We usually describe God as having all the “omni” attributes. Omniscience refers to God having unlimited knowledge, knowing all things, knowledge of good and knowledge of evil. It seems to me, when we get to omnipotence, most people say, “God is all-powerful, but He can’t do anything outside of His nature.” The problem is God now has a limit and He no longer fits into the definition of omnipotence because it means unlimited power. What I’ve been pondering lately and what I feel like makes more sense is that God will not and has said He won’t go against His nature that He as established for Himself for all eternity, but He nonetheless has the Power or capacity to do other than His nature. Would love to hear y’all’s thoughts!
Very great question.
I’m not sure if I understand your question correctly, but let me leave a brief response here.
C.S. Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain has a brilliant explanation of God’s omnipotence in relation to our human nature. He says, “God in His omnipotent power does not do that which is intrinsically impossible, but that which is intrisically possible.”
For example, if God says we need to jump from a high building and fly in order to be saved. Our human nature intrinsically cannot do it. Therefore, there is a contradiction. God knows our human nature in and of itself. And His power does not contradict His very creature.
Now, God in His own nature is not a contradiction. We believe that God is just, He make just decision and act. So, He cannot do an unjust decision and act because He is a just God. We believe in a loving God, in His nature God cannot be that which is unloving. There is no contradiction in the being of God. Francis Chan, an evangelist once says, “God in His holiness cannot be impure. God in His grace cannot be ungracious. God in His wisdom cannot be finite.”
It is not that because God is not all-powerful, it is because in Himself there is no contradiction. The thing that God cannot do is to contradict the very being of Himself. Unless, we define omnipotence in a finite term, not in a definition to an infinite being.
Thank you for reading!
I hope these help!
Interesting question @Pastor.Trav but also a dangerous question if we are not careful!
Let me put a few thoughts here.
Our understanding of God is derived from scripture and from the life of Christ who is the ultimate expression of God. We cannot presume beyond what is given in the word of God.
Now, the Bible tells us that God is almighty and all-powerful, from which we get the term ‘omnipotence’. However, we need to be careful not to ascribe meaning into this term that was never originally intended. We cannot go by ‘what people say’ in this matter, and need to stick to what scripture says.
God’s nature is love (1John 4:8). There is nothing in Him that is not loving.
God is light (1John 1:5). There is no darkness in Him, there is no sin in Him.
The question you are asking is this - Can God do what He is not?
When we ask this question, we are entering into the realm of presumption. Why? - because our understanding is limited, especially our understanding of God and things like omnipotence and omniscience. So we need to be careful here.
So, to try and explore your question, let me try to go with one aspect of God.
Is there sin in God? No. (based on scripture)
Does God sin? No. (based on scripture)
Will God sin? No. (based on scripture). He will not go against His nature.
Can God sin? Can He go against His nature, because He is omnipotent?
If pressed for an answer, I will probably agree with you that God will not. Now this is based on my understanding of God and His word - there may be many who may disagree with this.
This is also a bit like asking - can He make a square circle, can He clap with one hand, can He make dark light? We can ask such conundrums without ever reaching an answer.
Now the question is this - does this limit God’s omnipotence?
I will look at this issue in this way.
There is a common saying - ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. This applies to man. As a man, I can use my power to corrupt myself and others, and I do it sometimes, to my shame. As a man, there are things that I want to do which I do not do, and things I do not want to do which I do, because of circumstances and my weakness.
When it comes to God, He has the power not to corrupt Himself, to not go against His own nature - that in itself is a power, a power which man does not seem to have or seems to have lost because of sin. In other words, God’s omnipotence appears to include the ability not to do things that are against His nature. His omnipotence includes powers that we cannot even begin to comprehend.
Yes, nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). But He will not break the laws that He himself made.
Let me conclude with this repeated statement - this is based only on our limited understanding of scripture and the nature of God revealed in it. May we have the humility not to allow this to go into the arena of presumption and thence to falsehood and confusion.
Well, I suppose what you’re proposing might be true in a hypothetical sense, but practically it seems a moot issue since God can never be moved to act contrary to His will.
Would you have the power to murder your own child? However horrible such an idea might strike you, the idea of God wanting to commit any sin is greater by whole orders of magnitude.
I hope this “hypothetically perhaps”, but “practically out of the question” perspective will help free your mind from this conundrun.
Thank you for your question . I don’t believe that it would be logically possible for God to do anything other than what accords with His nature. Scripture also supports that God is unable to change. This is not because God “chose” certain attributes of His nature, but because God is completely self-sufficient (Divine aseity), and so lacks no necessary attributes. If God could change who He is, then that would imply that God can either make improvements or add negative qualities to His nature. But if God is perfect, then He can’t improve Himself, and He wouldn’t give Himself negative qualities, as both would indicate that God is less than perfect in choosing to do so. That is why I believe it would be a logical impossibility for a Maximally Great Being, God, to do anything that does not conform to His nature.
Having unlimited power does not mean that God can break logical laws. God can’t be fully good but also less than good. God cannot be God and also not God. So God has limits. It is why I prefer translating omnipotent to “all-powerful”. God is all-powerful in that He is unlimited in his power as it corresponds with His nature. For example, Roger Federer is unlimited in his potential as a tennis player, as it corresponds to him playing tennis. He could logically win every point he ever plays, but to do so, he would have to correspond to the rules set out in the game of tennis. Likewise, God is all-powerful as it corresponds to His nature as God, but is not free to do anything outside of His nature. However, rather than that being a limitation, I believe it makes God the freest being in existence. God never struggles with His identity, He never wonders if a different career choice, or making more stars and galaxies, would have been a better decision. He is completely content in who He is in and everything He does. It is also why it is only in God where we will find our greatest joy, peace and freedom .
An interesting question and you have already received some great responses.
I would go further to say the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (the human incarnation of God) is the ultimate expression of God. His birth and life were totally focused on fulfilment of his work on the cross. The resurrection and ascension are the vindication and proof that his life and especially his death, had/have the approval of God. In the book of Revelation we find that at the centre of the throne in heaven is a “Lamb that appears to have been killed through violence.” When we speak of God’s omnipotence, we speak as humans for whom power has a twisted meaning. At the cross God showed his omnipotent power through total weakness. And it is through our weakness that He can show his power. He demonstrated at the cross that “other-focused, self-sacrificial (agape) love” is the greatest power of all.
Could God create a rock too heavy for him to lift? No- this is illogical and is like saying can a square have only 3 sides. It cannot exist in any possible world