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I understand the traditional theology of omnipotence to be that God can do anything He wills, and that his omnipotence is thereby limited to His nature. In other words, saying that God can do anything does not imply that He can lie or sin. For example:

God is all-powerful and able to do whatever he wills. Since his will is limited by his nature, God can do everything that is in harmony with his perfections. – Thiessen

The best proof texts for this seem to be Hebrews 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:13. However, based on a debate with a friend, I asked this question on Biblical Hermeneutics SE, and got an answer that surprised me:

According to the answer, Hebrews 6:18 does not necessarily mean that God cannot lie - only that He won't.

So this leads me to a question: What is the Biblical basis for the doctrine that God's omnipotence means that he cannot act against his nature? Would it perhaps be more correct to say that he will not act against his nature?

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The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed.) defines "nature" as "the basic or inherent features, qualities, or character of a person or thing."

For God to act against His nature would mean, employing the COED definition of "nature", that He would be exhibiting features, quality, or character that were not basic or inherent to Him. In essence, He would change.

Scripture teaches that God does not change. According to James, there is no variableness nor shadow of turning in God (James 1:17). The Lord said to Malachi (3:6), For I am the Lord, I change not.

  • Yes, but my question is whether it is more correct to say He "will" not act against His nature, or "can" not act against His nature? And what is the Biblical basis? – Eric Nov 29 '17 at 22:28
  • Your title reads, "What is the Biblical basis that God cannot act against his nature?" – guest37 Nov 29 '17 at 22:30
  • Yes, but the key word there is "cannot" as opposed to "will not" – Eric Nov 29 '17 at 23:44
  • Another question that hinges upon semantics. A worthy effort to answer. – KorvinStarmast Nov 30 '17 at 3:01
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I believe that your question, although well intentioned, is irrelevant and unanswerable. II Peter 3:8 eludes to the truth of the matter:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

God is outside of time. From our perspective he was, is, and will be, all at the same time, just as Boethius speculated. So the question "Does God's omnipotence give him the power to do something sinful or against his nature?" is irrelevant because it presupposes choice. Choice presupposes being in time. God has done, is doing, and will do, according to his nature which is completely good.

  • Why does choice presuppose being in time? I don't see a good argument for that. – Matt Gutting Nov 30 '17 at 15:54
  • A choice by definition - is the conscious decision to voluntarily do something when there are 2 or more alternatives. Something like our heart pumping is autonomic, and something we just do, not choose to do. When we make a conscious decision there has to be a time available when we ponder such possibilities and THEN act. – David P Nov 30 '17 at 16:25
  • I don't think there needs to be. I'll have to check, but I'm reasonably sure that Aquinas argues that God has free will. – Matt Gutting Nov 30 '17 at 18:16
  • Here we go. ccel.org/ccel/aquinas/summa.FP_Q19_A10.html – Matt Gutting Nov 30 '17 at 18:43
  • Don't think Aquinas even pondered time in his response. Anyhow, too heady of a conversation to continue for much longer. – David P Nov 30 '17 at 19:08

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