“I don’t think that I can worship a vulnerable God.”
I had just pitched a synopsis of my book idea over breakfast. I said that we might have the idea of sovereignty all wrong and that Scripture reveals a God who intentionally limits his own freedom in order to give humanity genuine involvement and input. I shared how God’s desire to have beings who loved like he did required the freedom to choose otherwise. Jesus, I argued, demonstrated that godly power was gloriously revealed in vulnerability.
My friend’s response that he couldn’t worship a vulnerable God made me smile.
I knew I was on to something.
What is power?
When we think about power, we think about sheer, brute force. We think about people who, through compulsion, influence, bribery, or intimidation, are able to make things happen. This is the power that humans recognize—and secretly long for. And it’s this kind of power that most religions attribute to God.
I’m not suggesting that the Christian God is not powerful. I believe wholeheartedly in God’s omnipotence (Omni = all, Potent = powerful). It’s just that I wonder if God wields it like we imagine. For many Christians, sovereignty means that—from cancer to parking spaces—God dictates every single thing that happens to us. This is what we believe power is.
While I think that God can and does occasionally influence events, I don’t agree that this is the primary way that he exercises power. Instead, I think that he empowers others. And by doing so, makes himself extremely vulnerable.
The choice at the center of creation
In the creation story, the first people are placed in a garden and given a singular prohibition. They are not to eat of one particular tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He gave Adam and Eve a choice, and this choice had the potential to open a Pandora’s Box of horrors. He had the power to remove this temptation and protect his creation, but instead, he prioritized the relationship with Adam and Eve enough to “share” his power.