Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

pp 269-271

Divine Power

  • Jeffrey C. WittAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Boston College


The explicitly scholastic Divine Power distinction developed out of the twelfth century theological discussion of the nature of God’s power. At issue, initially, was the desire to preserve the constancy of God’s nature and yet to preserve his freedom from any sense of necessity. The distinction emphasized the difference between what God’s raw power was capable of and God’s power as identified with what he actually wills. The understanding of this distinction was later influenced by canonist discussions of papal power, and the distinction often came to be interpreted as two different powers that belonged to God. The development of this later understanding is frequently viewed as playing an important role in the emergence of the modern period.