Sunday, July 17, 2016

Patrem Omnipotentem

A leading German theologian was discoursing in learned and abstract fashion on the omnipotence of God when an Ethiopian metropolitan, with huge beard, a kind of black pancake of a headdress and several elaborate pectoral crosses - a thoroughly exotic figure - rose to his feet with great dignity and interrupted the German theologian in full flow. ‘Pantokrator does not mean omnipotent’, he said, and sat down abruptly. The German theologian tried to dismiss him with a few patronising remarks about pantokrator being the Greek equivalent of the Latin omnipotens. The Ethiopian rose to his feet again, this time visibly angry. He clasped his arms in front of his chest like a mother cradling a baby and swayed gently from side to side as he said, ‘Pantokrator, as all the Greek Fathers affirm, means that God holds the whole world lovingly in his arms and protects it, as a mother her child. God has the power he needs to care for the world. God is not an arbitrary despot.’ When he sat down there was silence. No reply was possible.” – Duncan B. Forrester, Truthful Action: Explorations in Practical Theology, p. 77 (T&T Clark, 2000. This took place during a study of the Nicene Creed held by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.)

Giusto di Menabuoi, The Creation of the World; detail of the dome fresco in the Baptistery of Padua, 1378. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Yukio Sanjo, CC BY-SA 3.0.)
h/t Fr. A.M. & G.W.

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