A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Is God All Powerful? A Conversation with Thomas Jay Oord

June 16, 2023 Season 3 Episode 24
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Is God All Powerful? A Conversation with Thomas Jay Oord
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We speak with theologian and philosopher (and former pastor) Thomas Jay Oord about his new book The Death of Omnipotence and the Birth of Amipotence. We cover Tom's objections to the classical idea that God is all powerful, including that it's unbiblical, philosophically unsound, and makes the problem of evil impossible to solve.

It's a fun interview and Tom is a good sport about putting up with Kyle's objections and quibbles. We get into the weeds a bit on this one, but given the significance of Tom's thesis and its implications for the problem of evil and suffering (and theism itself), the weeds are important. We barely scratch the surface of these issues, and in some ways this is an introductory discussion to other aspects of Tom's thought about God, which we hope to explore more with him in future conversations. As always, let us know your thoughts!

In this episode, we tasted the exquisite Barrell Bourbon Batch 034. As Randy said, "Tasting this bourbon right now makes doing this podcast worth it." Grab a bottle if you see one. To skip the tasting, jump to 8:05.

You can find the transcript for this episode here.

Content note: This episode contains discussion of the problem of evil, suffering, and theodicy, as well as some mild profanity.


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

Randy  00:06

I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

Kyle  00:15

We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.

Randy  00:24

Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. So we all sing the song of Sunday school. My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There's nothing my God cannot do. Are you? Yeah,

Kyle  00:50

we went to different Sunday.

Randy  00:52

What kind of Sunday school do you go to? Well, no, we didn't. What if there are some things that God cannot do? What if God maybe isn't omnipotence? That's a major question. decentering question. Really kind of feels like a radical question. But our guest today, his name is Thomas J. Ord. He asked that question in his new book called The death of omnipotence and the birth of Emmet, Emmet buttons. There you go. Okay. In it, Tom flushes out some really interesting topics. What were your thoughts on the book? And on the conversation?

Kyle  01:26

Yeah, well, so I say this at the beginning of the interview, but Tom, somebody had been wanting to talk to you for a long time. He's been on our list for a long time, because he has written a bunch of really interesting books, and I've just never had time to read any of them. And most of them revolve around themes about God's love divine love. Yeah. And that being kind of the centering point, or the kind of theoretical foundation Yes, of what we think about God, both religiously and spiritually, but also metaphysically. He tries to make this a philosophically serious idea, which I really appreciate. I've, for many years, harbored a desire to eventually write about that topic myself, the metaphysics of divine love, and he beat me to it. And that made me mad when I discovered in grad school, um, so yeah, he's somebody I was really excited to talk to. And also, he's a, at least a really friendly to a view called process theology, which is also something I've been wanting to get more into for a long time. And so this is kind of dipping our toe for the first time into that kind of view of God, which is very different from the classical view of God. And one of the kind of historical hallmarks of that kind of view is a denial of omnipotence, or at least a reinterpretation of what God's powers me. So yeah, it's a really fascinating and nerdy conversation. Apologies ahead of time.

Randy  02:48

Yeah. And no, it's for you guys who would love it. When Kyle geeks out you're gonna love this episode. But let me also give this disclaimer which should go for all our episodes, just because our guest believes or says something or claimed something doesn't mean that we inherently do, even though we might talk about it. And we might not, you know, be the dumb but I don't. I don't know if I think process theology is a really good theology. But it's interesting, and we should learn about it and learn from it. Same thing with omnipotence. I'm not making any claims about what I believe do or don't believe about omnipotence. But I think this is a really interesting and live conversation that we should be having. And turns

Kyle  03:24

out Tom's a really fun guy to talk to. He's really, I was gonna say, I'd really like to have him back on weirdly, we're gonna have him back on about a completely different topic really soon. But I'm hoping Yeah, maybe that continues. We can have more chats in the future about other aspects of his work.

Randy  03:38

Yeah, there's guests that we talk to that right after we're done. We hang up the zoom and we say, I think that person could be a friend of the show. And that's what we said about Tom after this interview. So yeah, for sure. Cheers to that. Speaking of cheers on this podcast, we are a pastor and philosopher walk into a bar. And we'd like to have conversations that you have in bars, not in classrooms or churches. And to facilitate that dynamic. We sample a tasty alcoholic beverage every episode on the show. So Kyle, what are we drinking today?

Kyle  04:05

So we're drinking something that I heard about from some other friends of the show. So our friend Tim, who is one of our Patreon pal revenue, orders and also has a bourbon YouTube channel. Late Tim, they tasted this and claimed All right, this was his claim that it was as good as or maybe even better than barrel strength, illogic Greg, which we had on the show and we both really love. So this is from barrel bourbon company. They're one of those new labels you say?

Randy  04:33

Are they fairly new?

Kyle  04:34

Yeah, they're pretty new. But everything they've come out with that is one of those labels that like they're set at a price point that is no joke. And so you want to know something about them before you're willing to do that. So that price, yeah, this bottle and this is like one of their lower end bottles. So maybe 80 ish dollars. Maybe more than that at some liquor stores. So this is a bottle I would only get on a very strong record. emendation and I respect Tim's palette so, and I just tasted it and it's phenomenal. So, so this comes in this called batch 34 barrel bourbon comes in 57.3%. And I think it's a blend of different ages six 810 and 15 year old barrels.

Randy  05:19

I mean, the nose on the stuff is outrageous. It's like brown butter.

Elliot  05:25

Yeah, it's buttery, buttery caramel.

Kyle  05:27

Oh my god, you're right wood.

Randy  05:30

It's like a crimper lay almost.

Kyle  05:32

Yeah. Totally. No joke. I'm looking at a review have not read it. One of their first notes is brown butter.

Randy  05:41

I'll take that. Yeah, it just is.

Kyle  05:46

Oh my gosh, it's just so rich, almost salty. That's a weird thing to say. But it does that. Oh, that thing that like dark. Like salted caramel does to my palate. Oh my god.

Randy  05:59

There's, every once in a while there's moment. Whether we're talking to a guest or, you know, talk to a listener that makes it worth doing this podcast and the work that we put into it. tasting this bourbon right now makes doing this podcast worth it. That's so good. It really

Kyle  06:16

is. I expected to like it. And I like it more.

Randy  06:20

It's crazy that it's only six years. Yeah, well,

Kyle  06:23

I'm I'm guessing some of that older stuff is providing a lot of that depth.

Elliot  06:26

Yeah, six to 15 year old. Yeah, there's that's so good.

Randy  06:31

It says like almost a perfect bourbon. It's got the wood. It's got the Karmali Commonwealth stuff. It's got the richness, the butter Enos, I almost have never had that butter, that brown butter experience with the bourbon. I'm in love with the stuff.

Kyle  06:46

I've only yeah, I've only had something that approaches the mouthfeel and the richness of this a couple other times and it was in much older bourbon. Yeah. So this is very impressive.

Randy  06:55

And it's not really dark color.

Kyle  06:56

No, you would expect it to taste lighter than it than it is based on the color beautifully

Randy  07:02

rounded to like just outstanding. Is this cask or barrel strength?

