Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Omni God

Ask the average person what God is like (if God exists) and if they remember their RE lessons correctly they'll start saying words beginning with omni.
Omni-present.
Omni-scient.
Omni-potent.
Throughout my childhood I went to a church most weeks but I only ever remember learning these words at secondary school.
On a good day I remember what the words mean:
All-present.
All-knowing.
All-powerful.
I just looked the words up on Wikipedia to check I'm right.
Tick.
Tick.
Tick.
Three theological points for me.

The vast majority of Christians for hundreds - thousands - of years have affirmed that these 'omni' words are true of God. Throughout the centuries the words have appeared in numerous foundational 'creeds' - formal lists of agreed beliefs.

I wouldn't dare disagree with the 'omni's. But I want to suggest that there is a slight problem with these words. There is a problem when the 'omni's become our only starting point for thinking about God.
Starting with 'omni's tends to turn God into an abstract philosophical concept.
Something. Somewhere. Out there. Distant. Disconnected.
God becomes an exercise in imagination.
I mean, can you picture a super ultimate being who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all present? Can you begin to wrap your mind around it?
For many, this kind-of ultimate super-being is just too good to be true.
We can't picture it.
Therefore, it can't be right.
Faith in this God can appear like people have just switched their brain off, closed their eyes and are just blindly hoping that it's true.

What's more, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present... this is a pretty scary, intimidating, daunting, overwhelming place to start when thinking about God.
I can fear this God.
But I struggle to relate to this God.
I struggle to fall in love with this God.

You might be surprised to hear that omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent are not words found in the Bible.
There are no verses which say,
'God is all-powerful'
or 'God is all-knowing'
or 'God is all-present.'
That's not to say that God isn't all these things. It's just that these concepts have come from people looking at the evidence in the Bible, weighing it all up and then forming conclusions.
They're conclusions, not starting points.

What the Bible does proclaim as an explicit statement, is that...
'God is love.'

And 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.'



Now there's a great starting point.
I can start to wrap my mind around this.
I can relate to this.
I can respect and admire and fall in love with a God like this.

1 comment:

Bec said...

refreshing to see someone considering these issues again. Just this week I've returned, personally, to omnipotence versus suffering, judgement and the frustrating bits of life.