Saturday, July 23, 2011

Can God Make a Rock So Big . . . ?

Here it is folks!  I have the answer to the age old question “can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it?” 

I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has heard this particular paradox that attempts to limit God’s omnipotence by saying if He can’t make a rock that big, He’s not omnipotent, and if He can make it, then He’s not omnipotent because He can’t lift the rock. 

Typical apologists tie themselves in knots saying things like it would be against His nature to create something that would limit His omnipotence.  My favorite is that creating a rock of this size would inevitably make it cease to be a rock because at some point a rock becomes a cliff, a mountain, a continent, an asteroid, an orbiter, or a planet. 

But these apologists just play into the hands of the atheists with their rhetorical counters.  Before I became a Christian, I used to get no end of amusement from the foolishness of these replies.  Didn’t they realize they were admitting to their God’s impotence with these non-answers?  Then God audibly spoke to me and turned my life upside down.  He was real? 

Suddenly I didn’t find the paradox quite so humorous.  Is this God who revealed Himself to me omnipotent or what?

So, I started to search the scriptures to find out if there was anything in there about God’s omnipotence.  And it wasn’t hard to find affirmatives to my query:

Jeremiah 32:17 “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Luke 1:37 “Nothing is impossible with God”

Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

Psalm 115:3 “But our God [is] in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

The answer seemed to be “yes” God is omnipotent.  So, what to do with the paradox? 

Can God create a rock so big that He couldn’t lift it?  Well, the answer must also be a “yes” lest we try and limit His omnipotence just like the atheists attempt to.  It would be one honking big rock too: infinite in size, way beyond the comprehension of any created being like ourselves, even the angels would ponder the thing in its all-consuming bulk.  And it would in effect limit His omnipotence.  He would cease to be all-powerful because He couldn’t lift it.  But this is all hypothetical because God has not created such a rock (I think we’d notice), and until He did, His omnipotence remains.

Now the question becomes would God ever create such a rock? 

The verses listed suggest that God does whatever pleases Him.  Would He be pleased to cease to be the most powerful being in existence just to make a few tiny people He created, who don’t even believe He exists, feel better about themselves and their sins and iniquities?

I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the infinite rock to appear any time soon.  God doesn’t disappear in a puff of logic, and He remains omnipotent.  All praise and glory to the One who is, who was, and is to come.


Andy Pierson said...

Brilliantly reasoned. Your statement, "The verses listed suggest that God does whatever pleases Him" is the primary thought and is the basis for your solid reasoning. Decent alternative to the "God would not contradict His nature" argument from theists in general. You've done the correct thing by going to the Scripture to validate your argument. Good thinking.

Stephen Phillip Porter said...

Thanks Andy, that means a lot coming from someone as well-read as yourself.

God Bless!

GregG said...

No, NO, NO!!! You fail to understand God's nature. He cannot do anything that goes against his nature. God is infinite in power so how could he logically create a rock that is infinite+1 heavier than his power? He cannot. There can only exist one infinite thing and if God were to create an infinite rock there would be two infinites thus limiting each other.

Are you saying that when a Christian says there are things God cannot do we are limiting his power? What about when the bible says God cannot change or lie? Do those statements limit his power. Surely an all powerful God could change and lie if he wanted to... Can God cause himself to cease to exist? No, he is pure aseity and must exist.

God also cannot make a square circle, make 2+2=5, make a maried bachelor, etc but these do not limit his power because they are just as illogical as God doing anyting that violates his nature.

Jesus told his disciples that anything they asked for in His name they would be granted. Does that mean if they prayed for their opressors to all die it would have happened? NO, what Jesus meant was that if they truely prayed in parallel to God's will their prayers would be answered. You are misquoting scripture above. God cannot do anything illogical and violating his will, nature or logic are pure illogic.

stephen porter said...

Logic is a terrible way of approaching God. What is logic other than man's understanding of the way things work? If God is limited by logic, He's not much of a God.

However, there is a great difference between what God can do, and what He is pleased to do. Could He make 2+2=5? Sure. He seems pleased not to, since it is not the case

Can He make Himself cease to exist? Maybe. You can bet that He's pleased not to though.

Can He change or lie? Well that's a horse of a different color isn't it. I have a theory why scripture says He can't though: Manifest Blog

Thanks for posting. God bless!

GregG said...

I do not mean this in a defamatory way but are you Mormon?

As far as logic is concerned, how can you suggest that God and logic are not inseparable? Do you suggest that God was at some point in time without logic? Did he in an illogical state use logic to decide he needed logic?

God CANNOT cease to exist because even you agree that the bible says he cannot change. Ceasing to exist would definitely constitute a change in His nature.

Do you think it is possible for God to revoke his love thru Jesus and re-require a debt payment for our sin? Not would it please him, but is it even possible?

God is not limited to logic because doing the illogical is not possible because it doesn't exist! Logic must be an eternal attribute of God otherwise you would need to explain to me how He accomplished anything without it...

stephen porter said...

Nope not a Mormon? There's nothing vaguely Mormon about anything I've said.

Man's logic is a poor interpreter of the logic of God. It's like Paul says, "We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him."

A lot of what you're wanting to argue about is the exact point I'm making in the article. It's inconsequential whether God could or could not do something if He would not do it. Even though He may be capable, His unchangeable nature dictates that He wouldn't, which is my point.

However, I'm okay being wrong. Ultimately we have no idea what God is capable of. We're going back an forth on abstractions. I mean how can the finite begin to comprehend the infinite? But we do have some revelation of what God wants us to know of Himself, and within that I think it's safe to revel in the fact that whether He can't or won't, nothing will ever separate us from the love of Christ.

And that's good news!

GregG said...

I agree that whether God can create another infinite object or cease to exist appears to not have any bearing on salvation but what I'm appealing to you about is that we can and MUST know some things about God. Jesus told his disciples that if you know me and have seen me then you know and have seen the Father. Now, i contend that he did not mean this in a physical sense but in Christ's attributes and nature.

If we were created in God's image (again, our being, not our physicality) then we have many of the same attributes as God. We have compassion, love, anger, logic, etc. We have a free will but ours actually lets us do things God's cannot (not limiting His power as these things violate the pure and holy nature of God) such as sin and commit suicide.

The one and only true God has revealed himself thru nature, thru His son, thru the Holy Spirit and using our logic we can understand things about him. I'm not advocating that we can know everything, I'm pretty sure that even in heaven we will still have less knowledge than God.

I'm not trying to argue with you but I do have a dislike for bad theology and when someone says God can do something that violates his nature I step in. Making a rock so big that God could not lift it is no more possible than God making another uncreated eternal God. You can see that logic prevails because by definition something created cannot be uncreated and eternal. Neither can 2 infinite things exist.

stephen porter said...

I agree we can and do know a lot about God in terms of what He's revealed to us, but it really only seems like a lot from our finite perspective because if we're talking about an infinite eternal God, we can only ever, ever scratch the surface of who He is and what He can do.

And even in eternity, I don't think we'll get close to understanding Him in His totality. Even the angels before His throne call out "Holy, Holy, Holy" night and day, which as I'm sure you know means other/set apart/different from all else, and they've been studying Him a lot longer than our few years of life.

I, for one, refuse to try to box in the infinite, all powerful, all-knowing, eternal, omnipresent Lord of Hosts with my finite understanding of what I think is possible. If He says He can do the impossible if He pleases, I choose to take Him at His word.


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