The Ultimate Source of Power in the Universe
I would think it would be a more than safe bet to say that 99% of the people who are alive in the world, and even 99% of Christian people in the world today, think in terms of the universe’s operating on a daily basis on the basis of its own power. The assumption of our modern worldview is somewhat mechanical. Namely, that there is such a thing as the laws of nature, which laws operate according to inherent power. That is, power within objects—forces within this world that have built-in power.
So the one thing causes another thing, which causes another thing, which causes another thing. And that that power is real and active. Again, the theologian asks the question, “Well, does that mean the universe operates without any assistance from God other than His imparting the initial motion, or the initial power to his universe at the time of creation?”
Again, that basic assumption that we make every time we watch a pool game, or watch other series of events that take place before our eyes, is an assumption that not every philosopher has accepted in history, and though Descartes’ accepted it to a degree, some of his disciples challenged it, and challenged it with a vengeance. And so the problem that we’re dealing with here philosophically, and it becomes a major problem when we deal with questions of theology, is the relationship between what’s called primary causality and secondary causality.
Now, what’s the difference? Primary causality refers to the ultimate source of power for every action. And, classically and historically the Christian faith affirms that the ultimate power in the universe, by which and upon which every other power depends, not only originally, but moment by moment, is the power of God.
Remember the Apostle Paul, when he debated with the Athenian philosophers, said that it was in God “we live, and move, and have our being.” And you recall when we looked at the early stages of philosophy in the pre-Socratic era, that one of the major questions that philosophers were discussing was the question of motion. What makes anything move?—which is really a question of causality.
And so, the Christian view has always been that God is not only the prime mover in the sense of the first mover, but that no motion can take place in this world—ever—no power can be exerted at any time apart from the power of God. That God does not create a universe that functions or operates independently from His moment-to-moment empowering of it. But the Christian idea is, there is no inherent power in nature, but that nature’s power is always dependent upon the primary source of power, who is God. Now, people don’t think like that in the twentieth century. Here, a secular view of the world has virtually captured the thinking of people today.