God's Omnipotence: Part 10, Hiddenness and Humility

Having described Katherine Sonderegger's vision of divine power in Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God I want to turn, in three concluding posts, to some implications.

The first implication has to do with the morality of God's power.

To go back to the concerns we raised early in this series, we have a lot of moral concerns about absolute power. Doesn't absolute power corrupt absolutely? Wouldn't an all-powerful God be a terrifying tyrant?

Because of these concerns regarding the moral nature of omnipotence, many theologians lean heavily into Christology to suggest that God's power is actually "weakness," a renunciation of power. God, these theologians suggest, isn't really omnipotent at all.

Sonderegger, we noted, rejects this approach and offers instead a robust and full-throated defense of God's omnipotence. Given her vision of God's power as divine energy and fire, how then does Sonderegger address the moral concerns about omnipotence?

What Sonderegger argues is that God's omnipotence is both generous and humble. Specifically, to recap, God's power gives rise to all creaturely powers yet is radically unlike those powers. This ontological difference makes God's power hidden. Consequently, the Generous Love that gives us life and holds us in being is also unseen, like a servant working in the background.

God's power doesn't display itself with "shock and awe" tactics, intimidating us into submission. God's power holds us in being, as Love, and never seeks the limelight or recognition. God's is omnipotent, but God is also humble.

So, for Sonderegger, the Incarnation isn't some big "moral break" in God's life, God stepping "away" from power. The Incarnation simply shows us the way God's power always operates. God's power was there in Christ, healing and restoring, but also hidden and humble, the way God's power is always hidden and humble.

We do not need Christology to "limit" or "reduce" God's power, because God's power poses no moral problem. God's power is everywhere present, but is a power that is willing to go unrecognized and ignored. As Sonderegger writes, "The Lord does not lift up His Voice as He sustains the world, does not announce His Presence as He bears us from nothingness into the frail reality of creaturely life." This is how, says Sonderegger, we hold the mystery of Divine Power and Humility together, for "Perfect Power is Holy Humility." 

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