The Omni-ness of God

“We believe in the one living and true God, both holy and loving, eternal, unlimited in power, wisdom and goodness…”

Omni-, as a prefix means,  “all-” in Latin.  So you can take any word (it’s probably best to use the Latin translation of the word) to make a new word that means all-that-word.  For example, you may remember from elementary school that there are animals who are herbivores (eat plants), carnivores (eat meat), and omnivores (eat all the food).  Here’s the breakdown: omni (all)+vore (one who eats) = omnivore (one who eats all of it).  I am an omnivore.  I tried to find the Latin root for ice cream because I would like to be called “one who eats ice cream” but, alas, Latin is a language that died before ice cream.

So when you see omni words, like omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent in theological writing, you know that it means all-something. I’ve listed some of the more common omni words above and I’ll define a few of them below:

  • omnipotent: all-powerful
  • omniscient: all-knowing
  • omnipresent: being all-places
  • omnisapient: all-wise
  • omnibenevolent: all-good
  • omnitemporal: existing in all-time

These omni words are not used in the Bible (the Bible was not written in Latin) but the ideas they represent are.  The Wesleyan Church’s Articles of Religion don’t use omni words either but, again, they use the ideas they represent and it’s good for your theological education to know what these words mean and why they matter.

Eternal (omnitemporal)

Unlike the rest of the created world, God has always existed.   John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”   He existed independently and chose to create everything else.   This means he is inherently different than us it also means he intentionally created the world because he wanted us. It also means he always has been and always will be.  This world is temporary, our trials are temporary, God is forever.  He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega (the A and the Z).

He is bigger than anything we’re facing and has a much longer perspective than we do. I have a six year old.  Right now car rides as short as 10 minutes are filled with commentary like, “This is soooo looong!”  “Are we there yet?” and I want to help her understand that our trips around town are nothing compared to the cross-country trips my husband and I took in college (or even the 14 hour drive from our house to her grandparents house that she’s taken several times).  But she’s six.  And she has a limited perspective.  So she can’t understand that as bad and boring as it seems right now, it’s just a blip in time and will soon be over.

Unlimited in Power (omnipotent)

God can do anything he wants. I cannot do anything I want.  I am bound by time, location, and my inherent capabilities.  Things I cannot do include, but are not limited to, being in two places at once, read people’s minds, go back in time, sing on key.  God can (literally) move mountains.  He can turn the hearts of kings. God can heal those suffering from disease and deliver those in danger.  Because we know he can, and believe he might, we should ask him to.  We can ask God to do big things because God can make big things happen.

Unlimited in Wisdom (omnisapient)

Wisdom does not mean knowing everything, it means knowing how to best use the information and resources you have.  God always knows what the best thing to do is (if there is a best thing).  Because God is all-wise and I am not, I ask him for wisdom.  I ask for wisdom when parenting my daughter.  I ask for wisdom when listening to my husband talk about work.  I ask for wisdom when meeting with people who are asking the church for financial assistance.  I ask for wisdom when preparing to teach.  Even as I write this, I know I should ask for wisdom even more than I do.  James 1:5 reminds me, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you,” and who better to get wisdom from than the one who is unlimited in wisdom?

Unlimited in Goodness (omnibenevolent)

If you have lived (or currently live) with someone who is prone to mood swings (like maybe  a toddler, a teen age daughter, someone who is bipolar) you understand what it’s like to live with relational instability.  You never know how they’ll respond, when they’ll be mad at you, or when everything will be okay.  So you understand the value of a God who is consistently good. He will not suddenly dive into darkness, melt down in tears, or burst out in anger.  He remains constant, good, and you need not fear unexpected changes in mood or character or walk on egg shells around him.  You can walk in peace because his constancy provides stability.

When I surrendered my life to him as a teenager I could do so because I trusted him to be who he said he was, who I’d seen him to be.  I knew he was consistently good and that I could trust that he would continue to be good.

I also believe that he is working all things together for my good.  I don’t believe that everything that has happened to me or around me is good (or even necessary for God’s goodness or glory) but I believe he can take it and use it for my good eventually.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28) I believe he works all things together for my good (and the good of those who love him) because he is good.

Theodicy: A Very Real and Important Problem that I’m not Solving in This Post (sorry)

But sometimes life sucks.  Your world gets shattered by death, divorce, cancer, violence, war, betrayal and God does not feel good, or powerful, or wise.  There’s a name for trying to figure out how the omnipotent, omniniscient, onmibenevolent God could allow bad things to happen.  It’s called “the problem of evil” or “theodicy.”  This struggle is real and should not be ignored, discounted, brushed aside or treated with platitudes.  When people are wrestling with God because of evil’s impact on their lives we should allow and even encourage them to wrestle.  We should join them in the wrestling so they are not alone. We’ll address theodicy eventually…but not in this post. If you want to explore more, just google “problem of evil” or “theodicy” and you’ll get a lot of passionate posts and videos to stretch your brain (you don’t have to agree with all of them).

“We believe in the one living and true God, both holy and loving, eternal, unlimited in power, wisdom and goodness…”

What does this mean to you? How have you experienced God’s omni-ness in your life?  Which omni- is easiest for you to relate to?  Which omni- might God want you to experience in a new way?


BONUS  MATERIAL

King Of My Heart doesn’t use the language “omnibenevolent” but it carries the idea…

You are good, good, oh…You are good, good, oh…

Omniscient: I noticed the Wesleyan Church doesn’t say “unlimited in knowledge” instead, apparently, choosing to focus on “unlimited in wisdom” which is a much less common choice for a basic attributes of God list.  I’m not sure why this is.  We do have some Open View/Open Theism theologians (who believe that God knows all the things that can be known but the future is not a thing that exists so it cannot be known) though this isn’t a mainstream Wesleyan view, which may be why that word wasn’t chosen.  I’ll have to look into this some more…

omni-ness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s