Weakness and Humility

In the first article I considered Richard Beck's suggestion

Basically, I think progressive Christianity struggles because it often fails to give people a real, honest-to-God, bible-thumping fight. More precisely, progressive Christianity has a lot of fight in it, but it has often struggled to articulate that fight in robustly biblical ways. (Let alone the major problem of progressive Christians being too reactionary, focusing much of their fight against conservative Christians.)

So in these posts I'd like to try to paint a picture of what such a bible-thumping fight might look like from the perspective of progressive Christianity. On Warfare and Weakness: Part 1, A Real Fight  

Beck suggested that we needed to recapture the Ephesians imagery of the battle against the principalities and powers of Eph 6 to account for the problem of evil, but that we then needed to satisfactorily answer what "happens to God' when we abandon the notion of omnipotence. How does a weakened God who does not "call all the shots" work? Omnipotence is indefensible. Since God clearly is not omnipotent, how can God 'be,' if indeed, God still is.

To make this clear:

Specifically, a warfare theology is rooted in the premise that God isn't wholly in control of the world. A warfare theology presupposes that there are things that happen that God doesn't will, that there are things that happen that are wholly opposed to God's will, that there are things that happen that God would like to stop but doesn't stop or can't stop and that there are things that happen that are outside of God's providential control.

In short, for the warfare theology to work there needs to be limitations on God's power. Beck  (Part 4)

That is; if God is omnipotent, there should be no struggle. Boyd says that God waits because there is free will; God will not impinge on our free will. In his footnote to this Beck says

Ultimately, I think Boyd's appeal to free will breaks down. Basically, for the free will argument to work you have to make an additional assumption: that God has chosen to unilaterally respect free will, that God has chosen to never, ever, no matter what, override the free will of an angelic or human agent. But that assumption raises a host of questions. First, we have biblical evidence that God "hardens hearts." And if that is so, why would God not, from time to time, harden angelic or human hearts to prevent horrible pain and suffering? Second, God can protect humans while respecting the free will of human or angelic beings. God could block these beings or simply banish them to another realm. For example, I can tackle, restrain or lock up anyone trying to do harm to others. And these protective efforts of mine don't violate the free will of the perpetrator. The point being, I don't think an appeal to free will gets the job done.

To be bluntly Australian, however, I would just say that if God lets countless children suffer because he does not wish to impinge on Kony's free will... well, God is just an arsehole and not worthy to be called God.

In fact, if  God is omnipotent we are in the most appalling world I can imagine.

It is the work of John Caputo that Beck turns to for some answers to this dilemma about God's omnipotence, or otherwise.

Beck, says

in short, progressive Christians can get the warfare theology they want by simply making explicit their views regarding the weakness of God. This is the connection between God at War and The weakness of God. As Boyd argues a warfare theology assumes a plurality of forces in the world in combat with each other. A weak view of God assumes this  plurality, that in the world there are a variety of forces of work often working at cross purposes. Among these forces is the "weak force of God," the force of "love." And in so far as love abides and rules then the kingdom of God is instantiated. Christ is made "King" and "Lord. "
On Warfare and Weakness: Part 5, The Weakness of God

A Weak God
I read an interview with Caputo at the time of his publishing The Weakness of God. (From Radical Hermeneutics to the Weakness of God: John D. Caputo in Dialogue with Mark Dooley Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007) 

Caputo wishes to proceed with "a sense of modesty about the pretensions of our knowledge." When he talks of a weak God he is talking about "kenosis the notion that God voluntarily empties God's self in order to  let the world flow forth in order to  give the world space, in order to give the world freedom  and make us assume  responsibility for our lives…"

This is a  relatively uncontroversial statement until we hear that Caputo is not talking about "an omnipotence that voluntarily restrains itself, but a genuinely weak force."

The interviewer asks the question many Christians would ask. "What's the point of having a God if it's a weak force?"

Caputo's reply:

My answer is that I am making a plea to shift the notion of God from that of a real force to an unconditional claim the name of God places upon us. For me, the question of God is: Is there something that lays an unconditional claim upon us that is not sovereign power or metaphysical force?  ...

I am trying to redescribe God, to shift our way of thinking about God from the plane of a force or a power to the plane of an unconditional claim ...

