Omnipotence Is a Moral Doctrine

Justification

I was immediately entranced by Sonderegger’s notion that “Omnipotence is a moral doctrine.”[1]  This idea is central to the rest of the reading, so without a proper understanding of this point it will be impossible to understand the rest of her work in this section.  As such, it is important to have a robust understanding of what she means by this before moving forward.

Meaning

For Sonderegger, omnipotence cannot be defined primarily by its being a moral doctrine, but any definition of omnipotence without an integral connection to morality is insufficient.  This is clear when she writes, “We do not begin to grasp the first thing about Divine Power if we do not recognize it as a form of Goodness itself.”[2]  That is to say, omnipotence is not in itself to be discussed apart from the character of God; moreover, omnipotence never operates outside of, without, or apart from the nature and character of God.

Sonderegger then brings up the question of evil, pain, and suffering: if we see that there is so much violence and evil rampaging through our world, how are we to conceive of an all-powerful God?  Further, Sonderegger claims rightly, “Modern Christians, after all, have shown a marked wariness about Divine Power.”[3]  Yet this notion of divine power that so many professing Christians seem to be wary of is, in fact, a deficient view of the omnipotence of God.  Arguably, omnipotence is something that should be discussed only after a discussion on the nature and character of God have already taken place.  That is, affirming the reality that God can do anything according to his nature presupposes that we know something about his nature!  Sonderegger’s conclusion is found at the outset: “The Omnipotence of God overspreads the whole earth, holding it in being, yes, but even more, in goodness.”[4]

Significance for Christian Ministry

Many Christians, it appears, struggle with the doctrine of God’s omnipotence on a practical level.  That is, we might affirm that “God can do all things” with our lips, yet we live as if this is utterly untrue.  It seems that many of us kind of float through life, struggling with our sin in a state of hopelessness, never believing that God is actually able to overcome our depravity.  Since God is all-powerful, and because God is infinitely good, we can be absolutely certain that his goodness will manifest itself by overcoming our rebellion and sinfulness.  This hope, the hope that God can (and will) overcome this sinful state, is what can give Christians a motivating force behind the mortification of sin.  Further, we can be sure that evil will ultimately be defeated and done away with.  Justice will be done in the end.  And we can know that everything that happens to us, in one sense or another, is finally for the purpose of some good end.  This is not to say that it seems good at the time or that each event is necessarily good in itself.  But we can take great confidence in the fact that God is not going to allow evil to overcome his people.  His good and right purposes will prevail in the end, to the praise of his glory.


[1] Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, The Doctrine of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), 151..

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 155.

[4] Ibid., 151.  Emphasis mine.


Thanks for reading.  Have a question or comment?  Leave it below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s