Bad Arguments: The Omnipotence Paradox

“Can God create a stone so heavy that even He could not lift it?”

If you have involved yourself in any interfaith dialogue or evangelism, you have likely come across this interesting question. This is a common trap provided by skeptics to create havoc in the minds of the believers and, if the believer is not careful, they can succumb to the fake dangers of what is believed to be conclusive proof against God’s omnipotence (which is also coupled with other “proofs” against God’s very existence). Despite the seemingly difficult nature of the question, I believe firmly that it is actually quite easy to navigate without falling into either conclusion.

The question essentially concludes that, if God can create a stone so heavy that He could not lift it, He cannot be omnipotent for God would be able to lift the stone and, alternately, if God cannot create such a stone, then He could not be omnipotent because a truly omnipotent God would be able to do so. This is also seen in other variations such as: “Can God create another God of equal power and capability?” or “Can God make a square circle?” I join the countless minds over the last centuries which have shared the sentiment that the question points to a grotesque misunderstanding of the term “omnipotence”. Omnipotence is not being used in a manner that indicates the ability to do all things at all times, but, when we use it with respect to the nature of God, we conclude that God’s omnipotence is His ability to do all things within the context of the nature He has revealed.

What has been revealed to us?

To start, we know that there is not one who is like our God – He is the First and the Last: Is. 44:6; 48:12; Rev 1:17; 2:8; 22:13.

Secondly, we know that He is not subordinate to any: Is. 40:13; Rm 11:34

For being such a difficult and tricky sounding question, it really is simple to avoid. God’s omnipotence is His ability to do all things according to His nature. He cannot stop being what He is and there is nothing greater.


6 thoughts on “Bad Arguments: The Omnipotence Paradox

    • What is your nature? He revealed that He is the “First and the Last” and that there is not one who is greater. Your nature is essentially defined by its frailty and limitations on both physical and intellectual capabilities (this is true of all people). His limitation, which isn’t really a limitation, is that He cannot stop being who He is.

      • But He is also limited by the laws of logic, which I am lead to believe He also authored. It is this limit that explains the paradox of the rock He cannot lift (or the porridge He cannot eat).
        I am also informed that He cannot lie.

        The contention I have is that you have entered a circular definition. The actual definition of omnipotent (all powerful) is not the definition are calling on, instead you are calling on a definition which in turn relies on God.

      • The problem with the definition is not necessarily resting upon the person who teaches that He is omnipotent. If God is incapable of being surpassed, but there is nothing that is impossible for Him, then what is the answer? It has been the contention of Christian thinkers for the last several centuries that the question is posed from a misunderstanding of omnipotence. This understanding of omnipotence is not circular, but conditional.

        Edited 11:26 AM Central:

        I wanted to add that the matter boils down to a single response: “God cannot not be God.”

      • I cannot not be me.

        And just like the fact that God cannot speak without telling the truth, I cannot hold my breath for an hour without dying.

        God is limited by certain things, particularly the laws of logic. But if He is also the author of the laws of logic then His limitations are simply that of His nature.

        Well, my limitations are that of my nature. If that’s all your defining omnipotent to be then everything is omnipotent.

      • Right, you cannot not be you, but you can perform things which are your undoing. God’s omnipotence is always in the context that He cannot do that which is His undoing and, as such, He cannot be thwarted, whereas, while you can perform all things which you are capable of that are not thwarted, those things can lead to your destruction. The very fact that your actions can be thwarted by other influences and that your actions can lead to your destruction leads us to conclude that you are not omnipotent. God, on the other hand, cannot be thwarted by another, nor can He, by His actions, lead Himself to His own destruction. He is limitless in His power.

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