The Powerless Presence of God

I was reading a fantastic book called The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins where I come across this quote which is very powerful.  The author is not by any means a Thomasine Christian but he nailed the Thomasine view of God right on the head.  Listen to this quote:

"However the message of Jesus introduces us to a different way of approaching God - not as a violent power imposed from above, but rather as a powerless presence entering our world from below.  This powerless God still instigates a revolution against the powers of this world.  However, this revolution is not won through brute strength but through weakness."

God in the Gospel of Thomas does not seem active like in other books of the Bible.  The Gospel of Thomas does not claim God as healing, damning, or making demands.  And yet God's presence is within all people and things.  This loving, living presence of God does not need to make laws demanding obedience but rather changes through loving, not through brute force.  I finally am free not because of believing or doing the right things, but through the realization of God in me and others...and this presence is love without any was this that changed me in a way religious regulations did not. 


  1. Interesting. I say your blog on the pinyadda site, and am fascinated by your writings. Thank you for your work. I'm not much of a conversation starter, but I'd like to take note of a few items you mentioned above. I must pre-cursor my comments with the fact I haven't read the gospel of Thomas, and from my tradition, have been taught it is heretical. But...I'm an eager explorer.

    So to your post,
    1.) The idea that God is not a healer goes in direct violation of the traditional text of the Bible. I agree God is not damning, or making demands, He simply gives us structure to live our lives in the "best" way he created us. So things like earth loving, impovrished, race, gender, environmentla issues are all something God intends on healing and making right. In fact, if you see the trans biblical story play out, it's all about God's restoration of the universe to a perfect place. I don't see how this can be any different, at least in the context of gospels.

    2.) The idea of Jesus coming to start a revolution not from the top but from the bottom is SPOT ON. I believe Jesus' intent was not so much to bring heaven to earth, but rather extend a partnership to us here on the planet so we could be a sliver of hope going forward. I'm in total agreement here.

    3.) Love with no conditions is absolutely what God is all about. However; there are some principles that we hold to in order that we can all live in unconditional love together. You can't live in community with someone else when their intent is to murder you. Therefore God reveals in Exodus 20, "Thou shalt not kill."
    It might seem like a demand, but it's strict obedience allows for us all to enjoy life together.

    Well, that's enough for this post. I'm just encouraged in reading your blog, and appreciate the work you are doing. I hope my comments don't come across condescending,mean spirited, or misunderstood; and I pray a conversation might begin with you and I.

    May God bless you and your work.

  2. Hi Andy,
    Thanks for your comment, and reading this blog. I would point out that I, as a Thomasine look upon the Gospel of Thomas as scripture. The rest, I may read, explore, but it is not held authoritative. Perhaps much as the way you view the Bible. It is authoritative and any other books while they may contain some truths are not authoritative. That said, there is no reason we cannot dialogue respectfully from our separate traditions. In fact I am aware of several in the mainstream Christian tradition who have explored the Gospel of Thomas (GoT for short) and use it as a guide for Christians to explore their interior life with God. In the post, I do point out that the Gospel of Thomas contains almost no narrative story about the life of Jesus, such as healing etc. However please do not take it that I do not believe God does not heal or speak, or even challenge us to live a radical discipleship. I do believe God does. I believe God still speaks today and comes near to all who call upon Him. My point about the love is what the law or rules cannot do is change the heart so that it more naturally obeys...we can try and fail over an over. But love changes us. God's love like any love affair leaves us different and we do things for the Beloved out of love and not some sense of obedience. The Gospel of Thomas says, "Love your brother like the pupil of your eye." So yes there are ethical standards there. I am better able to love (and I would venture a guess you are too) because we have been loved by the Father who we have come to know through Jesus. I look forward to continuing dialogue with you. God bless you and your work as well!

  3. Br. Jay, I'd have to say that the gnostic path is actually far more morally restrictive than a literalist interpretation of the Bible. (I am speaking from a gnostic perspective, bear in mind!) Freer to make choices but more restrictive due to the fact that our conscience sees more perspectives than a literalist. We see God's perspective, too! And that can wound us at times.

    I like your response to Andy and you stated a number of things I would have. To quote you, "we do things for the Beloved out of love and not some sense of obedience."

    Yes... but I also think that we feel the weight of morality upon our soul much heavier than a literalist. A literalist mind feels the need for someone to TELL them 'Thou shalt not kill' .... and the other nine. A gnostic instinctively knows and feels the truth when communing. There is no need for a grand announcement carved in stone. Communication is quite simple. But the weight of morality is heavier on us because we have to find the strength to do the most difficult thing at times: saying NO! and sometimes even by being a bit abrasive with people. Humanity's moral law is written in the gene and soul, not in stone. We already know right from wrong. It's only when we choose to ignore that soft voice inside our mind that we go against God's moral laws.

    Because gnostics understand, see, and FEEL the divine connection within themselves with the rest of humanity, when we hurt one another with words or actions we are in fact hurting ourselves as well. We are one mind. However, sometimes when faced with the blind obstinance of some people, love and and compassion can't always be meek and mild. Sometimes it's about stating the truth no matter how much of an "ouch" it gives.

    Jesus said that he did not come to soothe and console but to set fire to the world and then to watch it blaze. Fire is not only a destructive principal and force but a creative one. He was the ultimate anarchist. And was killed for it.

    In some gnostic texts I liken Jesus' personality to that of Diogenes the Cynic. Sometimes patient but more likely than not to answer in such a way makes you think about your own actions rather than his. And that is often the way enlightenment of the soul starts. Self appraisal. HONEST self appraisal.

    The Gospel of Thomas says, "Love your brother like the pupil of your eye."

    Absolutely! But brothers do sometimes have spats and have to confront one another with ideas which are heretical to those his brother believes. We cannot change or grow or learn if we do not face opposition.

    Without opposition we are not forced to confront ideas different than our own. And how interesting would that make life? Pretty darn boring. When we do confront ideas differing from our own it allows us to further clarify our own and rationalize them.

  4. Ps. My husband is a literalist and man oh man do we get into it sometimes! And yet at the end of the day we can both claim to have learned something from one another.

    He said last night, "you're really obnoxious."
    I said, "And I really love you."
    He said, "You're still obnoxious."
    I said, "And I still really love you."

    I love our 'arguments' concerning spirituality because we both always end up more aware of one another in ways we'd never considered before.


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