Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Not so omnipotent?

With all the discussion about war and peace that's going on lately, I turned to Doctrine & Covenants 98 to review its teachings on the subject. I was struck by verse 28:

And now, verily I say unto you, if that enemy shall escape my vengeance, that he be not brought into judgment before me, then ye shall see to it that ye warn him in my name, that he come no more upon you...

This suggests the possibility that someone could actually (for a time, at least) escape God's intended consequences. This seems awfully close to an admission by God that he is not omnipotent, even considering the logical redefinitions of “omnipotent” to take into account logical impossibility, God's character, free will, etc. This is an actual lack of power, not just a definitional one, as far as I can tell. Or is there another way to interpret this scripture that preserves God's omnipotence?


  1. I think it has to do with the strict meaning of 'escape,' which I've understood, in the scriptural sense, a bit differently than in everyday usage. In current usage, it usually carries a connotation that someone is being foiled by the escape, while in scriptural usage I think sometimes it can just mean that someone avoids natural consequences for a time.

    Also, since this section is talking about when it's acceptable to kill one's enemies, I think the phrase about going to judgment refers to death. Thus, 'escaping' the vengeance due to an enemy of the Lord's people merely means he hasn't died yet--the 'vengeance,' or negative final judgment, however, is sure, unless the person repents (if possible).

  2. I think that's reading a tad too much into the verse - especially since God typically acts through his servants who are anything but omniscient and omnipotent.

  3. I'll have to go along with the other two: a reading of that D&C section discusses mostly secular and earthly things, so I would conclude that the verse in question is clearly referring to earthly judgment and vengeance rather than any such in the afterlife--especially since 'warning him in my name that he come no more upon you...' doesn't seem to apply to the spirit world anyway.


  4. I could easily see someone saying this sort of thing to mean "if anyone still hasn't yet come under the fullness of my judgment, then..."

  5. I think it just reflects Joseph's point of view that those of his enemies to whom something bad happened had been punished by God, but not all of his enemies were so afflicted--those are the ones who escape God's vengeance.

    That certainly makes more sense that questioning God's omnipotence based on an inference drawn from a D&C verse that talks primariy about enemies and vengeance, not God's power.

  6. Sorry to not be commenting on the post... but I just wanted to say that Grasshopper Muse looked like a promising start to a more personal blog. Let Us Reason is wonderful... are you abandonging Muse for good? Just curious.


  7. Hm. Maybe "escape" is used in the sense that since the Divine Economy usually means that other humans do the "punishment"; perhaps there weren't any other wicked folks to punish these other wicked folks? Or...that the righteous were too weak to punish them?
    'tis a poser.


  8. >he be not brought into judgment before me,

    Sounds like "if he's not dead yet" to me. That's generally when some form of judging takes place.