Saturday, July 06, 2013

Grudem 13b: God's Freedom and Omnipotence

... continued from last week.
15. Freedom
In the previous section, Grudem has already indicated that God is not free to be something other than he is.  When Grudem speaks of God's freedom, he is saying that "God is not constrained by anything external to himself" (216).  "God's freedom is that attribute of God whereby he does whatever he pleases."

Grudem suggests that we should not ask for answers to why God created the world or decided to save us. We should content ourselves with the fact that God is totally free--that is, as long as he acts consistent with his character.

In the previous section, we have already critiqued Grudem's sense that God is a slave to his "nature."  Nevertheless, his sense that God is entirely free in relation to all external forces and influences is completely correct.  No one or no force outside of God can force God to do anything.

16. Omnipotence (Power, Sovereignty)
"God's omnipotence means that God is able to do all his holy will" (216).  God has the power to do whatever he decides to do. God's sovereignty is his exercise of power over the creation (217).

Of course, again, Grudem believes there are some things that God cannot decide to do. "God cannot will or do anything that would deny his own character" (217). So God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). God cannot be tempted with evil (Jas. 1:13).  So, Grudem says, "it is not entirely accurate to say that God can do anything." Humans have "relative freedom" as a faint reflection of the freedom of God's will.

This seems like a fairly anemic sense of God's power. We have already given our preference to say that God chooses not to lie.  He does not want to lie, not that he could not lie if he actually wanted to do so. With regard to Scripture, we should be careful not to lift statements out of a localized context and make them into absolute propositions.

So in Hebrews, God does not lie when he makes a promise. In James, God is not tempted to do wrong. He always wants to do right and chooses to do right. God is not constrained not to lie or not to do evil. He simply does not choose to do so.

God created the universe out of nothing. That means that God has as much power as what he created because he did not start with any existing materials. It follows that he is capable of doing anything in this universe that is possible to do.

By that I do not mean to suggest that God cannot do things that are impossible to do in this universe. One sometimes reads this definition of omnipotence, that God can do anything that is logically possible. But since God exists outside this universe and its rules, who is to say that God cannot make 1 + 1 = 3 in some way that we cannot possibly imagine.

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