Kyle  07:09

I think so. Yeah. Cast strength. Yeah. Yeah,

Elliot  07:11

almost everything on my shelf is $40 and below, but I feel like I would drink half as much and save my money. Yeah, yeah, it's worth.

Kyle  07:19

Yeah, he dollar bottle. And this makes me wonder about their older expressions because they've got things that are 20 plus years old. They go for four or 500 bucks. That I'm like, what is that? Like?

Randy  07:31

If it's better than this, I want it. Is there a way for us to find out?

Kyle  07:36

Every question Yeah,

Randy  07:37

Tim, is there a way? Yeah, I sugar daddy. Once more. What is this bourbon?

Kyle  07:45

Yeah, this is barrel bourbon company. Batch 34.

Randy  07:49

If you're going to splurge and spend 80 ish dollars on a bottle, this might be the one.

Kyle  07:53

Yeah. Cheers.

Randy  08:05

something we'd like to do around here is read reviews of you guys. We love hearing from you, whether it's getting emails from you, we love hearing from you, especially on reviews on Apple podcasts because people love to read that. And that just gives us credibility. So we have a new one. Well, a couple of new ones. But one in particular that I think is fun. It's It was titled processing in will the beast. 411 says this, I stumbled upon this podcast a few months ago as I began struggling with Old Testament violence, which we all should and listening to Greg Boyd, love Greg Boyd. I listened to the interview with Pete ends and was very shaken because of it. It's good to be shaken. Even if it doesn't feel good. I don't yet fully agree or understand ends. But this podcast has been an invaluable resource in exposing me to voices that I otherwise would not have heard. I will rewrite this review for later when I've processed more. But in the meantime, I want to give the podcast five stars for intellectual humility, honesty, insightful guests, and for showing me that there is a place within Christianity for me. And there's another moment where it makes this all worth it to do this podcast.

Kyle  09:09

Excellent. Thanks for that review. And I look forward to the follow up once you've had some time to process, another really quick review, and there's an ulterior motive for reading this one. But the title of this review is Shawn Blanchard. Hey, oh, and the review from XFINITY player says superb discussion. I'm listening to it for the second time. This is the best podcast to which I subscribe, by far by far right. I'd like to know a little more about the other podcasts you subscribe to. So I can know how big of a compliment that is. But you know, thanks. So I also want to read that because we're going to touch on again really soon. Part two. Yeah, so if you haven't heard it, our conversation with Sean Blanchard about all things Catholicism, go back in our feeds and go check that out before our next conversation. So he wrote co wrote a book about Vatican two, which sounds dry but I promise you is super interesting.

Randy  09:59

Second thing Vatican Council the most consequential moments in Catholic church history.

Kyle  10:03

Yeah, so we're gonna be talking to him about that real soon. Can't wait. Another thing we'd like to do is shout out some of our Patreon supporters because we're super grateful for them, particularly our top shelf supporters and our Pepe level supporters. If you're not sure what those things mean, go to our Patreon and read all the awesome perks that you can get by being a supporter. So awesome. So pair Lumpkin, we are super grateful for your support and your really good questions. Yeah, get by far the most questions from Yeah, I'm gonna read some of them on the show at some point. So keep them coming, because they're always really good and make me think, and I really appreciate it. So thanks for your support. Keep listening. Cheers.

Randy  10:55

Dr. Thomas J. Ord, thanks so much for joining us on a pasture and a philosopher walk into a bar.

Tom  10:59

Hey, thanks so much for the invitation.

Randy  11:01

Absolutely. So can you just tell our listeners, Tom, just a little bit about who you are, what you do, what's your background? That whole thing?

Tom  11:10

Okay. I direct a doctoral program and open and relational Theology at Northwind Theological Seminary. But I've been teaching undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students for let's see, 25 years, mostly in theology, but some in philosophy. And I've been an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene for 30 plus years. And part time pastor and some waxey, full time pastor and part time pastor, depending on the stage of life I was in, I'm married and have three daughters who are now out of the house on their own and a couple grandkids.

Randy  11:50

Wow. All right, what is open in relational theology,

Tom  11:53

open relational theology is a kind of a broad umbrella under which lie a diverse set of ideas, movements of people, but they share in common to big beliefs. One that God is relational in the sense of giving and receiving, affecting creation and being affected. So another word that denies what in classical theism is called impassibility. And the open view or the open Word stands for the idea that God moves through time into an open and yet to be determined future. So open a relational theologians reject not only the classic view of predestination, but also the classic view of exhaustive divine foreknowledge, the futures open even for God. So you're

Randy  12:43

friends with Greg Boyd.

Tom  12:45

Greg is a good friend of mine. Yeah,

Randy  12:47

yeah. Awesome. Awesome. I used to be an open theists. Kyle currently is whatever.

Kyle  12:53

Yeah, we this is not the podcast for that. But eventually, we should talk about Yeah, we should

Tom  12:58

have an altar call at the end.

Randy  13:02

Steel. So the book you wrote recently is in I hope I get the last word, right. The whole time. I'm reading the book. And it's one of those things where you're hoping that you're getting the pronunciation. Right,

Kyle  13:12

right. Yeah. But you did like very specifically spell out the pronunciation. Yeah. Which is really nice.

Randy  13:17

So why don't you just tell me how to pronounce it before I butcher it?

Tom  13:20

I love it. Sounds good. The book is called the death of omnipotence and the birth of an omnipotent,

Randy  13:28

omnipotent, all right, I was close. Yeah, that was close. So the death of omnipotence that right there will catch a lot of readers and listeners in their tracks and say, What is he talking about that I was taught my whole life that God is omnipotent. God is all powerful. But you're literally the first sentence of the book you say, the words, omnipotence and omnipotence are not in the Bible. Can you explain that for our listeners who have not yet read your book and go, Yep, just the translations all the business?

Tom  13:58

Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think some people who might respond to my claim that omnipotent isn't in the Bible, they might say, Okay, well, the actual word is not there. But I've read the Hebrew Scriptures, a Greek Scriptures, the old New Testaments, and occasionally you'll find the word God Almighty there. So, almighty is there. And what I show in this chapter is that two Hebrew words have been mis translated in English as almighty. One word is the word Shaddai, which biblical scholars say, is better understood as breasts, or mountains. So it's God of breasts or a god of the mountains. And the other word is Saba oath, which means hosts or armies or group or council. And so when it's preceded by a word for God, Adonai, l Elohim, et cetera. It means the Lord of hosts. Both of those words, if you're reading just your English Bible, and you come across the phrase At least in the Old Testament, the phrase Almighty God Almighty. It's one of those two words that is translated Almighty. The problem came or the MIS translation began in the second and third centuries BCE, when some Greek Jews decided to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek and made some translation decisions on El Shaddai or sidai and Saba oath. They translated both of those words as the Greek word, Panto, Crowder. Panto, meaning all Crowder meaning something like holding. So God is the all holding one, maybe all sustaining. But it doesn't mean omnipotent, even in the Greek there. Then when we get to the New Testament, that word Pantocrator shows up just 10 times in the whole New Testament. And those are anytime you see the word Almighty in the New Testament, that's it's derived from that Pantocrator word. Nine of those times are in the book of Revelation. The other time Paul is quoting the Septuagint in Corinthians. And then in about the sixth century, after scripture is written, Jerome translates the Greek scriptures into Latin, and when he comes across Panto, Crowder, which, again, is a mistranslation of Shaddai and Saba oath. He uses the Latin word Omni Putin's omnipotence. And that's the word you'll find in the Latin versions of the Creed's like the Apostles Creed, Nicene, creed, etc. And so when we say God is omnipotent, we can think Jerome in his translation, we shouldn't set think it's in the Greek or Hebrew Scriptures.

