Who’s Your Daddy?

Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent – we’ve all heard these three descriptors for God that claim that God is everywhere, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Jesus’ incarnation and the promise of the Holy Spirit certainly cements God’s claim to being everywhere. Jesus’ knowledge of all our sorrows backs up God’s omniscience. Perhaps it is the miraculous power of God that underscores God’s omnipotence. But I’ve got a problem and it’s been brewing for a long time.

It’s not just about the first two of these descriptors. I can believe God is everywhere. I can even accept that God knows everything because knowing everything and causing everything are two very distinct things. Omnipotence is where I get antsy in my faith. If God is all-powerful then why is there so much violence, heartache, and poverty in the world? How can an all-knowing and all-powerful God allow the creation to be so corrupt?

My mental conception of God, probably like everyone else, is shaped by my relationship with my own father. Daddy was wonderful in so many ways, always helping, yet always demanding excellence and voicing high expectations. His nightly “knock, knock, knock” on his and Mother’s bedroom wall will always be cherished. His three knocks, and my return signal of the same were our coded messages of love. “Knock, knock, knock” meant “I love you.” Sure, he could be distant, demanding, annoying and a real pain sometimes, but his essence was love and love overlooks a multitude of sins.

Daddy quit school in the eighth grade so my education was important to him. He wanted me to have a better life than he did. I can hear his voice in the summertime yelling “Make haste!” when I was running the stockyard alleys with a walking stick in hand cutting cows, and then the same voice sounded pretty much identical the rest of the year when he voiced his opinion about schoolwork: “Make A’s!” “Make Haste!” and “Make A’s” were phonetically synonymous. Without elaborating further one can see how my perception of God was shaped by my Dad: loving, encouraging, high expectations, and more – some good and some not so good.

It’s interesting that tear-jerker movies for me are usually about father-son relationships and reconciliation. No matter how many times I’ve seen “Field of Dreams” I get choked up. “Build it and he will come” and the theme of father-son reunion really get to me. Another is the movie “October Sky.” I highly recommend it. I see my Dad and me in the relationship between the coal mining father, John Hickam, played by Chris Cooper and the son, Homer Hickam, a teenager fascinating by Sputnik and rockets, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s a poignant true story about chasing one’s dreams, and loving people in spite of differences. The reconciliation scene at the end of the movie after the father has constantly shown disdain for his son’s interest in rockets is so powerful that I can’t help but cry. Please watch the scene below and/or see the whole movie.

Our parent image really shapes how we view God, and some of us, if not all of us, need either to forgive or be healed from some of those influences so we can embrace God anew. This is especially important to me as I ponder the attributes of God in the face of uncertainty. I saw a sign yesterday on a church of another denomination that declared an opposite theology from United Methodism. The sign said, “God Never Changes!” and appropriately the church was on Blarney Street right here in Columbia. Yep, that’s right, “Blarney,” as in “Baloney.”

God never changes? God changed God’s mind in the OT Book of Jonah when God was about to zap Nineveh. God changed God’s mind when Abraham was dickering over saving his nephew Lot and Sodom because of the number of righteous people there. My word, if God never changes why did Jesus pray for his life to be spared in the Garden of Gethsemane, or why do we pray for God’s will to be done in the Lord’s prayer if it’s a sure-fire given that it always will be? Why pray if it doesn’t have the possibility of changing anything? This presupposes that God can change, right?

Sure, I’m close to heresy here, but, thinking theologically, is God immutable and unchanging? God’s nature is unchanging to be sure, but doesn’t God out of love always change as God responds to our minute-by-minute choices and vagaries? God is always in love with us and that love has to respond in different and changing ways given the particular circumstances. So never confuse God with a distant puppet master that has a “plan” for your life. Do you think God made you marry that abusing spouse?

Gracious, even in the news this morning, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson gave me the creeps in what he said. He got his 200th win last night and he hit a rare home run for a pitcher. This guy is a lowly .179 hitter! His response was, “The stars were aligned and it was meant to be.” Yeah, tell that to Boston marathoners who were in the wrong place at the wrong time when the bombs went off. Tell that to Marcus Lattimore, football player from South Carolina, who is a United Methodist and has had two horrible knee injuries. It was the difference between being a first round NFL draft pick and a fourth! I dare you to say, “It was meant to be,” to uber-Christian Tim Tebow after his release this week by the New York Jets. Don’t dare say it to me about my daughter who is 33 and has a brain tumor! Fatalistic Calvinism says, “Praise the Lord!” when things go our way, and “Blame the Lord!” when it doesn’t.

