In college I sent a copy of a draft manuscript to one Christian girl in order for her review. Being remote, she and I began instant messaging each other about the text of the script. In the text I had challenged the “omnipotence” of God. To this she took offense.
We began the conversation. I asked her if God could make a “square circle, an object having all the properties of a square yet being a circle”. She said “yes, God can do anything”. I asked her if God could make “a rock so big he could not lift it”. She said “yes, God can do anything”. Then I asked her if He then could lift that rock. She then said “yes, God can do anything”. I asked if God could transform Himself in a powerless turtle, in a sense that He retains zero power. She said “yes, God can do anything”. I then asked her if he could turn himself back into God. She said “yes, God can do anything”. Getting frustrated, I remembered that I was talked to a Calvinist and I finally asked “Can God sin?”. She said “no”. She then got angry, unfriended me, and never spoke to me again.
The concept that God can do “anything” is rooted in the pagan notion that God should be defined as the most perfect thing that man can imagine. One of the real problems with this is that values are subjective. If pink was considered the “perfect” color, Calvinists would argue that God was “pink”. It was only because the Platonists valued “immutability”, “timelessness”, “omnipresence” (outside of physical location) that these attributes were later prescribed onto God by the Platonist Early Church Fathers. The Platonist attributes were in vogue, so they were readily adopted by willing accomplices.
But this puts modern Christians in a precarious situation. They not only have to defend those attributes against the text of the Bible, but also against other negative attributes. Because the meaning of “omnipotence” has morphed in Christianity from meaning a “perfect image of power” to “being able to do everything”, Omnipotence has become contradictory to other Platonistic attributes.
Omniscient: Omniscience is the teaching that God knows everything (past, present, and future). If God can do everything then can He limit His knowledge? Can God forget our sin and remember it no more? Can God learn new things (like if Abraham really “feared” God)? Can he create new ideas? If God is omniscient, He is not omnipotent.
Omnipresent: Omnipresence is the teaching that God is everywhere at once. Alternatively, that God is outside of the physical world. If God is everywhere (or nowhere) then can He choose to limit His location? Can God choose not to be somewhere (like Sodom and Gomorrah)? If God is omnipresent, He is not omnipotent.
Immutable: Immutability is the teaching that God cannot change. If God cannot change then can He humble Himself and become a man? Can God change his mind based on the acts of nations? Can God repent of making man and then initiate worldwide destruction? If God is immutable, He is not omnipotent.
The list goes on. Every attribute (real or invented) of God is contradicted by “omnipotence”. How do some Calvinists adapt? They redefine “omnipotence” to say God can do everything that is consistent with his nature. Notice that this is not omnipotence. In this the Calvinists claim that mankind can do a whole host of things that God cannot do.
Man can be temporally located. Man can forget things. Man can change. Man can write new songs. Man can change their minds. Man can sin.
These are possible actions. We see them every day. But the Calvinist says God cannot do the very actions that man does yet God “can do everything”. Everything does not mean everything to the Calvinists. In fact it means that God can do less than what humans can do.