Omni2_600_487 God‘s Omnipotence in the universe, with each and all things of it, proceeds and operates in accordance with the laws of His order. God is omnipotent because He has from   Himself all power; while all others have power only from Him. His power and His will are one; and as He wills only what is good He can do nothing but what is good. In the spiritual world no one is able to do anything contrary to his will; and this is derived from God, because His power and will are one. Moreover, God is good itself, therefore in His doing good He is in Himself, and to go out of Himself is impossible.

Evidently, then, God’s omnipotence must go forth and operate within the sphere of extension of the good; and this sphere is infinite. For this sphere, (going forth) from the inmost, fills the universe and each and all things in it; and from the inmost rules the things which are without so far as they conjoin themselves with it in accordance with the laws of their own order; and if they do not conjoin themselves with it, it still sustains them, and by every endeavor labors to restore them to an order that is harmonious with the universal order, in which God Himself is in His omnipotence, and in accordance with which He acts. And when this is not accomplished they are cast out from Him; but even then He none the less sustains them from the inmost. From this it is clear that the Divine omnipotence cannot by any means go forth from itself to a contact with anything evil, or from itself promote anything evil; for evil turns itself away, and in consequence evil is wholly separated from Him and is cast into hell, between which and heaven, where He is, there is a great gulf. From these few statements it can be seen how deluded those are who think, and still more those who believe, and still more those who teach, that God can damn anyone, curse anyone, send anyone to hell, predestine any soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, be angry, or punish. He cannot even turn Himself away from man, nor look upon him with a stern countenance. These and like things are contrary to His essence; and what is contrary to His essence is contrary to His very Self. [TCR 56]

It is a prevailing opinion at this day that God‘s omnipotence is like the absolute power of a king in the world, who can at his pleasure do whatever he will, pardon or condemn whom he will, make the guilty innocent, declare the unfaithful faithful, exalt the unworthy and undeserving above the worthy and deserving, and even take away the property of his subjects under any pretext whatsoever, and condemn them to death, and so on. From this absurd opinion, belief, and doctrine respecting the Divine omnipotence, as many falsities, fallacies, and chimeras have flooded the church as there are changes, distinctions, and generations of faith in it; and the number that may yet flow in may equal the number of urns that might be filled from a great lake, or the number of serpents that might creep from their holes and bask in the sunshine in the desert of Arabia. What need is there except to pronounce these two words, omnipotence and faith, and then circulate among the common people conjectures and fables and nonsense such as will appeal to the bodily senses? For these two words banish reason; and when reason has been banished what better is man’s thought than the reason of the birds that fly over his head? Or what then is the spirituality that man possesses over and above the beasts but like the stench in the dens of beasts, which to them indeed is agreeable, but not to a man unless he is like them? If the Divine omnipotence were so extended as to do evil as well as good, what difference would there be between God and the devil? Would there be any but such as that between two monarchs, one of whom is both a king and a tyrant, while the other is a tyrant whose power is so restrained that he cannot be called a king; or such as that between a shepherd who is allowed to lead the sheep and also to act the wolf, and one who is not? Who cannot see that good and evil are opposites, and that if God from His omnipotence had the power to will both, and from will to do both, He would be able to will and do nothing at all? Thus He would have no power, much less all power. It would be like two wheels acting against each other by turning in opposite directions, by which opposition both wheels would be stopped and be perfectly at rest; or like a vessel in a rushing stream driving it contrary to its course, so that if not held by the anchor it would be carried away and destroyed; or like a man with two opposing wills, one of which must needs be quiescent when the other is acting, for if both should act at the same time delirium or giddiness would invade his mind. [TCR 57]

If, in accordance with existing belief, God‘s omnipotence were absolute both to do evil and to do good, would it not be possible and even easy for God to elevate all hell to heaven, and to convert the devils and satans into angels, and to cleanse in an instant every impious man on earth from sin; to renew, sanctify, and regenerate him, and from a child of wrath make him a child of grace, that is, to justify him, which would be done by simply ascribing and imputing to him the righteousness of His Son? But God’s omnipotence does not enable Him to do this, for the reason that it would be contrary to the laws of His order in the universe, and at the same time contrary to the laws of order enjoined upon every man, these laws requiring that the conjunction between God and man shall be mutual. This will be made clear in the following pages of this work. From this absurd opinion and belief concerning God‘s omnipotence it would follow that God could convert every goat nature among men into a sheep, and at His good pleasure could transfer men from His left hand to His right; that He could at His good pleasure transform the spirits of the dragon into angels of Michael; and that a man with an understanding like that of a mole could be endowed with the vision of an eagle; in a word, that out of a man like an owl He could make a man like a dove. These things God cannot do, for the reason that they are contrary to the laws of His order; and yet He unceasingly wills and endeavors to effect them. If He could have done such things He would not have permitted Adam to listen to the serpent, and to pluck fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and put it to his mouth: If He could have done this He would not have permitted Cain to kill his brother, or David to number the people, or Solomon to build temples for idols, or the kings of Judah and Israel to profane the temple, which they often did. In fact, if He could have done this He would have saved the entire human race, without exception, through the redemption wrought by His Son, and have extirpated all hell. The ancient heathen ascribed omnipotence to their gods and goddesses; and this gave rise to their fables, as that Deucalion and Pyrrha threw stones behind them which became men; that Apollo changed Daphne into a laurel; that Diana changed a hunter into a stag; and that another of their gods changed the virgins of Parnassus into magpies. There is at this day a like belief respecting the Divine omnipotence, and it is the source of the many superstitions and consequent heresies that have been introduced into the world in every country where there is any religion. [TCR 58]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

PHOTO: NASA, ESA and J. Hester (ASU)

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