Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) on God’s omnipotence and inability to sin



The excerpt below includes Thomas Aquinas’ (1225-1274) discussion of the question: “can God sin?” At first sight, it might seem that the suggestion that “God cannot sin” amounts to a denial of his omnipotence. However, Thomas argues that sin is a defect, and is therefore inconsistent with the idea of God as a perfect Being. God cannot sin, because it is not in his nature to be deficient:

“It is commonly said that God is almighty. Yet it seems difficult to understand the reason for this, on account of the doubt about what is meant when it is said that ‘God can do everything’… If it is said that God is omnipotent because he can do everything possible to his power, the understanding of omnipotence is circular, doing nothing more than saying that God is omnipotent because he can do everything that he can do… To sin is to fall short of a perfect action. Hence to be able to sin is to be able to be deficient in relation to an action, which cannot be reconciled with omnipotence. It is because God is omnipotent that he cannot sin… Anything that implies a contradiction does not relate to the omnipotence of God.”

– Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 25, aa. 3-4


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