Sunday, September 20, 2020

Finally and ultimately

Modern Heresies is a book I found on the shelves of the Milton College Library, and soon ordered for myself. It was an early introduction to the idea of heresy. (If reprinted, it should be re-titled Perennial Heresies.) This is from Chapter Three, "The Personal God":
.... A friend of mine has characterized most preaching which he hears as consisting of "if-only" sermons: "If only people would obey the Sermon on the Mount, the world would be ever so much better." The image of God that such sermons project is of a Divine floor-pacer, wringing his hands over the mess men are getting into and wishing desperately he could think of something to do about it. How often one hears in sermons phrases like this : "God is trying to do so and so"; "God hopes we will hear and obey him." Some of this language is inevitable as the language of analogy, but we ought to be quite sure we see how very misleading it can be. God isn't really "trying" to do anything; he is doing it. God doesn't "hope" for anything; he is quite aware that his will is done perfectly both in earth and in heaven. The danger of talking about a limited God who is trying things out and hoping things will work out well is that one can put no confidence or trust in such a God. For if a limited and finite God is really our image of the Divine then he may very well fail. Perhaps our experience with democracy has misled us into thinking that God is not so much the eternal King of creation as just a candidate seeking that office ( and the preachers are his precinct workers, out drumming up votes). But what if he isn't elected?

Orthodoxy's answer to this heresy has always been the assertion that God can do anything he wants, but what he wants is to create free beings able to respond to him wholeheartedly and trustingly. Omnipotence is not the ability to do anything; it is the ability to achieve one's purpose. .... God's omnipotence is proved by the freedom with which he allows man to run the world as he wants. If he were interfering all the time, shrilly insisting that men hew to the line and seizing them by the scruff of the neck if they did not, one would conclude that he was a very nervous and uncertain Deity, indeed. God's omnipotence lies in his capacity to make all things work together for good, finally and ultimately. Perhaps the most powerful evidence for this is the story of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John M Krumm, Modern Heresies (1961), pp. 48-49.

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