Sunday, January 30, 2011

Is God Omnipotent?

The question of God's omnipotence frequently comes up in religious discussions, yet there is rarely any agreement or consensus on the matter. Most Christians will agree that God is omnipotent (also omniscient and omnipresent, collectively known as "the three omni's") but what that actually means differs greatly from church to church and from theologian to theologian. Even among Mormons there is some debate as to what it means for God to be omnipotent (though decidedly less than other churches). Some take the standard Protestant/Catholic approach complete with ontological arguments, while others take a more experiential approach to God which makes a discussion of ontological arguments, and by extension, a discussion of the three omni's irrelevant. But the question remains, is God omnipotent?

When confronted with this question I could ask, "What do you mean by omnipotent?" but that rarely gets anywhere. So the other day I was thinking about it and I came up with a way of responding to that question. When I am asked, "Is God omnipotent?" I will respond with another question, "Is the earth a sphere?" The answer to that question is "'Yes.'" but it is a qualified "yes". The earth is very spherical, but to say that it is a perfect mathematical sphere of uniform density is to destroy the reality that is the earth. But to say that the earth is not a sphere is to ignore the obvious fact that it is a sphere, even if it is not a perfect, mathematical sphere. For all practical purposes (air travel, satellites, ocean navigation, astronomy, warfare, cartography, farming etc.) the earth (as a whole) can be treated as a perfect sphere, but to always think of the earth as a perfect sphere would ignore the immense complexity, wonder, and beauty that is the earth. So no, the earth is not a simple mathematical sphere, but that is what makes the earth so wonderful.

So is God omnipotent? Only in as much as the earth is a sphere.

1 comment:

Spenceanna said...

someday i hope we're neighbors again. Your blog is great.