Omnipotence

Omnipotence (from Latin: Omni Potens: "all power") is unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to only the deity of whichever faith is being addressed. In the monotheistic philosophies of Abrahamic religions, omnipotence is often listed as one of a deity's characteristics among many, including omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence.

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Meanings

Between people of different faiths, or indeed between people of the same faith, the term omnipotent has been used to connote a number of different positions. These positions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. A deity is able to do absolutely anything, even the logically impossible, i.e., pure agency.
  2. A deity is able to do anything that it chooses to do.[1]
  3. A deity is able to do anything that is in accord with its own nature (thus, for instance, if it is a logical consequence of a deity's nature that what it speaks is truth, then it is not able to lie).
  4. Hold that it is part of a deity's nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for said deity to go against its own laws unless there was a reason to do so.[2]
  5. A deity is able to do anything that corresponds with its omniscience and therefore with its worldplan.

Under many philosophical definitions of the term "deity", senses 2, 3 and 4 can be shown to be equivalent. However, on all understandings of omnipotence, it is generally held that a deity is able to intervene in the world by superseding the laws of physics, since they are not part of its nature, but the principles on which it has created the physical world. However many modern scholars (such as John Polkinghorne) hold that it is part of a deity's nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for a deity to go against its own laws unless there were an overwhelming reason to do so.[2]

The word "Omnipotence" derives from the Latin term "Omni Potens", meaning "All-Powerful" instead of "Infinite Power" implied by its English counterpart. The term could be applied to both deities and Roman Emperors. Being the one with "All the power", it was not uncommon for nobles to attempt to prove their Emperor's "Omni Potens" to the people, by demonstrating his effectiveness at leading the Empire. This presents the most controversy when applied to Abrahamic Religions, since there was no word for "Infinite Power" in Ancient Semitic Languages like Hebrew or Aramaic.

Scholastic definition