Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Omnipotence of God

Christians often make the statement that "God is omnipotent" and insist that this means that "God can do absolutely anything." In turn this coarse and unscriptural definition becomes philosophical fodder for scoffers who intend to confound and undermine the Lord's people with questions like, "Can God make a rock so large that he cannot pick it up?" When most evangelicals are confronted with this objection (and a host of others like it), it has been my observation that they often seek refuge in the cave of irrationalism in order to justify their belief, opting for a sad mixture of hopelessly quixotic arguments to defend a fundamentally indefensible position. It's not pretty, to say the least.  But this approach is proven both unprofitable and unnecessary provided we allow the bible to define our terminology.

There is No Such Thing as Absolute Omnipotence

It is important to note that omnipotence, in a strictly absolute sense, is an irrational concept. If a being has absolutely all power in the broadest possible sense, then he must possess the power to eliminate his own power, which is an irrational, circular reference. The precept established here likewise easily resolves the so-called "omnipotence paradox" often employed to confound Christians who endeavor to defend God's omnipotence armed with nothing more than zeal that is not according to knowledge. When asked, "Can God make a rock so big that he cannot pick it up?" Christians should not hesitate to answer, "No, he cannot." When this admission is met with the inevitable response of, "Ah ha! So your God is not omniscient after all!" Christians should take the occasion to demonstrate that we must define our terminology by using the word of God as our dictionary.

The Bible Says There Are Things God CANNOT Do

All of God's people should be very clear on this subject - the bible explicitly states there are things that God cannot do - namely "lie" and "deny himself"(Titus 1:2, II Timothy 2:13). Examples could be multiplied, but these two are sufficient to establish the point. It is essential to incorporate this testimony if we are to properly define God's "omnipotence." It is clear that whatever is meant by this moniker, it most certainly does not mean that God has power to do any and everything in an absolute sense.

I'll pause here to recognize that this assertion may make some Christian's break out in a cold sweat. It may seem wrong to back away from defining God's omnipotence as "God can do absolutely anything." But this is the truth none-the-less (Titus 1:2) and it underscores one of the hazards associated with using a commonly accepted dictionary definition of a term rather than allowing the bible to define its own terminology. To state that in a way that is difficult to misunderstand, when the bible says, "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Psalm 19:6), whatever is meant by "omnipotent" in that statement, it most assuredly does not include the power to "lie" or "deny himself" as a matter of systematic necessity (John 10:35).

Omnipotence Biblically Defined

So we find that when the bible speaks of God's omnipotence, it is not speaking of an ability to do absolutely anything at all; it is speaking of God's ability to do absolutely anything that He wants to do because, "our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." (Psalm 115:3) What God wants to do is ever and always a function of His holy nature and impeccable character, indeed, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works." (Psalm 145:17) Once we allow the bible to speak on the matter, we find ourselves established on the bedrock of truth from which we will not soon be removed through either philosophy or vain deceit (Colossians 2:8).


As we reflect on the greatness of God's omnipotence, I can think of no more fitting end than to hear the words of a great King who learned a great lesson:
"And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:34-35)

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1 comment:

  1. Might it be that adherents to the notion of Absolute Predestination of All Things are also affected by unscriptural ideas concerning God's Omnipotence?