Randy  16:49

So that point, for one thing just like, filled me with awe, because I never really thought through what how, I mean, obviously, Jerome is a hugely important person in church history, but just how important you know, you get one word wrong with if you're Jerome, who's translating the Vulgate into the readable translation for normal people, you get one word wrong, and a whole misconception can happen. So that's a wild thing about this, the idea of biblical translations that we can get into later. But when you say Shaddai, I just want to get over the whole breast thing. When you say should i is the god of breast or the God of mountains? That's a metaphorical language, right? What is What do you think the Hebrew Scriptures are trying to convey when they say I'm El Shaddai?

Tom  17:34

Well, the biblical scholars that I referenced in the book, and the ones that I know, I'm not saying, I only choose so but the biblical scholars who write on this, and if you look in the context in which Shaddai shows up, it has something to do with nourishment or fertility. And so when you see El Shaddai, it's usually about you know, sustaining, nourishing, you know, life giving, I'm trying to think of life giving that sort of thing. And then less often is it related to mountains, but the reason that Hebrew scholars oftentimes associate Shaddai and mountains is that the word for mountains in Hebrew is sad, do sad you which is similar to Shaddai. And that has more of connotations of protection. Rather, you know, obviously, breasts are sometimes thought of as mountains, but it's more about protection than nourishment there.

Randy  18:31

And as we're talking, I hope the if there's anyone listening who this phrase is in your wheelhouse, the Bible is clear. I hope you're listening. As you listen, you realize we're talking about an ancient set of, you know, a collection of books that were written in ancient, almost dead languages that we're still trying to interpret to this day, that's been translated many, many times, saying the Bible is clear is a little misleading. So omnipotence, this idea of omnipotence is not in the Bible. That's what you say.

Tom  19:04

That's what I'm saying. And I should be clear that the word omnipotent or omnipotence, can have various meanings. And in this book, I choose the three meanings that I think are by far the most prevalent in not only popular way of talking about omnipotence, but also scholarly views of omnipotence. And that is, omnipotence either means God is literally exerting all the power, or it means God can do absolutely anything. Or it means God can control others other creatures or situations. So controlling, able to do anything or exerting all power. And I'm saying that these words that have been translated Almighty and omnipotent in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures don't mean any of those three.

Randy  19:49

So one more question before I let Kyle rattle off a few questions but the your issue with the idea of the omnipotence of God or the suppose that omnipotence of God, is it true rooted more in biblical scholarship is rooted more in theological ways? Or is it in philosophical ways? or all three?

Tom  20:07

Well, you know, it's been a journey for me trying to figure out these things, I guess it's like most people can say that in for most people, it's some concern in their life, some question they have that gets them to start probing these things. And for me, it was the problem of evil. It was suffering it was if God's really loving and omnipotent, and why doesn't God stop the crap that happens to me? And to people in the world that seems pointless, unnecessary? Why doesn't God prevent genuine evil if God's omnipotent and loving? That's initially, you know, 30 some years ago, what got me started to thinking about a different way of thinking of God's power. That I mean, I've my, my intellectual journey has taken lots of twists and turns like I'm guessing most people's have, but that probably was the primary concern at the start. Okay, yep. Yeah,

Kyle  21:02

that's really good. We've kind of mapped an outline of where I wanted the conversation to go already. Anyway, I want to talk about the Bible. I want to talk about notions of omnipotence and why you don't get them right. And I wanted to talk about the problem of evil. So there's maybe a couple of things. But that's that's kind of the point. So good. We have a roadmap. Before I get into those though. I forgot to ask you, we feature alcohol on our show. And I don't know if, if you're a drinker, if there's anything that you love, or drinking at the moment, but you want to tell us

Tom  21:29

from the holiness tradition and what it means we're, we don't drink alcohol, I'm drinking plain old water.

Kyle  21:34

So I'm so sorry about that. Actually, we're drinking water right now, too. We always usually ask at the beginning, so I wanted to make sure you had the opportunity. Okay, so on the Bible. I'm glad Randy brought that up, because this is gonna tell you something about me, I suppose. And where I'm coming from, and how I'm probably different from your target audience. That whole first chapter for me, it's not like, I didn't find it interesting. But I definitely like sped up the audio book a little bit to get through that. Because the objection to omnipotence that it's not in the Bible just strikes me as a little odd, because I kind of took that for granted. Or at least I do now take it to be relatively clear that the concept is not primarily or at all rooted in the Bible that it comes from Anselm and from Greek philosophy before andsome. So yeah, so maybe that reveals something wasn't about me, but also about your target audience. So like, Who are you primarily writing this book to? Because, you know, all the philosophers that I've talked to and read about Omnipotence probably wouldn't be that interested in the biblical case. And so yeah, who's your who's your target audience? Who do you expect to pick this up?

Tom  22:43

Yeah, I expect people to read this, who are probably interested in big questions, maybe have some education, whether it's philosophical or theological. But, you know, this book, unlike a lot of books I write this book is really four movements, rather than four nicely intertwined set of chapters. You know, the first one is Bible. The second one is philosophy. The third one is the existential, evidential issues of evil. The last one is my constructive alternative. So I mean, obviously, there's some overlap. But I don't expect that first chapter to appeal to people who are steeped in philosophy. But I do expect a lot of people who take the Bible as some kind of, they'll say authoritative, however, they understand that word. I do think it will be an eye opener for many of them.

Kyle  23:43

Yeah, no, I think so too. And it would be super valuable for, for people in that in that boat to start with that chapter. So it totally makes sense to me. So let me start by saying before I launch into some more critical things, let me start by saying, I really appreciate your work. And I'm, I'm sad to admit, this is the first full length book of yours that I've read. But I've had many of your books on my list for a long time. It's just that when I discovered you, I was in grad school and had no time to read anything. The stuff they were making married in grad school, I love it. But I've been meaning to for a long time. And the first time I found out about who you were and looked at the stuff that you had written, I thought, shit, this guy has written all the books I wanted to write. But particularly the stuff on love, and how that seems to be the defining core of your work. I really appreciate Yeah, I love the idea of impotence. I think it's beautiful, and in some ways, obviously true. Thanks, God. Yeah. And that's going to be true even while I'm disagreeing with you about Omnipotence as I'll just carry that through. And also my friend Chris Lilley told me that I hope he's okay with me sharing this but he told me that one of the first papers he ever presented at a conference you were commenting on, and he was a really green grad student and you were an established scholar and that you were so are generous and kind to him. And so thank you for being kind to my friend, and I really appreciate your focus.

Randy  25:06

Can you get down to the critique?

