On ’s Omnipotence from Proslogion by Anselm of Canterbury (~1078 AD) translated by Thomas Williams (2002)

[Note: You can also find this passage on pgs. 104-105 of Three Philosophical Dialogues]

Chapter 7 In what sense God is omnipotent even though there are many things he cannot do

But how are you omnipotent if you cannot do everything? And how can you do everything if you cannot be corrupted, or , or cause what is true to be false (as, for example, to cause what has been done not to have been done), or many other such things?

Or is the ability to do these things not power but weakness? For someone who can do these things can do what is not beneficial to himself and what he ought not to do. And the more he can do these things, the more power misfortune and wickedness have over him, and the less he has over them. So whoever can do these things can do them, not in virtue of his power, but in virtue of his weakness. So when we say that he “can” do these things, it is not because he has the power to do them, but because his weakness gives something else power over him. … In the same way, then, when someone is said to have the “power” to do or suffer something that is not beneficial to himself or that he ought not to do, by ‘power’ [Latin: potentia] we really mean ‘weakness’ [Latin: impotentia]. For the more he has this “power,” the more power misfortune and wickedness have over him, and the less he has over them. Therefore, God, you are all the more truly omnipotent because you can do nothing through weakness, and nothing has power over you.

That God Can Only Do What He Does Do from Theologia ‘Scholarium’, Book III by Peter Abelard (~1135 AD) translated by M.M. Tweedale (2006)

I think it needs to be asked whether God can do more or better things than he does, or whether he even could in any way have stopped doing the things he is doing so that he never in fact did them. Whether we allow that he can or deny it we will likely face many worrisome problems. If we affirm that he can do more or fewer things or stop doing what he is doing, clearly we will greatly detract from his supreme goodness. Certainly it is argued that he can do only good things and only things which it is fitting for him to do and good for him to do.


Likewise it is also agreed that he can omit some things in the sense that he does not do them, only if they are things which it is fitting for him to omit or which it is good for him to omit. But to do and omit the same thing is not fitting to him, nor is it good. Certainly nothing admits of being done and being omitted at the same time, and what it is good to do cannot be good to omit, since the only contrary of good is bad. Neither can there be a valid why the same thing ought to be done and omitted. If, then, when it is good to do something it is not good to omit it, and God can do or omit only what it is good for him to do or omit, clearly it seems that he can only do or omit what he does do or does omit. For if it is good that he omit what he omits, then it is not good for him to do the same thing, and consequently he cannot do it.

Or if he omits what it is good for him to do and draws back from some things which should be done, who would not infer that he is sort of envious or hostile? Certainly he to whose will all things are equally subjected incurs no toil in making anything, just as it is written: “He has spoken and they have been done; he has commanded and they have been created.”

It is clear, therefore, that there is a right and valid reason for whatever God does or omits, and consequently he only does or omits those things which he ought to and which it is proper for him to do or omit. If whatever he does he ought to do, it is right for him to do whatever he does, and doubtless he ought to do whatever he does. And if he ought to do it, clearly he cannot rightly omit doing it. Certainly everything which it is right to do it is wrong to omit, and whoever does not do what reason demands is at fault just as much as if they did that which does not agree with reason at all. …

It seems, then, that by the above reasoning God can do only what he does do, and can omit only what he does omit, since in fact in each case of something to be done or to be omitted he has a valid reason why he does it or omits it; nor can he, who is the height of reason, will or do anything which runs against what reason demands. Certainly no one can reasonably will or do what disagrees with reason.

It appears, then, from the above reasoning and citations, that God can only do what he sometimes does do. And yet if we claim that God can only do what he does do, we seem to face opposition from both arguments and authorities. …

[They say] God can do what he in no way is going to do, and what we just now concluded is evidently completely false, namely that God can only do what at sometime he does do. Otherwise, thanks would not at all be owing to him for what he does since what he cannot omit he does more out of a necessary compulsion arising from his own nature than by having been drawn freely by a will for doing these things.


