Can one entrust omnipotence to everyone

Reflection on the Creed
The omnipotence of God: what is it?
Traugott cook


God the Almighty Father
Martin Luther, WA 30 I, 10.6: "Whoever wants to report a God must indicate what he can and can do."

Since ancient times, since time immemorial, the gods have been strong and not weak or powerless. Power belongs to deity - and no other god has ever been thought, believed and worshiped. The only question is how and what power belongs to God's being God. Initially, the view of the power of God is based on the primitive, natural notion of power and violence, which is taken from the vital conflict in everything that is naturally alive, the conflict between strong and weak.

But let us hold on to it: A God - or God - who would be incapable of being able to do anything or a failure would only be despised and just a ridiculous caricature. God is not weak or weak. An only powerless God would not be one and certainly not one in whom one could believe or on whom one could rely. God cannot be inferior to others or his opposite, anything else can be at the mercy of anything else. Otherwise it would not be absolute and not unconditional. The other or its opposite would be stronger than he: And so this other or its opposite would be really God. - Nothing can be superior to God. Nothing can rob God of his Godliness. M.a.W., God is invincible.

Power and thus superiority belong to God's being God. If he were not superior to everything else, he would not be free. And a God who could not relate freely to the other, but would be bound and ruled by the other, would not be God. In other words: God is one God; next to him there are no other quantities which - separately for themselves - would also have absoluteness and unconditionality. Above all, evil cannot be a second god of equal power. Consequently, he who has not understood the unconditionality and absoluteness of God does not speak of God, but bypasses God. God, as one, is clearly God. - But the question arises how this unconditionality and absoluteness of the one God - how consequently his power - Law, is understood truthfully: only exclusive, excluding everything else, only separately for oneself?

Because God, as God, is essentially one, monotheism came about, the religion of the one God. Now it was clear: only a God has superior and therefore unconditional power. He has omnipotence. What would gods be who limited each other? They would be nothing but non-gods; none of them would be god.


How the Christian tradition understood the omnipotence of God, an example of this is quoted from a scripture that was ascribed to the Church Father Augustine: from the “Soliloquiorum animae ad Deum liber” (from the book of the “Conversations of the Soul to God”). According to this, God's omnipotence stems from his uniqueness and manifests himself in the fact that he alone is the creator of everything, the sustainer of everything, the ruler and ruler of everything. It says: 'I confess and pray to the one, only and triune God, the one origin of all things and the one goal of everything, the one creator of heaven and earth, through whom everything lives that lives, through whom everything is sustained is and exists, through which everything is directed, governed and animated, what is in heaven, on earth and under earth, and next to whom there is no god in heaven and on earth. '(MPL 40, 892) So we sing too : "God of heaven and earth, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who lets it be day and night, tells us to shine sun and moon, whose strong hand keeps the world and what is inside" (H. Albert, 1642 = EG 445, 1). The omnipotence of God can therefore be clearly recognized: namely, by the fact that without God's power there would be nothing and everything would dissolve and fall apart - that is, by the fact that he is the creator and sustainer of everything. In earlier times you actually saw the world around you this way and experienced it every day. (We know in modern times that natural laws determine nature, let it become day and night.) According to traditional Lutheran teaching, the “power” of God (his “potentia”) is that which makes God independent, solely through the eternal efficacy of his being can create anything in heaven and on earth that does not contradict itself. "The omnipotence of God includes everything that is possible in any sense." (H. Schmid, Die Dogmatik, 1893, pp. 80 and 86) Should somebody say that God can also do what he cannot or what contradicts himself or is nonsensical in itself, he just speaks nonsense and denies God as a believable subject. God's omnipotence as the superior power over death and the devil is shown in the fact that he saves those who believe in Christ from death and snatches them from the satanic jaws of hell. God is the one “who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1,9), “who gives life to the dead and calls what is not to be.” (Rom. 4, 17) And that is exactly what it is he is in his omnipotence.


But what exactly is meant when we speak of the power of God and his omnipotence: What is it? If this is not clarified, it is all too obvious, as a matter of course, to transfer our ideas of power to God without asking whether they are appropriate to God.

