Understanding Divine Omnipotence
by Paul Gould
A cursory scan of the Bible seems to affirm the following regarding God’s power
1.) Nothing is too hard for God
2.) With God all things are possible
For example, we learn in Psalm 24:8 that God is “The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” When he appeared to Abram to reaffirm his covenant, God identified himself by saying “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1). The rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) implies that nothing is. In the New Testament, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). And Jesus says, “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
It would seem then, that the biblical data suggests the following initial understanding of divine omnipotence:
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(1) God can do anything.
But, theists are quick to add that (1) cannot be correct, in fact, there are many things that God cannot do which do not count against God’s omnipotence. For example, Augustine claims that God is unable to die or be deceived, “it is precisely because He is omnipotent that for Him some things are impossible.” Anselm adds that God “cannot be corrupted, or lie, or cause what is true to be false (as for example, to cause what has been done not to have been done), or many other such things?” And most importantly, there are passages of Scripture that suggest things God cannot do. In his letter to Titus, Paul grounds the believer’s hope in the promise of eternal life on the fact that God cannot go against his promises, for God is a “God, who does not lie.” (Titus 1:2) Or again, in God’s oaths and promises, the author of Hebrews says “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). And in 2 Timothy 2:13 we learn that it is impossible for God to deny himself: “he cannot disown himself.”
This suggest the following explication of divine omnipotence…