In Chalke Talk 53, Steve asks us to question God’s omnipotence and my initial reaction, as Steve anticipates, is to protest. The thought sits uncomfortably in my mind. In fact I balk at the idea. I want to stamp my foot in a toddler-like tantrum… protesting... ‘But God’s all powerful… surely…’?
Am I objecting because Steve’s words sound like heresy? Is he being irreligious? I can’t comment on the theology behind what Steve says but I know why I object to his words. It’s because it’s comforting to think of God as all powerful.
We like to think of God as omnipotent because it makes us feel safe. Someone is watching over us and it’s not our fallible parents or our imperfect government.
But that’s the God of Sunday School. That’s the God I speak to my God-children about. We all want, at heart, to be looked after. But we all – eventually – have to grow up.
And this is where, for me, Steve hits the nail on the head. God is not omnipotent and it’s because He gave us free will. Omnipotence is a direct contradiction to free will. And it is free will that makes us sentient, human, alive!
Free will means war, murder, hatred, violence… I could go on almost indefinitely. But without free will we would be robots. Without free will we would not have judgement. We wouldn’t know right from wrong because we wouldn’t need to and with no right or wrong we’d have none of the emotions that follow from the choices we make.
Happy when things are good, sad when things are bad, annoyed when Steve plants an idea in our heads that sits a little uncomfortably.
By giving us free will, God also gave us all the pain and pleasure that comes with life. But if we were just God’s robots we’d not have love, joy, happiness. We’d also not have hatred, wretchedness and misery but without the latter the former wouldn’t couldn’t exist.
By giving us free will he gives us the chance to choose – and it is in choice that we can experience the best of the life God has given us.
But I also want to split hairs with Steve on his central premise – God is not omnipotent because he gave us free will… but he did give it to us. He chose to let us have free will, so logically he could have chosen not to, or could chose not to in future. He’s not omnipotent, but it is only because he chooses not to be - which kind of makes him, omnipotent.
Semantics aside, what I take from Chalke Talk 53, is that in giving us free will God gave us a full rich life – not just a robotic semblance of it.
Like a child, I might not like the idea that God is not omnipotent. But as an adult I relish the life His choice gives me.
Ben works for Oasis as press and campaigns manager. He was brought up by atheists so pleads ignorance on anything theological.
If you'd like to write a Talk-back in response to one of Steve's videos please email Ben: firstname.lastname@example.org