Flashcards in Nature or attributes of God Deck (60)
A way of thinking that emphasises personal freedom of choice
Incapable of changing or being affected
Why is the concept of omnipotence controversial?
- Can God create a stone to heavy for him to lift?
- Does it necessarily involve logical contradictions?
- Is it being able to do absolutely anything that can be thought of?
- On the other hand some tasks are impossible as an omnipotent being e.g. fail at a task
- Controversies called the 'omnipotence paradox' where notion of total power is self-contradictory
Why do some believe omnipotence is incompatible with a traditional Christian God?
- Incompatible with omnibenevolence e.g. illogical for God to be capable of evil but also unable to do evil
- Incompatible with omniscience as if God is omnipotence then he would not be able to add to his knowledge because he is able to do everything but also because he already knows everything
Quote Genesis 1:3
"And God said 'Let there be light' and there was light"
Give an example in the book of Genesis where something would not have been possible without God's help
Abraham and his wife Sarah gave water and food to three strangers, as a reward, God told them that they would have a son even though Sarah was geriatric, Sarah laughed at God but the story emphasises she should not have thought anything was too hard for God (Genesis 18:10-15)
How is God's omnipotence shown in the New Testament to be miraculous?
Jesus could walk on water, turn water into wine and calm storms through command
Give a quote from Anselm defining God (ontological argument)
"That than which nothing greater can be conceived"
Name the five key different understandings of omnipotence
- God can do anything including the impossible and self-contradictory
- God can do everything possible within his own nature and logically possible
- God limits his power for our benefit
- Problems raised by omnipotence are an issue of religious language
- God should be understood as 'unsurpassably great' rather than totally powerful
Which scholar supports that God can do anything, even the impossible and self-contradictory?
Describe Descartes' beliefs
- God can do even the impossible e.g. make a square circle because he is supreme perfection without limit
- God is the source of logic and so can suspend or replace logic as he chooses e.g. laws of maths only exist because God made them that way
Why did Descartes' reject any other understanding of omnipotence?
They limit the greatness of God and cause dishonour, if God has to conform to the laws of logic then he is no better than Zeus who was at the mercy of fate
What connection did Descartes' make between God's omnipotence and evil?
God is capable of evil but incapable because of his omnibenevolence and even though this causes contradiction, we only fail to understand this because we are limited by logic
Why do some scholars oppose Descartes?
- He portrays God as unpredictable
- God must be capable of evil if he is without limitation
- He makes God unreliable and suggests God can change his moral compass and so hindering relationships and salvation
Why does Descartes' view cause problems in theodicy?
- God cannot act in any other way than he does with depriving us of free will
- We must suffer to exercise free choice
- If Descartes is correct then God has the ability to take away evil without limiting our free will and so he chooses to inflict evil unnecessarily
How is Descartes proven wrong in the Bible?
"It is impossible for God to lie"
What scholar supports that God can do everything that is logically possible and within his own nature?
Describe Aquinas' beliefs
- God is completely omnipotent where this means in charge of the whole world
- Something which causes logical contradiction is not a thing that can be made at all even by God
- God is incorporeal and so cannot swim, he is perfectly good and so cannot deceive any form of evil
Give a quote from Aquinas in Summa Theologica
"He can do everything that is absolutely possible"
"Everything that does not imply a contradiction is among those possibilities in respect of which God is called omnipotent"
How does Richard Swinburne support Aquinas in his book 'The Coherence of Theism" 1977
- God's omnipotence means he can do everything insofar as everything is understood properly
- God can make or do all things but those which cause a contradiction is not a 'thing'
- This does not challenge or limit his omnipotence because he is still capable of all things logically possible
Which scholars supports that God deliberately limits his own power for our benefit?
Describe the beliefs of Peter Vardy (The Puzzle of Evil 1992)
- God's omnipotence does not mean he is in complete control like he can move things around like a chessboard
- It is wrong to suggest everything happens because of the will of God
Why does Vardy believe God's power is limited?
- God created the universe with necessary limitation of his power
- God created the universe to suit free acting humans
- God's limitation is self-imposed but he is omnipotent because nothing but him can limit his power
Describe the beliefs of John Macquarrie
- Theologians developed the term 'kenosis' meaning 'self-emptying'
- God deliberately emptied himself of some attributes so Jesus could encounter humanity
"he (Jesus) made himself nothing... in human likeness...obedient to death" Philippians 2:5-8
Why do some believe that God's omnipotence is an issue of religious language?
- Macquarrie and Aquinas
- God's power is spoken in terms of analogy
- God is infinitely greater than us and so some aspect will remain unknowable
Which scholar support that God should be understood as unsurpassably great rather than totally powerful?
Describe the beliefs of Charles Hartshorne
- God's power cannot be exceeded by any other but total power is not actually very impressive
- Total power means that nothing else is able to resist that power, omnipotence means having total influence and effect so nothing would have free will
- If there was no resistance then then there would be nothing reputable or impressive about conquering everything
What example doe Hartshorne use to illustrate his idea of omnipotence?
If I were to cut a rose bush, the branch would offer some resistance and I would have to apply more effort to the clippers to cut through the branch but if the being was God then he would have no effort in cutting through a rose bush so there would be less pride in achievements
Why does Hartshorne believe that God's power is not total?
People can put up resistance to God so even though his power is greater, it is not total and so omnipotence means that God can overcome all resistance