Brian Leftow

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596539
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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The doctrine that God is omnipotent takes its rise from Scriptural texts which concern two linked topics. One is how much power God has to put behind actions: enough that nothing is too hard, enough to do whatever he pleases. The other is how much God can do: ‘all things’. The link is obvious: we measure strength by what tasks it is adequate to perform, and God is so strong he can do all things. The Christian philosophical theologian who seeks to explicate omnipotence seeks a convincing account of the reality beneath the ‘phenomena’ of Scripture. This article looks briefly at some historic accounts of omnipotence. It emerges that the early history of the concept emphasized strength more than range of action, with range coming to prominence in Aquinas's day. Three recent attempts to define omnipotence are then considered. All are found wanting, but the author draws morals that help him hazard his own definition.

Keywords: God; scripture; omnipotent; strength; philosophical theology; divine power; range of action

Article.  17022 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity

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