So far as I judge this, then, since God can only do what it is fitting for him to do and what he omits doing is not anything fitting for him to do, I truly think that he is only able to do what sometimes he does do, even though few people or none agree with this opinion of ours and it seems to disagree with the pronouncements of a number of saints and a little bit with reason as well. They say that this judgment detracts greatly from the divine excellence in that it says that he can only do what sometimes he does do and omit that which he does omit, since even we ourselves, who are far less powerful, can do or omit many things which we do not at all do or omit.

To them I reply that we ought not on account of this be judged more powerful or better, i.e. because we can do some things which he cannot do, like eat, walk, or even , things which are totally removed from the power of divinity and completely foreign to his dignity. In short, does it pertain to God to be able to do those things which he would never do or which are not in the least fitting for him to do? That we can do some things which we ought not to do is to be assigned more to our weakness than to our dignity; we would be totally better if we could do only those things which we ought to do and nothing shameful could be done by us. There is a reason why God has allowed us this power for doing wrong or sinning, namely that he, who is not at all able to sin, may appear more glorious by comparison to out weakness. And when we stop sinning, we attribute this not to our nature but to the assisting grace of him who arranges to his own glory not just good things but bad things as well.

There are those, too, who think God can do even those things which he does not do because it is certain that nothing can stop him if he were to want to do those things which he does not do. So it is said: “Who might stop his will?” So also the blessed Augustine says: “He is not called omnipotent because he can do all things but because whatever he wants to do he can do, nor can any effect of his will be obstructed.” Thus whatever he wills necessarily he does when he wills it, because his will cannot in any way be deprived of its effect. But clearly by this reasoning of theirs we could say that under some sort of state of his will he could even sin or do something shameful, since it is in fact certain that nothing could stop his doing this if he willed to do that which he ought not. Besides, when they say here that he is called omnipotent because he can do whatever he wills, obviously they so associate his power and will that where his will is lacking his power is lacking too. …

From what has been said, I think, it is easy to refute what seems a possible objection to God’s providence or his will in respect of creatures, so that, although he would not be able to be without those items which he has had in himself from all eternity, because that would not be fitting, still let us not propose that the things which have been foreseen, or which he has willed are, therefore, not able not to be, i.e.

3 that they happen from necessity. For even if he was not able to be without providence and also the course of events necessarily follows that providence, still it should not thereby be allowed that the things foreseen were not able not to exist. Or if we propose that he was not able to be without a will for creating the world, or a will for compassion, we are not thereby forced to allow that the world or the things that have been created were not able to have failed to be. In the former case, as we qualified it, ‘possible’ made reference to God’s nature; in the latter case, to the natures of creatures. Thus, although God necessarily has from his own nature either providence of things or a good will in relation to them, because this is especially fitting for God, still it is not necessary that the nature of things – things which are completely able not to be – require that they be.

As for the last objection that no thanks are owing to God for those things which he does, since he is not at all able to omit them and acts more by some necessity than by will, this is totally trifling. For this nature or necessity of his goodness is not separate from his will, nor is it to be called compulsion, i.e., that by which even someone who is unwilling is compelled to do something. For even when we say that it is necessary for him to be immortal or that he is necessarily immortal, this necessity of the divine nature is not separated off from his will, since he wills to be that which it is necessary for him to be, i.e. which he is not able not to be. But if he necessarily did something in such a way that whether he was willing or unwilling he was forced to do it, then clearly no thanks are due him in this case.

But since his goodness is so great and his will is so much the best that it inclines him to doing this not in an unwilling way but spontaneously, he is all the more fully to be loved on account of his own nature and honored for this, the more this goodness of his belongs to him not accidentally but substantially and immutably. Indeed, the more he exists in a better way on account of this, the more firmly does he persist in it.

For would we not be grateful to someone who helped us if their piety were so great that when they saw us in great distress they could not keep themselves from helping, since their own piety itself compelled them to do it? For what is it for us to owe thanks to someone for received assistance other than for us to recognize that they genuinely deserve our thanks, i.e. should be praised for those things which their kindness made available to us?