... the love of something bottomless mysterious something that unconditionally seizes us.  Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

 A sense of modesty about the pretensions of our knowledge.
Caputo wishes to proceed with "a sense of modesty about the pretensions of our knowledge." Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

What Caputo and Beck are trying to do is to get to what they have called "quotidian" theology; that is, a theology of the present, the ordinary and everyday. Another way of expressing this is to say a theology which is honest about the limits of its knowledge and admits when it is mostly speculative and has gone far beyond the experiential. We could also say it would be a theology that made sense to ordinary Australians.

Caputo is alive to the arrogance of much modern thinking; the kind of science that becomes a "scientism," for example.

I think that life is a risky business and we don't in fact know in any deep way who we are, or what's going on. But what we do want, and what gives life its richness is what Kierkegaard would have called passion, what Derrida calls the passion of non knowing. That represents a genuine existential engagement with things, with things in the most general sense, the physical world, one another, and God. Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

 There is an inherent humility in this approach to life, and it also enables Caputo to escape the exclusivism of much Christianity.

"You really believe that we all have this?" asks his interviewer.

Yes, but I think that this passion is easily suppressed and that there are lots of times when we would be happy to avoid engaging that passion. It's not a comfortable thing but something disturbing. But I would say it's a depth dimension that constitutes us. My sense of a rich or genuine life is that it's a life of a passionate commitment to something the outlines of which are not entirely clear to us, which goes under many names, as Jacques Derrida says, one of which is the name of "God." Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

 The humility of his position is further outlined:

 [An] important part of what I mean by radical hermeneutics [is that] we are always radically contextualisd, in a hermeneutical situation. I speak a language that is not mine, within a tradition that I inherit, that is deeply embedded with meetings and institutions structures beliefs and practices that I've inherited. I find myself here, I didn't put myself here. It's the tradition to which I belong, and I hold to it, but I hold to it with a certain coefficient "of irony" (to use a word from Richard Rorty). And this means I understand that if I were born in some other place, in some other time, in some other world, then, on my hypothesis, the structure of unconditionality would still be in place, but what I would believe would be quite different. Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

 In the interview Caputo is speaking of his identity as a Roman Catholic Christian. But the paragraph goes much wider than belonging to a religious tradition. Wherever we are in time or culture, we are always "radically contextualised." And the further we go from the everyday, "the quotidian," the more speculative we become, and the less accurate our language will be about the reality of things.

This has important implications for talking about the weakness of God. For we have a God, in popular religious thought, who created everything "in the beginning," ex nihilo. And we have a God who is bringing in the world to a known completion, or so we say.

Omnipotence, the antithesis of a weak God, "goes back to the notion of creation ex nihilo." (Caputo) Yet this concept was

... introduced by the theologians in the second century. It's not found in the scriptures but arises in a second century debate between the Christians, Neo-Platonists and Gnostics. But when the idea was proposed, orthodox Christians, who at that point don't accept creation ex nihilo the but follow the book of Genesis, make the following objection: if you make God the creatio ex nihilo of everything, how are you going to get him off the book for all the things that go wrong? How will God not be responsible for evil? So what's interesting is that before the second century there is a notion of God according to which, while God is the mightiest of all, God does not dominate things through and through, from the bottom up God makes the world, but he makes the world out of something that offers a certain resistance. There is a notion of indeterminacy in things, that God's power does not go all the way down. Things are given a certain direction by God but they may just turn out in a way that God didn't plan on. And that's an account that is much closer to Genesis then to metaphysical theology, which really kicks into gear after the second century, and culminates with Augustine… Philosopy Today Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

So in this world we are seized by a Claim which purports to go, and to assist us, in the direction of righting and completing the world. Yet there is no guarantee of success. Faith is not assent to a guaranteed proposition. It is trusting the vision is correct and will be fulfilled, and staking our lives on it. We have something worth living for, "a genuine existential engagement with things." Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

The Weak Force
Caputo says

The paradigmagic example of what I mean by a weak force and the weak force of God, in particular, is forgiveness. When we are beset by evil, when we are attacked, when we are assaulted, when we are aggrieved in one way or another by the other, the human, all too human, responses retaliation, and the cycle of retaliation is endless. It's a series with no first cause, nobody ever admits they started it; it's an unbroken change of retaliating for previous violations. ... Hannah Arendt says, what forgiveness does is release us from the past, from the chain of retaliation, and it makes the future possible.  [My emphasis]

