Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to the deity of whichever faith is being addressed. In the philosophies of most Western monotheistic religions, omnipotence is often listed as one of a deity's characteristics among many, including omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence. Within the trinity concept of Hinduism, omnipotence is the characteristic of Vishnu and Shiva among the three deities, manifestations of the Supreme God (Brahman).
Meanings of omnipotence
Between people of different faiths, or indeed between people of the same faith, the term omnipotent has been used to connote a number of different positions. These positions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- 1. A deity is able to do anything that is logically possible for it to do.
- 2. A deity is able to do anything that it chooses to do.
- 3. A deity is able to do anything that is in accord with its own nature (thus, for instance, if it is a logical consequence of a deity's nature that what it speaks is truth, then it is not able to lie).
- 4. Hold that it is part of a deity's nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for said deity to go against its own laws unless there was a reason to do so.
- 5. A deity is able to do anything that corresponds with its omniscience and therefore with its purpose.
- 6. A deity is able to do absolutely anything, even the logically impossible.
Under many philosophical definitions of the term "deity", senses 2, 3 and 4 can be shown to be equivalent. However, on all understandings of omnipotence, it is generally held that a deity is able to intervene in the world by superseding the laws of physics, since they are not part of its nature, but the principles on which it has created the physical world. However many modern scholars (such as John Polkinghorne) hold that it is part of a deity's nature to be consistent and that it would be inconsistent for a deity to go against its own laws unless there were an overwhelming reason to do so.