Kyle  25:08

Yes, I'm doing that thing I tell my students to do when they're when they're engaging in potentially difficult conversations, but you say some really nice things first. Okay, so first just say what am impotence is? And why you think it's a better way of understanding what God is and how it's different from omnipotence. And then I'll have some follow ups. Yeah, so

Tom  25:29

am impotence is a word that I coined, that's why you don't quite you haven't heard it and have a hard time saying it. And it's doing several things. It's saying that, conceptually, philosophically, we should understand God's power, in terms of what it means to love not only God's power, but all of God's attributes. So we should let love lead in our understanding of who God is and how God acts in the world. And I think love is inherently uncontrollable. So I might put it this way. And impotence is the notion that conceptually uncontrollable love comes first among the divine attributes. And, you know, I make the argument in the book that some people will want to claim that they're trying to give all the divine attributes equal weight, but when you actually dig down into the claims they make, you'll find that one or two end up dominating, or they end up conceiving the rest of the attributes in light of that one, at least, if it's a coherent theology, obviously, you could have it in queer theology, but and often sovereignty is the one that really leads.

Kyle  26:41

Yeah, thanks for that. Who was it that said something like, I'm gonna butcher the quote, but something like there's like a lot of attributes of God that are like descriptions of him are things that are said of God and the scriptures, but only one that is identified with God, and that is

Tom  26:56

love will fall upon him. Burke said something like that, but he identified two of them. Oh, no, and spirit. Oh, interesting. Yeah, I didn't I don't know. Maybe you're thinking of somebody else. But that's one person. I know who said that.

Randy  27:07

Yeah. Brad, your psych says, and I think he's quoting Maximus, the Confessor that God has loved plus nothing. That all of God's holiness flows out of His love, all of God's power flows out of the love out of God's knowledge flows out of his love. Yeah. Which I like.

Kyle  27:22

So yeah, it's a really old idea. Okay,

Tom  27:24

good. So people will say to me, Oh, you talk so much about God's love. What about the other attributes? As if I don't think God knows something? Or is present or whatever I you know, I affirmed the other attributes. I'm just saying we get ourselves in conceptual problems. When we define the other attributes, and they conflict with love. Yes, I think we ought to have love be the thing that is our overarching norm.

Kyle  27:48

Good. So it's not the Omni aspect of the attributes that you have issues with. It's only insofar as they conflict with the love aspect. Is that right? Right.

Tom  27:57

A good example would be omnipresence. I affirm that one. You know, I don't really like the word Omni benevolent, because it sounds like God is all giving but not all receiving and I have a receptive view of aspect of love. So it that's just a tech terminological quibble there.

Kyle  28:16

Yeah, okay. And maybe we should just say Omni just means all for listeners who weren't familiar with that lingo. Okay, so I had a question about omnipresence. Maybe we'll get to it. I don't know. I wonder if some of your objections to Omnipotence would also apply to the others, but, but we'll see. Okay, so you discuss, as you said, Three notions of omnipotence in the book. So I want to press you on why you chose these rather than some others. So maybe it's the audience so if that's the answer, fine. So again, you're talking to a philosophy podcast that might be a little different than your target audience. So God God exerts all power, which as far as I can tell, is just occasional ism. Maybe which is a philosophical position I can explain if needed, but it's one that's almost universally rejected by philosophers and always has been that's like not a recent thing always has been I did once hear Alvin Plantinga argue in defense of it, but he was almost joking. I

Tom  29:08

know some philosophers who defend occasional ism. So anyway, any

Kyle  29:12

tiny minority? Yeah,

Tom  29:14

they are the minority. Like, is this real? So it also depends on the version of occasional ism, like there's one version I could actually embrace. But anyway,

Kyle  29:24

details. So anyway, God exerts all power. Basically, occasional ism is the idea that the only causally efficacious force or power, the only real cause is God, like, humans don't do anything. So God can do anything. That's the second notion. And then God controls. That's the third. None of these seem to me like defensible, prima facia, and even none of these seem to me like defensible notions of omnipotence. Now, I agree that they're commonly held by laypeople. They're commonly preached from the pulpit. They're common myths. understandings of what people read in the Bible. So I'm fine writing a book attacking them, but your book kind of comes across like it's doing a little more than that, like it's making a philosophical case. And if it doesn't mention the strongest forms, then it seems a little, like what I tell my students not to do. Pick out a, you know, less than the strongest version of a thing to critique. So why not? Well, well, two things before before I asked you about the ones that I think are better definitions is your primary charge against omnipotence that it's incoherent? And if that's not your primary charge, how is it distinct from that charge? Does that make sense?

Tom  30:44

Yeah. My primary charge against Omnipotence in this chapter on philosophy is that in order to make sense of the dominant views of omnipotence, it has to be qualified in so many ways. That as the title of the chapter says, it dies the death of 1000 qualifications. So you're, you're criticizing me for setting up weak versions of omnipotence? And I don't think that's the last How should I put this? I'm quoting Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, often in the section. So like, they're pretty major figures. Now, I do at the end. And actually, I did cut a section in which I take some contemporary philosophers of religion, who use you know, modal logic, and all these sorts of technical little things, which I think illustrates really nicely my overall claim that they're qualifying it in 1000 ways to try to make sense of it. So if your criticism is I'm not taking, oh, I don't know Wes Morrison's view of omnipotence. And since those of you know, don't know him, he's not very well known. But he's a contemporary philosopher. I'm not taking his and then criticizing it, then I think, you know, yeah, of course, West Morrison, I think agrees a lot with me, but he's not a good example. Maybe, well, even someone like Yujin Nagasawa, he, you know, he's got his maximal God thesis. I'm in agreement with that. But he doesn't have to have Omnipotence in any of the senses, or I'm not even sure in any sense. Well, actually, I am confident he doesn't have to have Omnipotence in any of the standard meanings of the word. Yeah, to have a maximal God thesis.

Kyle  32:39

Okay. So is the outcome of I'm going to ask you about the qualifications thing in a minute. But is the outcome of that argument that the concept is just incoherent? If you if you have to qualify it so much that you're just not left with anything at the end of the day?

Tom  32:52

Yeah, I guess I'm saying it's incoherent without qualifications, and then there's so many qualifications that I think it's a, it's a fruitless exercise.

Kyle  33:03

So would you say that there's something you can arrive at that might be coherent, but it's not theologically useful? Yeah, that's

Tom  33:09

probably possible. But the literally 1000s And millions of qualifications you'd have to get to, to make it coherent, seems to be again, like a fruitless exercise.

Kyle  33:20

Okay. That's helpful. So here are some ideas of some notions of coherence. They're all kind of similar, but they're, I think, distinct. God can do anything that is possible and moral. God has the power to do anything God wills to do that is logically consistent. It ain't Can I critique you for and then you can critique. Okay,

Tom  33:40

let me let me get my pin.

Randy  33:43

Go through him again.

