by Michel Weatherall
It is simple. God’s love trumps God’s power.
But what does that really mean? What are the real implications? It means we need to give up a lot. It means we must be willing to let go of many known sacred certainties.
Thomas Jay Oord’s book, The Uncontrolling Love of God, touches upon something close to my heart. It is something I have struggled and wrestled with and have been wounded by through the decades – through a great amount of pain, tears, heartache and crises of faith.
I am going to state one of the rare theological statements that I firmly hold to be true: God cannot be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent.
I know. Ouch. Now that I have your attention, allow me to continue with a few other statements of belief. I still hold onto the Christian idea of God as not merely loving, but Love itself. I believe the different world religions sprang from God’s general revelations, and what we see is a reflection of their different cultural and historical contexts. Believing this also means accepting Christianity as one of many cultural and historical environments arising from these general revelations. This is where the commonality of religions originates, in the general revelations of God.
I believe God distributes his wisdom (Sophia) among all peoples of all nationalities in all geographic locations and all cultures. Whether this Sophia speaks their “cultural language” or they hear her voice through their “cultural filters” matters little. The outcome is the same. She meets them where they are. It is not that I believe all religions lead to God; I believe none do.
Some might say this is something I choose to believe. I, however, don’t see this as about belief; my conscience gives me no other choice. I must trust that God communicates Sophia to all people and cultures. To think otherwise means to accept God as a bigot, even a racist. That is not love. In fact it would be the polar opposite of love; it would be hatred.
Nowhere does God’s love trump God’s power more obviously than in God’s success in communication. There are over 35,000 denominations dividing Christianity. In addition, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, every spiritual path is fractured based on plurality of human perception. Because of this multiplicity, we have a wellspring of time, experience, and resources at our disposal. If there were one correct way of viewing or encountering or experiencing the sacred, in our ever shrinking world it should have been made absolutely evident by now.
If God’s message is so simple and unmistakable in its intent, then why is there so much ambiguity? Why don’t more people agree? Are we following a supposed omnipotent deity who failed in his endeavor to successfully connect with us? How could an all-powerful, and all-loving God have gone so wrong and failed so miserably in his attempts?
Anyone who has ever ventured to communicate has experienced the ways it can go wrongly. Here are three. First, speakers of a message may not be plain about what they desire to impart. Second, speakers may not adequately express the idea or message. Third, the listener may not properly interpret or understand the speaker’s intent. If any of these occur then the effort to successfully relate will fail.
However, when dealing with an all-powerful, and all-loving entity, there are severe problems. The first two points deal with errors or flaws with the communicator. An omnipotent and omnibenevolent God cannot have a foggy message, unless we allow for deliberate misleading, which would bring God’s goodness into question (returning us to the Hateful-Bigot-God).
Concerning the third error of communication, I struggle with the listener not receiving or understanding the message properly. A perfect God would know how to successfully correspond in any situation. This creates a conundrum. Some would say humanity misinterprets God’s interactions. I don’t buy this. Like a good teacher, God’s message – to all people – should be glaring, and I believe it is. Here is what I mean. Even in the midst of human plurality the message is unmistakable. Among all the world’s religions there are overt signs pointing to a process, a direction of growth, a spiritual evolution, without the necessity of a destination. The truth is right before us and we are grasping onto the wrong paradigm–a paradigm of power and belief. All of us know the Golden Rule. In nearly all sacred traditions we are called to compassion. Interestingly it has always been made absolutely crystal clear how we are to treat one another.
Sophia speaks the loudest in apparent contradictions and paradoxes. Concern for power was our distraction, not God’s. Why has God left absolutely no ambiguity as to how we are to treat one another? Why is Compassion the one message or instruction to which we are called to respond? It is because love trumps power. Love trumps belief. It is not about one right religion. It is not about power. It is about love.
Regardless of our human quest for sacred certainty in all the wrong places, we are given little to no wiggle-room. God’s message and wisdom (Sophia) to the world was never a message of the one true right faith. Sophia’s message was a calling to Compassion, plain and simple. The voice of Sophia is a voice of love and to hear her is to hear the call to compassion.
Michel Weatherall is a fiction author, poet and blogger.