The foregoing arguments and resolutions of objections make it clear to all, I think, that God can do or omit doing only those things which he does do or does omit, and he can do them or omit them only in the way or at the time that he does and not at any other.


Divine Power, Divine Freedom by

from Summa Theologiae, Part I, Question 25 (~1274 AD) translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1920) **********

Question 25. The Power of God

Article 3. Whether God is omnipotent?

… Objection 2. … God cannot sin … Therefore He is not omnipotent. …

Objection 4. If God … were omnipotent, all things would be possible; nothing, therefore impossible. But if we take away the impossible, then we destroy also the necessary; for what necessarily exists is impossible not to exist. Therefore there would be nothing at all that is necessary in things if God were omnipotent. But this is an impossibility. Therefore God is not omnipotent. …

I answer that, All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word 'all' when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, "God can do all things," is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent. Now according to the Philosopher, a thing is said to be possible in two ways.

First in relation to some power, thus whatever is subject to human power is said to be possible to man.

Secondly absolutely, on account of the relation in which the very terms stand to each other. Now God cannot be said to be omnipotent through being able to do all things that are possible to created nature; for the divine power extends farther than that. If, however, we were to say that God is omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible to His power, there would be a vicious circle in explaining the nature of His power. For this would be saying nothing else but that God is omnipotent, because He can do all that He is able to do.


It remains therefore, that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely; which is the second way of saying a thing is possible. For a thing is said to be possible or impossible absolutely, according to the relation in which the very terms stand to one another, possible if the predicate is not incompatible with the subject, as that Socrates sits; and absolutely impossible when the predicate is altogether incompatible with the subject, as, for instance, that a man is a donkey. …

Therefore, everything that does not imply a contradiction in terms, is numbered amongst those possible things, in respect of which God is called omnipotent: whereas whatever implies contradiction does not come within the scope of divine omnipotence, because it cannot have the aspect of possibility. Hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them. …

Reply to Objection 2. To sin is to fall short of a perfect action; hence to be able to sin is to be able to fall short in action, which is repugnant to omnipotence. Therefore it is that God cannot sin, because of His omnipotence. …

Article 4. Whether God can make the past not to have been?

… Objection 2. What God could do, He can do now, since His power is not lessened. But God could have effected, before Socrates ran, that he should not run. Therefore, when he has run, God could effect that he did not run.

Objection 3. Further, charity is a more excellent virtue than virginity. But God can supply charity that is lost; therefore also lost virginity. Therefore He can so effect that what was corrupt should not have been corrupt.

On the contrary, Jerome says: "Although God can do all things, He cannot make a thing that is corrupt not to have been corrupted." Therefore, for the same reason, He cannot effect that anything else which is past should not have been.

I answer that, As was said above, there does not fall under the scope of God's omnipotence anything that implies a contradiction. Now that the past should not have been implies a contradiction. For as it implies a contradiction to say that Socrates is sitting, and is not sitting, so does it to say that he sat, and did not sit. But to say that he did sit is to say that it happened in the past. To say that he did not sit, is to say that it did not happen. Whence, that the past should not have been, does not come under the scope of divine power. …


Reply to Objection 2. As God, in accordance with the perfection of the divine power, can do all things, and yet some things are not subject to His power, because they fall short of being possible; so, also, if we regard the of the divine power, whatever God could do, He can do now. Some things, however, at one time were in the nature of possibility, whilst they were yet to be done, which now fall short of the nature of possibility, when they have been done. So is God said not to be able to do them, because they themselves cannot be done.

Reply to Objection 3. God can remove all corruption of the mind and body from a woman who has fallen; but the fact that she had been corrupt cannot be removed from her; as also is it impossible that the fact of having sinned or having lost charity thereby can be removed from the sinner.

from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book II (~1265 AD) translated by James F. Anderson (1956) **********

Chapter 25. How the omnipotent God is said to be incapable of certain things

[1] Now, from what has been said already, we can see that, although God is omnipotent, He is nevertheless said to be incapable of some things.

