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What Can God Do? A Comprehensive Overview

The question of what God can do has fascinated humanity since the dawn of civilization. God, or some supreme deity, has occupied a central role in nearly every culture and religion throughout history. Even in our modern secular age, the nature and powers of God remain a topic of intense debate and speculation.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: God is typically conceived of as an all-powerful, all-knowing supernatural being that transcends the mortal world. God is believed capable of miraculous feats, answering prayers, providing guidance, and determining ultimate justice.

In this comprehensive 3000 word article, we will explore the full depth and breadth of God’s purported capabilities according to various faiths and philosophical perspectives. We will examine God’s role in creation myths, God’s relationship to the natural order, God’s ability to intervene in human affairs through miracles, God’s capacity to answer prayer, and the problem of evil.

God as Creator in Different Religious Traditions

God in Christian Creation Stories

In Christian theology, God is seen as the supreme creator of the universe and everything in it. The Book of Genesis describes God speaking the world into existence over the course of six days. On each day, God created something new – light, sky, land, plants, animals, and finally humans.

Christians believe humans were made in God’s image and were given dominion over the Earth. After creating the world, God rested on the seventh day. This Genesis narrative shapes the Christian perspective on God as actively involved in creation.

The creation story also establishes God as sovereign and transcendent. As creator, God exists outside of the cosmos and has absolute authority over it. Many theologians have deduced attributes of God based on the Genesis account, such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.

Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) is seen as evidence of God’s unlimited power. The orderly fashion and intelligibility of the world also point to God’s wisdom according to Christian thinkers.

God in Hindu and Buddhist Cosmology

In contrast to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism do not posit a single supreme creator God. Hindu cosmology offers complex myths about the origin of the universe, often involving divine beings such as Brahma or Vishnu, but ultimate reality is Brahman – an impersonal, omnipresent truth that transcends all names and forms.

Brahman did not actively create the material world in Hindu thought. Rather, the universe goes through endless cycles of creation, preservation, decay, and recreation.

Likewise, Buddhism does not subscribe to the idea of an omnipotent creator deity. The Buddha discouraged speculation into the origin of the world, considering it irrelevant to the path of enlightenment. Buddhism sees the universe as eternal, without a first cause.

Beings are trapped in a beginningless cycle of rebirth called samsara. While Hindu and Buddhist traditions have gods, none are seen as the sole supreme creator. The world is viewed as proceeding through natural cosmic rhythms rather than by divine fiat.

Contrasting Views on God as Active Creator

A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that 75% of U.S. Christians believe God created the universe, reflecting the widespread embrace of active divine creation in Judeo-Christian theology. This contrasts sharply with the Hindu, Buddhist, and New Age emphasis on impersonal cosmic processes and consciousness as the ground of being rather than purposeful creation by a deity.

A dividing line is thus whether ultimate reality is personal or transpersonal. Does the Absolute have attributes and intentional agency (theism), or is it an impersonal metaphysical principle like Brahman (monism/pantheism)?

Can God relate to us like a person, or is God wholly other, beyond names and forms? Views diverge between a God who desires, creates, communicates, and interacts, versus a holistic Being/Truth that underlies everything.

God’s Powers over Nature and Physical Laws

Miracles as Evidence of God’s Mastery over Nature

Many religions point to miracles as evidence that God can suspend or override the normal laws of nature to achieve divine purposes. For example, the Old and New Testaments describe events like the parting of the Red Sea for Moses, the resurrection of Jesus, and the sun standing still for Joshua as miracles demonstrating God’s power over physical forces and matter.

Surveys show over 90% of Americans believe miracles still occur today, suggesting widespread belief in a higher power interacting with the natural world.

However, skeptics argue there is little verifiable evidence for genuine supernatural violations of natural laws. Alternative non-supernatural explanations, like legendary embellishment or psychological factors influencing perception of events, can account for “miraculous” occurrences without the need to posit divine intervention.

Controlled experiments attempting to validate miracles have so far been inconclusive.

Perspectives on Divine Action in the World

Theologians have proposed different models for how God might choose to act in the world without necessarily “breaking” the laws of physics. These include:

  • Deterministic causation – God set up the initial conditions of the universe such that events unfold according to His purposes.
  • Non-interventionist objective agency – God persuades free agents to actualize events aligned with His plans.
  • “Top-down” causation – God acts at larger scales in nature, like quantum systems, to influence macro events.

Each perspective aims to reconcile scientific findings of an ordered universe governed by mathematical laws, with the possibility of God working out providential designs within that system. More investigation is needed to fully test and articulate these models.

Skepticism of God’s Ability to Suspend Natural Order

Many scientists and naturalists argue miracles suggesting suspension of natural laws have never been conclusively demonstrated under strict empirical conditions. Physicist Sean Carroll writes, “The laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood…There’s no room for [miraculous] maneuvering.”

Similarly, philosopher Mackie argued miracles are logically inconsistent with the notion of a coherent, rational world order institued by God.

However, most religions contend certain past exceptional events serving divine purposes did involve supernatural intervention without fully disrupting nature’s general uniformity. Ongoing theological work seeks to articulate models reconciling science and faith perspectives on divine action amidst the world’s usual causal fabric.

God’s Role in Responding to Human Petitions and Prayers

God as Helper and Problem-Solver

Many believers turn to God in prayer to seek help and solutions during difficult times. According to a recent Pew Research report, over half of U.S. adults say they pray daily. They pray for improved health, financial stability, strengthened relationships, and more.

Followers believe God hears their prayers and can intervene to provide aid and comfort if it aligns with His will.

For instance, someone struggling with illness may pray for physical healing. A believer facing employment issues may ask God for a new job opportunity. Many find peace, hope and resilience through heartfelt prayer, even if the exact request isn’t granted quickly.

Unanswered Prayers and the Limits of God’s Intervention

At times, it can be challenging when earnest prayers seem to go unanswered. Some wonder why an all-powerful God does not intervene more directly in human affairs to alleviate suffering and hardship. However, most faith traditions acknowledge that God allows human free will to run its course.

He guides subtly rather than overriding decisions and life circumstances.

Additionally, an unanswered prayer may come down to God’s timing and bigger picture understanding. As expressed in Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

What seems disappointing in the moment may turn out for the best in ways we cannot yet see. Faith leaders emphasize that prayer is about aligning one’s heart with God rather than demanding desired results.

Psychological and Social Benefits of Prayer

Studies show prayer can reduce anxiety, improve coping skills, infuse positive thinking and connect people to faith communities. For example, a 2022 research review published in the Journal of Religion and Health found significant mental and physical health benefits associated with prayer and meditation.

Through earnest prayer we release heavy burdens and open our mind to receive God’s peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Lifting up gratitude, praise and intentions creates opportunity for revelation, self-reflection and sensing oneness with the divine.

Developing regular prayer habits allows us to better recognize and follow the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit through life’s trials and celebrations.

The Problem of Evil and God’s Benevolence

Natural Evil and God’s Role in Disasters

Natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and diseases lead some to question if an all-good and all-powerful God is in control. Over 250,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But Scripture shows God does not directly cause evil, though He is sovereign over it (Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38).

Ultimately natural evil stems from the Fall and curse on creation due to human sin (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:20-22). Though God allows evil and disasters to occur, He compassionately sustains victims (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) and will eradicate suffering completely in the eschaton (Revelation 21:4).

Moral Evil and God Allowing Human Suffering

Wars, murder, abuse, and other moral evils lead many to claim an all-good God would not permit such horrific suffering. However, Scripture shows that God gave humans free will, which allows for the possibility of moral evil (Genesis 3; Joshua 24:15).

And God uses even evil events to ultimately achieve good purposes, using warlike Assyria to punish wayward Israel (Isaiah 10:5-15) and using persecution to spread the gospel (Acts 8:1,4). So God remains perfectly good even in allowing moral evil.

Free Will, Soul-Building, and Higher Goods Responses

In explaining why God allows evil, Christian thinkers appeal to free will, soul-building, and higher goods arguments. Leibniz argued God permits some evil to achieve greater goods unachievable otherwise. IEP notes soul-building theodicies see suffering as improving moral character.

And free will theodicies argue though God’s allowing free will enables evil, it is necessary for relationships and love.

God’s Knowledge and the Question of Divine Limits

God’s Foreknowledge and Omniscience

As an omniscient being, God has complete and infinite knowledge of all things past, present, and future. This means He knows everything that has happened, is currently happening, and will happen. His foreknowledge encompasses all of human history – every decision, action, and event.

According to most theologians, nothing takes God by surprise because in His omniscience, He has already foreseen it all. Scriptures like Isaiah 46:10 and Psalm 139:4 speak to this reality of God’s total foreknowledge.

Some philosophers have called God’s foreknowledge into question, raising the issue of human free will. If God knows everything we will ever do even before we do it, how can humans truly have free will?

Most Christian thinkers respond by explaining that God’s foreknowledge does not equate to predetermination. Though He knows the future, God does not directly cause all things to happen but allows room for human choice and agency.

Predestination and God’s Plan for the World

The concept of predestination is related to God’s foreknowledge and omniscience. Predestination refers to the idea that before the creation of the world, God determined everything that would happen throughout human history according to His sovereign plan.

There is some disagreement among Christian groups as to the exact implications of predestination – does it apply only to major world events or even down to the details of individual lives?

Supporters of strict predestination believe that God directly ordained everything that comes to pass, though most still acknowledge the involvement of human choice somehow. Others argue that God’s overarching plan for humanity allows for significant human freedom and decisions that are not specifically predestined.

There are good biblical arguments on multiple sides of this issue within orthodox Christian belief.

Can God Choose to Limit His Own Powers?

Given His omnipotence, could God choose to voluntarily limit His power if He wanted to? Some theologians answer yes, arguing that an omnipotent God by definition must have the capability and authority to restrain the exercise of His own capabilities.

An example of potential self-limitation is the act of Jesus Christ taking on human flesh and nature – God limiting Himself to a human body with its inherent finite capabilities in that act.

However, others respond that true omnipotence cannot allow for a permanent self-limitation of power and ability. While God can choose to restrain the use of His powers for a time and purpose, He cannot essentially renounce His divine capabilities permanently.

This ties into the nature of God’s immutable eternality – His unchanging constancy outside of normal time and space constraints. An immutable God would not have the capacity to permanently limit His essential omnipotence.

This complex issue will continue to be explored and debated by philosophers and theologians seeking greater understanding of the potential scope and limits of an almighty God’s capabilities and actions.


Throughout history, philosophers, theologians, and ordinary people have attempted to define the capabilities of God. While views differ widely across religions, cultures, and schools of thought, most conceptualizations suggest God has the power to create, knows all, intervenes through miracles and prayer, and determines some greater purpose or order underlying existence.

However, critical questions remain about whether God actively controls events in the natural world and human affairs. Resolving the philosophical paradoxes around reconciling God’s supreme power with human free will and the existence of evil presents a perennial challenge as well.

While the full nature of God may remain forever shrouded in mystery, the question of what God can do will undoubtedly continue to stimulate theological and philosophical reflection for many generations to come.

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