“Who made God?” was my first unanswered theological question—at about age five, I think. Since then the list has only grown. Reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand stirred another longtime question—“Is God omnipotent?” Hillenbrand’s extensively researched book relates the saga of an American pilot and bombardier downed in the Pacific during WWII who survived 46 days at sea on a two-man life raft.
Minor miracles occurred—rain fell as water supplies were exhausted. A few birds flew onto the raft to provide food and fish bait. Currents eventually carried them to an island—albeit one populated by the enemy. Of course, their own resourcefulness and will to live played a part in the men’s survival. Naturally, they and their families waiting for word of them prayed fervently for their lives.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of planes crashed into the sea during the war and few crew members were rescued. It’s hard to believe the lost men and their family members prayed less fervently or were less righteous than the small number actually rescued.
Believing God had the power to save all these men but elected to provide miracles for only a handful is tough to reconcile with the doctrine of a loving, merciful God. Religious apologists answer that with an analogy: Mortals can no more understand God’s purposes than dogs can learn calculus.
A different view of God—that he is not omnipotent and cannot alter natural laws works better for many people. From this perspective, God can offer comfort and insights to help mortals cope with factors beyond their—and his—ability to control. A third view is simply that the universe runs without divine intervention.
The second and third views offer less comfort and security than belief in an all-powerful Father who can create miracles to benefit worthy supplicants. The downside to believing in an omnipotent God is that faith is often shattered when fervent prayers go unanswered.
Certainly, we live in a world where unexplained things—both good and evil—occur. Perhaps the wisest course of action is to give thanks for the good, work constructively to overcome the ill, and not worry too much about the source.