 I call it a weak force because forgiveness represents an ethical claim made upon us not a physical force; it rejects the obvious strength of a strong response, of little retaliation it's like when St. Peter picks up the sword in the garden and is about to cut of the ear of the Roman soldier and Jesus says: "that's not the way it works in the kingdom. The kingdom does not proceed by strong force; if it did I would have legions of angels here and they would take care of everything." We don't play by strong forces, we invoke weak forces. Weak in the sense of physical material power. But it's an unconditional claim, at force without force, and so what I hope for, what I hope to offer, is a certain kind of phenomenology of structures like forgiveness or hospitality that will touch us, will touch me, will make me better. And that's what I think is divine about Jesus, and divine about us when we manage to behave well. I don't think we are an icon of what we mean by God when we resort to strong force." Philosophy Today › Vol. 51 Nbr. 2, July 2007

 This, says Beck, is to talk about

… a radically different view of God's power. God does not exercise top-down power and control from on high. God doesn't "lord over" the world. The power of God works in the opposite direction, from the bottom-up. God's power is the power of the cross, the power of weakness and powerlessness, the power of loving servanthood and self-giving. This is why we must become like little children--become weak, lowly and despised as those described in 1 Corinthians--if we are to enter the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom not characterized by top-down power but by being the one in the "last place." And when we step into this loving and powerless way of living we become born of God, we come to know God, and God comes to live in us. Beck

He quotes Henri Nouwen.

 Surrounded by so much power, it is very difficult to avoid surrendering to the temptation to seek power like everyone else. But the mystery of our ministry is that we are called to serve not with our power but with our powerlessness. It is through powerlessness that we can enter into solidarity with our fellow human beings, form a community with the weak, and thus reveal the healing, guiding, and sustaining mercy of God...As followers of Christ, we are sent into the world naked, vulnerable, and weak, and thus we can reach our fellow human beings in their pain and agony and reveal to them the power of God's love and empower them with the power of God's Spirit.

And  Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

  God lets himself be pushed out of the world onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matt. 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering.

The Rub
Weakness is all

that is to be said about the power of God in the world. God's power is weakness. Straight up. There is no Big Power sitting behind the weakness of the cross backing it up with a reservoir of force. The weakness of God exhausts the meaning of what it means to say God is "powerful." Beck

 God is the source of good and its warrant. That is the stamp or the seal that God puts on creation; that is God's covenant with us. But God is not the power supply for everything that happens… says Caputo.

Beck concludes 

... in his book The Weakness of God Caputo rejects [the God of strong power.] Beyond the cross there isn a reservoir of awesome force. The power of God just is the weakness of the cross. The cross exhausts what we mean by "the power of God," with no remainder. As Bonhoeffer says, God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which God is with us and helps us. Key those words, "the only way." In this view there is no other power but powerlessness. No other form of control than weakness. And this is the only way. There is no Big Stick, no Big Power Switch sitting in reserve. The weakness of the cross is the only way God rules the world. The. Only. Way…

 The effect of situating God on the side of vulnerability and unjust suffering is not, of course, to glorify suffering and misery, but to prophetically protest it, to give divine depth and meaning to resistance to unjust suffering, to attach the coefficient of divine resistance to unjust suffering...The call, the cry, the plaint that rises up from the cross is a great divine "no" to injustice, an infinite lamentation over unjust suffering and innocent victims. God is with Jesus on the cross, and in standing with Jesus rather than with the imperial power of Rome, God stands with an innocent persecuted for calling the powers that be to task. The name of God is the name of a divine "no" to persecution, violence, and victimization...

Clearly this is a political faith. It is not timid. It will not acquiesce to injustice. Faith is faith in a vision of God who will not be silent, so it will not be silent. It is not about ensuring a way into heaven. In particular

Virtues of weakness, like forgiveness and hospitality, are what reign in this kingdom. Forgiveness is an example of weak force because it represents an ethical claim made upon us not a physical force. By refusing to trade strong force for strong force, the weakness of forgiveness can break the deadly cycle of physical retaliation. (Heltzel, Peter Goodwin. “The Weakness of God.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory vol.  6 no. 3 (Fall 2005): 96-101.)

