How far does God’s power extend? Is there any state of affair that an omnipotent God cannot bring about? These are the questions Christian theologians and philosophers have wrestled with throughout centuries.
God’s omnipotence prima facie appears to be challenged by the existence of pain and suffering in the world He created good. Was God not powerful enough to make sure that the creatures He created in His own image would not experience pain and suffering?
For C. S. Lewis existence of pain and suffering did not challenge God’s omnipotence as he once believed when he was a self-claimed atheist. Pain and suffering is the result of mankind’s bad exercise of freedom of will endowed by God. Lewis contended:
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. (2002, 47-48)
The reason God gave higher creatures free will is that it is “the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having”(48) The world without free will creatures would indeed be free of pain and suffering, but it would also be a world without genuine “happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him[God] and to each other.”(ibid)
According to Lewis, it is logically impossible for God to create genuinely free creatures who freely choose to do the right acts only. Shadowing Augustine¹ and Thomas Aquinas², Lewis submitted “that not even Omnipotence could create a society of free souls without at the same time creating a relatively independent and “inexorable” nature.” (1996, 26) He understood omnipotence to encompass the power to bring about logical possible states of affair only. Lewis wrote,
It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”(ibid, 25)
He concluded that,
If you choose to say “God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it, “you have not succeeded in saying anything about god: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words “God can”(ibid)
Rene Descartes would have disagree with Lewis. Descartes entertained the idea that our intellect is finite while God’s power is infinite, thus we cannot set bounds from our finite minds what God’s power can do. He wrote,
“I boldly assert that God can do everything which I conceive to be possible, but I am not so bold as to deny that he can do whatever conflicts with my understanding – I merely say that it involves a contradiction (LHM³ 241).
Descartes’ God, wrote Harry G. Frankfurt, is “a being for whom the logically impossible is possible.” (Frankfurt 1977, 44) God, for Descartes, is ex les. His power is beyond our reason and morality. God, in this view, can bring about any state of affairs. If this is true, then contrary to Lewis, God could have created higher creatures with free will that freely and voluntarily choose the right things only.
The problem, with adopting Cartesian absolute power of God that could even bring about logical impossible states of affair, is that the problem of pain and suffering disappears with it. If God can bring about logical impossible states of affair, then it would follow that God could bring about what atheologians believe to be logically impossible, namely the coexistence of pain and suffering and omnicompetent and benevolent God.
Previous: C. S. Lewis & The Problem of Evil
 De Symbolo, I.i & De Civitate, V. x
 Summa I, Q. xxv, a. 3
 Rene Descartes’ letter to Henry More, 5 February 1549 in trans, and ed. Anthony Kenny(1970) Descartes Philosophical Letters. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Frankfurt, Harry G. (1977) “Descartes and the Creation of the Eternal Truths,” Philosophical Review 86 No. 1: 36-57
Lewis, C. S. (1996) The Problem of Pain. New York: Simon & Schuster.
____________ (2002) Mere Christianity. HarperCollins Publishers.
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