It was Nicholas of Cusa who famously challenged the notion of divine omnipotence and this move becomes the basis of F.W.J. Schelling's Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom (1809). Each argue from their peculiar standpoints about the weaknesses confiding in such a God, which is ironic. Cusa did not make the distinction between appearance and reality, which has been a philosophical and religious mainstay since Plato. Rather, there is a distinction between relative and absolute knowledge. Only God can possess the latter, while we as creatures are subject to a relative viewpoint. Cusa identified this difference empirically, claiming that at any time humans consider their viewpoint there is always something closed off, as for instance, right now depending on your seating you can only see the front or back of another’s head or since we don’t have eyes in the back of our head we can’t navigate behind us. Whereas our knowledge is limited, God sees everything in its full transparency constituting all-knowingness.
Cusa tries to overcome the difficulty by allowing for the movement of becoming within the divine nature, which allows for things to be known as they are revealed. Quite controversially, Cusa dismissed the notion God would create creatures without them revealing anything to Him truly. If God knows everything in advance by means of universals that can be applied to all particulars, then what does creation really have to do? How did God create out of love ex nihilo if He will not let the Other (creation) truly be in itself? And obviously the slam dunk question is, how are we free or responsible for our actions if we are simply fake acting according to the design of providence or the mechanical pre-established harmony of cause and effect? These are the questions Cusa thought were the most crucial but it was the former who sought to really move outside the dogma. On Cusa’s explanation God is still all-knowing, but it’s not foreknowledge! Not at least in the sense of classical theism. Rather, foreknowledge here means to see everything not in advance, but to see ineluctably everything that is “before-hand.” Creation reveals things to God on the spot by which only He can see and understand. One need not be all-powerful to appreciate
the breadth and width of the manifold of relations intricate to the divine life.
In order to allow for human freedom in the fullest sense, which stems from God’s grace unblemished, Cusa gives up the “omnis.” How severe is Cusa’s sacrifice for our own theological convictions, especially since divine sovereignty must be preserved at all costs? I suggest that Cusa is seeking to think divine necessity and perfection more dynamically, whereas the reformers (scholastics included) have merely a static view of sovereignty and freedom. After all, how can we love God while realizing that forced love is a logical contradiction and a sham?
Schelling cuts right to the chase and asks: suppose God had things to do and becomes preoccupied with the other-worldly for a day, year, or whatever. When or if God comes back then what was missed? NOTHING AT ALL. If one assumes divine foreknowledge in the traditional sense then why does God need me or the world? Especially when he knows everything perfectly? Why does God need us to run some DVR re-run of life on the ground to confirm what is already known? It is not a shock then to hear talk about divine boredom or the death of God under such conditions.
In an effort to emphasize the importance of love and freedom these thinkers challenge the view that God has OCD or is a control-freak. They leave us justified in re-considering and re-working what power means for any semblance of the Godhead. From Cusa's and Schelling's speculations, God is more of a companion or fellow-feeler than a despot or dead-beat dad!