[2] For we proved above that active power exists in God; that there is no passive potency in Him … Hence, God is unable to do those things whose possibility entails passive potency. …

[4] … It can be concluded further that He cannot be changed with respect to the various kinds of change: increase and diminution, or alteration, coming to be and passing away—all are foreign to Him.

[5] Thirdly, since a deprivation is a certain loss of being, it follows that God can lack nothing.

[6] Moreover, every failing follows upon some privation. But the subject of privation is the potency of matter. In no way, therefore, can God fail.

[7] Then, too, since weariness results from a defect of power, and forgetfulness from defect of knowledge, God cannot possibly be subject to either.


[8] Nor can He be overcome or suffer violence, for these are found only in something having a movable nature.

[9] Likewise, God can neither repent, nor be angry or sorrowful, because all these things bespeak passion and defect.

[10] … It must therefore be said that God is unable to do whatever is contrary to the nature of being as being, or of made being as made. We must now inquire what these things are.

[11] First of all, that which destroys the nature of being is contrary to it. Now, the nature of being is destroyed by its opposite, just as the nature of man is destroyed by things opposite in nature to him or to his parts. But the opposite of being is non-being, with respect to which God is therefore inoperative, so that He cannot make one and the same thing to be and not to be; He can not make contradictories to exist simultaneously.

[12] Contradiction, moreover, is implied in contraries and privative opposites: to be white and black is to be white and not white; to be seeing and blind is to be seeing and not seeing. For the same reason, God is unable to make opposites exist in the same subject at the same time and in the same respect.

[13] Furthermore, to take away an essential principle of any thing is to take away the thing itself. Hence, if God cannot make a thing to be and not to be at the same time, neither can He make a thing to lack any of its essential principles while the thing itself remains in being; God cannot make a man to be without a soul.

[14] Again, since the principles of certain —of logic, geometry, and arithmetic, for instance—are derived exclusively from the formal principles of things, upon which their essence depends, it follows that God cannot make the contraries of those principles; He cannot make the genus not to be predicable of the species, nor lines drawn from a circle’s center to its circumference not to be equal, nor the three angles of a rectilinear triangle not to be equal to two right angles.

[15] It is obvious, moreover, that God cannot make the past not to have been, for this, too, would entail a contradiction; it is equally as necessary for a thing to be while it is as to have been while it was.


[16] Also, there are things incompatible with the nature of thing made, as such. And these God cannot make …

[17] And from this it is clear that God cannot make God. For it is of the essence of a thing made that its own being depends on another cause, and this is contrary to the nature of the being we call God, as is evident from things previously said.

[18] For the same reason God cannot make a thing equal to Himself; for a thing whose being does not depend on another is superior in being, and in the other perfections, to that which depends on something else, such dependence pertaining to the nature of that which is made. …

[20] Moreover, since God is a voluntary agent, that which He cannot will He cannot do. Now, we can see what He cannot will if we consider how there can be necessity in the divine will; for that which necessarily is cannot not-be, and what cannot be necessarily is not.

[21] It clearly follows that God cannot make Himself not to be, or not to be good or happy; because He necessarily wills Himself to be, to be good and happy …

[22] … [Also] God cannot will any evil. It is therefore evident that God cannot sin.

[23] And … the will of God cannot be mutable; so, what He wills He cannot cause to be not fulfilled. …

from Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I (~1265 AD) translated by Anton C. Pegis (1955) **********

Chapter 80. That His own being and His own goodness God wills necessarily

[1] … God wills His own being and His own goodness in a necessary way, and cannot will the contrary.

[2] For … God wills His own being and His own goodness as His principal object …

[3] Again, every being endowed with will necessarily wills his own ultimate end: for example, man necessarily wills his own beatitude and cannot will misery. But God wills Himself to be as the ultimate end, as appears from what has been said. Therefore, He necessarily wills Himself to be, nor can He will Himself not to be. …


Chapter 81. That God does not will other things in a necessary way

[1] But, if the divine will of necessity wills the divine goodness and the divine being, it might seem to someone that it wills of necessity other things as well, since God wills all other things in willing His own goodness, as was proved above. Nevertheless, if we consider the matter correctly, it appears that He does not will other things necessarily. …

