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.

One thought on “The All Powerful Self-emptying God

  1. The birth of God’s Son by a virgin giving us the incarnation–‘God with us’, Christ living and dwelling among us is indeed a marvelous mystery!

    C.S. Lewis (another great Christian thinker) reasons along the same lines as you do in this blogg in his book “The Problem of Pain”. While in college I took this position in Philosophy that man has freewill and a sinful nature and may chose good or evil. The apostle Peter tells us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirt that “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NIV. On the other hand the apostle Paul also gives us insight also under the inspiration of the Spirit in Roman 9:10-21 where he says “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Romans 9:15 NIV.

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