We speak glibly of God’s omnipotence. We say with some Scriptural authority that God can do anything, although in a pedantic mood we might concede that what we mean is that God can do anything that can be done, thereby constraining God under the laws of logic while still allowing free rein under the laws of physics.

But there are many things Jesus could not do. He could not heal those who lacked faith in him (Matthew 6: 5); he could not save Jerusalem from the consequences of its folly, although he longed to do so (Mathew 23: 7); he could not instill faith in his followers (Matthew 8: 26); he could not persuade the scribes and Pharisees of the errors of their ways (Matthew 23: 13 et passim). The Gospels are as rich with things Jesus could not do as with the things he could.

Was this because Jesus was a man as well as God? No. It was the man-God revealing God. Was it because he could have done them, if he had chosen? No, he never has the choice.

God can only do what love can do, and love – we learn from Jesus – can only offer: it cannot compel. It can indicate, but not bind. It can sacrifice the self, but not the other.

To put this another way, God cannot act contrary to God’s own nature. God cannot think, imagine, hope or desire contrary to God’s own nature. And therefore, God cannot choose contrary to that nature. In this regard, any human child is more powerful than God.

That is God’s problem.

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