, even death. And that, blessedly, is a God we can love.
“Is God Omnipotent?”
How does your image shift or change when you imagine God as sharing in our joy and suffering, showing us the transformative power of love, no matter what happens…rather than as a God who has the power to control everything that happens?
Question #8 “What Are You Chasing?” comes Sunday March 12.