Heltzel goes on to say

Conceived as community of weakness,  the kingdom stands in mocking defiance to the sheer strength of empire that seeks to engulf it. The powerless power of the kingdom becomes the earthly and human correlate of the weakness of God. The weakness of the kingdom is a cry out for the event of justice to be ushered in.

Not Warfare
We can now return to a fundamental weakness in Beck's use of warfare as an image.  The problem with God at War as a metaphor is that it is the language of strong theology. War is where negotiation and mediation has failed, where we have given up on the "weak" and turned to strong... perhaps of necessity. But the use of a "strong metaphor" to describe a weak theology in its naming is under-mining what we are trying to describe in its very description.

It may be that coming from Texas (Beck), and in the United States generally, that warfare is an image that resonates, but using it is to already give into one of the major flaws in American Christianity; namely, its too common subjugation to the violence of the myth of American hegemony in the world.

Whatever we call the  struggle of faith and the struggle to resist evil,  it is not warfare. But it is a struggle to be faithful to a profoundly different view of reality than that of the ruling worldview.

How we live
To live humbly with "a sense of modesty about the pretensions of our knowledge" (Caputo op. cit.) means to live with a completely changed understanding of creation and purpose. There is deep struggle, but to call it warfare begins the shift from modesty about our means in the world to the language, and therefore the pretension, of control.

"A sense of modesty about the pretensions of our knowledge" goes well beyond the obvious issue of God's omnipotence.

Ex nihilo' creation is a theo-political  issue Beck must address in a country where a third of the population don't believe evolution is true. It is bound up in the religious mythology of the country and a marker of social and political loyalties. These are even more immediate in his context than the underlying issue of "omnipotence, the antithesis of a weak God, which to 'goes back to the notion of creation ex nihilo.'"

Even without the culture wars of the USA the issue is a flash point. Non omnipotent, involuntary weakness utterly undercuts our security from a God who makes us safe. We may never be alone, but we are also finally not safe. We don't think about God or doctrine when we react here. We feel instead the panic of losing our ultimate safety net.

Beyond this there is another profoundly important reason for focussing on creation narratives and 'the quotidian' mentioned above. It is about modest living in an uncertain world; a faith which is different to resting in a certainty we are taught comes from omnipotence.

If  we insist on the tidiness of ex nihilo creation by God, and make it foundational doctrine (as is done by so-called "creation-science" we are stepping out of an existential engagement with our reality and seeking instead to control it by making up an explanation for everything. We are getting back into a "strong theology."

The same principles apply in our approach to 'end times' theology. The desire to know and to define what happened in the beginning or will happen at the end of much popular theology— to be doctrinally definitive—  is ultimately about control. When we "know," when we have convinced ourselves that we know because the bible said it, then we can feel safe. Curiosity can shift very rapidly from curiosity to idolatry.

There is a different way to read the texts of Genesis than ex nihilo.

... there is a second reading of these opening verses, one that originated with Jewish theology, where 1.1 is not read as an act of creation but read as a sort of Preamble or Chapter Title: "This is the Account of How God Created the Heavens and the Earth." The formal creation account then starts in 1.2 rather than in 1.1. Such a reading sets up like this: 

 This is the Account of How God Created the Heavens and the Earth
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

What is interesting about this second reading--where the creation account formally beings with Genesis 1.2 rather than with 1.1--is that the chaos and void are there with God at the beginning. To be clear, this is not to say that chaos is co-eternal with God. Simply that chaos pre-dates the biblical creation narrative in Genesis 1.   Beck (Part 6)

In this view God begins to order the chaos but nothing is said about how it all began.

Beck moves from here to work with the Wisdom writings based around the work of David Kelsey. Kelsey says creation theology should begin in the Wisdom books, not Genesis.

There are a variety of reasons why Kelsey grounds creation theology in the Wisdom books, why he doesn't think Genesis is concerned with creation, but the main one is this: Genesis, as a part of the Pentateuch, is primarily about God's rescue and deliverance. You might say that Genesis is a soteriological book rather than a science book, a book about salvation history rather than about the beginnings of the cosmos. In short, Genesis 1-3 isn't trying to say much of anything definitive about "the creation." Genesis is mainly setting up the story of the Exodus. Beck (Part 8)

This is the beginning of a new approach to creation.

