Ep8-The Attributes of God Ch 4 - Maximal Divine Power

We go over various theories of God's power and then come to a definition that seems to fit. We then address problems with that view and see if they can be overcome while keeping the definition intact.

Topics Discussed:
• Logical Limitations on God's Power
• Limitations on God's Power Arising from Divine Attributes
• Limitations on God's Power Imposed by Significant Human Freedom
• Past Necessity and God's Power
• Problems for Omnipotence
• Persuasive and Coercive Power
• God's Power and Natural Laws
• God's Power and Creation

Show Notes:


traditional view: “Augustine stated: “God is called omnipotent on account of his doing what he wills; not on account of his suffering what he wills not; for if that should befall him, he would by no means be omnipotent.”

“Logical Limitations on God’s Power”

Aquinas - “everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms is numbered among those possible in respect of which God is called omnipotent.”

“(DO) An agent A is omnipotent if A is able to bring about any logically possible state of affairs.”

“Limitations on God’s Power Arising from Divine Attributes”

Can't lie, can't save people in their sins, can't deny himself...etc

“(DO2) God is able to bring about any logically possible state of affairs compossible with God’s essential properties.”

“There is a price to pay for adopting (DO2), however, because it entails that God is not a moral agent unless God is not essentially perfectly good. ”

“I believe that acting out of the necessity of one’s nature is incompatible with genuine moral freedom, for why should we praise a being for doing good when the being cannot possibly do otherwise? We may as well praise water for freezing at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Moreover, if God could have created persons in such a way that they could choose between goods but not between good and evil, then would not their agency be more like Gods agency and thus better than it is?”

Unless God is a title. Mayor of Boston analogy.

but...“If the Father is not essentially good, then it is conceivable that the Father could do evil. How can we be sure he won’t?”

“he Father has so formed his character over eons of time and manifested a fixity in moral goodness such that the possibility of going wrong is merely logical, but not practical.”

Mother Theresa brothel example

“The second consideration is that God is also a perfectly rational being.”

can a perfectly rational being have emotions?

“Limitations on God’s Power Imposed by Significant Human Freedom”

“(DO3) An agent A is omnipotent if A is able unilaterally to bring about any logically possible state of affairs SA which does not entail that “A did not bring about SA.”


“Free acts of persons are a subspecies of events which cannot be brought about by God because they are not caused to occur as they do by anything except the self-determining agent who brings them about.”

“Past Necessity and Divine Power”

God can't change the past...why not?

“(DO4) A is omnipotent at t if A is able unilaterally to bring any logically possible state of affairs SA after t which (i) does not entail that “A does not bring about SA at t,” and (ii) is compossible with all events which preceded t in time in the actual world ”

“Some persons tend to think that we can imagine a possible world that is actual apart from the world that has been actual, but I think that such talk is muddled and confusing. Only one possible world is actual and that is the actual world.”

this is debatable...multiverse?

Problems for Omnipotence


explain...“if God foreknows everything that will occur in the future, including all of my free acts, then I need only to be able to do what I in fact do to be omnipotent. Nevertheless, it is clear that I am not omnipotent.”

“God knows all possibilities but does not know which of these future possibilities will be actual.”

Tell us about McEar.

“To accommodate this criticism, omnipotence must be understood as the maximal power that is conceivable any one being possesses. Such power includes the power to bring about or refrain from bringing about any state of affairs consistent with the maximal range of options open to any being.”

God and the stone too large

“Persuasive and Coercive Power”

ex nihilo implications

only self limitation limits God

“God’s Power and Natural Laws”

“Mormonism recognizes that God’s creative power is conditioned by principles and actualities which are prior to God’s creative act. These prior actualities include inherently self-directing selves known as intelligences, primordial physical objects or mass/energy conserved in the universe as a whole, and the natural laws which essentially structure these material realities.”

“the “elements are eternal,” meaning that the most basic constituents of physical states are uncreated and indestructible”

“The fact that material states exist without beginning in time does not mean that an ordered cosmos exists without beginning. Until God organized the physical universe, the universe existed in utter chaos. ”

two intelligence types-

1.“there are the intelligences which define the essential properties of each actual individual person.”

2.“not “self-conscious” but exhibits the property of intelligence in the sense that they exhibit regularity of law-like behavior.”

Mormons adopt essentialism: the eternally existing natural intelligences have essential properties which define how they act and react.

water molecules example

Why did the energy events/waves become the things they did like molecules and such?

“According to conventional thought, it is conceivable that God could have created different types of realities that have different properties than those which we know in the actual world”


“According to Mormon thought, the natural intelligences that have the essential natural properties, such as organizing into atoms of hydrogen and oxygen and of forming molecules of water when in a molecular unity, also exist of ontological necessity.”

sustaining immanence or 'god's general concurrence to explain d&c 88 'law speak'

It explains miracles.....Daniel/Fire example

Explain: “Thus, God is not responsible for “natural evils” in Mormon thought. Events which arise from natural order such as earthquakes, cancer, diseases, etc.; are features of any natural order that can exist.”

Faith is how God organized chaos. Why can't God use this to stop natural disasters and diseases etc? God is responsible if he can stop them, but doesn't

“Neither is God responsible for moral evils in the world. As free entities which exist from all eternity independently of God’s creative activity, the existence of intelligences entails that there are free beings other than God who bring about states of affairs that are essentially such that they are not brought about unilaterally by God.”

“God’s Power and Creation”

Can God be Omnipotent without being able to create ex nihilo?

Mormons say “It follows that God is the omnipotent source of natural law even though God cannot bring it about that natural substances have different natural tendencies or that they do not act of nomological necessity whenever they act.”

He can withdraw his General Concurrence but......

“We must now ask whether coercive power is consistent with the divine nature in Mormon thought. ”

“no power can or ought to be maintained only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” (D&C 121:41–42). ”

“it appears to state a metaphysical principle that divine power cannot be exercised in a manner that is inconsistent with the long suffering love that is essential to the divine nature.”

“Thus, it is conceivable even within the framework of Mormon thought that God in fact has power to coerce the exercise of power by intelligences. However, God will generally refrain from such coercive power because it is not consistent with his loving nature. ”

Generally? What are the exceptions?


"God can coerce personal intelligences only by obliterating their power of self-determinism, God in fact would never engage in exercising such coercive power with respect to personal intelligences even if he could. To obliterate the power of self-determinism at the level of the free will is to bring it about that the intelligences cease to exist as a personal agency. Yet since an intelligence is essentially and eternally a self-determining personal agency, God can take away free agency only by causing the intelligence to cease to exist. Because intelligences exist of ontological necessity, it is metaphysically impossible for God to coerce an intelligence.”


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