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Question 3: How much power is enough?

March 5, 2013

You may have been wondering about “all powerful” or omnipotent as a qualifying criteria for being God. While I am tempted,  it doesn’t start with “I,” precluding an inclusion conclusion[AD1] .

Although you might believe leaving omnipotence off the list is merely a pathetic effort to add another question or create some gratuitous word plays, the truth is far deeper – I’m not convinced God has to be all-powerful to pull the gig off.

Let’s start with the implications of the two most commonly used phrases:

Omnipotence:          Having infinite power

All powerful:          Having all power or more powerful than all

Having infinite clout would certainly qualify you for at least a tie on our “Most Powerful Being in the Universe” competition and being all-powerful seems to trump all comers. However, if God does have one or both of these characteristics, there seems to have been some reticence to put this dominance to use.

If you believe God created the universe[1] or just started the wheels of the process in motion, the implied level of power is pretty impressive. Admittedly after seven days work, and a little animosity with Adam and Eve, it appears the God of the Old Testament felt obliged to take several billion years off[2]. However, the point is not to question God’s work ethic but to accept God’s stitching the cosmos together would involve significant wattage.

If God didn’t create the universe, how much influence is required to qualify for the top job? As God has already been identified as indestructible, there’s really no argument for defensive power in the form of physical strength, and what action would merit physical force?

The answer may lie in comparing power in the physical and spiritual realms and addressing the influence of:

CAN’T vs. WON’T

In either sphere, muscle doesn’t have to be used to exist. For example, there are currently nine countries with a “viable” nuclear weapon and five “nuclear weapons states.” The sway conferred by this status doesn’t require gratuitous dropping of bombs to make the point – having the capability is enough.

Similarly, God could be all-powerful without controlling every event in the universe. However, if God does direct everything, there are some serious job performance issues to be addressed:

a)                 What’s with all these natural disasters, famines, plagues & general catastrophes?
b)                How do criminals get away with anything?
c)                 Why isn’t there better surf in Colorado?[AD2]

Conclusion

The existence of crime, disasters and the vagaries of our personal environments would strongly suggest a benevolent God does not control every happening in the universe. Whether this is due to a commitment to free will, the fight between good and evil, or a God who simply couldn’t be bothered, doesn’t really matter at this stage. The bottom line is that my God of integrity is clearly not interfering in every day to day activity in the cosmos.

If God doesn’t act[AD3] in all aspects of the physical realm, it doesn’t rule out the ability to do so. While this ability is not a prerequisite for my God, I’d have to admit to being a little bummed out if it didn’t exist – we’ll explore how this might happen in the next section.


[1] We’ll address this later

[2] Or only dabble at key moments in history


[AD1]Ha! Nice!

[AD2]AGREED

[AD3]May want to consider a word other than failure – it conflicts with the idea of omnipotence (unless that contrast is intended, in which case the intention should probably be stated)

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