God’s like gravity … (Part 1)
That’s not the setup to a joke. God is like gravity—at least, that’s the argument I’m going to make here about how God could be understood in some ways.
I feel like I have to make the standard liberal religious disclaimer now:
When I say God, I don’t mean on old, white, bearded guy in the sky; I don’t mean exactly the God described in the Bible … Actually, you know what? I’m going to talk here about God and I don’t need any disclaimer. Just understand that the holy is experienced in many ways, including the way I experience it.
As I tweeted back and forth with a colleague about God recently, I realized that 140-character theology wasn’t going to be enough on this subject, so this post aims to expand on that.
For a century now (oh, who are we kidding? For many centuries) there’s been a lively debate in theological circles about God’s omnipresence/omniscience/omnipotence (that’s being everywhere, knowing everything, and being all powerful, for the non-Latin majors out there) or lack thereof. It can seem unimportant, but our understanding of what God is like affects our understanding of everything else, even if one thinks God doesn’t exist at all.
So, here’s the background. Orthodox Christian theologies have asserted that God is perfect—all-powerful, all-knowing, etc. Critics of this have contended that God isn’t these things, but rather more like us, growing and changing and being affected by what happens in the universe. And some folks have tried to bridge the gap between the first two groups. Both sides have some good points and good reasoning, something I plan to address more in a followup post. For now, I want to show why it’s entirely possible that God is all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing, despite what some have said.
Which brings me back to the original point: God is like gravity. Stay with me here. Gravity is:
- Everywhere in the entire universe. Gravity effects all things everywhere; objects attract other objects with a force proportional to their mass, and it doesn’t matter where those objects are.
- All-powerful, at least in a sense: sure, you can “overcome” gravity by using a lot of force in the opposite direction. That’s what flying in an airplane, or magnetic levitation, or throwing something in the air, or using a rocket to push a space shuttle out of the atmosphere are doing. But they aren’t stopping gravity, they’re just very temporarily countering its effects.
- I won’t make some analogy about gravity being all-knowing. That seems a little too anthropomorphic, and a bit of a stretch. But gravity does “know” everything about objects in some sense: their mass and their location relative to each other, for instance.
So if a force like gravity can be all the omnis, why can’t God be? Why can’t there exist a supreme force that works throughout the universe for good? I offer this not as some sort of scientific proof of God (an exercise I consider to be pointless), but rather to point out that a perfect God isn’t such a crazy thought. Part 2 of this will examine why such a God might be better, or make more sense, than a God that is not all-powerful. Do I believe in this sort of God? That’s a difficult question to answer. But people who cavalierly dismiss any who do believe in an all-powerful God bother me. Hence, this post.
Though this post is my own original work, a quick search after writing showed me I’m hardly the first to think of this. For one thing, Stephen Hawking writes along similar lines, though he comes to rather different conclusions than I might. Also see here, here, and here, just for a sampling of people’s thoughts about God and gravity.
To see the first part of this series of posts, click here.
Update: UU blogger ChaliceChick wrote about this several years ago, too! She posted in the comments below. Thanks, Chalicechick.