Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Part #3: Is God Omnipotent?


Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Rather shockingly, philosopher Charles Hartshorne writes that's correct.

Hartshorne explains in his books such as Omnipotence and other Theological Mistakes, this severe misunderstanding by most Christians and Muslims is the cause of many tragic problems in theism.

The omnipotence doctrine is emphasized by Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Islamic theologies and is traceable all the back to many Greek philosophers who thought of perfection as totally unmoved, not changing, not even experiencing, not suffering, etc.

In contrast, Hartshorne suggests that becoming is better than being! Relational changing is more perfect than immutability.

According to the view of philosophers such as Hartshorne, God is goodness in process, is in relationship with everything that exists.

God is transcendent, but also is immanent, is growing, advancing in relationship to the cosmos, matter and energy, and finite conscious beings such as humans.

Absolute power, absolute immutability can't live in relationship.

But the real God is relational, strongly opposes evil and works against it in all of its many forms. God suffers with all in existence who suffer; God empathizes deeply, remembers and never forgets.

But even though God is completely goodness in becoming, God can’t force the whole cosmos to become good. Force by its very nature isn't relational but rather power used against others. That's why even God can't make any particular group of mass murderers like ISIS on a tiny sphere in the Milky Way to stop massacring.

God can't change the universe or any conscious beings in it--Except by persuasion.

How does that happen? How has that happened?

God influences existence toward truth, justice, and goodness through interaction with each conscious species and influences the rest of natural world through gradual development.

God “persuades” the universe toward the good, the true, the just, the beautiful.

In Hartshorne’s view of reality, what he calls panentheism, (also termed process philosophy), there is no room for an omnipotent/sovereign determiner like in traditional Christian and Islamic theology, where God is a meticulous foreordainer/controller who plans every flood, mass starvation, black plague, genetic defect, disease, rape, and slaughter. There is no omnipotent god who causes every slight mistake, such as an individual typing the wrong key on a computer or dropping a can.

Traditional creedal thinkers emphasize God is so omnipotent that not even a molecule moves but God moves it. According to Martin Luther, God works evil in most humans! Humans are the axe that God wields in life:-(

Not so! argues Hartshorne.

In drastic contrast, Hartshorne emphasizes that God is relational with existence in a vaguely similar way that a human is in relation to the cells of his body. A human can influence his body by good food, exercise, meditation, but he can’t make a particular cell do exactly what he wants.

But Christian, Muslim, and Hindu leaders and the Greek philosopher Epicurus ask, “Then why call him God?”

And modern cynics ask, “Of what good is such an unpowerful god?

While panentheism sounds good to many concerned humans that God doesn’t do accidents, tragedies, and horrific massacres,
there is a HUGE HOWEVER--

But then God doesn’t do miracles either—no sudden resurrections, no cancers cured, no paralyzed individuals suddenly up walking and leaping, no help from God for us to do well on a university final exam or job interview, or our team score a seemingly impossible last second touchdown in the Super Bowl....

Again, as Epicurus, asked, "Then why call him God?"

People who dismiss Hartshorne’s (and Whitehead’s, Cobb’s, Williams’) view of God, ask, what good is a deity who isn’t all powerful, who can’t or won’t perform miracles for us?

The process philosophers respond that it is true that a God who is becoming, who is in process, who is primarily relational, a God who isn’t in absolute control of everything doesn’t provide the absolute security of Augustine’s, or Aquinas’, or Calvin’s God that millions of humans want.

However, keep in mind, that then God also doesn’t ever appear to be demonic and horrific.

There is no God who foreordained billions of conscious beings to eternal damnation for his own glory.

No God who majors in hurricanes, cancers, and all actions of evil like the John Pipers and Munammads of humanity worship.

Besides, where is the evidence of the God of omnipotence?

Where’s is the evidence for any miracles?

Any evidence that God caused the tsunami that slaughtered over 250,000 Asians in only a few hours?

Where is the evidence that God was on either/or any number of sides in the Great War or the Vietnam War or now in the Syrian Civil War?

But most spiritual and religious people in history and now, much prefer the traditional understanding of God--full of all of the omnis, the ultimate security.

They think God (incomprehensible, to the rest of us, of course) has picked them alone—their elect group, nation, religion—especially and only!

All other humans aren't IN. Mostly, the chosen ones think of everyone else as foreordained reprobates, workers of iniquity, enemies of God to be opposed and defeated. The philosopher Erice Hoffer explains this outlook so well in his book, The True Believer.

To be continued--

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

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