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Castiel wanted to ask this question from a biblical basis:

Can God kill himself ? I mean, if he can kill himself, he isn't immortal and if he can't, he have not unlimited power...

The question here is, what is the Catholic understanding of omnipotence? How do Catholics address the apparent contradiction that God cannot be omnipotent if he cannot kill himself and he cannot be immortal if he can kill himself?

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    God did kill himself... on the cross... – curiousdannii Feb 10 '15 at 21:32
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    Again, this question doesn't seem to benefit from being limited to Catholicism. – curiousdannii Feb 10 '15 at 21:33
  • I have attempted to clarify the question a bit. I hope I haven't altered your meaning. If I have, feel free to roll back my edit. – Flimzy Feb 10 '15 at 21:46
  • Flimzy + curiousdannii: Thank you both. Flimzy, the only thing I would say is that it is not as close as it can be to what Castiel wanted to ask from a biblical basis. That was what guided me to ask the question. Nothing else. – user13992 Feb 10 '15 at 21:49
  • The Christianity.SE, like other SE on the network, allows people to answer their own questions. Seeing that you have knowledge of a wealth of Catholic resources and the ability to determine true Catholic doctrine from false, why don't you just answer your own question? – Double U Feb 11 '15 at 2:07
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St. Thomas Aquinas holds that God can do anything except whatever implies a contradiction.

Treating "Whether God is omnipotent?," he writes:

[T]his phrase, "God can do all things," is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent.

and

[N]othing is opposed to the idea of being except non-being. Therefore, that which implies being and non-being at the same time is repugnant to the idea of an absolutely possible thing, within the scope of the divine omnipotence. For such cannot come under the divine omnipotence, not because of any defect in the power of God, but because it has not the nature of a feasible or possible thing. Therefore, everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility. Hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them.

Essentially, God cannot do "whatever implies contradiction" not because God lacks omnipotence but because a contradiction, itself, is no thing; it lacks being; it's unintelligible.

  • That's why God cannot sin/deny himself. Best and correct answer because directly from the Angelic Doctor. – user13992 Feb 12 '15 at 6:46
  • "God can do all things," is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible [for him]. Which means ALL things/infinite ... not sure it makes a difference to me. – user13992 Feb 12 '15 at 7:14
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    @FMS: You could say "God can do all things." Viz., "God cannot do/make no-thing." – Geremia Feb 12 '15 at 21:10
  • Better God cannot do/make no-Being. Relation with himself. But as regards no-being (small "b"), that's what creation is all about. He calls what did not previously exist into being and none fails to answer. They would instantly vanish to nothingness (their being) if he so wished. – user13992 Feb 13 '15 at 1:44
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    @FMS: I mean that it's a contradiction to create something ex nihilo that has no being, since to create means to bring forth a being, not a non-being. – Geremia Feb 13 '15 at 20:45
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+50

Omnipotence means that God can do anything. But "anything" does not include nonsensical strings of words, like "kill God" or "round square" or "a rock so heavy that God can't lift it". C.S. Lewis once explained this point by saying that nonsense does not make sense just because we say "God can" in front of it.

After this accelerated tour from atheism to Christianity, Lewis is ready for his main argument. He starts with God Almighty. What is the meaning of God's Omnipotence? Can he do whatever he pleases? Yes, except the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him but not nonsense: "Nonsense remains nonsense even if we talk it about God." - Source - C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain | CERC.

  • This is a good answer, but not a Catholic one. If this is the accepted answer, then I propose that the question is actually a duplicate of this one. – Flimzy Feb 11 '15 at 4:06
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    @FMS Thanks for finding and adding the C.S. Lewis passage. – Andreas Blass Feb 11 '15 at 22:21
  • Of course it's a Catholic answer, it's just not quoting a Catholic. Lewis was quite familiar with St. Thomas' writings and says the exact same thing he did. – zippy2006 Feb 25 '15 at 4:28

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