God is Omnipotent – Doctrine 101

Standard

Discussion:
a) What can God not do?

Act against His will and/or character.

b) In what ways is the doctrine of God’s omnipotence a threat to unbelievers and a comfort to believers?

Hmm, I’m not sure I’d slice it like that. I would say that God’s omnipotence is a good thing to the extent that our will is aligned with His, and a “threat” whenever our will differs from His.

Journal:
In life, you will need to make some big decisions. Much of the future is hidden within God’s “secret will”, but he has told us plenty about what he expects of us in his “revealed will”. We can trust God to oversee our future plans in confidence that nothing can prevent him from fulfilling his purposes for us (Ps 139:15-17). But what should you be doing about God’s “revealed will” that will enable you to know that as you approach those decisions, you are living in the centre of his will?

The short answer is that the optimal strategy is to pursue what we understand of God’s will as steadfastly yet humbly as possible, in the hope that He will reveal more of Himself and His will, and both reward our faithfulness and forgive our fallenness.

Written Work:
Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions above.

Homework:
Read RCS #13 (incl. Bible passages)

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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 4 – God’s Power

1. Write down the words God says about Himself in Gen 17.1

Now when Abram was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me and be blameless.”

2. Explain why the statement in Ps 115.3 is an indisputable fact.

Um, I don’t see how that could be “indisputable.” Certainly, one could simply define God as the ultimate source who “does whatever He pleases”, but it is harder to prove that the same one is “our God.”

3. Read Eph 1.11. What is the reason this verse can say what it does?

Because God has total sovereignty over everything that can happen, and can thus ensure that “the counsel of His will” is carried out.

What is the most important way that God’s omnipotence is an advantage for you?

That it effectively reduces ultimate questions down to a single dimension: am I aligned with God?

4. Read Heb 1.3. Write down the words that refer to God’s omnipotence. Identify the way these words are related to God’s omnipotence.

Maybe it is a stretch, but I count three phrases:

  1. “upholds all things” – God is the direct sustainer of all created things
  2. “word of His power”- To speak is to will is to make it so.
  3. “Majesty on high”- He is above all things, and all things are for His glory

Reading R. C. Sproul

1. How do you think Sproul is defining omnipotence?

God’s ability to accomplish everything He wills [in accordance with His character].

2. Compare the wording you wrote down from Gen 1.17 [17.1?] (#1 above).

Um, I’m not sure. The phrase there is “God Almighty” (El Shaddai), which comes from the term “to destroy utterly.” I suppose they both convey the idea of an irresistible force.

3. How would you define omnipotence?

I actually don’t like the term. I’d prefer totipotence, the idea that everything which happens is ultimately consistent with the fulness of God’s character. Despite the theodicial problems that creates…

4. Read the second summary statement on p. 40 (p. 44, PDF). Do you agree with Sproul?

As far as it goes.

Is what he writes about omnipotence exactly what it is? Explain.

Of course not. “Exactly” is not a useful term in theology. All we can do is “roughly bound” the term to give us something more-or-less meaningful to talk about.

Is it what the word means? Support your answer.

Ultimately, meaning has to reflect context. Sure, technically “omnipotence” simply means “all power”, but as used by theologians since Aquinas the term contains a much larger range of subtleties and nuances.

5. Do you think it is wrong to say “Nothing is impossible with God”? Why or why not?

No. First of all, the Bible says it. 🙂 Secondly, all statements — especially universal ones — have to be taken in context. With the context of created order, it is clearly true that things impossible for us due to our human limitations are not impossible for God.

6. Look at the final paragraph on p. 40 (just above the Summary). Write down the statement in that paragraph that is most encouraging to you.

“We know that the same power God displayed in creating the universe is at His disposal to assure our salvation.”

A peripheral issue:

As he writes about God, Sproul makes a general statement about everyone who sins:

“One cannot sin without willing to sin.”

Do you agree?

Well — as usual — that depends on the definition of “sin” and “will.” If we define sin simply as “missing the mark”, then No; if we define it as “conscious moral failure”, then Yes.

Whether or not you agree, is Sproul right about this?

I think he’s right in this limited context, that God cannot sin because He is limited only by His will. I, alas, can, e.g., easily break my promises due to lack of information or physical ability, even if my will is pure.

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