God’s Omnipotence And Sovereignty – Part Three
The Notion Of Omnipotence:
Conceptual analysis of the notion of omnipotence has demonstrated the powerful effects of analytic philosophy – frequently frustrating but often clarifying. Richard LaCroix has argued that a general definition of omnipotence is impossible, and Gorge Mavrodes responded by attempting to provide such a definition. Both Joshua Hoffman and Bruce Reichenbach agreed that Marvrodes’s definition is inadequate. Few contemporary discussants of God’s omnipotence, including Marvrodes, have followed Descartes in maintaining that God can do everything, including the logically impossible. Most have followed Aquinas in maintaining that God can do everything logically possible.
The notion of an all-powerful Being is often claimed to be incoherent because a Being that has the power to do anything would, for instance, have the power to draw a round square. [i]
However, it is absurd to suppose that any being can draw a round square no matter how powerful. A typical response to this objection is to assert that defenders of divine omnipotence never intended to claim that God could bring about logical absurdities. Philosophers have therefore attempted to state necessary and sufficient conditions for omnipotence. Several criteria evaluate these proposed analyses. First, we must determine whether the property described by the analysis captures what theologians and ordinary religious believers mean when they describe God as Omnipotent, Almighty, or All-powerful. Omnipotence is thought to be a pretty impressive property. Indeed, the traditional God’s omnipotence is one attribute that makes Him worthy of worship. If an analysis implies that indeed conceivable beings that are not impressive concerning their power count as omnipotent, then the analysis is inadequate.
Second, when a particular analysis does seem to be in line with the term’s ordinary use, the next question is whether the property described is self-consistent. For instance, many proposed omnipotence analyses give inconsistent answers to whether an omnipotent being could create a stone too heavy for it to lift. Third, it is necessary to determine whether omnipotence, so understood, could form part of a coherent total religious view. Some omnipotence analyses require that an omnipotent be able to do evil or break promises, but God has traditionally been regarded as unable to do these things. It has also been argued that the existence of an omnipotent being would be inconsistent with human freedom. Finally, divine omnipotence is one of the premises leading to the alleged contradiction in traditional religious belief known as Evil’s Logical Problem. A successful analysis of omnipotence is one, which captures the ordinary notion, is free from internal contradiction, and is compatible with the other elements of the religious view in which it is embedded. Some difficulties in understanding the notion of omnipotence involve actions that seem to be prohibited by God’s nature. God cannot commit suicide or sadistically torture young children just for fun, given his nature. So a further limitation that can be placed on the range of possible actions for God is that God can do everything that is not contrary to God’s nature.
God Is Omnipotent – Thomas Aquinas[ii]
Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), the most significant Christian Philosopher-theologian of the Middle Ages, addresses what it means to say that God is omnipotent. He argues that omnipotence does not imply that God can do what is “impossible absolutely” (such as creating a square circle) because that is to do something contradictory. Nor does omnipotence imply that God can do evil; to do evil would imply imperfection in God, which contradicts God’s perfect nature. Aquinas argues that God is said to be omnipotent concerning active power, not passive power. God cannot sin because of His omnipotence. Aquinas further says that God’s omnipotence is shown in sharing and having mercy. In this, it is made manifest that God has supreme power, namely, that He freely forgives sins.
The Trinity: God in Three Persons:
The Doctrine of Trinity can be defined as follows: God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is entirely God, and there is one God. The doctrine of the Trinity runs through the Bible even though the “Holy Trinity” is not explicitly mentioned, but the Scriptures’ systematic study point to God in Three Persons. The word ‘Trinity’ means ‘tri-unity’ or ‘three-in-oneness.’ Making the concept of the Holy Trinity clearer, some creeds were specifically created: Apostles’ Creed (200-900), Creed of Nicaea: ‘Nicene’ (325), and Athanasius Creed (500 A.D.), among others. Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity is progressively revealed in Scripture. There is a partial revelation in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The same can be said of Genesis 3:22 “Behold; the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil,” gen. 11:7 “Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language,” and Isaiah 6:8 “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”. It is essential to note the combination of singular and plural in the same sentence in Isaiah 6:8.
