Tony Campolo clarifies remarks on the omnipotence of God.
I’m very pleased to have received an e-mail from Tony Campolo this morning clarifying his post-Katrina remarks on the omnipotence of God:
Thanks so much for your thoughtful e-mail in relation to what I wrote on BeliefNet.
The problem becomes a simple one, and that is that if God is all-loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t He prevent such tragedies? My hope is that God has chosen to limit Himself. That seems to be the meaning of Philippians 2, in Christ God took upon Himself the form of a servant. That passage talks about God emptying Himself of power in order to express love. I think that’s the way it has to be. We would not have freedom if God controlled everything, and thus He limits Himself in order to provide us with free will. One day God will reassert Himself and establish absolute dominion. Between now and then the powers of darkness are operative in the universe. To me that means that God does not control everything that happens. I hope this provides some clarification of my views.
At the risk of seeming to nitpick, a couple issues of note:
I don’t know if I agree that God has emptied himself of power in order to express love. Certainly as Philippians 2 teaches, Christ in a very real way emptied Himself in the Incarnation. (Of course, of what and to what extent Christ emptied Himself is a matter given to much discussion.) But to say that the whole Triune God emptied Himself and today remains emptied to some extent is a different matter.
I would also say God is in control, but realize that more traditional view creates problems that many, including Dr. Campolo, have wrestled with through the centuries.
Of course, God does restrain his power. There’s no question about that. And thanks be to God!
But reluctantly putting those issues aside for now (as they do provide food for thought), I’m very glad to see Dr. Campolo state that “God will reassert Himself and establish absolute dominion.” To me, that certainly suffices as a clear enough affirmation of the omnipotence of God. And I’m glad and satisfied to see it.
And as I e-mailed him in reply, I appreciate his succinct and gracious clarification.
(And my post of September 27th is now inoperative. I will amend that post accordingly. And I apologize to any, including Dr. Campolo, who found that post overly harsh.)