Friday, September 08, 2006


I was surprised to discover that the word 'omnipotence' (or rather the Greek word translated as such) doesn't occur in the bible until the book of Revelation. Jesus doesn't speak of God in those terms. Neither does Paul for that matter.

In fact, the closest Jesus gets to saying anything of the sort is when he says "with God all things are possible" (Matt 19v26).

The word 'almighty' is more common, but while this appears to mean "all-powerful" at face value, apparently the words translated to 'almighty' in English have more of a "supreme ruler" meaning than "absolute power". Its the sort of title that would be given to a human emperor.

The question is, of course, is God omnipotent? That is, is he able to do anything that can be conceived?

Most Christians I know will not question this, but I had a conversation with someone a few years ago who believed otherwise. He believes that God is omnipresent and is supremely (but not unlimitedly) powerful. And pointed out that any non-infinite amount of power (however huge) spread over an infinite expanse results in only small amounts of power in any given place and time.

Using this reasoning he can explain creation (in big bang terms) in that God's vast power was not spread over infinite time and space then but was concentrated into one location and time (I realise that the words 'location' and 'time' are meaningless here, but I hope you know what I mean). He can also explain localised miracles, such as healings, changing water to wine, the resurrection and so on. But he also uses it to explain why God did not prevent the tsunami a few years ago - perhaps seismic activity on this scale is outwith the bounds of his localised power?

This comes back to the old debate about why a loving God allows suffering. Perhaps he genuinely can't deal with it all?

And if God is not omnipotent, is he worth following?

Actually, I'd answer yes to that question. Its the same reasoning I used in a previous post. The questions are 'is Jesus the son of God?' and 'will trusting in him lead to eternal life?' If you can answer yes to those, does it matter if God is unable to stop the movement of an ocean?

Anyway, can I stress that this is an issue I'm working my way through, not one on which I've made up my mind? I haven't totally slipped into heresy. Please comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is the hillbillyatheist. i shall tackle your responses to my questions in a future show. thanks for the material. of course i must tell you, many of my questions are directed not at liberal and moderate christians, but fundamentalists, so it's no surprise that some of them seem silly to you. (i think i need to put a disclaimer up so that liberals and moderates know that some questions simply don't apply to their theology. (such as why do men have nipples)

hey, would you like to be on one of my shows? if you're interested, email me at

btw i know this comment doesn't apply to this particular article, but it is your latest and thus more likely you will see my comment.
(since i couldn't find your email address)

best regards!