God's Omnipotence: Part 12, The Bush Not Consumed

This will be our last post thinking about Katherine Sonderegger's account of omnipotence in her Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God.

A big takeaway from Sonderegger's treatment of divine power is that God's relationship to the word isn't causal. Most importantly, God isn't involved in omnicausality, controlling every cause and effect in the cosmos down to the last atom. That isn't to say God is weak or powerless, as some theologians argue. Rather, God's power is like the sun, a Cause the gives birth to causes and effects unlike itself. God's relation to the world is unlike anything we can imagine. "God is," says Sonderegger, "His own relation to the world." 

So, if we aren't to think of God's relation to the world as causality, how might we better think about it?

Instead of causality, Sonderegger suggests, God communicates with creation through "Personal Relation," a relation that imparts life but a relation that "does not violate or coerce." Recall, instead of a causal account of the God/Creation relationship, Sonderegger is seeking a compatibilist account, a relation where God doesn't compete for space alongside creation, displacing it here or being "hands off" there. God in the burning bush doesn't displace the creational integrity of the bush, yet God is most definitely present in the bush. Divine life and blessing, therefore, "is communicated across the divide of sin and creatureliness [in a way] that cannot really be compared to any earthly act." This is mystical union, a form of "spiritual communication" that is "never to our harm, never against our will, but rather bestowed on creatures, and received by them, only for sinners' healing and person making."

Sonderegger declares, "There is no Absolute Cause here!" Rather, to return to the analogy of energy, God's power is a form of divine energy that radiates throughout creation, a Light that creates, animates, sustains, blesses, guides, and beckons. God isn't micromanaging atoms, but is, rather, shining though creation like the Sun. God moves us not by a causal pushing but through a divine calling. "We come because we are drawn," says Sonderegger.

But again, all this is analogy. Sonderegger repeats, "The Relation of this God to this world is unique: it is simply and resplendently the Living, vital Tie that is the Lord Himself, His very Nature, communicated to the world." Sonderegger summarizing all this:
We intend, instead, to speak in the earthly words given us of the I AM who is cradled in the things of this world, the Person who radiates truth. As unearthly Fire, God explodes into the earth. His own Reality is itself impulsive, alive. But it is alive as Subject, not Natural Emanation alone...God can fittingly be described as Energy or Fire, Dunamis, and it scorches the earth. But in a mode unimaginable to us--the greater unlikeness in the likeness--God's Nature is entirely, throughout, and inexhaustibly creative and subjective. God does not elect an action that He then executes in the power of His own willing. He does not deliberate, then enact. We do not mean personal, in that sense--precisely not that! God teaches in a divine sense: that is, He descends down through the individuals and kinds He has made with His own Life, His own Vitality and Truth, so that they catch Fire, they combust with the Life that is Divine--yet remain their own kind, the bush not consumed. 
In the end, if I'm reading Sonderegger right, the image of God's power we should have is of a divine Energy, Power, Fire and Light that is irradiating through all things. What we are seeking, then, in our relation with God is something like what we find in the burning bush. We don't seek causality from God, God displacing or pushing aside creaturely life to insert Himself alongside us. God is not a cause found among the causes.

Rather, what I'm seeking is God's Presence and a participation in the divine Life. In Him we live, move and have our being. This is it's own mystical relationship, unlike any relationship I can imagine. This union is not a cause that intrudes upon by life, to push me or other creatures aside. This Tie and Union is a Fire that burns through me and all creation, yet does not consume.

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