The theology of creation through which canonical Wisdom thinks suggests the answer: "the creation" denotes the lived world as the quotidian, the everyday finite realities of all sorts--animal, vegetable, and mineral--in the routine networks that are constituted by their ordinary interactions...What God creates is the quotidian.

If I'm reading Kelsey right what he is suggesting is this. If you accept the argument that Genesis 1-3 is about salvation rather than about cosmic origins, then the only real "creation theology" in the bible is from the Wisdom literature. The books of Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Solomon. These books theologize about creation, but the focus in always upon daily existence, the quotidian. A great example of this is Ecclesiastes 2.24-25:

 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 

The creation theology here isn't the creation theology of a "Big Bang" or of cosmic beginnings. The theology here is focused on the here and now, the quotidian--the enjoyment of eating, drinking, working and giving thanks to God for giving these good gifts. That's the creation theology of the quotidian--thankfulness and enjoyment for the gifts of the day. Nothing more, nothing less. That daily life exists and contains good gifts is what we mean by "God's creation." Beck (Part 8)

This is Australian theology. Sit in the sun and go with what is! It is gentle and humble, modest in its pretensions. It does not seek to control anxiety by defining what was and what will be. It seeks to be faithful by trusting the God who is and what that God has given.

It can underpin a life which is ecologically responsible, living with what is rather than seeking hard control. Such a " creation theology of the bible is focused on the quotidian, the events of daily life, the here and now." (Beck)

So how does this all come together for Andrew?
Firstly, I am able to affirm that evil is real and there is a struggle.

Secondly, in the creation theology of Wisdom, particularly aspects of Ecclesiastes, I can live with gratefulness, and in some kind of cooperation with the creation. The creation theology of wisdom Beck sketches out from Kelsey affirms my sense of the primacy of the present. It strengthens my sense that theology of beginnings and end times is always at best hypothetical. The theology of the present, by contrast, has a level of confirmation (or not) by its results. We can see what that theology does to us and others, for good or bad.

I find that the acceptance of life as it is written in Ecclesiastes is no longer pessimistic or hopeless, as it seemed when I first read the book. To sit in the sun and be able to enjoy it is a profound joy. I am writing on a cool change day in the middle of summer, seated in the shade of the carport working my way through a bottle of Black Giraffe my family gave me for Christmas. Twenty five years of seeking to know and be faithful to scripture gave me nothing like the joy of sitting in the shade with what is. This is Grace

Going further, I  begin to see the way the universe is created in a fundamentally different way. I assumed, from ex nihilo theology and its baggage that the world is created by divine fiat in the hard sense. In reality this means that violence is a part of the structure of things, and therefore, us. Our violence, which is ultimately non-human; that is, antithetical to the humanity Jesus shows us, is given a divine mandate if violence is ultimately part of the structure of things.

Instead, the Caputo I have read so far suggests that the weak God evidences a fundamental structural difference. Reality and the Cosmos is better described by words like synthesis, cooperation, and harmony, rather than dominance.

In short, as I preached a week ago, God's power is not as we imagined it

God's power is not the power to coerce. It is not "hard" power. Under the influence of Greek philosophy we have traditionally affirmed that God was all powerful; i.e., omnipotent, but this now raises more issues for us than it solves. If God is all powerful, why did God not stop Auschwitz? No matter how good some imagined heaven may be in recompense for our suffering, no matter what Jesus does, the deaths at Bethlehem are not excused by it. It is unethical and evil of God to kill people for good ends. The ends do not justify the means.

Tell me yourself, I challenge you— answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture  to death one tiny creature-that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance— and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would  you consent to be the architect of those conditions… And can you admit the idea that men for whom you are building it would agree to accept their happiness on the foundation of the unexpiated blood of a little victim? And accepting it would remain happy forever? The Brothers Karamazov pp269

 It is very hard to say God is not all powerful. It requires us to completely rethink our theology. What if, to begin, we said God's power is different?

