BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (35) – Can God do whatever he pleases?

– Rev José Mario O Mandía

“He does whatever he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Through reason we discover many attributes of God. Our faith confirms these attributes. Among all these divine attributes, however, we are obliged by the Creed to declare one: God is almighty. “We believe that his might is universal, for God who created everything also rules everything and can do everything. God’s power is loving, for he is our Father, and mysterious, for only faith can discern it….” (CCC 268).

From philosophy, we learn that God is Pure Act of Being, with no potency. From Revelation, we read how the “Holy Scriptures repeatedly confess the universal power of God. He is called the ‘Mighty One of Jacob,’ the ‘LORD of hosts,’ the ‘strong and mighty’ one. If God is almighty ‘in heaven and on earth,’ it is because he made them. Nothing is impossible with God, who disposes his works according to his will. He is the Lord of the universe, whose order he established and which remains wholly subject to him and at his disposal. He is master of history, governing hearts and events in keeping with his will: ‘It is always in your power to show great strength, and who can withstand the strength of your arm?’” (CCC 269).

The Fathers of the Church teach this unanimously. Just to take one example: Theophilus of Antioch (115-181) wrote, “But He is Lord, because He rules over the universe; Father, because He is before all things; Fashioner and Maker, because He is creator and maker of the universe; the Highest, because of His being above all; and Almighty, because He Himself rules and embraces all. For the heights of heaven, and the depths of the abysses, and the ends of the earth, are in His hand, and there is no place of His rest. For the heavens are His work, the earth is His creation, the sea is His handiwork; man is His formation and His image; sun, moon, and stars are His elements, made for signs, and seasons, and days, and years, that they may serve and be slaves to man; and all things God has made out of things that were not into things that are, in order that through His works His greatness may be known and understood” (To Autolycus).

We believe that God’s almighty power not only created us, but redeems us and makes us holy like him (cf CCC 278). That is why “the Church often addresses her prayer to the ‘almighty and eternal God’ (‘omnipotens sempiterne Deus…’), believing firmly that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’ (Gen 18:14; Lk 1:37; Mt 19:26)” (CCC 276).

So what if he is powerful? What attitude does it require of us? We will find the answer in Psalm 95.

“O come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it; for his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!”

If he is the Almighty One, we need to rejoice, to praise him, to thank him, to worship him, bend our knees and listen to him. “The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger / Pope Benedict XVI, “The Theology of Kneeling,” The Spirit of the Liturgy)

But why does evil seem to overpower him at times? Ah, we will leave that for another discussion.

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