Genesis Part Two: Deep Dive
OMNI-WHAT? | RYAN KERRISON
God is many things, as the Bible does and continues to communicate to humanity. However, one great place to begin the journey of discovering God’s nature is with three words that theologians have coined and used to describe aspects of God’s abilities, and nature. These words are Omnipotent, Omniscient & Omnipresent. In this Deep Dive, I will help define them and qualify what they mean traditionally, and, maybe more importantly, what they don’t mean.
These words all share the suffix, ‘omni’ – this is simply a Latin word meaning ‘all’, in this case, it is paired with the word ‘potens’ meaning, ‘power’. Translated for us into English, it means ‘God is all powerful’. This notion is derived from scripture in places like Job 42:2, Matthew 19:26, Jeremiah 32:17, and Genesis 18:14. Elaborating further, for this post’s purposes, an additional statement may be made. ‘He is omnipotent, or of invincible and insuperable power’. What this does not mean or even leave available for discussion are things like logically contradictory actions, for example; questions like, ‘If God is so powerful, could He create a stone that is too heavy for even Him to lift?’ This is a violation of the first law of logic, and because God has chosen to reveal Himself to humanity as a logically coherent being, it follows that the laws of logic are an important aspect of His nature. God is showing consistency in His own divine character. This is a strength, rather than a weakness. Immoral actions are also something God cannot partake in; in short, it would be a denial of Himself, as the supreme moral Creator, the morality of humanity, is based upon God and His character, thus God would be altering His own character to behave immorally, which in turn would cause Him to cease to be validly calling Himself God. These are just a few of what are known as preventers, rather than limitations.
Sharing the suffix ‘omni’ again, compounded with the Latin word for ‘knowledge’, ‘scienta’, omniscient means ‘all-knowledge’. A.W Tozer puts it like this, God knows ‘every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn but it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn’. Again, this notion is expressed in scriptures such as Psalm 139:1-4, Proverbs 15:3, and Revelation 20:12. A classic line of thinking from here is ‘If God knows all, He must know all things, both good and evil, therefore God mustn’t be holy and perfect, because He knows evil. This, however, has been postulated by philosophers and theologians for millennia, which is not to discard the issue without feeling its true gravity. However, I feel that Aquinas speaks to this well in his Magnum Opus stating that ‘To know a thing by something else only, belongs to imperfect knowledge, if that thing is of itself knowable; but evil is not of itself knowable, forasmuch as the very nature of evil means the privation of good; therefore evil can neither be defined nor known except by good’. It is important to our theology and our sanity, that we trust God in this particular omni as the perfect Father that He is, else we may find ourselves on a slippery slope of misunderstanding and unsubstantiated doubts.
The suffix ‘omni’ is here once more, joined to the word ‘praesens’, meaning ‘always here’. Renowned theologian, philosopher and historian William Lane Craig explains in his Defenders class, in relation to the 139th Psalm, that God is ever present, whether in the heavens or Sheol, (the realm of the dead in ancient Jewish culture), God’s presence is there. A common misunderstanding of this attribute is that it contradicts verses found in Acts 17 and 1 Kings 8:27, speaking of God’s inability to be contained in one space. However, the two concepts are not mutually opposed, rather the latter is further clarification of the supremacy and other-worldliness of God. Critics of this doctrine, or attribute say it is too similar to the concept of Pantheism, however there are many scholars and theologians who have supplied sufficient rebuttal to this comparison, which you can find below in further reading and study.
Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig
God’s “Omni” Attributes, an essay by Andrew S. Kulikovsky