There are other passages where one person is called ‘God’ or the ‘Lord’ and is distinguished from another person who is also said to be God: Check Psalm 45: 6-7, Psalm 110: 1, Isaiah 63:10, Malachi 3: 1-2. Also, several Old Testament passages about “the angel of the LORD” suggest a plurality of persons in God (see Gen. 16:13; Exodus 3:2-6; 23:20-22 *note “my name is in him” in v. 21*; Num. 22:35 with 38; Judg. 2:1-2; 6:11 with 14). One of the most disputed O.T. texts that could show a distinct personality for more than one person is Proverbs 8: 22-31. There is the complete revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament.
When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened, and John the Baptist saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3: 16-17). At the end of Jesus’ earthly Ministry, He tells the disciples: that they should go “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). Similarly, the last verse of 2 Corinthians is Trinitarian in its expression: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14). All three persons of the Trinity are mentioned in the opening sentence of 1 Peter. And in Jude 20-21, we read: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Three statements summarize the Biblical teaching of the Holy Trinity:
- God is three persons
- Each person is entirely God
- Three is one God
Scripture is abundantly clear that there is one and only one God. The three different persons of the Trinity are one not only in purpose and in agreement on what they do or think, but they are one in essence and one in their essential nature. God is ‘One’ but also 3, all divine, all-powerful with different roles. The Trinity is one True God. Trinity is convened in the Apostles’ Creed. The strength of the Apostles Creed is its ability to safeguard or protect us from veering down paths that lead us far from the church’s norms. When we read the Apostle’sApostle’s Creed, we hear of a Trinitarian God who exists in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We read about the preeminence of Jesus Christ as both human and divine, and we also read about his promised return. This succinct statement of faith points to our faith’s absolute core and forms the cornerstone for us today. Besides Christianity, are other forms of religion? The idea of a Father, Son, and Holy Spirit looks absurd to these groups. Some outrightly denied the humanity or divine nature of Christ.
The worst is Arianism which denied the divinity of Christ. The word ‘Trinity’ is not mentioned in the Bible but coined by Tertullian of Carthage, an early church father, but the doctrine is in the Bible. The Old and New Testaments reflect God’s doctrine, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – Genesis 1, 2 Cor. 13:14, Matt. 28:18-19. We must understand God’s three faces and see Him equally.
God has always been speaking; we have not always been listening. He is seeking those who would serve Him. He speaks to our minds, or intellect, so that we may clearly understand His Will and purpose for us. There are many facets of God’s mission, the purpose for humankind, the Great Commandment and Great Commission, and the strategy God has given us to build His Kingdom.
We explore God’s World, Word, God’s Work, and Ways, understanding, as did Moses (Exodus 3), that it is never about us but always about GOD. The Christian Mission is the Call of the Father. The work of God the Son is from purpose to power to programs (or procedures) in the method of engaging the Will. God seems to work from the head to the heart to the feet. Jesus died for us to be redeemed and become children of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom of God with Him.
God’s revelation of His heart for the world demands a response on our part. Our relationship with God is not just cerebral: He gave us hearts to love Him and emotions to respond to His overtures toward us. He does not expect us to live the Christian life in our strength. He gave us a dynamic Person to dwell in us and empower us to serve Him in response to the clarion call to evangelize and disciple the nations (the mission). Here we explore the Trinity, emphasizing the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit and our utter dependence upon Him for daily living. In engaging our hearts and emotions, the Holy Spirit plays His role.
- [i] Kenneth L. Pearce, University of Southern California, © Copyright Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and its Authors | ISSN 2161-0002
- [ii] Philosophy of Religion fifth edition, Selected Readings edited by Michael Peterson et al., New York: Oxford University Press, 2014
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