Is It Really Power Vs. Love?

Perhaps they were saving the best for last.

I am referring to the claims of Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders of “homebrewedchristianity” that Jesus wants you and me to take back any compliments we may have (mistakenly) paid to Jesus or His Father regarding His/their omnipotence. We have looked the three reasons which supposedly support this claim; today we’ll consider the final one.

4. An omnipotent deity builds crosses. The cross and resurrection are the center piece of the faith. The cross of Jesus was not simply a convenient way for Jesus to die so that God could raise him from the dead, but a symbol of Rome’s power. Rome and only Rome built crosses and put people on them. Jesus died with the power of empire inscribed on his cross-dead body. It is that body that God raised from the dead, and it is the future of the Cross-dead Christ that we as Christians share. Yet for some reason, we so easily speak about God’s power as if God was being revealed in the building of crosses and not in their bearing. God’s self-revelation in Jesus was a rejection of the coercive, determining, and controlling power that the empires of this world love so much for the power of love. Infinite divine love, the freedom it gives, the risks it takes and the possibilities it continuously creates offer an alternative ultimate theological principle for Christian theology and one I think coheres with the story of Jesus.

I think the argument goes something like this: God cannot be an omnipotent deity because if He were He would have to be a builder rather than a bearer of the cross that is at the center of Christian faith. Perhaps that works with the flawed definition of omnipotence used exclusively by the authors, as touched on in previously in this series. But it falls on its face on further consideration.

Let’s acknowledge right away that there is much to affirm about the paragraph cited. Christ did disarm “the powers” by triumphing over them through his bearing of the cross, exposing them in the process. But what is it that is exposed–the very idea of power? That cannot be the case, for as the paragraph continues, it is the power of love that defeats and exposes the coercive power that built the cross. Furthermore, it was the mighty power of God that raised Jesus from the dead (something coercive power is neither interested in nor capable of doing). How is Jesus raised other than through God’s power? Through the power of love? But from whence does this come? If it is not from God, who is not supposed to be omnipotent, it must exist independently of Him. That doesn’t seem to work well.

The mistake made by the authors in this entire discussion is to associate God’s power with coercive power. But it is coercive power itself which is shown by God’s real power–yes, of love–to be less than those who grasp for it think it to be. If we dissociate ourselves from the thinking that coercion is necessary to power, the objections to God’s omnipotence begin to melt away. A less than omnipotent God cannot act in the ways the Bible clearly portrays Him acting in the flow of the narrative that takes us from creation, through the fall, to redemption, and toward consummation. Rejection of this quality in God leads the authors, and unfortunately many others, to the ideas of process theology, which holds that God is Himself “in process” of becoming, right along with the world. It is dependent upon the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead on one hand and the conviction that Christian theology was hijacked by Greek philosophy on the other.

The latter point would take a longer time to develop adequately; it’s not the stuff of blog posts that many people will be interested in. But it has nonetheless become axiomatic to many in the Emergent Village universe, so much so that it is adopted and then proclaimed as given by many people who have never studied either Greek philosophy, early Christian doctrine or history. The tale is much more complex than we are led to believe by some of these spokespersons. The tragedy is that we are, in the process, encouraged to think less of God than is expected of us in Scripture. Rather than deny that God is omnipotent, we should prayerfully, carefully engage ourselves in growing our understanding of the nature of His mighty power.