The topic of omnipotence (the ability of God to do anything, i.e., God is all-powerful) is frequently cited by atheists as proof that the God of the Bible cannot exist. The claim has been made that if there is anything that God cannot do, then God cannot be omnipotent and, therefore, does not exist.
Is the God of the Bible omnipotent?
The word "omnipotent" is never used in the Bible, but has been inferred primarily by one of God's Hebrew titles, "Shadday," which is most often translated "almighty."1 However, the Bible never claims that God can do all things. In fact, the Bible makes a point that there are things that God cannot do. The Bible says that God cannot commit sin.2 God cannot lie.3 Therefore, biblical omnipotence does not mean that God can do all things. God cannot do anything that is contrary to His holy character. However, God can do anything that He determines to do. This is a true meaning of omnipotence - the ability to do anything that one sets out to do.
Specific arguments against omnipotence
Some of the arguments against omnipotence are plain silly and stupid. Can God create a spherical triangle? Saying that omnipotence requires the ability to do logically impossible things is stupid. God cannot turn truth into a lie. If humans define a triangle as a two dimensional object formed by the intersection of three lines, it makes no sense to ask if God could make one that was spherical. When one says that God is all-powerful, one means that God is able to accomplish all that He desires to do. Even an all-powerful being cannot do what is impossible by definition. God can do many things that are humanly impossible. However, there are some things that even an all-powerful being cannot do.
Can God create a rock He cannot lift? Since an all-powerful being will always be able to accomplish whatever He sets out to do, it is impossible for an all-powerful being to fail. The above atheistic argument is arguing that since God is all-powerful He can do anything - even fail. This is like saying that since God is all-powerful He can be not all-powerful. Obviously, this is absurd. An all-powerful being cannot fail. Therefore, God can create a rock of tremendous size, but, since He is all-powerful, He will always be able to lift it. The ability to fail is not a part of omnipotence. The Bible makes it clear that God is able to do anything He wants to, and that nothing He wants to do is too difficult for Him to accomplish.4 This is the true meaning of omnipotence.
Could God think of a time when He was not omnipotent? If He can't think of it, He isn't omnipotent, but if He does think of it then there was a time when He wasn't omnipotent? This question is quite similar to the rock question above. The answer, of course, is that God can never think of a time when He wasn't omnipotent. God has always been omnipotent. His inability to contradict His divine character does not mean that He isn't omnipotent.
The atheist distorts the biblical definition of omnipotence in order to "prove" that God cannot exist. Contrary to their claims, omnipotence does not include the ability to do things that are, by definition, impossible. Neither does omnipotence include the ability to fail. By defining omnipotence as requiring one to have the ability to fail, atheists have defined omnipotence as being impossible. Of course, an omnipotent God would never fail.
These kinds of arguments are clearly illogical and even silly, although they are commonly used by inexperienced atheists. Most intelligent atheists have dropped these kinds of arguments long ago.
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- Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
shadday (Strong's H7706)
- almighty, most powerful
- Shaddai, the Almighty (of God)
A Related Word by BDB/Strong's Number: from H7703
Same Word by TWOT Number: 2333
- almighty, most powerful
- Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. (James 1:13)
- in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Titus 1:2)
- "Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will
return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son." (Genesis
'Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, (Jeremiah 32:17)
"Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?" (Jeremiah 32:27)
Last Modified February 20, 2009