Omnipotence of God, if it is really God, can go first Not means that God can do anything, anything, anything. Because then everything is or would be for God what he can and does, himself merely arbitrary: He can do this and that or also not do. His own doing is then arbitrary for him. And everything that he does and carries out is merely accidental: it may or may not be. None of this means anything; it means nothing to God either. When divine power deals with people as they please, all that remains for people is humble silence. In relation to God, the only thing left to man is to give himself up and surrender himself to God; All that remains is a “blind” trust - in the tradition often passed off as “childlike” trust. A belief that God means well with us cannot then arise.

The true God, on the other hand, the God that everyone can want, to whom everyone can freely associate and entrust, i.e. to whom everyone can believe can is the God, who is beyond the pure omnipotence of arbitrariness and arbitrariness. He does not distribute happiness and unhappiness as he pleases and does not have to be appeased and gracious again and again by us humans - for example by means of supplication; but he is reliable in his power to affirm and promote the life of everyone. This step in the knowledge of God beyond the sheer, arbitrary omnipotence of God is only taken in Christianity with the knowledge that God is love itself. The pre-Christian, arbitrarily almighty God was never understood as love. That is to say, love respects the other, takes him into account and accepts him.

The omnipotence of God cannot be unlimited, not total, not simply “sovereign”, lordly and therefore not “absolutist” - if God is true in himself, unambiguously true. And consequently “omnipotence of God” can be applied to the other Not That means: Everything that God does, creates and brings about is only there to show his power. - There is a peculiar reason for power: Power is only power when it is exercised, when it proves to be powerful, in control, over other things. Power, sheer power, and nothing around it, is none, is without any strength, because it cannot prove itself: it has nothing to prove itself. Unlimited, sheer power alone is not, does not exist, is inconceivable. That is why any attempt to demonstrate power for its own sake - power that does not want to achieve anything, is without purpose - is pointless. Power has to tolerate other things alongside itself - and so it is in principle limited. Because what it proves must already be there in front their power. Power therefore needs others in order to exert itself on them. That on which everything else absolutely depends is itself from that dependent that everything depends on him. Because otherwise it wouldn't be theon what everything depends. Power - perhaps even the power of God imagined in this way - could only enforce its unlimited freedom, its sovereign independence, if it destroyed the other. But then with this one act the power would also come to an end.

An exclusive, sovereign power, which absolutistically only knows itself, denies itself what it perceives but cannot and does not want: the existence of the other. It has to allow and tolerate the other - and yet experiences it as a restriction of its own power, so it cannot accept it. M.a.W., such power is inherently untrue. you cannot be the power of the true God.

The exclusively sovereign power has to tolerate the other and yet experiences it as a restriction of its own: consequently as a permanent threat against which it asserts itself got to. Such power creates their opposition itself. And sheer, not further determined and therefore limited power is inherently compulsive. May it be free from the ruler - arbitrary - in itself it is unfree: it must assert itself, must assert itself. In this position she can only assert and assert her superiority in holding down, in subjugating the other, in dominating and disposing of the other, in the endeavor to take control of him, to overpower him. What it fights against, what it has to fight against, that is the independence and freedom of the other. Bare, unbound power is hostile to freedom. From the point of view of the sovereign ruler, the others are always the weak, poor, small, incapable and, as such, despicable.

The omnipotence of God, imagined as totally independent, completely unlimited, capable of everything, and the powerlessness of man, are mutually dependent. But this already determines omnipotence and is not simply powerful over everything and not completely independent and sovereign. If, however, according to this conception, man were not completely powerless and only passive, if he had anything of his own towards God - even freedom - then God, according to this conception, could not be omnipotent, he would be dependent on it and thus conditionally. Consequently, God, as presented in this way, only allows people to count if they are useful for him, useful tools or means for his purposes, servants and subordinates, or even only pieces of his property. - However, the omnipotence presented in this way, as shown, does not escape conditionality: it cannot therefore be held, nor accepted as true.

And one more consideration: If God did not allow finite freedom freely and truthfully, if he were not able to recognize finite freedom alongside himself, then he would prove to be incapable of love and thus to be limited. Before love he proved to be restricted in being able to perceive the other and his finite freedom only as a limitation of his own and as a threat to it. In comparison with such a God - as we have seen: supposedly - unlimited omnipotence, love is absolute and therefore the true God: of course only the Love that sets the other free to contradict himself, that suffers from every contradiction, from every unkindness, and yet remains what it is: love that does not cease, which itself is still looking for the lost, perverted, “sinner”. The omnipotence of the true God can only be the power of love and truth that set free.

