Is God Almighty?
by John Roland Stahl
Any serious effort to discuss theology must begin with a rigorous analysis of all definitions involved in the discussion. It was the brilliant insight of Wittgenstein that when these definitions are exhaustively analyzed until total clarity has been achieved, they will unravel themselves, and seem to vanish. It is the disappearing knot trick.
Every “problem” in philosophy should simply melt away like last year’s snow under the bright light of this process of analysis. Once “clarity” has been achieved, whatever has been under discussion will simply be reduced to “zero” (or “infinity;” the two terms mean the same thing). When the “joke” is explained that caused the divergence of the infinite wisdom into two opposite ideas, then once again “it is all one.”
It is only after this process has really been wrung dry, that it is possible to examine the fragments that might remain and see if they constitute an idea or not. Is there any point at all, for example, of introducing a term such as “God” into the discussions of philosophy? Does the whole thing have any meaning, and if it do, then what be it? (This is the subjunctive mood, Buster, and if you don’t like it, just put up with it.)
There may be nearly as many ideas of what God is as there are people to wonder about it. There are many traditional definitions, but not really any final consensus; at least, not any consensus to which I am able to subscribe. One way that I see to express the answer to the question is to say that “God is what is left over when all jokes are explained and vanish.”
Well, I have my idea of what is the most relevant and useful way to understand the ultimate resolution of this oldest of all problems: What is the Nature of God? But I want to compare that idea with some of the traditional definitions. If there is a proposed consensus, it seems to run along these lines: In the First place, it is the Agency by which the cosmos were created, or came into Being. Next, it is pretty universally presumed to be omnipotent and omniscient – all powerful and all knowing. Finally, it is asserted to be all good.
The fly in the ointment is the Problem of Evil. One way to express the Problem of Evil is, “How can you believe in a merciful God when there are such creatures as mosquitoes on the earth?” There are several other ways in which this problem is sometimes presented, but they all convey the same general idea.
I finally came to the conclusion that something had to go, and it was the idea that God were omnipotent. All of the other attributes are clear and wonderful, even obvious; but there is really no reason to introduce omnipotence among the other attributes of God. In fact, once you consider the aspect of a God which is a little more humble than previous incarnations, your admiration may clarify and greatly enlarge, not be reduced, by “such a come-down as to be giving up the claim to omnipotence.”
Even the omniscience might be toned down a bit. The Omniscience of God is obviously the Collective Unconscious, as it was termed by Carl Jung, or the Mind of Gaia, as others describe it. God is Life, and Life is Consciousness. The more life, the more consciousness; and the more consciousness, the more life. However, vast as this Ocean of Consciousness may be, we can only speculate as to its limits.
Even the assumption that it must be “good” must be looked at very carefully to be sure we understand what we mean by “good.” Is Life as a whole more interested in the survival and enlargement in the whole field of life energy, or does it favor any one part of that ocean of life? To put it bluntly, is Man favored of God, or what?
I don’t present my arguments here; I only present my conclusions. The ideas and arguments are far too complex to put into words, and I don’t want to make that effort, but I think the human race does represent a very mature development of the energy of life, and, as such, its survival will always be a major part of the agenda of life. However, the survival of the trees may overshadow the importance of man; if the planet becomes uninhabitable, the race of man cannot survive.
The most pressing problem on Gaia’s agenda is to reverse the physical decline of the earth. Since Gaia (or God) be not omnipotent, it must be up to Us Who are actually God, after all, to take upon Ourselves this responsibility.
The Evanescent Press