The All Powerful Self-emptying God

The question gets asked as to why if God is omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) is there evil?

At least a partial answer is offered by John Polkinghorne  in his  THE FAITH OF A PHYSICIST):

“I have suggested from a theological point of view the roles of chance and necessity should be seen as reflections of the twin gifts of freedom and reliability, bestowed on his creation by One who is both loving and faithful.   … God’s gift of ‘freedom’ to his creation is conveyed by his respect for the integrity of these processes.   …   The act of creation involves divine acceptance of the risk of the existence of the other, and there is a consequent kenosis of God’s omnipotence.  This curtailment of divine power is, of course, through self-limitation on his part … It arises from the logic of love, which requires the freedom of the beloved.”

What I get from Polkinghorne is specifically that God giving free will and freedom to His human creatures means God does accept a degree of chance in His creation.  Humans really do have choices to make with real consequences, and so what humans think, say and do, matters for all; we are shaping our future in the same way that the universe is expanding and forming its own boundaries.   God is not predetermining or predestining every decisions and action of every human being, and is allowing human decisions to shape history.  Humans are thus influencing the space time continuum. 

God gives humans freedom and free will and then freely chooses to circumscribe His own powers to relate to and work with the humans in His creation.  The incarnation is the main story of God’s self emptying (kenotic) love.  The Virgin Mary is Theotokos containing the uncontainable God in Her womb in an inexplicable mystery. 

Freedom and free will are the corollaries of love – you cannot have one without the other.  Thus for love and forgiveness to exist in the world, there has to be free will, and if there is free will there is the potential for evil.  This is the strange manner in which the self emptying and self limiting love of God allows evil to exist.  It is not that God wishes evil to exist, but His love is such that He allows His creatures to reject Him and to practice evil rather than destroying His creatures.  This is the mystery of the phrase, God is love.

Conventional Wisdom

I was asked if I was going to blog about the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.   I can only say that I write about the things which make me think, but conventions and campaigns do not seemed designed to make me think, rather they try to control my thinking and to hijack my emotions.   I also admit that I will watch virtually none of it on television, not because I am avoiding the Conventions, but because I never watch much television.  The conventions are staged performances – true theater – definitely geared to excite the Party believers.

As I have confessed before, I am a bit of cynic when it comes to politicians, so I don’t give them very much of my attention.  I wish for statesmen more than politicians.  I think President Bush’s speech after the 9/11 attacks was that of a statesmen and I think a high point of his presidency, but then there have been an awful lot of dismally disappointing days for his administration, which in my estimation got lost in ideological politics.  I do share NEWSWEEK’s Fareed Zararia’s sense that this year things have improved in the administration’s policy making.    

As I see things as a Christian and a pastor, these presidential campaigns really become very stressful to many people – way too negatively stressful.   As the campaign wears on so also wears out the faith and hope of the people.   Some of this is due to the heavy negative campaign ads which take their toll on the souls of all.   I resent those ads totally.   My solution:  all Christians should turn their commercial TV and radio stations off during the last month of the campaign.   And I think that America would do well to adopt what I understand France does – all campaign advertising is forbidden in the week before the election.  Campaign advertizing does nothing to uplift anyone, rather it is a heavy burden on the soul of individuals and the nation itself.   And those ads shed no light but create a lot of heat.

Why anyone listens to the negative campaign ads is beyond me.  They are soul deadening.  Their goal is to stimulate your worst passions – your fears, anger, paranoia, prejudices,  hatred, and disgust to manipulate you into voting against the other candidate.  Unfortunately, the campaign machines know that negative ads work – people are willing to let themselves be manipulated and emotionally hijacked, and they are willing to let their reason flee as their passions rise.

Better then listening to all the campaign ads – as the election nears, come to church more frequently and pray for our country and our country’s leaders and for the armed forces and for peace for the world.   That would at least do some good for all of us.   Fretting over the election will not contribute anything to your life or to the life of the world.   Take time for silence in your life as the campaign heats up.    You do not need any advertisement or talk show host to tell you what to think about any candidate.     Turn your radios and TVs off, and read the Scriptures, or listen to music that uplifts or calms the soul.    Don’t let the negative campaign ads fill your heart and mind with gloom and doom and fear.  Seek peace. 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”   (Philippians 4:7-9)

I think if you have prayed well during the weeks before the election, your vote will come from a thankful heart, rather than from the heavy hellish darkness created by campaign ads.   And I think if anything Americans should be the most thankful people on earth, not those feeling most oppressed.     If you really can’t stay away from the politics, I would say instead of watching any TV ads whatsoever, go back and watch the Saddleback Civil Forum with Rick Warren as the host.  There you will get a much more calm view of the candidates and you can hear them speak for themselves rather than listening to the negative ads telling you what the other candidate is really saying.    Campaign ads and political pundits create a hurricane that spawns tornadoes.  There are far better ways to learn what both candidates offer America.   Anytime a campaign ad come on, turn it off and sing, “God bless America.”  That will do more for you and our nation than the billions spent on negative campaign ads.