3 ways to understand what is meant by God’s omnipotence:
- He can do the logically impossible
- He can do what is logically possible for a perfect being to do
- Omnipotence is simply a word that describes God’s power
Paradox of the Stone
Can God create a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it? Either God can create such a stone or he can’t. If he can’t, then there is something that he cannot do, therefore he is not omnipotent. But if he can, then there is also something he cannot do - lift the stone, so therefore he is not omnipotent. Either way this paradox suggests that God is not omnipotent, and a being that is not omnipotent is not God. So, God must not exist.
According to Aquinas, if God is eternal he has no body and so the whole concept of God lifting the stone is illogical.
On the other hand, Mackie argued that the idea of God’s omnipotence is incoherent. For God to be omnipotent then he needs to be able to do anything and there clearly are definite limitations upon the kinds of things that God could do. This suggests that it is impossible to be all-powerful.
Another idea is that omnipotence could mean that God has power over everything rather than power to do anything. We need to consider that omnipotence cannot conflict with other qualities of God such as omnibenevolence. Aquinas also points out that God cannot sin as sin involves change and an eternal timeless God cannot change.
- If God were able to do everything even the logically impossible, he would be able to create a world for us where we would have genuine freewill and all where we would be controlled in such a manner that we would only do what is considered right in the eyes of God.
- If God is omnipotent surely he can make choices. If not, what kind of a God is one that has no choice? However if he can choose - he must be able to change, but if God is described as immutable, he cannot change. The two attributes can’t exist.
- You can’t say that God can do everything logically possible, or say that God can do everything that's logically possible for God to do while maintaining his omnipotence. Saying God is omnipotent assumes he can do anything, but clarifying that definition removes the attribute and creates an idea of semi-omnipotence, a contradiction.
- Problem of Evil will always conflict with attributes of omnipotence and omnibenevolence.
- This attribute implies that God has total knowledge of everything in the universe.
This can be interpreted as God knowing all history, past, present and future or it can suggest that God’s omniscient is limited by his own choice so that he allows humans freewill.
How God acquires knowledge is a problem: if God is timeless then his knowledge can’t be the same as ours. He is simple and so can't gain knowledge…