In this post I will give 2 different ways to understand the claim that God is omnipotent and evaluate each one. I will give two this post and I will do two more ways next post.
The first way to understand Omnipotence is to understand God as “completely” or “absolutely” omnipotent where God’s being omnipotent is formulated as follows:
1.)”God can….” will be true however you fill in the the blank, provided only that the result is a grammatical sentence.”
This way of understanding omnipotence is obviously problematic. The sentence “God can make 2+2=5″ is a grammatical sentence as well as “God can make a sentence of the form P & Not-P true”, thus this formulation will allow for impossible states of affairs. There is a sense in which God literally could do the impossible on this formulation which is obviously incoherent. This way of understanding omnipotence is rarely endorsed for this problem as well as others.
The second way of understanding omnipotence is as follows:
2.) God can perform every consistently describable feat (where a consistently describable feat is defined as a feat that satisfies the following condition: there is a possible state of affairs in which someone performs it.)
This formulation does not suffer from the problems of the previous formulation since it is believed by most philosophers that the laws of logic and mathematics are necessary truths thus there is no possible state of affairs in which anyone performs such feats as making two and two equal five or anything like that. But, there is a possible state of affairs in which God could then sin under this formulation thus, if you are a traditional theist (whom hold that God is essentially F, where F are Gods attributes that make him God) then this is a problem since you would hold that there is no possible state of affairs in which God sins. Now, if you are a non-traditional theist and you believe that God is merely contingently God then you may think that this formulation is fine but let us consider some more things God would then be able to do: There is a possible state of affairs in someone admires Hitler ( in fact this has actually happened), this means there is a possible state of affairs in which someone admires someone that God doesn’t admire. Thus, God could admire someone that God doesn’t admire.
Now, the non-traditional theist may say “Aha, I believe God is contingently God thus this formulation still doesn’t affect my belief” but if we use the tetragrammaton as a rigid designator (a way of picking out the very same being in every possible state of affairs) then we could replace God in the previous statement with YHWH and say that “YWHY could admire someone that YWHY doesn’t admire” and it would be a consistently describable feat. Thus, this is still a problem for both the traditional and non-traditional theist.
Preview: The next formulation will say “For any possible state of affairs, S, God can bring it about (i.e. ensure) that S obtains.” Try to think ahead for next week and come up with your own problems or objections to this view.