It can therefore, thirdly, Not to be that of an authority that only has to be submissive, compliant and therefore obedient to the other. Because even such domination over the other contains unmistakably violence, "works" only with violence. The one who commands cannot allow the other person's own will to arise, cannot respect it: he must force him down and submit. And the obedient who submits to the will of others must suppress his own will, that is, use violence against himself. Such a relationship of command and obedience precludes any communication between the two.

God - presented in the usual assumption of his omnipotence - can, fourth, Not be the “all-determining reality”. A position that asserts this must declare all suffering, all illness, the most terrible hardship, natural disasters and historical crimes (“Auschwitz”) as originating from God, as having been determined by God. Such talk of an almighty God always fails in real life, in a conversation with someone affected by theodicy syndrome, not only does not get beyond it, but above all does not help over it. However, a position called theology, which says that God is in the face of the incomprehensible misery of this world, of all the calamities and crime, or even only one Facing suffering, passed out, d. i. helpless, God betrayed. No, not like that, but this is to be said out of conviction: God is invincible. But we humans can not only, terribly, insult, harm, distort, but even dispute his godliness and do him death; and nature can do that in its own way too. But even there, even in death, God remains what he is: love that seeks all, does not give up anyone.

It is not easy to say that with God all things are possible. Sure: anything is always possible. But to say that is only the height of abstraction. And with that, on closer inspection, nothing is said; because that doesn't mean anything. Even according to traditional teaching, all things (!) Are possible with God, but evil, ungodly and nonsensical in themselves are not. So with God it is not possible what is against his being God, against what he himself is: the spirit of truth and love, that which gives life in all that is living, the meaning in all that is meaningful. And that is not possible with God, or God does not want that, which is against his will: and he wants life, but he does not want death. And he wants us humans: he wants what he wants, not without us. If it were otherwise, God would be a blind necessity and no one in their right mind could trust him. Let it be said clearly and unequivocally: God does not want evil and just leaves it Not to, but he and his spirit persist and overcome it.

That God cannot be the blind necessity and the indefinite "power in itself" is clearly stated in K. Barth. He asks: "Is God the epitome of all sovereignty, simply potentia?" And he replies: "... God is not the 'Almighty', and what God is cannot be understood from a supreme epitome of power. And whoever calls the 'Almighty' God speaks past God in the most terrible way. "(Dogmatik im Grundr., 1947, p. 54)

If, however, that sentence, according to which with God all things are possible, specifies, i.e. H.The content is determined more precisely and if it consequently reads: With God, what seems impossible to us is still possible - and if it is such a proposition of hope for the inexhaustible good of God, then it has a good, theological meaning. Because then he can give those inclined to resignation the courage to stand up and freedom to live.

It is not uncommon to hear the assertion that evil is also good for God for something. If that were the case, then for the person who “believes” that, good and bad would have to be the same, everything would have to be “irrelevant” and indifferent. And by the way, God would not understand us if he did not know us as those who suffer from life-destroying evil and disaster, or he would be indifferent. I. Kant, the philosopher, already asserted: If the idea of ​​God is not determined by the rationally good, then only the "properties of the desire for honor and domination, connected with the terrible ideas of power and vengeance" remain. . Such an idea of ​​God, however, not only destroys every moral-ethical - trusting - relationship between man and God, but - should a person really follow this concept of God - also the validity of moral law (the validity of ethical norms) among people. Because if with God the evil among people can be good, if everything can always be different, then for those who believe this there is no ethics, no obligation, no morality (Kant, Grundl. Zur Metaph. D. Morality , B 92).

Any attenuations or reductions do nothing. With D. Bonhoeffer it says: “I believe that God can and wants to create good things out of everything, even from the worst. For this he needs people who allow all things to be served for the best. ”(Resistance and Surrender, 1997, p. 47) If people, just like that, allow all things to be served for the best, then there is no life-destroying evil for them. And then they do not 'need' God for this, and God does not 'need' them for his allowing good to arise out of evil. Because then everything, as the saying goes, "is already over". Bonhoeffer goes on to say: “I believe that God wants to give us as much power of resistance as we need in every emergency. But he does not give it in advance so that we do not rely on ourselves but on him alone. In such a belief [!] All fear of the future would have to be overcome. ”Terrible, God calculated our almost sinking in his pedagogy and he would give his help in doses.

