Friday, March 16, 2007

God thoughts (part 1): Can God do anything?

At our Agape meals, every Tuesday, we talk God over a meal.

Usually the brothers and sisters sit at separate tables in order to encourage deeper, more frank sharing. As one of those curious gender half-breeds, a married man, I get the privilege of sitting with the sisters and marshalling their discussion. It’s an experience!

The mystic mentor with an unusual line on most things. The new disciple, usually tired out but wanting God. The whimsical leaf-collector who likes curling up on God’s lap. The crossword whiz who cooks the meal and has a deep reservoir of thought. A recent-comer to our table who refreshingly refuses to let anything pass until she’s sure she understands fully. An elderly saint who comes out with some gems. A girl who went to a good school and was well taught (and hasn’t let it spoil her). The young marketing designer who, amusingly, pretends to be confused though she’s the most intelligent person at the table. My good lady wife (who likes the cut and thrust of debate). And me.

What a bunch. I love them all dearly.

Last Tuesday, our debate (as it sometimes does) veered off course and we wound up discussing what it meant to say that God can “do anything”. I mean – can He?

I maintained that God cannot, in fact, do anything. That to say that He can is to make a sweeping, seemingly devout, generalisation that actually gets us into trouble. I’m not denying that God is omnipotent - that is, possessing all power. But that’s not quite the same thing.

Here’s a quote from a Christian author:

Regarding His omnipotence, there are many things He can’t do, sometimes because they are logically incoherent (like drawing a square circle), but usually because they are morally incompatible with His character (like telling a lie). I once made a list of things that He can’t possibly do and quickly reached thirty. I was humbled, not puffed up, when I realised with a shock how many things I could do and had done which were beyond Him!
- David Pawson

We got into discussing what it means, then, that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) or, conversely, that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).

What do you think? Let the debate open! And in a day or three, I’ll post some more thoughts I’ve had on the topic... but first, let’s see what some of you may want to say.

11 comments:

helpful said...

i think that god can do everything, as he made us so why would he make us be able to do things that he can't.

In response to the circle square, its not a circle anymore its a square and i am sure that if god wanted to draw one then he would draw one, but i think that he has more important things to be doing.....god can do everything, id he can't then why does it say in the bible anything is possible with god, if he can only do some things then it should state that.

I haven't completely convinced myself that this is completely what i think, but i can't see how he can not do everything, i'll let those of you who think that he can't explain it to me. :-D

eternal said...

My apologies - i haven't got stuck into the true depth of the question, but rather, i enjoyed working out who was who from your descriptions..!! i got most of them :) and it made me buzz all over again about how precious and beautiful and deep and real and raw (and wild) agape is! Thank you God!

I believe that God can do anything, it's our feeble minds/faith that is limited ....

The mystic mentor with an unusual line on most things. The new disciple, usually tired out but wanting God. The whimsical leaf-collector who likes curling up on God’s lap. The crossword whiz who cooks the meal and has a deep reservoir of thought. A recent-comer to our table who refreshingly refuses to let anything pass until she’s sure she understands fully. An elderly saint who comes out with some gems. A girl who went to a good school and was well taught (and hasn’t let it spoil her). The young marketing designer who, amusingly, pretends to be confused though she’s the most intelligent person at the table. My good lady wife (who likes the cut and thrust of debate). And me.

TJ said...

You mind if I borrow that quote off you for to post elswhere as it's given me an idea of something for the forum James...won't borrow it if you yourself would like to put it on the forum tho.???

; ) The TJ

Anna said...

what can i do that God can't?

lie
decay
hate
fear
be selfish/withhold
speak/think/feel badly about myself
be proud
falsly accuse others
decieve others and myself
lack faith

sure there are more but hope that might help some get an idea of the sort of thing he can't do. Not sure i'm right on all of them but i found it quite helpful to do a list like that.

What else is there?

TJ said...

Hate,I think god can and does hate in some ways,after all he hates sin doesn't he?

I sometimes think god fears for us and the cruddy choices we make at times.

I also think that god is proud of us when we get it right.

I think that while god loves us he also gets cross and angry with us when mess up...bit like no matter how much a parent loves their children they'll sometimes hate whats happening with them,they'll fear for their children in some ways and they'll get cross and angry at times when they disobey....well,thats my take anyway.

; ) The TJ

the 'sister who went to a good school'(supposedly) said...

helpful, theres a big difference between God doing everything/being able to, and "with God all things are possible". the important thing that strikes me is the WITH. its not saying God does everything, or that we do everything. its saying the combination means everything is possible. we do the evil/wrong things God cant, and He does the things we cant. its unity. its the body. your eye cant do the same things as your foot, yet your body can both see and walk. so if God is the foot carrying us, and we are the eye, we complete the body. without God, we cant do everything. without us, God cant do everything. He has the means to do everything-i.e. create us to do it for him, but thats different from God doing it hands on.

normal said...

Some interesting comments accruing! (Go for the forum post TJ, I'm a wee bit too busy for the forum just at the mo!)

TJ said...

While is it possible for god to do everything he can't unless we let him because we've been given free will...ummm,interesting thought that..what do we prevent god doing because of how we exercise our free will...

; ) The TJ

ps,ta James

Phoenix said...

Just because God will not do something, doesn't mean it isn't in his capabilities to do something.

The scriptures say that God can do everything....it doesn't necessarily say that he does it. Usually it is when man is faced with a huge mountain of a problem and they need their big God to sort it out.

Danny

Anonymous said...

A lot of people seem to be missing the point here!

God CANNOT do everything. He cannot sin and that's just for starters!

He cannot not exist (now there's one to get you thinking! - if he didn't exist neither would we or anything, so we wouldn't be having this conversation...)

But this doesn't mean that He's not all powerful: it's just that His all-powerful nature is also all-holy, all-good, all-pure and quite a few other "alls" besides. One "all" CANNOT cancel out another...

tschaka said...

There are a number 'God cannot's' in the bible: God cannot be tempted by evil, God cannot tollerate wrong, God cannot disown himself, it is impossible for him to lie, specifically: he does not change. But this is a rather finite way of viewing God and does not take into account his endless eternal nature which is impossible to fully comprehend.

Perhaps another, slightly silly 'cannot' which opens this issue up for us a bit more is that God cannot be mocked. Someone might say of course he can - he is mocked all the time. But it is still true that he can't be mocked: it's all a matter of perspective. Humanly we see things one way, but God sees it another. Ultimately God will have his way, the mocker will be silenced in awe; in the same way the circle can become a square - while logic cannot understand it God is able to change the laws of our universe (that is the nature of a miracle) because God achieves anything he wants to while still not changing his nature.

If that doesn't blow your mind, consider this quote:

"The wisdom of God is seen in this, that the sins of men shall carry on God's work; yet that He should have no hand in their sin. The Lord permits sin, but doth not approve it. He hath a hand in the action in which sin is, but not in the sin of the action."
Thomas Watson

You see God cannot change his nature but he can still do anything he wants. He is infinite and the inventor of everlasting truly fractalien possibility.