Kyle  33:44

He's actually getting his pin. Yeah. She's great. All right, go for it. All right. One was God can do anything that is possible and moral to is, God has the power to do anything God wills to do that is logically consistent. Three, God is maximally powerful. And four, and this one comes from my dissertation director, not like he's ever going to listen to Mike Green. He published a paper a few years ago just called omnipotence and International Journal of philosophy, religion, and this is he probably like it, he goes through a bunch of different notions describing the problems with each one, and finally lands on one that he thinks is defensible. And he gives a very long and logically rigorous statement of it that I will not bore you with but the the gist is a being is omnipotent if and only if the only limitations on its powers are imposed by metaphysical impossibility. And the only limitations on its capabilities are due to the possession of other positive character traits. Very similar to the previous ones really. He's just cashing it out in more specific terms. All of those strike knees perfectly coherent ideas. I might go I don't know if I go so far as to say that theologically useful ideas, we could have a conversation about that. But they are, seemingly to me anyway, intuitive consequences of the basic idea of what a god would be. So I guess I'm kind of in Selmy. And in that way, and we can talk about that. But none of those really come up in the book. And they're what I take to be just the definite the basic definition of omnipotence that I give to my students in philosophy 101. So

Tom  35:25

where do you think the most of these come up in the book? Maybe not quite the way you do it? First of all, you say God can do anything that's possible in moral? Yeah. I helped my granddaughter feed the ducks yesterday, I put little pieces of bread in my fingers, and we gave it to the ducks. God doesn't have fingers.

Kyle  35:44

How do you know? The fingers of God one of their fingers

Tom  35:49

into the traditional fingers. And remember, in the book, I spend a whole section on God being an incorporeal. Spirit. Yeah. So we had to choose here, either God's incorporeal and as a Universal Spirit, or God has a body or God's a shapeshifter. I mean, there's some other options you could zap into being but then in that creates all kinds of other problems.

Kyle  36:10

So if it turns out that way, metaphysically impossible for God, then it would just be excluded from the definition.

Tom  36:17

But it's metaphysically possible for me. Sure. And you're the first one was is possible and moral,

Kyle  36:23

I wouldn't take Omnipotence to imply that there shouldn't be anything that a creature could do that God couldn't do. That That wouldn't be part of the definition. I wouldn't think not an intuitive part of it anyway. There's lots of things I can do that God can't do that aren't like speaking against his capacities.

Tom  36:36

Yeah, we agree on that. It just the way you said that first one sounded like God can do anything that's possible and moral. And I said, I can do things that are possible and moral that God can't do. So I disagree with that one. Second one. You said Omnipotence can be something like, and I couldn't write it down fast enough. But it was something like God wills to do that, which is logically possible or something like that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. In the book, I really criticized this particular least what I think is what you're saying here. I criticized this as people saying, Well, God can do anything God wants to do. And then they take off the table, all of these things that God wouldn't want to do, because God knows they're metaphysically impossible. So like, you know, God wouldn't want to stop existing because God knows it's metaphysically. Impossible. Sure. So I think this second one is hollow. It's meaningless, it's vacuous. It's saying, God, just God can do what God wants to do. And that's just a tautology. Third one, I'm perfectly on board with number three. I wonder if that's? Yeah, that's where I do at the end of some of that section I talked about, maximally powerful. Yeah, you know, I'm totally on board with that. I just think the word omnipotent, doesn't usually mean maximally powerful. I think it means some of those other things. So so the thumbs up,

Kyle  37:58

I don't want to like belabor the point. But literally, I went to because I was curious. And when I read that section of the book, I was like, well, he's using maximal power here, like, yeah, one of the entailments of amnet buttons. And like, isn't that just what omnipotence is? So I went to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Omnipotence to see what they said. And literally the first sentence is omnipotence is maximal power.

Tom  38:19

Excellent. Yeah. I also see the end of that philosophy chapter though, too. If you take a look at that I'm quoting Yujin. There, and I don't develop it like I do. And Pam impotence, either, so. Yeah, so.

Kyle  38:35

So what was that? I'm sorry, we're agreed on that one. At least I just think that omnipotence.

Tom  38:43

And the last one metaphysically impossible, given God's character traits or something like that. Again, I couldn't write down fast enough.

Kyle  38:49

Yeah. So the only limitations on God's powers are imposed by metaphysical impossibility or by you know, his possession of some kind of positive character trait.

Tom  38:59

I'm totally on board on that. Most of my books have been endorsing that position. And I think Am impotence is that position.

Kyle  39:07

Okay, interesting. Okay, good. So a lot of this, I think comes down to semantics then which I don't know if I'm happy Saturday.

Tom  39:16

Yeah, I have this one view that I call essential. kenosis. That's making a claim about God can't go against God's nature. And so it's the certain characteristic right and like most philosophers, I don't think God can do the metaphysically impossible, so

Kyle  39:30

good. Okay. Yeah. Yes. I just remember Richard Swinburne saying one time and I'm not endorsing Richard Swinburne, so don't write me. Yeah, something like, he was talking about that phrase. He's talking about Aquinas specifically. But that phrase, Can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it which annoys the piss out of me, but anyway, he's like, you know, the way he cashed it out was a phrase that sounds like it's saying something meaningful turns out to not be saying anything meaningful, so it's not so much pointing out some weakness in God's nature or God's power, as it is pointing out a weakness and the ability of the human sentence to express a clear concept.

Tom  40:08

Yeah, I think that's really important. I also think that last one, which is the one I've put a lot of my time into. And I personally think it's the most important of those four that you gave me. Because it has actual teeth to it, it has it's making certain claims about the divine character and that sort of thing. Yeah. I think there's a lot more going on there than what is that what the simple flip phrase you gave to me, connotes to most people, right? So I think, for instance, you have to make all kinds of conjecture and claim about what God's nature is like and what God's moral capacities and characteristics are like, and people are going to have different intuitions about that. And so and so while I definitely strongly agree with that, and I've tried to develop it. It's not as clear cut, I think, as it might seem, on the face of it.

Kyle  41:09

Yeah. Yeah, fair. Randy, why don't you have something non philosophical before I came?

Tom  41:14

I liked what you said. I like your pushback. Thank you.

Randy  41:18

Don't Don't be us. There's

Kyle  41:19

more to come.

Tom  41:21

No, I It's good. Yeah,

Randy  41:24

yeah, no, I'm gonna bring it back down to earth a little bit. Okay. I, in reading your book, I took your book as somewhat of an exercise in making many Christians who say and believe problematic things about God aware of the problematic things that they say about God, whether it's God is in control most

Tom  41:41

of my books, Randy.

Randy  41:44

Whether it's saying, Oh, well, God is in control, or God can do whatever God wants to do. Or it's a God thing, right? Let's, that's one of my favorite, favorite ones. There's all these things in their field, in our liturgy, in our especially in our common modern day worship songs. It's just all the stuff about God being all powerful and doing whatever you want. So am I right in saying that, it seems like it's kind of trying to speak to Christians who say problematic things and belief, problematic things? And then the main question is, how damaging Do you think our platitudes about God's power and control are whether they're found in worship songs, or just common conversation?

Tom  42:21

Yeah, I think, yes, you're getting me a lot of my when I'm writing this, I'm thinking about Christians who say things that drive me bananas. Yep. And I addressed this a lot in chapter three of the book, especially in terms of the problem of evil, and in this book, more than any other, I really criticize liturgies and worship, and not just contemporary praise, rock and roll, but the hymns of the church as well. I think they've set up Christians to expect God to do things that God in my view simply can't do. And because of that, people are disappointed in God, and rightly so. If they're told over and over and the hymns and the liturgy that God can rescue them, and God doesn't rescue them, then they, they ought to be pissed and angry and disappointed and hurt when they're not rescued. So, yeah, I'm taking pretty direct aim on the life of the church and the liturgy and the music, and what the harm that it can do to people. I think often people who write that stuff, have good motives. But yeah, it has it can damage.

