omnipotent versus almighty

Omnipotence is the power of God to effect whatever is not intrinsically impossible. These last words of the definition do not imply any imperfection, since a power that extends to every possibility must be perfect. The universality of the object of the Divine power is not merely relative but absolute, so that the true nature of omnipotence is not clearly expressed by saying that God can do all things that are possible to Him; it requires the further statement that all things are possible to God.

This quote comes directly from the Catholic site, New Advent. God is claimed to be omnipotent based on “what is fitting”, based on “what is perfect”. The power is “absolute”. Notice the philosophical undertones. This is close to the classical understanding of the term.

Here is Augustine:

For He 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. Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent.

Augustine ties God’s omnipotence to God’s aloofness from man. If God suffers in any way (if God’s will was contradicted), God would not be omnipotent. The concept of omnipotence is tied inseparably from the concept of immutability and perfection.

Here is Calvin:

God is deemed omnipotent, not because he can act though he may cease or be idle, or because by a general instinct he continues the order of nature previously appointed; but because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel.

Calvin uses the term to mean that God controls everything. This is in the same vein of Augustine’s claim that if God suffered anything against His will, then God would not be omnipotent. This is the classical understanding. In fact, the word used to describe this (omnipotence) is not found in the Bible. The Latin word only became popular after Christianity was thoroughly Platonized. When the Latin Vulgate was published the word “omnipotens” was forced over the Hebrew “shadday”. As such, the word “omnipotent” is inherently wedded to Platonic concepts.

The one time English editions tend to use the word is in translations of Revelation 19:6:

Rev 19:6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

This is being translated from “pantokrator”, meaning “All ruler”. While omnipotent is not a terrible translation, the modern understanding of omnipotence is wholly unsuitable for the context (in which God retakes control of the Earth). “Almighty” would have been a suitable translation. In fact, of the ten times the Bible uses the word “pantokrator” an entire nine are translated as “Almighty”. The translators must have been drunk on the day they penned Revelation 19:6.

In contrast to “omnipotent”, God is called “Almighty” 57 times in the Bible. Often, it is a nominal adjective that is used in place of God’s own name. The Bible seriously identifies “Almighty” with God; this is what God wants to be called. God illustrates His Almighty-ness with examples of Him being Almighty.

Gen 15:7 Then He said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

Gen 26:24 And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.”

Exo 6:7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

God connects Himself with His creative action. God is Almighty because He does powerful things. God is the “living” God, often contrasted to stone idols that have no power. God is active and working in creation. This is the context of God calling Himself “Almighty”, not philosophical proofs invented by human beings. So I do not use the word “omnipotent”. In fact, I will mock those obsessed with the word when possible.

So while man might be omnipotent, God is Almighty.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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5 Responses to omnipotent versus almighty

  1. Pingback: God is Almighty | God is Open

  2. Pingback: God is Almighty | God is Open

  3. Pingback: misquoted verses – alpha and omega | reality is not optional

  4. Hugh o'donnell says:

    I was just asked in youtube did I agree that God was omnipotent (this by someone I’m sure is an atheist). My warning bells started ringing, I typed into Google “Is almighty the same as omnipotent” and your article has given an EXCELLENT and concise explanation of the terms and their origins. Thank you very much. It may not help the other guy but its certainly helped me.

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