We can say “Praise the Lord!” in all circumstances (Philippians 4:4-9) and let go of our anxiety because we have a God who never fails, especially when life is crummy. God does what God does best and that is to be with us and help us get through things. God will always respond to us because God’s unchanging nature is love. That’s God’s immutability! It’s blarney to accept an “It’s meant to be” perception that God never changes. Don’t let your skewed daddy-image put a barrier between you and the God in Jesus who is ever responding to our situations. God enters our suffering and redeems it. Jesus is a redeemer, not a schemer planning our next calamity. Who is God to you? Who’s your Daddy?

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17 thoughts on “Who’s Your Daddy?

  1. It has always seemed to me that to say God has to know all just because God is able to know all makes God slave to God’s own power and would necessarily mean that God could not be omnipotent. Wesley’s sermons free grace and on predestination have been helpful for me because they remind me that what I perceive as God’s choice to know or act in foreknowledge allows God to be savior and not puppeteer. Not sure that’s very clear but I empathize with your reaction to the typical language of omnipotence and omniscience because they don’t seem to leave much room for non-created grace; the activity of the Spirit of God in our lives.

  2. Interesting I am going through Phillipians with our small group and we just talked about anxiety. “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” created some good discussion. Is it even possible to “pray without ceasing”, “dont be anxious”, “rejoice always”. Only by His power and mind can we even get close. I like to think of God like a master chess player; whatever move we make he will use that move to accomplish his goal

    1. Well, Leland, I believe God can make all things work together for good, but doing that certainly doesn’t mean that God prearranges the crud to happen to get a desired result. There would be no free will. God can use our circumstances and we’re supposed to be thankful not for the circumstances but for the presence of God in them (I Thessalonnians 5:18, notice the comma). tim

  3. Apostasy. Malachi 3:6.

    If God is omniscient and omnipotent, how could he possibly change his mind? The verses relating to God changing his mind are an anthropomorphism that God includes in the scripture for our benefit.

    Are my minute by minute vagaries a surprise to God? The Almighty is somehow surprised when a being He created and wills to exist every millisecond of its existence (me) changes his mind? Absurd. Apparently omnisciences and omnipotence mean different things to me.

    1. Apparently they do – Of course, I respect your opinion but I completely disagree with the reformed Calvinistic view which is so fatalistic. Sorry. tim

  4. Tim, your grasp of theology and your very human reaction to all of life’s events – both personal and worldwide, always gives to me a sense of comfort. We agree 100% but you putreality into words in a way I have not yet achieved. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragements. Sam

    1. Sam, God bless you and the family as you navigate the journey. You’re in my thoughts and prayers, tim

  5. “Who’s your Daddy” is expressed perfectly in terms we all can understand. Thanks for always keepin it real, Tim! I agree 100% with this philosophy and hope others will take the time to read and understand our “world” is not so good sometimes but our Lord and Savour is good ALL the time and always with us to lift us up and love us, in any circumstance! I know these are tough times for you and your family but you are people of strong faith! Continue to live that faith each day. My prayers will be with each one.

  6. I always think of the movie “Bruce Almighty” when it comes to this issue. Do you remember the scene where Bruce is trying to make his girlfriend love him and states he has all the power of God but can’t? The God character answers Bruce by saying something like this: “It’s that free will thing.” Yes, God is ominpotent, but God has self-limiting attributes. Didn’t God limit God’s power when he became incarnate and lived among us? (Phil. 2:5-11) God limits God’s self when it comes to free will. Why is there war? Free will. Why did the Holocaust happen? Free will. Why is there trouble and pestilence in the world? Because humanity has exercised free will and not been good stewards of the earth. Humanity has contaminated the ground, water and air. Could God prevent these things? Absolutely, but for God’s own reasons, God chooses not to. This explanation may be inadequate, but it is my best reasoning for the presence of evil in the world. Keep the faith Tim and we are continuing to pray for your family.

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