Randy  43:32

Yeah, and I mean, how much as we think about errors, if we talk about it, how much more memorable is a good hook of a song, whether it's an you know, 200 year old hymn, or a modern day contemporary worship song where you're talking about God being in control, or God being all powerful? Oh, my God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There's nothing my God cannot do. You remember that? And that forms our theology much more than a five point sermon that lasts 40 minutes that we really don't remember much of.

Tom  44:00

Yeah. Isn't that a shame, though? Randy, you put all that work into that sermon? Yeah, don't remember. Yeah, I totally think that's right. And I think people again, I think the motives behind those things are usually pure. People want to give hope. Folks are suffering. They're confused. They live in a world that hurts them, they're harmed, and you want to comfort someone and it seems in the moment, it's comfortable to say, oh, God's in control. Yeah, this is all part of God's plan. You know, God's doing this for a purpose, or God allowed this to build your character to draw you closer to him. All those kinds of things. Again, I people usually have good motives. Yeah, but that's the number one reason Atheists say they can't believe in God. That is the problem of evil. I

Randy  44:49

mean, pestle, really, I've I know, in my view, way too many people who have fallen away from the faith and what I find oftentimes is that what people tell For people who are grieving who have lost primarily who have lost someone, or whose child has terminal cancer, whatever it is, the things that we tell people in their grief in order to help them make make them feel better, are the things that a year down the road, erode their faith into nothing, because they're saying, Well, if God was in control, what the hell was Why did my child die? Or if God didn't do anything? Why? Why did my dad die? We fill in the blank. I've seen that multiple times where the stuff that we think is actually going to comfort actually is destructive to their faith.

Tom  45:33

Yep. I totally agree with you. And I see it too.

Kyle  45:36

Yeah. Yeah, you saw so tell my students that a good one. We talked about theodicy that I think a good rule of thumb kind of test for theodicy is would you say this to your best friend if they were in deep suffering? And if it was, no, maybe we think it.

Tom  45:51

Yeah. So what like, you know, I quote that line that I've has rung in my ears for decades since I've I first read it from Irving Greenberg. I think it is, you know, no theology is plausible that can't be said in the presence of burning children. You know, that's, that's, that's, there's a litmus test for you.

Kyle  46:13

Yes. And I want to come back to this, this evil topic and get you to explain how your view helps with it. Okay, great. So time back in. Thanks for the quibble.

Randy  46:25

You're welcome for saying understandable words.

Kyle  46:31

Yeah, love it. Okay. So I was good for

Tom  46:34

me, you know, because like, I've been a philosopher and a pastor. I teach to the ideal guest. Yeah, exactly. Actually, when I was writing this book, I was thinking, you know, my background suits me to write this book. I mean, I don't know Hebrew. I took some Hebrew, but I forgot it. But I still remember my Greek pretty well. And so I've had a history of Biblical studies, but I'm also philosopher, and I do theology and so anyway,

Kyle  47:00

yeah, yep. So quibble. Number two,

Randy  47:04

good sentence. So

Kyle  47:06

you say something in the book? That seems a little misleading to me? I don't know. We'll see what you think. Okay. Um, so you talk about the 1000s of qualifications, you said it here to the 1000s of qualifications of omnipotence dies, the death of 1000 qualifications, as the old phrase says, but you really only point out a handful of qualifications, and quite a few nothing dies, the death of a handful of qualifications. And the particularly misleading part is, like, you point out several types of qualifications. And they're all like very well, philosophically, you know, beaten to death, and types of qualifications. And I counted at the end of that chapter, maybe five or six types. But, you know, some of the types have an infinite number of instances. So like, the mathematical qualifications on God, he can't make two plus two equal five, literally an infinite amount of instances, but it's still one qualification, right? And so if we just are okay with the idea that God can't do mathematically impossible things moving on. So so there's that. And it seems to me, you, you get a lot out of that in the book, or you tried to so like, the objection at the end of that chapter, I think this is chapter two, about the number of qualifications. You give an example about all glorious Idaho, which was really funny. You say the place can't be all glorious, if there are 1000s of ways it's not. So you get a lot of mileage out of that 1000s thing. But there's nothing intrinsically undermining about the number of qualifications. Surely what matters is whether there's a coherent idea after the qualifications, which is kind of what I was getting at earlier. And it seems to me also, any concept has a potentially infinite number of qualifications, if we're just counting possible instances of exceptions to the concept.

Tom  48:55

Yeah, several objections, see if I can remember to respond to them. First of all, you're right. I'm talking about millions and billions of qualifications, but they're really under a category of maybe six or seven general categories. So I don't know if that it's if I'm apologizing, I'm just admitting, yes, you can categorize these things under under these general stuff. I do think of all those general categories, things that God can't do because of God's nature. You've in that earlier quote, you talked about God's character traits. I think those are often overlooked by many people. And they need to be emphasized, and they're pretty interesting. But the one that I think gets probably my only really novel contribution in this chapter, I'm mostly just reporting what lots of philosophers already know in this chapter. My novel contribute Should I think is the incomplete reality issue? That's not, at least in my reading of the literature and philosophical literature that's not oftentimes emphasized. I found one quote from Charles tele, Talia Faro, or however you say his name to that regard, but I think that's a crucial one. Because in the questions of the Odyssey, oftentimes the analogy is made well, I could save my daughter before she walked into the street, why can't God? And my answer is because God doesn't have a body like you don't. And so then we start playing out all the things God can't do because God doesn't have a localized divine body, then I think that's a radical move. I think that's a game changer. least it has been for people who have read my work over the last, I don't know, eight or 10 years when I've been talking about this. Because they've, they've wanted to make the analogy, which I think is a good one, that God is like a loving parent on board with that. And then they say, Yeah, but parents, they sometimes stop their kids from shooting themselves if they're able to, why doesn't God and spelling out all of the qualifications to divine power that come from saying gods and incorporeal Universal Spirit, I think is pretty significant. So while it may be in one subsection of one category, I think that's a pretty big deal. Yeah. The other thing I forgot now, all of what you said, except one deal, and that is you rightly said that every word require some kind of qualification, right? If I say a book, they say which book what the sorts of size of the book etc. So yeah, that's right. But what I think is unique about omnipotence is that for many people, it connotes lack of qualifications. omnicone able to do anything. Yeah. So as I point out in the in the book, it's ironic that the word at least for many people think limb or quad without qualification, or limitless requires, you know, so many count, qualifications and limitations to make sense. So I think the word is unique in that sense.

Kyle  52:20

Yeah. Good. So yeah, if the the thrust of that section of the book was mostly like, informing people about what philosophers have actually thought about omnipotence that I'm right there on board, like, I think, yeah. Aquinas has a section in his Summa titled something along the lines of how an all powerful God is unable to do many things.

