A being that is omnipotent should have within its own scope of power possess the ability to deprive self of this omnipotence; limit own power, either permanently or for a time; alternatively to isolate a part of self, and make it into a non-omnipotent being.

This of course sounds like foundation of quite a few religions, but they take a very "organic" approach to this possibility. What I'm interested in, are there any philosophical/scientific works that explore such eventualities along with motives or consequences? If so, can you give me the references and briefs of their ideas?

  • Example: Christianity.God gave himself in the person of his Son, Jesus, to suffer the death, punishment and curse due to fallen humanity as the penalty for our sin. Isn't God able to simply forgive sin without first requiring a self punishment for it? Why a God need taking the punishment upon himself to fulfill his demands of justice? Was God's forgiveness of suffering without first requiring repentance the God's model of forgiveness for mankind? Feb 8 '13 at 15:43
  • Priests had advised countless women, as “good Christian women” to accept beatings by their husbands as Jesus accepted the cross. This design is a glorification of self punishment and the encouragement of making forgiveness without repentance the burden of the victim, like Jesus. Incarnation is nonsense: salvation requires both that God become human and that God remain wholly other. Feb 8 '13 at 15:44
  • I specifically requested approach that separates itself from abstract religious concepts like sin, and influence on believers, as this is bound to devolve into non-constructive argument. I'm well aware that christianity is an example of this idea, but one can hardly take the Bible and sermons of priests as impartial sources for reasoning motives of the omnipotent and the consequences. (the whole idea of punishment for sin along with free will and need for faith is so illogical this can't produce any reasonable argument.)
    – SF.
    Feb 8 '13 at 15:59
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    Did I understand well? Is it about a omnipotent being without the religious traditions? Is your question about metaphysical coherence, like one of the question which occupied many scholastic theologians in the Middle Ages: how many angels can sit upon a pin? Good luck Feb 8 '13 at 16:37
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    An appeal to authority may be inappropriate: 1)The rebellion against the authority of Aristotle and the Bible played an important role in the scientific revolution. 2) The expert can be biased towards one side of the issue. 3) If one looks hard enough, it is possible to find an expert who supports virtually any position that one wishes to take. 4)People are frequently willing to accept a unrepresentative opinion, especially when that opinion agrees with their own bias. If you didn't find references, how you searched on Wikipedia, SEP and IEP, web? Do you want someone search for you? Feb 8 '13 at 17:37

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!

  • It's a nice one, but not exactly what I asked. This one has omniscience which encompasses all that is and was, but not what may/will be, but while limited, it's fixed. I'm more into a look into dynamic, willful changes of the scope/power of omnipotence/omniscience. Take the old "Can God make a rock so heavy even He won't be able to lift it?" - Yes, if he can deprive himself of ability of lifting that particular rock, restricting own omnipotence; giving up own power over that rock; ceasing to be entirely omnipotent for a time.
    – SF.
    Apr 11 '16 at 8:47

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