A true swordsman is recognised not simply by ability to swing the largest of swords with great speed and strength, but by the skill and agility to wield any sword in the best way. Likewise, the vision of God in Christian Scripture (not only in the NT – explicitly in passages like Philippians 2:5-11 – but in the OT) is of a God who does not mindlessly brandish the sword of omnipotence around like a brute or side-show stuntman, but rather wisely wields it in ways that are not about mere strength but intent, skill and purpose.
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that basically no Christian doctrine about God makes any sense at all if God’s omnipotence is not seen in this particular way. Just as a skilled swordsman most probably indeed could swing a sword quite fast and powerfully, but would only do so at rare occasions or perhaps only once, so also there are many things that an omnipotent God is able to do, but not willing.
The kenotic, or ‘self-emptying’, God is not shackled to ‘logical’ expectations for what omnipotence would do. God both a) refrains from doing things he has capacity to do, as well as b) does things he does not need to do. God could have not created. It’s not as though there could be any force or person or will ‘above’ God that caused God to create. But create he did – and does. To venture into the conversation of sovereignty and process theology and ‘free will’, etc., God could have chosen to have a very deterministic and micro-managerial rule over the world. It’s not as though that would be un-fitting or impossible for omnipotence. But his sovereign rule is far more respecting of freedom, and what we have is a mixture of inability to do many things (i.e. breathe in space, fly, etc.), and ability to direct our own courses of action. We are dependent enough upon the world and each other such that the degree of indifference we can fall to has limits, yet we are also independent enough from it and others such that an annoyingly persistent responsibility for our actions is perpetually ensured.
Of all the theistic proofs, the cosmological argument is clearest and simplest:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The Universe began to exist.
- The Universe has a Cause.
A helpful deductive version is stated as follows:
- A contingent being (a being that if it exists can not-exist) exists.
- This contingent being has a cause of or explanation for its existence.
- The cause of or explanation for its existence is something other than the contingent being itself.
- What causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must either be solely other contingent beings or include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
- Contingent beings alone cannot provide an adequate causal account or explanation for the existence of a contingent being.
- Therefore, what causes or explains the existence of this contingent being must include a non-contingent (necessary) being.
- Therefore, a necessary being (a being that if it exists cannot not-exist) exists.
The key issue is whether or not the world (including concepts such as universe, multiverse, etc.) is a) self-caused, eternal and infinite or other-caused, temporal and finite – and I maintain that this is not an issue which science can determine.
I’m looking forward to the profundity of the questions Thomas will ask as he and his mind develop and grow. Children often surprise us.
Having said that, their questions remind us of what it was like to not have thought further about a question. Take a question like ‘Who made God?’ This is one of the questions dealt with in the new book, ‘Who Made God? And Other Tricky Questions‘, by missiologist, linguist, and former Carey Baptist principal Brian Smith.
Because kids ((and some popular atheists – I cannot resist the urge to add…)) need to be shown how to identify what is assumed in a question (and an answer to it), any semantic issues involved, and learn to (if necessary) reformulate or rephrase it, think past initial, incomplete answers and get to subsequent less incomplete answers.
Just watched The Changeling with my wife (‘endured’ would be the term she’d use!), and really enjoyed it. There are some real gut-wrenching moments in there, which I won’t elaborate on here.
One thing I found interesting was the particular (and familiar) feeling of deep satisfaction and relief I (and my wife – and anyone with a pulse) when the ‘code 12’ women were freed from the mental hospital, and when the lawyer offered to defend her pro bono. It’s just that familiar, deep-seated, very human feeling we all get when the right thing is done – when a horrible injustice is righted. The opening scene of Amistad, where the slaves on the slave ship break loose and take over the ship, though violent and bloody, also provoked that same feeling – that kind of fist-pumping ‘yeah!’ feeling. Emotions aren’t infallible, and in terms of epistemology I don’t think any source of knowledge is (reason, logic, etc.); but sometimes they (emotions) can be very, very good conductors of Truth.
And I love how immediate, every-day, down-to-earth, and universal these kinds of emotions are. No philosophy degrees needed here, no deep pondering or reflection, just deep, gut-level ‘knowing’ that – though we don’t know everything – we know that we know that we know ‘this is right’.