Tom  52:42

Yes, yeah. Yeah. And I quote, I quote, Thomas a lot in that section. Yeah. Back though, to one of the my qualms with your list of four things, it bugs the heck out of me, when people say God can do anything God wants to do? Because I just think that's empty puff. I think it ultimately is relying upon claims about what God is smart enough not to do those things God knows God can't do. And people who say that are just kind of trying to sound like that guy's really strong. And God who really is there not really saying anything substantial,

Kyle  53:21

interesting. I pulled that from a philosopher. I can't remember the name of the person at the moment. But I guess I just read it as consistent with the other claim about character God, is limited by God's desires, which are limited by God's character.

Tom  53:35

Yeah, but you know, the debates between the voluntarist and the central US about whether or not God can make choices about God's character. So yeah, you know, if you're a voluntarist, and you think God can choose not to love, then you're going to answer that differently about what God chooses to do and not chooses to do than if you're like me, who's an essentialist? Yeah, so anyway, we're quibbling again, but maybe not quibbling. We're getting into the weeds that probably a lot

Kyle  54:00

of this is maybe the weightiest episode we've had in a while and I'm really no apologies. Randy, would you like to interject anything?

Randy  54:10

Keep geeking out.

Tom  54:11

Okay, I'm a great listener base, if they can.

Kyle  54:14

Well, we'll see how it goes. We haven't quite tested them to the limit yet. We try to keep it fairly accessible. So let's talk about evil because that's, that's kind of good. So give give us your, I guess I could say your theodicy, but like your your explanation of how M impotence helps with the problem of evil and you also I want to get you to comment on one thing you say you say the traditional soul building and greater good theodicy is can be salvaged if we detach them from omnipotence, which so it sounds like you you think there's something valuable in those?

Tom  54:48

Yep. So my general theodicy says God is all loving, but this love cannot control anyone or anything, because God loves everyone or everything. So this is not a voluntary Divine Self limitation that you'll find fairly common in Ken many contemporary theologians. This is a limitation based upon God's very character, which gets back to an earlier conversation. I like to compare my position to two positions that are adjacent, maybe we'll call them on the left and the right. My view says God can't do control others because controlling others is contrary to the divine nature. That's that essential Gnosis language I've mentioned earlier. And on one side of me are those people who say God usually won't, or chooses not to control situations and contexts, but God could have God wanted to and maybe God will occasionally do so to do a miracle, resurrect Jesus create the universe, whatever. So the voluntary self limitation position, suffers the problem of you know, if God can do it one time, or God can do it at all, why doesn't God step in to help the rape victim or whatever. On the other side of me are some people who at least give the impression that God is truly limited. But there's some sort of external forces factors powers, be the natural laws, metaphysical laws, principalities, and powers, Satan or whatever. There's something outside of God limiting what God can do. My position says, It's God's very nature, that places limits upon what God can do. And that nature is chiefly uncontrolled in love. So it's not the case that God chooses not to intervene to help some person about ready to go into a car wreck. But God simply can't do that. And add to that the notion that God's incorporeal spirit without a localized divine body, God doesn't literally have a hand to stop a rock or whatever. Yeah. So that's my general theodicy. And then what I did in the third chapter of this book, because I've written on theodicy and several other books, I decided, you know, let me take my six big ideas that I think together actually solve the problem of evil, not just a defense, give an actual solution to the salt problem of evil. And let me see if I can run kind of some of the traditional attempts to do theodicy in light of those six, and take out omnipotence. So one of them is the soul building, the Odyssey that is made fate, probably most famous in 20th century by John Hick, that every evil that happens in the world is at least allowed if not caused, but at least allowed by God to for some greater good, usually he says it in terms of building character, but you could have a more universal notion there. So I say, Well, you know, there's something right about that, in the sense that, yes, sometimes our characters are built, because we suffer. But it's also true that they're not always and sometimes things happen that seems to make the world worse than it might have been. If we take out omnipotence, we can affirm what's good about the soul building, but not say that God had the power to stop the bad thing. rather say that God is working with whatever happens to try to bring something good out of the bad. God didn't want and couldn't stop in the first place. And so, you know, do you want me to talk about all six of those ideas?

Randy  58:36

Let me do a quick question, Tom, for those who are listening in who are like, Well, what about what the Bible says? So let me just give some examples because, hey, we

Tom  58:44

had the Bible in chapter one.

Randy  58:48

Not done. You. You said two minutes ago, something like well, God does can't stop the rug from falling on that person because God doesn't have a hand to stop it. But let's just take the Exodus story for example, like there's many things that God does. It claims an exodus supernaturally without God having a body to actually do it turning the Nile River into blood or making water come out of a rock or making locusts appear out of thin air or parting the Red Sea God doesn't have a body or you know, mechanism to do that. It just happened because God Wills it to how do you how does that like God doesn't have a body to stop a girl from getting hit by a car jive with God can part of an ocean for his people?

Tom  59:31

Yeah, I love that. You insert a little phrase in there that I think most people would insert that I don't think the Bible requires. You said because God Wills it to Yeah. Which I think you're saying God can alone decide something that will happen. The the phrase I like to use as Gods single handedly brings about some result. The claim I make in that Bible chapter after I look at the Greek and Hebrew roots in Word and all that sort of stuff. It is that the miracles that happen in Scripture happen because of either creaturely cooperation, or conducive conditions amongst the inanimate conditions of creation. In other words, the Bible doesn't require us to think that God single handedly parted the Red Sea, single handedly brought water out of the rock single handedly yada, yada, yada. Now, some of those things may be legends, I'm not saying every single, you know, story in the Bible actually happened. But my theory works if they all actually happen. I just don't require that for my theory. So what I'm trying to say then, is that we can affirm what scholars biblical scholars would call the mighty acts of God, and the miracles in Scripture, in my view, so long as we say, there was some kind of creaturely contribution or cooperation to make those things happen. And the big upside of my view, I think, well, there's lots of upsides. But one of the biggest ones, is that it then solves the question of why God doesn't do bunch of miracles, why Jesus can't do miracles in his hometown, why he doesn't heal everybody all the time, why? You and I go to the altar at our church, and we pray for our grandmother to get over cancer and my grandmother dies, what I call the problem of selective miracles. Because then we don't have to think that God can single handedly do whatever we can say there has to be the conducive conditions of creation or some kind of cooperation for the miracle to happen.

Kyle  1:01:35

So what we were just saying made me think of a question that I didn't think I was going to ask because it seems a little, I don't know, silly, but I'm going to ask it anyway. I'm gonna make it a Patreon extra this is the thing we'd like to do sometimes is Oh, our Patreon supporters, we throw in a question that only they get to hear the answer to. So here's the question, How is God on your conception different from a sufficiently advanced alien species? If you want to? If you want to answer that question, become a patreon subscriber.

Randy  1:02:09

Just a real simple question, reference Agustin many, many times in the book, we for good reason, because a lot of our understanding a concept of omnipotence comes from Augustine, you don't seem to have a deep and abiding love for St. Augustine. So can you just tell us what your thoughts are on Augustine and what your thoughts are in his influence in Christian Western theology?

Tom  1:02:33

I think Augustine is the worst, most influential theologian in the history of Christianity to have that. All right, I think he's the worst in terms of not just the set of ideas, but the influence his ideas, and there's people who had worse ideas than him. But his influence of those bad ideas is been the most prevalent. I think he tries to connect certain categories of perfection related to immutability. impassibility, a sanity, simplicity, that not only don't fit scripture, well, but they don't even fit our ontology of what it means to be a loving person. Well, and he screws up love massively. I spent two chapters in Piriform love book talking about all the ways Augustine screws up the love language, and then that's handed down in the tradition. Yeah, I don't have much good to say about Augustine, although we did have some interesting things to say about politics. But I think yeah, we used to say when I was in undergraduate, you can call them Augustine or you can say Augustine, but either way you say his name is theologies, disgusting.