[3] Furthermore, since the understood good is the object of the will, the will can will anything conceived by the intellect in which the nature of the good is present. Hence, although the being of any given thing is as such a good and its non-being an evil, the non-being of something can fall under the will (though not by necessity) because of some adjoined good that is preserved; since it is a good that something be, even though something else does not exist. Therefore, according to its own nature, the will cannot not will that good whose non-existence causes the nature of the good entirely to be lost. But there is no such good apart from God. According to its nature, therefore, the will can will the non-existence of anything whatever apart from God. But in God will is present according to its whole range, since all things in Him are universally perfect. God, therefore, can will the non- existence of anything whatever apart from Himself. Hence, it is not of necessity that things other than Himself exist.

[4] Moreover, God, in willing His own goodness, wills things other than Himself to be in so far as they participate in His goodness. But, since the divine goodness is infinite, it can be participated in infinite ways, and in ways other than it is participated in by the creatures that now exist. If, then, as a result of willing His own goodness, God necessarily willed the things that participate in it, it would follow that He would will the existence of an infinity of creatures participating in His goodness in an infinity of ways. This is patently false, because, if He willed them, they would be, since His will is the principle of being for things, as will be shown later on. Therefore, God does not necessarily will even the things that now exist. …

Chapter 83. That God wills something other than Himself with the necessity of supposition

[1] From this we may infer that, although among His effects God wills nothing with absolute necessity, yet He does will something with the necessity of supposition.

[2] For it has been shown that the divine will is immutable. Now, if something is found in any immutable being, it cannot afterwards not be; for we say that a thing

10 has moved if it is otherwise disposed now than it was previously. If, then, the divine will is immutable, assuming that it wills something, God must by supposition will this thing.

[3] Again, everything eternal is necessary. Now, that God should will some effect to be is eternal, for, like His being, so, too, His willing is measured by eternity, and is therefore necessary. But it is not necessary considered absolutely, because the will of God does not have a necessary relation to this willed object. Therefore, it is necessary by supposition.

[4] Furthermore, whatever God could He can, for His power is not decreased, as neither is His essence. But He cannot now not will what He is posited as having willed, because His will cannot be changed. Therefore, at no time could He not will what He has willed. It is therefore necessary by supposition that He willed whatever He willed, and also that He wills it; neither, however, is absolutely necessary, but, rather, possible in the aforementioned way. …

from Summa Theologiae, Part I, Question 25 (~1274 AD) translated by The Fathers of the English Dominican Province (1920) **********

Article 5. Whether God can do what He does not?

… Objection 2. God can only do what ought to be done and what is right to be done. But God is not bound to do what He does not; nor is it right that He should do what He does not. Therefore He cannot do except what He does.

Objection 3. Further, God cannot do anything that is not good and befitting creation. But it is not good for creatures nor befitting them to be otherwise than as they are. Therefore God cannot do except what He does. …

I answer that, In this matter certain persons erred in two ways. Some laid it down that God acts from natural necessity in such way that as from the action of nature nothing else can happen beyond what actually takes place—as, for instance, from the seed of man, a man must come, and from that of an olive, an olive; so from the divine operation there could not result other things, nor another order of things, than that which now is. But we showed above that God does not act from natural necessity, but that His will is the cause of all things; nor is that will naturally and from any necessity determined to those things. Whence in no way at all is the

11 present course of events produced by God from any necessity, so that other things could not happen. Others, however, said that the divine power is restricted to this present course of events through the order of the divine wisdom and justice without which God does nothing. … Yet the order placed in creation by divine wisdom, in which order the notion of His justice consists, as said above, is not so adequate to the divine wisdom that the divine wisdom should be restricted to this present order of things. Now it is clear that the whole idea of order which a wise man puts into things made by him is taken from their end. So, when the end is proportionate to the things made for that end, the wisdom of the maker is restricted to some definite order. But the divine goodness is an end exceeding beyond all proportion things created. Whence the divine wisdom is not so restricted to any particular order that no other course of events could happen. Wherefore we must simply say that God can do other things than those He has done. …

Reply to Objection 2. God is bound to nobody but Himself. Hence, when it is said that God can only do what He ought, nothing else is meant by this than that God can do nothing but what is befitting to Himself, and just. … The sentence would then be true in this sense: "God cannot do anything except that which, if He did it, would be suitable and just."

Reply to Objection 3. Although this order of things be restricted to what now exists, the divine power and wisdom are not thus restricted. Whence, although no other order would be suitable and good to the things which now are, yet God can do other things and impose upon them another order.

Article 6. Whether God can do better than what He does?

… Objection 3. … [W]hat is very good and the best of all cannot be bettered; because nothing is better than the best. But as Augustine says (Enchiridion 10), "each thing that God has made is good, and, taken all together they are very good; because in them all consists the wondrous beauty of the universe." Therefore the good in the universe could not be made better by God. …

I answer that, The goodness of anything is twofold; one, which is of the essence of it—thus, for instance, to be rational pertains to the essence of man. As regards this good, God cannot make a thing better than it is itself; although He can make another thing better than it; even as He cannot make the number four greater than it is; because if it were greater it would no longer be four, but another number. …


Another kind of goodness is that which is over and above the essence; thus, the good of a man is to be virtuous or wise. As regards this kind of goodness, God can make better the things He has made. Absolutely speaking, however, God can make something else better than each thing made by Him. …

Reply to Objection 3. The universe, the present creation being supposed, cannot be better, on account of the most beautiful order given to things by God; in which the good of the universe consists. For if any one thing were bettered, the proportion of order would be destroyed; as if one string were stretched more than it ought to be, the melody of the harp would be destroyed. Yet God could make other things, or add something to the present creation; and then there would be another and a better universe. …

On Whether God Could Make Things Better Than He Does from Ordinatio, Book I by John Duns Scotus (~1300 AD) translated by M.M. Tweedale (2006)

Distinction 42. Is it possible by natural reason to prove that God is omnipotent?

… In [one] sense “omnipotent” is taken strictly in to mean what is able to produce any effect and anything that is possible (i.e. anything which neither is of itself necessary nor includes a contradiction), and this in such a way, I say, that it can do this immediately without the cooperation of any other causal agent. …

Omnipotence [of God] in this sense … can be shown to be probably true and necessary, even though this cannot be entirely demonstrated. …

Distinction 43. Whether the primary reason for the impossibility of a thing’s being made on the side of God or on the side of the thing to be made

… I say ... so far as impossibility is concerned, I say that this cannot primarily derive from God, but rather from the thing ... because it is impossible on account of its rejection of being made.

This I understand in the following way: What is unqualifiedly impossible includes incompossibles. These are incompossible in virtue of their own formal characters [i.e., their quiddities], and their incompossibility takes its origin from the origin they have for their own formal characters. …


Therefore, it follows that primary impossibility lies formally on the side of the impossible while having its origin in God. And given that it does derive from some origin, this does not mean that it derives from the negation of a possibility in God, but rather it derives from the divine intellect as its source, i.e. the source of its having that existence in which the parts formally reject each other, where this mutual rejection is the reason the whole composed of those parts is unqualifiedly impossible. …

Distinction 44. Is God able to make things in a different way than He has ruled that they be made?

It seems that [He could] not: For then He would be able to make things in an unregulated way. The consequent is false; therefore, also the antecedent.

Against this: For things to be made differently than they have been made does not include a contradiction; neither is it necessary. Therefore, etc.

I answer: In everything that acts through an intellect and a will, and is able to act in conformity to right law and yet does not necessarily act in conformity to right law, one has to distinguish its regulated power from its absolute power. The reason for this is that it can act in conformity to that right law, and in that case it acts in accord with its regulated power (for it is regulated inasmuch as it is a principle of carrying out some things in conformity with right law), and it can also act outside of that law and contrary to it, and here we find its absolute power which goes beyond its regulated power. Consequently, not only in God but in every free agent which can act according to the dictates of right law and also outside of such a law or contrary to it, there is a distinction between its regulated power and its absolute power. Thus jurists say that someone can in fact do something – here they speak of absolute power – or they can do it in law – here they speak of power regulated by law.

But when that right law, according to which things must be done in a regulated way, is not in the power of the agent, then its absolute power cannot go beyond its regulated power concerning certain objects without its acting with respect to them in an unregulated way. For, in relation to such an agent, it is necessary that that law remain in force, and in that case the action not in conformity with right law is neither right nor regulated, because such an agent is held to act in accord with the rule that it comes under. Hence, everything which comes under the divine law acts in an unregulated way, if it does not act in accord with that law.

But when the law and the rightness of the law is in the power of the agent in such a way that it is right only if it has been established, then in virtue of its freedom the agent can regulate things differently than that right law dictates. Nevertheless it

14 can do this in a regulated way because it can establish another right law in virtue of which it acts in a regulated way. Neither does its absolute power then unqualifiedly go beyond its regulated power, because it would be regulated by the new law just as it was by the earlier one. Nevertheless, it does go beyond the regulated power that is in accord with just the earlier law, contrary to which or outside of which it operates. An example of this is a prince and his subjects, and the positive law.

By way of applying this, then, to the question at hand, I say that some general laws that dictate rightly have been put in place by the divine will and certainly not by the divine intellect as it precedes the act of the divine will … because in those laws there is not found any necessity coming from the terms (for example, that every sinner will be damned), but only from the divine will that accepts it, which works according to the sort of laws which it has established (or it suffices here to say that these rules are established by the divine wisdom). But when the intellect sets such a law before the divine will, for example that everyone who is to be honored must first do some favor, that law is right law if it pleases the divine will; and so it is in the case of other laws.

Therefore, God, who is able to act in accord with those right laws as they have been put in place by Him, is said to act in accord with regulated power. But inasmuch as he can do many things which are not in accord with the laws he has already put in place, but rather go outside them, He is said [to act] by his absolute power. Since God can do anything which does not involve a contradiction, and can act in any way which does not involve a contradiction (and there are many other such ways of acting), He is said in that case to act in accord with his absolute power.

Hence, I say that for Him to be able to do in a regulated way many other things, and for many other things to be able to be done in a regulated way – other, that is, than the things which are done in conformity to these laws – does not include a contradiction when the rightness of a law of the sort in virtue of which someone acts rightly and in a regulated way is in the power of the agent. Consequently, just as He can do otherwise, so He can set up another right law, and if this were set up by God it would be right, because no law is right except to the extent that it is set up by the divine will that accepts it. In this case His absolute power does not extend to anything other than what is brought about in a regulated way, if it is brought about. Certainly it would not be brought about in accord with this regulation, but it would be done in a regulated way in virtue of some other regulation, and that regulation the divine will would be able to set up in just the way that He is able to act.

We must also note what it means for something to be regulated and to be done in a regulated way, for this happens in two ways. In one way, by a general

15 regulation. This pertains to the common law; for example, common law rules that everyone who is a sinner at the end is to be damned (just as if the king established that every murderer is to die). In a second way, by a particular regulation; i.e. in virtue of a particular judgment which the general law is not about, because the law is about universal causes. The law is not about particular causes, but a judgment, in accord with the law, of that which is against the law is (for example, that this murderer is to die).

I say, then, that God can act not only differently than has been ruled by a particular regulation, but also differently than has been ruled by a general regulation, or by the laws of justice. He can act in a regulated way because both the things which are outside that regulation and those which are contrary to that regulation are able to be done by God in a regulated way by his absolute power. …

[Replies to the arguments at the beginning]

To the [first] argument, it is clear that the inference is invalid, for if He made things in a different way from the way it has been ruled that they are to be made, this would not show that they were made in an unregulated way. This is because, if he had set up other laws by which they were to be made, they would be made by Him in a regulated way.

To the argument in favor of the opposite, I allow that it goes through for absolute power. But if this absolute power were the principle for doing something, it would be regulated by Him, but not according to a regulation previously put in place by Him, i.e. the same which He had before.