Omnipotence is a confusing concept for both believers and unbelievers. The purpose of this article is to define omnipotence and make clarifications that will resolve common areas of confusion.
Omnipotence, Definitions and Philosophical Systems
There is no Hebrew equivalence to the word, ‘omnipotent’ in the Bible. Because of this, we have to be very careful when we are using foreign terminology to describe Biblical theology. If the definition or its implications are at odds with what scripture says concerning a subject matter, the definition for that term should no longer be used to construct a Biblical system of theology. Often, the Bible connects God’s power to his will (Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 1:19-21, Psalm 115:3-5). In this article, omnipotence is defined as the ability to carry out one’s will perfectly. This definition was chosen on the basis of what the Bible has to say concerning God’s power.
Mainstream Christian Philosophy’s Definition of Omnipotence
If God is all powerful, can he create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? In response to such questions, Christian philosophers have often said that omnipotence is the ability to do anything that is logically possible. This means that God can do anything that is not self contradictory. Perhaps such a definition would answer the omnipotence paradox, but it is not a definition that can be derived from the Bible. If we look at the Bible, we never see it speak in such terms. Where does it say that God is limited to what is ‘logically possible?’ What is ‘logically possible?’ Isn’t part of God’s glory and splendor found in his defying of expectations? Isn’t God’s power unquantifiable? If so, how can we place a limit on an unquantifiable power? If God created the world, what aspect of it can he not control (Jeremiah 32:37)? How could God’s power be confined to only this world? Clearly, such a notion is not Biblical. While the definition typically given by Christian philosophers may succeed in side stepping the omnipotence paradox, it raises a host of questions that I am convinced cannot be satisfactorily answered by these theologians.
Unfortunately, philosophers, theologians, and laypeople have a tendency to over complicate issues that are really not complicated at all. In essence, God can do whatever he wills, and that is what makes him omnipotent. It is senseless to put God in a box when he cannot be confined to his own creation. It is equally senseless to conjure up unbiblical definitions for foreign terms that are not used in the Bible. Not only does the definition proposed in this article make God’s omnipotence easy to understand, it also solves the so-called omnipotence paradox.
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