No not like this! All the misery of this world, the calamities falling upon people, all the crimes: they are a scandal that cannot be calm down; they are a scandal just revealed by God as absolutely good. Just watch everyone, everyone, how he or she wants to survive it, to cope with it - and with what strength he or she can do it.

If one says that nothing happens without God's will, then this sentence is also wrong if it remains indeterminate. Yes, nothing happens without God's will but much, much too much against his will: when the will of God is perverted, disguised and covered up because people have not included it in their own will and do not do it.

Also is, fifth, Not to say: God is Lord over life and death, he gives like life, so also death - and that at will. Again with such speech God got into the indefinite and in order to enforce his will he would have to disregard and trample our will to live, the will to live of all living things. On the other hand, the following applies: God is the source of life, the spirit that gives life and keeps it alive. It's clear For The life. He gives life and wants life, the life of everyone, he wants life and not death, life even beyond death. He does not take our life: if he did that, he himself would destroy what he has awakened. But he lets us die because having to die is part of life in time. He lets us die - but with the will that we do not perish in death, but live with him forever.


The modern constitutional state, permissibly, no longer knows any unbound power in the public sphere. He is qualitatively beyond such an old idea of ​​God and authority. He knows as permissible only power that is bound by law and regulated by law. In a democratic constitutional state, even with a constitutional monarchy, state power, which is also legislative power, is, according to constitutional law, always granted to the ruler, i.e. the holder of power, time-limited power that is accountable to the people of the state. The holders of state power can be voted out of office under constitutional law. They are and act lawfully only under constitutional law. - Permissible social power of groups and associations is that which is based on legally regulated agreement and consultation, and crucially on contracts. - Incidentally, the state-set law, which is reinforced with enforcement power, is also always a protection against claims to power by others.

Power is not in itself evil; only the indefinite, unrestricted, the absolutist power that is not bound by law in the public sphere of coexistence. The power that is not bound by the law and regulated by it is unjust violence in public and its exercise of violence and, as such, injustice.

Hence, any glorification of power should only be a thing of the past. The demonstration of power as power - no matter how powerful it is, how it drives along as a force of nature in thunder and lightning or rises up as a victorious armed force, or how it may be so gloriously and stately staged - should no longer impress anyone. Power only as power has lost its fascination. And the act of violence only appears brutal and reprehensible.


The absolute power, the power that is superior to everything and therefore gives way to nothing and no one - the omnipotence - of the true God can only be that of truth and love. And this power is non-violent, a power that sets free and does not force anything.

The power of love for God is this the Love that does not force anything, that is so strong in itself, so certain of itself, that it only woos, tirelessly, freely woos the other, man, so that he can be awakened by it and so both, God and him Human, come together and be together. The power of love is the power that fearlessly does not need to dominate the other, to dispose of him. It does not compel the other because it does not need it for itself, it does not need the other in order to use it for itself. She respects the other, accepts him. And as divine love, it is love that does not give up and does not give up, which absolutely holds on to the other, even in his closed-to-love state. Her strength lies in perseverance: to be resistant in suffering from the insults, distortions and damage inflicted on her by the refusal of love and untruthfulness - and in such injuries still to be love, open to the other, so continue to be herself: thus not to be overwhelmed and so, in endurance, to be superior.

Just as it is the power of truth as the power of the true God: it convinces whom it convinces freely. It does not persuade, does not subdue, exposes itself to the objection and rejection of the other, does not suppress the contradiction, but tries to address it as well. It does not impose itself, but patiently insists that it will make sense by itself, so it relies solely on the free insight of the other. And it seizes and moves and clears the way for those who listen to them and let them in with them.

A mindful power that is aware of the other and intends his free participation is that of the true God. It creates and brings to life by awakening. After all, nothing good is ever achieved by mere power; at best, evil can be prevented by means of - but only by means of legal - violence.

Only the God who exists non-violently, i.e. without compelling power and without acts of violence, the violence of injustice and beyond that leads to a life of truth and love, can be the true God and credible. He does not disregard people by treating them as helpless, powerless, dependent and subjectless. He wants them much more in his love than they do: as truthful, lovable people. Whenever they consent, his love is perfected, it is absolute in freedom.

Prof. Dr. Traugott cook
Email: [email protected]

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