What if we said  God does not coerce us into submission; God loves us into partnership. Coercing the world into submission is what omnipotence comes down to. What if God invites and loves us into partnership, into a cooperation of love and healing? What if that is the power that is at the basis of the universe?

 What if the biblical stories call us away from the old reality of brute force and survival of the fittest. We glimpse a "new fitness" for being human. Power is not domination to survive and rule. Power is giving, enabling, sacrificing, and building up the weak— the Way of Jesus.

This half glimpsed contradiction and heresy turns life on its head. It threatens everything we have and all that we are... and yet graces us with moments of fulfilment, contentment, and sheer nobility beyond anything we have yet seen.

.. in his book The Weakness of God Caputo rejects [the God of strong power.] Beyond the cross there isn't a reservoir of awesome force. The power of God just is the weakness of the cross. The cross exhausts what we mean by "the power of God," with no remainder. As Bonhoeffer says, God is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which God is with us and helps us. Key those words, "the only way." In this view there is no other power but powerlessness. No other form of control than weakness. And this is the only way. There is no Big Stick, no Big Power Switch sitting in reserve. The weakness of the cross is the only way God rules the world. The. Only. Way… (I have added the emphasis.  (Richard Beck I have quoted this article here )

 The sermon was addressing the story of the massacre at Bethlehem in Matthew 2.

This means that Herod's attempt to maintain his power by killing the little boys is, in fact, not an act of power at all! Yes, it is evil. It is rebellion against God's way; a rejection of God. But it is futility. It has completely misunderstood the basic structure of the universe, of the creation. It thinks that the way to succeed is to dominate. It thinks that power comes from the barrel of a gun. And while the gun may appear to destroy another, in reality the greater destruction is of one's self! To become human is to learn to give, to sacrifice, to build up, to live in community. Our safety and preservation, even our eternity, is in community, not hard or strong power.

We know the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  It also destroys us. It walls us off from our salvation. It pushes us away, insulates us, from all our longings for humanity, for significance, for purpose, and for survival. When hard power gets us to the top of the heap, we have not arrived; instead, we are finally alone, without friends, without help, and nowhere to go but down. We become the most insecure of all people. Is it any wonder that Herod the Great finally went mad?

Hard power will fail not so much because it is against God as though it fights God "on an equal footing." It will fail because it completely misunderstands the nature of the creation it seeks to dominate!

If Joseph [the father of Jesus] is enough attuned to the creation in which this weak God is so thoroughly immersed that he dreams that it is time to flee, what does it mean? It means the universe is on God's side.

 Consider the events which give rise to the birth of every one of us. So much indifferent probability leads to the birth of a child, so much "blind" chemistry and biology. We often begin to think of the world as indifferent, and uncaring; even alien. We feel tiny and alone. 

The fact that a child is born;
the fact that the child survives;
the fact that a child loves and delights
and grows to be compassionate, heroic, loving, sacrificial...

 all this means that the greater proportion of the world is on God's side, already working in partnership, co-creating a new heaven and a new earth! Even in Syria and Sudan people love in the midst of massacre. In the concentration camps of Australia people love, protest the evil, and work for the good. The petty power of the Liberal Party, and the pathetic "me too" attempt of Labor to be as hard, is indeed a rebellion against God. But the greater part of Creation knows they are wrong and acts accordingly.

 si_180adeee39ae81c42a8569632d861ab6.imgThis is why I keep returning to Merson's painting of the Flight into Egypt. The pretensions of Abbot are paled beside the power of a Sphinx. Yet this great power holds the child safe in its paws in a lonely and hostile place. [The greater powers are already on God's side!]

 What I've been quoting here is my "First Impressions" of the text. So I didn't finish the actual sermon with this line, although it is true enough:

As we Australians mourn our retrograde, lying government which uses the poorest of us to bolster its harsh power, let us remember that the greater part of Creation is on the side of God.

What Now?
Here is the question which has exercised me for a couple of months. How do you live— how do I live— with weak power? How can I be on God's side and abandon hard power? How can I be anything other than a door mat if I do that?

In my initial notes for this post, I scrawled "Fred" across the page. The theology of a weak God has to pass the Fred Test. That will be the next post...

Andrew Prior (Nov 2013, Jan 2014

Next... The Joy of Weak Power



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