Theology at thirteen

Photo credit: Hannah Voboril

If I were a carpenter, I hope my kids would have hand-crafted furniture; if I were a shoe-maker, I hope all my kids would have wonderful shoes. Since I am a theologian, I try to make sure my kids don’t miss the one thing I have to offer them. I often talk about the faith at the dinner table or on Sunday mornings before Mass, and I bring up current issues and talk about them in light of Catholicism. But because I work for a living, my wife ends up doing their catechesis. My contribution tends to be spontaneous rather than planned.

While I was driving a trailer load to the dump today, one of those spontaneous moments popped up. My thirteen-year-old son David usually talks non-stop about programming and tech news, but today he suddenly began to talk about how strange it is that God does not make decisions: God knows everything that is going to happen, David reasoned, including what he himself is going to do.After some further conversation we reached the point of saying that God’s “eternity” does not mean that God exists for an infinite time but that God does not exist in time. There is no past or future for him. David offered a creative argument for our conclusion: if God’s omnipotence means that he can do anything he wants with anything in the world, then there can be no past for him, because something being “past” for God would put it out of his control.

This reminded David of the old riddle about whether God’s being omnipotent means that he can make a square circle. David explained his own answer to the riddle: Yes, God can make a square circle, just as soon as you can give him a specific enough description of what a square circle looks like so that he could verify whether he had made it.

That train of thought of course brought back the old question about whether God can make a weight so heavy he can’t lift it, which led David to aver that God himself cannot be said to have “weight”. Why not, I wondered? Because, David explained, a thing only has weight when something else exerts gravitational pull on it, so “weight” is something one has in relation to other things. But God doesn’t exist within the system of our world such that some created thing could exert a pull on him, just as God doesn’t exist within the time that bounds the system of our world.

In fact, David went on, God does not exist within our world as a part at all unless he specially manifests himself, as in the Incarnation. God could make another world entirely separate and entirely different from ours, because God is outside of any world he might create.

It had been a very “David” conversation, leaping from topic to topic by association.  By this point we had to make a stop, and by the time we got back in the car the moment was gone. David got onto what he had heard about Microsoft’s OS as opposed to Apple, and theological adventures were over for the day.

But my, my. I look forward to learning from David in ten or twenty years.

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Author: Dr. Holmes

Dr. Jeremy Holmes teaches Theology at Wyoming Catholic College. He lives in Wyoming with his wife, Jacinta, and their eight children.

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Jason Mann
Jason Mann
8 years ago

Wow! What a deep thinker. So I can’t help but share my 8 year old daughter’s response to the question about God creating something too heavy for Him to lift. We were asking riddles at dinner, and I posed the question. Without skipping a beat (and a look of pity for my inane riddle), she said that of course he could make something too heavy to lift. He weakened himself to die on the cross for us. A heavy rock was nothing compared to that.