The weakness of God

Deconstructing Jon Caputo: Weak Theology

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“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

– 1 Corinthians 1:27

“God lets himself be pushed out of the world on to the cross,” he wrote. “He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. [The Bible] … makes quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering. … The Bible directs man to God’s powerlessness and suffering; only the suffering God can help.”

– Dieterich Bonhoeffer

I first encountered the idea of the weakness of God in the work of the Russian existentialist Christian philosopher Nicholas Berdyaev, where he writes,

“To God is not applicable the category of a ruling power, since it is too lowly a category for God, and it is taken from the lower spheres of social life. God has no sort of ruling power, He has less power than a policeman.” (1)

As a “Born Again” Christian in the 1980’s, breathing the heady air of a macho, triumphalist Kingdom Theology preached by confident evangelicals, fiery Pentecostals, cheery Charismatics and self-important Word of Faith prophet-preachers – the notion of the weakness of God was as foreign to that milieu as anything. Theirs was a victorious God, and by association we were on the Victor’s side. A triumphant, glorified Jesus was preached, a sort ofJoshua oroDavid style warrior king. There was this de facto assumption: Jesus is KING, right? And when you’re born again, you’ve become the “Kings Kid” – heir in this life and the next to all the promises of The Covenant (healing, prosperity, the gifts of the Spirit, just name it and claim it!). Indeed: even “mustard seed faith” is going to release the power of Almighty God.

Except: perhaps they were wrong.

Perhaps the fundamentalist, the inerrantist evangelical who believes the Bible to be some kind of divine amanuensis has the wrong idea about what this power is. His concept of Power is based on one the world embraces; but the Jesus revealed in the Gospels was clearly at pains to explain that his kingdom was not of this world – that the character of His kingdom was fundamentally opposed to the value systems of this world, and all the idols we extol and cling to.

If it were not so, we might have expected this King to have been born in a slightly less abject place than a filthy stable.



So what if this Dominion and Kingdom theology – theologies of power and might, of Kings Kids, winners and spiritual Ubermensch, is a contradiction of all that Jesus proclaimed?




See and



At every point censured for questioning the kegitmacy of their teachings, I finally extricated myself from their theology.

I quickly discovered that this particular brand of Christianity was neck deep in charlatans, sex and money scandals, in self-proclaimed prophets who broked no criticism, in heterodox teachings derived from cultic sources, shoddy or non-existent theology and downright lies. As for the healing power of God: it was a part of the magic show, more smoke and mirrors giving cover to the wolves devouring the sheep. As someone pointed out rather scathingly recently, have you heard of one verifiable incident where an amputee grew new limbs after the laying on of hands? Ah, there is much brouhahah, much shouting of Amen! Glory! Hallelujah! but their God, for all their pronouncements of his power and might, seems merely to tweak a little here and there, a disappointing Wizard of Oz.








d is a theme I became increasingly drawn to as I became increasingly disillusioned with evangelicalism’s shoddy theology and lack of textual criticism, it’s fanatical insistence on biblical inerrancy (Isak Du Plessis and Bart Ehrmann were just the beginning of the disruption of the dogma I had come to distrust).

The blatant heresy of the Word of Faith movement was easily recognized, but Biblical (Higher) Criticism and Textual criticism was a remarkably freeing experience.

Another formative moment in my disillusionment with the a evangelical God (apart from all the sex and money scandals which seem to follow the televangelists) was when I realised how much sham and blatant lying was going on. Heterodox theology one might excuse, but the lies were a turning point or me. The lies around healing were particularly disturbing, to see the damage caused. The macho all-powerful God of the evangelicals and Pentecostals was a sham. The wheelchair healings were staged. The seriously ill who didn’t recover were blamed for their lack of faith. There is not one confirmed incident of an amputee growing a new limb, but headaches a plenty have been healed! The razamatazz and hullabaloo turned out to be one more shabby moneymaking racket which hadls duped the world. I won’t go into detail here, but the catalyst for me involved ardent prayer for a mentally and physically disabled girl in a wheelchair. God never healed her. It was an important incident to witness, and the question returned: where is the evidence for this omnipotent God, beyond the presumptuous claims of Charismatic Christians? To continue to adhere to this nonsense was to endure cognitive dissonance on a grand scale.


hilosophy, or theology, of weakness means that things are tentative.”

“The idea of the weakness of God is completely biblical. 1 Corinthians 4 demonstrates what Caputo means by the weakness of God. There Paul points to God’s solidarity with those who have nothing, who are weak. God stands with the weak. There is no omnipotent being in waiting. The weakness of God is a strategy. It exposes the call to justice.”

