Sunday, October 16, 2005

Omnipotence, Weakness, and the Cross of Christ

"The weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." -- I Cor 1:25

Every school of theology starts somewhere. Some schools of theology begin with God's omnimax characteristics as their most basic foundation: Omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence. It's assumed that, from there, someone can logically determine what should be known about God.

This approach eventually runs up against the cross of Christ, which neither omnipotence nor omniscience nor omnipresence could ever have predicted. God does not present himself to us in omnipotence but in weakness. Would a theological school do better to have a foundation of God's omnipotence or a foundation of God's weakness as shown in the cross of Christ?

Paul lays out his vision of the good news: "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (I Cor 2:2), and "No one can lay any foundation other than that which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (I Cor 3:11).

To begin with anything other than Jesus is to miss God's cornerstone, Christ, who is "a stone that causes men to stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." It is much, much more "sensible" to follow God's omnipotent strength by a path of logic, and to base our ideas of God on his sovereign power. The problem is basic: that is not the thing upon which God bases his relationship to us; rather the cornerstone of our relationship with God is Christ's weakness, even his suffering and death.

What, would I do away with teaching God's omnipotence? Not at all, but I would put it in its place. When omnipotence did not suit God's purpose, he cast it aside in favor of the weakness of the cross. Neither did he make the fact that he could overwhelm us the foundation of his relationship with us. It is very tempting to make God's awesome power the foundation of our relationship with him, his sovereignty the foundation of our thoughts. But God instead chose to approach us in love and humility and weakness, considering these to be greater. A theological school with a foundation of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence may manage to appear very wise. But one that has a foundation of the cross of Christ understands that God approaches us through Christ; that omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are not actually God's greatest attributes; that God's power just as logically leads to despair as to hope, and that God's power only leads to hope if it is directed by his love; that therefore God's greatest attribute is love.

No comments: