Remember my post “Waffles?” Me neither. Weirdly enough, hitting my blog’s “Publish” button triggers a corresponding “Delete” function to go off in my head: on my blog means out of my memory. But I see that “Waffles” generated 135 comments, so it must be awesome. My guess is the hot picture of Virginia Woolf is what got everybody all excited.
One thing I do remember from that post, though, is a particularly thoughtful comment left on it by one Siri Erickson, a Lutheran pastor (ELCA) at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, MN. (Trinity’s blog is “The Theology Project.“) For a while now I’ve been meaning to share what Ms. Erickson had to say with my thoughtful and discerning readers, for whom I’ve lately had reason to be particularly grateful.
Below is what Ms. Erickson had to say on the question raised in “Wafffles?”; namely,
“Is God really all-powerful and all-knowing? Because if he is, then when someone is born, doesn’t God already know that person’s ultimate fate? And if God knows that a person is going to end up spending eternity having the living flesh seared off his bones, couldn’t he have gotten him a desktop computer stopped that person from going to hell? And if God can stop someone from going to hell, but doesn’t, doesn’t that make God a complete dick?”
(Wow. No wonder I forget stuff I’ve written. Clearly that’s best for everyone.)
Anyway, here is Ms. Erickson’s great response to that interestingly phrased and fastidiously quoted question:
God can’t be both all-powerful (in the sense of controlling, coercive power) and all-good/all-loving. You have to choose between the two, or you have to redefine the nature of God’s power. Or BOTH.
Is the highest form of power the ability to control things, or is the highest form of power the ability to love and persuade? Is the highest form of power the ability to predetermine the outcome of everything that is going to happen in the world, or is the highest form of power the ability to be in an influencing relationship with people and a world that has its own genuine freedom? Which type of power is more worthy of respect and awe?
Personally, I think a loving, persuading, relating, influencing God is more worthy of respect than a power-hungry tyrant God who decides and causes everything – good and evil – to happen. The controlling God ends up being a morally questionable being who I would not want to have anything to do with.
The future is open. God responds in real time with a call to the good as each moment is unfolding. Humans make real choices that have real consequences, both good and bad. God doesn’t have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens. That whole line of thinking needs to be abandoned, in my opinion. Nobody really lives that way.
Do you get up in the morning and think that God is causing you to eat pancakes instead of Cheerios? Do you think God causes cancer or predetermines before birth which people are going to heaven or hell? What is the point of living at all if God has planned every moment of your life already? What fun would it be for God to know everything that is going to happen in your life before it happens? If God is genuinely in relationship with us, then God is affected by that relationship, responds to that relationship, and delights in the unfolding of that relationship in each moment.
Don’t you love it? It does posit that God’s future is open to what we make of it, which I could see being problematic if you believe that God knows all, through all time. Erickson is suggesting that, in fact, God knows no more of the future than any of us do.
Anyway, interesting stuff.