Barth has a wonderful discussion of the omnipotence of God in Dogmatics in Outline (pp 48-49). He disputes the notion of absolute power, power in itself, as a description of God's almightiness, and concludes (in line with the tradition of God's simplicity) that God's power is His holiness, righteousness, mercy, patience, and kindness. Barth goes a step better, though, in insisting that this conformity of power to the constraints and channels of "law" is rooted in God's triune nature. The power of God is the power of God the Father, and that means the power of the God who loves His Son in the bond of the Spirit. The power of God is the power of the God who is in Himself love, and this means that all "solitude and solitary self-assertion" is denied by God. (That portrait of a God of sheer, undefined power, the voluntarist portrait of a God of pure will, has haunted theology since the nominalists, and the Reformed faith has not been free of it.) God's power can be an encouragement and comfort rather than a terror because God is Triune, because the power of God is "channeled" by the pattern of the triune life. All God's power has as its end and motivation the love of Father, Son, and Spirit, and their mutual and single love for the people of God. Or, as Barth himself puts it, "What distinguishes God's power from impotence is that He is the triune God." ("Impotence" here meaning power that is solitary and self-assertive.)
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, January 12, 2004 at 03:24 PM
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