God's Omnipotence

Topics: God, Logic, Philosophy of religion Pages: 6 (2171 words) Published: November 22, 2011
Some people refer God as the Omnipotent, that is to say a being that has unlimited power, and is able to do everything. God has four different attributes, he is omniscient, simple, eternal and omnipotent. The latter raises some difficulties, and paradoxes. In a first part I will show how omnipotence can be defined differently, how radical omnipotence differs with limited omnipotence and the issue with logic. Then I will show how God’s omnipotence raises some paradoxes and contradictions, by relying on the paradox of the stone and the problem of evil. Finally I will try to answer some questions concerning God’s ability to sin, to bring about the past, and to do things not done by him. Does God’s powers have a limit, could it then be possible that God’s omnipotence isn’t logic ?   

The concept of omnipotence and God is not that easily understood. Indeed many philosophers have different conceptions of God’s extent of power. Omnipotence is a kind of supremacy, all-powerfulness. Following that definition, the omnipotence of God  is an absolute, and radical one. This is Descartes’ view, according to him God can do the logically possible as well as the logically impossible, he can make a square circle and change the laws of mathematics. Indeed, ‘God can do whatever we are able to understand, but not that He cannot do what we are unable to understand. For it would be presumptuous to think that our imagination extends as far as His power’ (Descartes,  1630). In other words, it is for us Humans impossible to imagine and understand a notion as illogical as a square circle, however God created everything, and that includes logic. Therefore it is for him perfectly possible and coherent to draw a square circle, or make the number 2 higher than the number 9. However Aquinas claims that ‘this phrase, God can do all things, is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible’ (Peterson, 2001, p.124). The definition of omnipotence being God is able to do everything, is now limited to God can do everything that is possible. And by everything that is possible, Aquinas means everything that is logically possible. As a result it is incoherent for God to draw a square circle. However his inability to do so does not prevent God from being omnipotent ‘it does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence’ (ibid, p.125), indeed this self contradictory phrase represents a ‘non-question’. Richard Swinburne has the same position as Aquinas and argues that ‘ a logically impossible is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose could be done’(Swinburne, 1993, p.153). Therefore it would not be coherent to construct a spherical cube, as it is only two words put together  which does not represent anything. Moreover Swinburne believes that certain actions are logical, such as getting married, but they become logically impossible when they are performed by a certain kind of people, for instance : get married to a bachelor. So the action itself is not considered logically impossible, but it is the combination of the person and the situation, that makes it logically impossible. So being omnipotent is not only being possible to do everything logically possible but is an “ability to bring about any logically possible state of affairs” (Swinburne, 1993, p.150). According to this view, God’s omnipotence is a coherent idea.  

Can God create a stone heavier that he can lift ? Considering that God is omnipotent, he is able to create such a stone, however he is not able to lift it. If he cannot lift it, then he is not omnipotent This act seems illogical and self-contradictory, Mavrodes states that such acts are ‘pseudo-tasks’, ‘the fact that they cannot be performed implies no limits on the power of god’(Mavrodes, 2005, p.262), but as Aquinas pointed out, the act of lifting this stone requires an illogical power, therefore God...
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