Randy  1:03:55

Kyle is shaking his head.

Kyle  1:03:57

Gross. Yeah, I'm no bad poetry. But I am a defender of bad takes on a customer or sorry, an attacker. Okay, yeah. So I do want to come back to the the evil question, just ask one one follow up. And that is, do you think God will eventually overcome evil? And if so how does that work? On Yeah, on your view.

Tom  1:04:22

So I have a view that I called the relentless love theory. It says that God never ever controls in this life or the next. God works with all Creation capable of response to God. And because God's love is literally relentless and everlasting. There's the hope that God overcomes evil, but that requires creaturely cooperation. So I don't have the kind of guarantee that could only come if you have a God who has that kind of omnipotence that I'm rejecting, of course, if you affirm that then you all the other bad things we've been mentioning comes along with it. So I tried to offer a coherent and rationally consistent eschatology as well.

Kyle  1:05:07

Yeah. So but in but on your view, it might not work out. That's correct. Yeah. Okay. I really appreciate the honesty of that. It's deeply bothers me. I hope it deeply bothers you. I don't know if I could call that being God. But I really appreciate the honesty.

Randy  1:05:28

So I was to be honest with you, I was looking ahead to the last question that I was going to ask, and didn't hear the part where you said, it might not end up. Good. How do you how do you? How do you think your way through that when you have First Corinthians 15, that says that God is going to be all in all and accomplish ultimate victory? The book of Revelation is kind of clear about God.

Kyle  1:05:53

Yeah, it's not clear about anything. Like that was gonna be

Randy  1:05:56

more than anything. I would say. It's, it's clear that God has final victory over evil, and injustice and oppression and all the things.

Tom  1:06:04

Yeah, I don't think the Bible is clear about that. I don't think the Bible gives us a clear eschatology. I do think it gives us hints of something like a victory. So you know, I get that. But you know, what, we all know that.

Randy  1:06:18

So you know, First Corinthians 15, then when Paul says, Jesus is going to have authority over all things, all things in heaven and on earth, and he's gonna hand over the keys of the kingdom when he has taken taken his seat and rule over all things. And then God will be all in all in that. What do you think that Paul meant by that?

Tom  1:06:33

Well, I think God is all in all right now, in the sense that God is omnipresent and influencing all things. So there's a number of ways maybe that should have began, there's a number of ways you could translate or interpret all in all, but I think that Paul is presenting a future hope. I mean, that's hope is a really big category from Paul, and hope. And my way of thinking is different from absolute certainty. So it seems to me that even Paul has an eschatological hope that doesn't require us to be 100% Certain things are going to work out. Yes. I mean, as we can't be. Yeah. So my view of things provides the real possibility, and of all things being reconciled to use the Pauline language. But it just doesn't say it's going to happen through omnipotence. Sure, I was. I was, you know, this was probably one that this was probably this was the kind of final issue for me to work through in my theology, my eschatology, because of the worries that you both have and voicing here, because I want a God who can guarantee things work out well in the end. But if I have that kind of God, then I've got a God who's responsible for not stopping evil right here and right now, or at least not creating things right in the first place. Anyway, we got all kinds of problems. One thing that really helped me was a sermon by John Wesley. He's, he's kind of contemplating eschatology, the animals whether or not they get in the afterlife and, and whether or not he says he contemplates whether God can irresistibly so that's a kind of control irresistibly bring all things. And then he kind of sets that aside said, No, God's not in the business of irresistible God's in the business of love. And then he says, this line that's been helpful and says, It's as easy for God to save a world than it is one soul. And I thought, and that's in the context of him saying that salvation is never a unilateral, there's a symbiotic, there's a creaturely response to salvation. So I thought to myself, look, Tom, if you think God is saving you, and you're responding to God, why be pessimistic that God can't convince the rest of creation to say, yes, it's not a guarantee. But if you think that God is working in your life, and you're experiencing the salvation as you respond to God's called the love, then you got lots of confidence that others and unless, unless, you know, I'm the only great person in the world, but I don't think that's the case. I think I'm just as guilty as others, and I'm trying to live a moral life and develop habits. And I think that's possible for everybody. So anyway, that was really helpful for me. Got it.

Randy  1:09:27

Yeah, that's good. I love the theme and we don't have to go into because you've been going into it a little bit. But I love the theme that you kind of wrapped up the book when you talk about Emma potence. I don't know how to say that word. But this theme of God being this collaborative, cooperative force in the universe that cooperates and collaborates with human beings to accomplish God's desires and will and in goodness, what do you think about that time?

Tom  1:09:53

The idea that God is a God of love, and that love and bye aid cooperation. And this sort of synergy or symbiosis between God and creation. That's an idea that is increasing in popularity, especially in the academy. Because we have a sense that we have agency and that our lives matter in some way. The problem, I think, is that most theologians who say we can participate in what's God's doing, retain a view of omnipotence that says, even if we don't participate, God's got the kind of power to guarantee things are gonna work out anyway. The view I'm putting on the table says, nope, what you and I choose really does matter. We can screw it up. Now that's going to make some people feel really nervous. But other people are going to say, Yeah, finally, a theology that fits my lived experience, because I think my choices do matter. Yeah. And because God never gives up, then there's the possibility that I in all creation will eventually say yes, to God, moment by moment, and we'll have that universal reconciliation. But God's not gonna force me. I have to actually choose to cooperate. That's a difference of my view, when it comes to God's love and power than a lot of other theologians. Yep.

Randy  1:11:24

Yes, and amen. You landed it perfect. Before it's time, we are going to talk again, in a couple of days about a book that you and your daughter edited about your tradition, the Church of the Nazarene, and why you think it should be affirming of LGBTQ queer people. And we're excited to talk about that as well.

Tom  1:11:43

Yeah, excellent. I'm looking

Kyle  1:11:44

forward to it. I have so many more questions and objections. So that's just evidence that we need to continue the conversation just future because we didn't even get we need to scratch the surface. So now, but this has really been fun. And I appreciate you, being a good, good sport about some of that.

Tom  1:12:01

I appreciate the opportunity. And I this is not me just sort of pulling the wool over your eyes. I really look forward to people giving objections because I'm the kind of person who, I want to try to see any weakness in my view, so I can try to shore up that weakness or if it's really a genuine one, then change my view. So I look forward to genuine criticisms.

Randy  1:12:28

Shouldn't we all be like that again? Yeah.

Tom  1:12:30

I hope so. Awesome,

Randy  1:12:32

Tom. Thanks for joining us.

Tom  1:12:34

Yeah, you're welcome.

Kyle  1:12:37

Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being a good person.

Randy  1:12:57

Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show, and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.

Kyle  1:13:08

If anything we said really pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Randy  1:13:19

Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at @PPWBPodcast, @RandyKnie, and @robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.

Kyle  1:13:32


Beverage Tasting
Main Segment