Part 2 – Identifying “The Cause”
Omnipotence is perhaps the most misunderstood characteristic attributed to God. Before I can make the case for the omnipotence of the cause of the universe, we must understand what it is.
The most common definition I hear is that omnipotence means the ability to do anything. What is ambiguous about this definition is the definition of “anything”. Does it mean the object of any combination of words, letters or symbols? Can an omnipotent being do agajkohgiohjgiaohgih? There are two possible responses to this question. The first is, certainly, whatever that means; an omnipotent being can do anything. The second is, “what exactly are we talking about?” If the question doesn’t even make sense, does it matter if there is an answer to it? Does this even qualify as “anything”?
No, it doesn’t. If you don’t ask a meaningful question, how can you receive a meaningful answer? An answer is only meaningful in the context of the question. “Yes” and “no” are not the least bit helpful when nobody knows what we are talking about.
A common method of attempting to disprove Theism is to ask a question about God’s omnipotence in order to show that this critical characteristic is logically absurd; and therefore God does not exist. The classic example pits God’s power against himself, by asking, “can God create a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it?” On the surface the question seems to make sense. We can understand that a being with incredible power could create matter such as rocks, & we understand that rocks require some degree of power to move, and a larger degree of power for larger rocks.
Ok, now what exactly are we proposing God create? Let’s clearly define an object too heavy for God to move, and then we can evaluate whether He would be capable of moving it. But for a being who created matter in the first place, there doesn’t seem to be any reasonable limit to the amount of matter which can be moved. The result is not a limit of God’s power to create; but a lack of a meaningful question. Why not ask, “can God create a rock so purple that He can’t lift it?” The weight of the rock is as irrelevant as its colour.
So this idea of omnipotence meaning the object of any combination of words, letters or symbols is clearly absurd. It seems to me there are two groups of people unwilling to give up this definition. The first are those who insist that God must have this characteristic in order to disprove His existence by showing that the characteristic is irrational & no being could possibly possess it. The second are Theists who appeal to this characteristic as an excuse for anything intellectually troubling. It’s an intellectual get-out-of-jail-free card. If it seems like your religion might not be rational; that’s ok because God transcends reason. If you want some entertainment, try to get one of each of these types together to debate the existence of God.
So what is omnipotence? Omnipotent is Latin; the combination of “omni” (all) & “potent” (powerful). It literally means possessing all power. Therefore an omnipotent being can do anything that power can do. It can’t increase the pressure of water to the point that unicorns pop out of it. It can’t create a round square.
Finally, how do we know that the cause of the universe is omnipotent? Simply because it created the entire universe in the first place. If something can create matter & time, from nothing besides its own power, including the various cosmological constants which make up the laws of nature, then it can do so again on any scale. It can make any change to any part of the universe, create any new object; in short, that being must be all-powerful over the universe, or omnipotent.