“Is it possible that a supreme being could exist? Maybe. “I just don’t believe it,” Caputo said. Understanding God as a supreme being leaves the impossible problem of explaining how an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God coexists with so much evil. Caputo is suspicious of big stories, or theories of everything. Those stories are representations and pictures. They do not tell us what is really out there. They are what Don Cupitt calls “maps” of reality, but even the maps themselves are representations and pictures. If there is a supreme being, we are in trouble. He is more trouble than he is worth. “And he is a he.” Maybe there is a supreme being, but Caputo hopes not.”

The weakness of God is the Kingdom of God. This is the point where the Jesus Seminar meets Derrida. The Kingdom of God is about the ethics of hospitality to a stranger, about unconditional forgiveness. And forgiveness is what got Jesus into trouble.

In response Sarah Morice Brubaker pointed out that weakness of God theology means that there is no attempt to rescue God from vulnerability.

Brandon Scott stated that Jesus’ Kingdom of God is something that will never be, it is always oncoming,”

“For Caputo, God does not exist; God insists. Theology is a radical way to think. God does not exist: God is a provocation. We are to fill what is missing in the body of God.

Religion is a Vorstellung, a poem; it is theopoetics; it is poetry where the subject matter is God. Revelation is poetry. It undermines the traditional distinction between reason and revelation. Hegel does not have a key to the poem, nor do other philosophers. God remains an eternal coming, a verb, not a being, but becoming in the horizon. God is the promise of weak force, of justice to come, of the eternal perhaps.”

“So, when we talk about God’s perfection (known in the theology biz as “immutability”), we talk of God’s perfect wisdom, perfect will, perfect goodness, perfect truth, and perfect love. But we also – and I daresay disproportionately – talk of God’s perfect power. This is where strong theology paints itself into a corner. If God’s power is perfect, able to enact his (and this God is always a he) perfect will perfectly, then that leaves little room for our involvement. If God has all the power, then we have none, which makes God responsible for everything, not us. Because this seems absurd, we tend to insist on our free will, in part because we experience ourselves as making choices, but also because we are told that we are, in fact, responsible for all the evil in the world. As we understand it, there has to be evil in order for us to have free will. Yet, we still speak of God intervening in our lives. We pray to God to do so. If God does – in fact, if God even can – then God is again responsible for everything. That is, if God picks and chooses when to allow evil to happen, then God is responsible for all of it. We rely on God’s perfect wisdom to assert that there must be some reason for these decisions, some reason we can’t understand, but I will side with Dostoevsky’s Ivan and say that there is no greater good that makes the torture and death of a child okay. Caputo: “But right from the start, the one thing that constantly accompanied the faith in God’s merciful and compassionate power of intervention in human affairs is the sense of confusion, even dumb-foundedness, at the regularity with which that compassion is contradicted by the empirical record of nonintervention in the face of violence and injustice.” Unfortunately, our tradition has erased any alternatives; it is the only way we have of thinking about God.

Caputo suggests that we think, instead, of God as an event. That is, rather than concern ourselves with God’s existence, God’s being, we think about God happening. Specifically, he suggests that we understand God as a call to which we might respond. Caputo: “I am trying to displace thinking about God as the highest and best thing that is there by starting to think that God is the call that provokes what is there, the specter that haunts what is there, the spirit that breathes over what is there.” This is a beautifully weak God. God does not have the power to bend the world to God’s perfect will, but rather cries out to us in hope. God doesn’t exist; God insists.” –




(1) Concerning Authority, Freedom and Humanness, 1936

I found this at faithonline: the typical wof response…

The Lord is powerful; He is Lord of all things, including disease. All of Scripture makes clear what Psalm 103:19 affirms: “The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” …The Lord “heals all your diseases.” How do we know that to be true? Scripture says so.


“David, who may have written, “The Lord heals all your diseases,” had an infant son who became ill. “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the night lying on the ground. … On the seventh day the child died” (2 Samuel 12:13ff). Poor prayer was not the issue.


Acrobatic theodicy bull

God is omnipotent. That is, He is all powerful and therefore He is the creator who makes everything. Nothing is impossible for Him. He has not only has set the natural laws of physics, he sustains them, and he can change them or suspend them. When he changes them or suspends them, this is a miracle. This is God’s creation and he can do with it whatever he pleases. However, he has made it clear that miracles are rare and that they have purposes. We live in the natural world according to the natural laws He has set in place. If He wants to change something for a particular reason He has the prerogative to do that.

This God is involved in every aspect of creation through His providence. Providence is God’s mysterious and unseen moving of every molecule of creation. He is directing every decision, every action, and every event at every moment according to His wise plan and good pleasure. When contemplated, this is really far more staggering than any mere miracle. This will be important a little further down in the discussion so hang in there….

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