God’s like gravity … (Part 2)

So, if we can imagine that God might be all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing, at least in some sense, what does that mean? How is that different from a God who isn’t those things, and what might that mean for us?

If you didn’t read God’s like gravity … (Part 1), you might want to do so before reading this. (Also, Philocrites, aka UU World editor Chris Walton, alerted me to another reference comparing God to gravity: a hymn he wrote! Full disclosure: Chris is also my boss.)

I’ll go out on a limb and guess that most of my UU colleagues don’t believe in the God I’m making a case for in these posts. Assuming they believe in God at all, it’s probably something like the God described by process theology, a God that isn’t all-powerful, but rather affected by us and affecting us. I see why this makes sense. For one thing, it’s a rather elegant answer to a classic theological problem, the theodicy issue. Of course, unless you’re a theology dork like me, you probably don’t even know what “theodicy” means. For a decent explanation, go here. I’ll give a short one. The thinking goes this way: if these three things are true:

  • God is all-powerful.
  • God good; that is, has benevolent intentions toward humanity and creation.
  • Evil exists.

… then what does that mean? How does that make sense? Why, as it was famously put, do bad things happen to good people? So, process thinking goes, the solution is that God isn’t all-powerful. Very powerful, perhaps, but not all-powerful.

(A disclaimer: I realize I’m not giving a full or necessarily fair description of process theology here. For a really good introduction to process thought which doesn’t require a Ph.D. to understand, see this, a great work by the theologian Charles Hartshorne.)

But there’s powerful reasons to think God is all-powerful. For one, despite what Stephen Hawking says, creation didn’t create itself. Hawking’s explanation (and I won’t pretend I can really understand what he’s thinking—he’s way smarter than I am) doesn’t make any more rational sense than saying that God created the Universe. He doesn’t so much give an explanation as say that gravity created everything. If so, then how did gravity come into being?

An all-powerful God makes a lot of sense here, I think. But Christian, you say, you haven’t answered the theodicy? If God’s all-powerful, then is God not good or does evil not exist? I do believe evil exists; there’s plenty of evidence of that, I think. And I do believe God’s good; the evidence for that is in my heart and in my experience. I don’t have an answer to theodicy, and I think there are issues with every answer to theodicy. My solution is that I don’t have one. I don’t pretend to think that I can understand this or reconcile it. Because I truly, deeply, profoundly believe that all creation will be saved. This world will be made perfect, healed, saved, if that vernacular makes sense to you. And I don’t, for the life of me, see how imperfect humans are ever going to make this happen by ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely believe it is our mission to make the world better, but progress is difficult at best, perhaps impossible. The history of humanity has shown ample evidence of this. We learn something profound about the nature of matter, and we use it to make nuclear weapons, to just give one example. But despite this, I think progress is possible, and I also think we need a force much greater than ourselves to heal this world. It’s contradiction, but not one I’m interested in solving.

So yes, I think God is all-powerful (and good), and that evil exists. I think progress towards a better world is a very difficult thing for humans to accomplish, and that we should still work with all our beings for it. I believe the world will be healed, and I have no idea how it will happen—that’s God’s business, not mine. Ours is to do the things we can do to make a better world, and have faith that God is working, too.

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2 Responses to “God’s like gravity … (Part 2)”
  1. Kristin says:

    Amen.

    My two cents: For me, believing in an all-powerful, all-knowing, redeeming God doesn’t negate the importance of my actions for good. I don’t believe, as some fundamentalists seem to, that because God will save everything my choices and my work to help others is pointless. As you mention, I see evidence all around me that humanity is utterly incapable of saving itself. However, I can acknowledge with honesty the little that I can do in my own life to heal the world while also affirming the significance of my efforts as a part of God’s ongoing work.

    Frankly, if I didn’t believe in an all-powerful God, then I don’t think I would have any hope of a true and eventual wholeness for myself, let alone all of creation.

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