“UPON MY word, I believe this is the most difficult clause in the whole of the Credo. Not theoretically; in theory it slips off your tongue, doesn�t it, without giving you a moment�s pause for reflection. Our Father, Almighty�of course God is that; when you have said that you have hardly done more than give a definition of what you mean by �God �. Yes, but in real life what is the thing that most of all tempts people to give up their religion? Why, misfortune, especially when it comes upon them suddenly; or when it comes upon them just when they think they have been behaving well, so that God ought to be in a good temper with them; or when it comes upon them simultaneously from every side, so that it looks as if Providence had singled them out specially for its frowns. At such times, people are more swayed by the feelings of the heart than by the reasonings of the brain. A young wife, for example, who has suddenly lost her husband, will say to herself,� Could God have prevented this happening? If not, he is not Almighty. Did God, then, want this to happen? If so, he is no Father of mine. Father if you will, but if so, he is powerless to help those who trust in him. Almighty if you will, but if so, he is cruel. One or the other, but not both; an Almighty Father would not treat me like that”.
So what we have got to do this afternoon is first of all to see what we mean by saying God is Almighty, and then to see what we mean by calling him our Father, and then to consider how misfortune comes to us, all the same. And I think we have got our work cut out for us.
God is Almighty in the sense that no limits can be imposed on him by anything outside himself. That follows from what we were saying last Sunday. He is the cause of everything, all movement originates from him; nothing, therefore, can happen unless in some sense he wills it. If there are any limits to his activities, they must be limits imposed by himself, not by somebody or something else. And therefore whatever solution we try to find for the mystery of suffering, there is one answer which evidently gets no marks at all. You mustn�t represent God as powerless to prevent human suffering; you mustn�t think of him as a kind of amiable Official up in heaven who is really very sorry about it, but he�s afraid nothing can be done. If you were determined to commit suicide, and (after taking poison) you covered yourself with petrol and set your clothes alight and then jumped from a fourth storey window, cutting your throat as you did so, God could quite easily save your life if he chose to. I don�t suppose for a moment he would want to, so it�s not a safe thing to try; but if he chose to, he could.
When we say that God is Almighty, we mean that he can do anything which is not against reason. God couldn�t create two equal-sized things one of which was larger than the other. But that isn�t to say that he is being hampered by something outside himself. The laws of reason are part of the truth, and the truth is part of himself, or rather is himself; God is truth. God could bring a dead man to life; but, without doing that, he couldn�t prevent a dead man�s wife being a widow. Unless she married again, of course. All that hasn�t much to do with our immediate point; but I thought it might be as well to mention the fact that God can�t do things which contradict themselves, because it is a question which occasionally bothers people.”