Christ Carrying the Cross

Christ Carrying the Cross

Monday, 9 January 2012

Omnipotence and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

There has recently been a conversation going on over at Rachel Held Evans's blog, where a guest post by Homebrewed Christianity's Tripp Fuller and Bo Sanders on process theology has provoked some interesting discussion about the relative power of God and whether or not God's victory in the end is a done deal (there is a follow-up post on Homebrewed Christianity here).  Where I would come in on this debate is as a person with a lot of sympathy for process theology, and in agreement with Tripp and Bo about omnipotence.

For God to be omnipotent--that is, to have unlimited power--is not only conceptually problematic but also, in my opinion, morally compromised.  Any God that could literally do anything, as an omnipotent one could, would be indirectly guilty of every act of violence ever to take place in this or any other universe.  Because that God could have stopped or diverted these actions but chose not to, that God would no longer have any real claim to being "good" or "loving."  Even the voluntarily self-limiting God of some Open Theistic, Social Trinitarian, and other progressive theologies would not be blameless in this framework.

None of that was actually the reason I wanted to write this post, however.  I'm more interested in the issue of God's foreknowledge and the certainty of eschatological victory.  In orthodox process thought, because the future is radically open and unknown, there is no guarantee that God will "win" and that evil will be completely defeated.  This bumps up against the eschatological certainty of most traditional theologies (even in Open Theism victory is guaranteed, God just doesn't know all the details leading up to it).

What I want to know is--and I might be alone on this, I don't know--why is the certainty of God's cosmic victory so absolutely necessary for most Christians?  I get that they don't want evil to have the last word, but it seems as if people are afraid to get on board with the program unless they know the end result in advance.  In my view, that allows for no real mystery, no real sacrifice, no real love, no real hope, and no real faith.  As John Caputo is fond of pointing out, the Pauline "hope against hope" can be a radically deconstructive move to act with hope in the most hopeless situation.  In fact, in Caputo's reading, it is only really hope when the situation is hopeless.  It just seems disingenuous for us as Christians to only join the team when the final score has already been dictated.

Forgive my grumpiness (and my binaries), brothers and sisters, but in eschatological certainty I only see a paradoxically idealistic strain of cynicism.  Also forgive my disorganization; I may revisit this with more fully formulated thoughts (and humility) in the near future.

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