The Omnipotence Paradox is a flawed argument for the Atheist trying to "disprove" God or the unreasonableness of faith
All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.
With 7 votes and 27 points ahead, the winner is ...
- Publication date
- Last update date
- Time for argument
- Two days
- Voting system
- Open voting
- Voting period
- Two weeks
- Point system
- Four points
- Rating mode
- Characters per argument
The argument goes something like this:
To be omnipotent is to be able to do anything. If God can do anything, he ought to be able to create a stone so heavy that even he cannot lift it. However, this creates a paradox: if God cannot lift the stone, he is not almighty; if God cannot make the stone, he is not almighty. From this, it becomes clear the God cannot be omnipotent, since omnipotence is logically impossible given the paradox. Therefore, God does not exist.
My contention is that this argument is flawed, illogical, and does not disprove God's existence, nor does it disprove His omnipotence, but rather it does nothing but highlight the arguer's misunderstanding of what it means to be "omnipotent" from a Theological/Christian perspective.
These things (one-ended sticks, square circles, and yes, an Omnipotent Being creating a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it) are not possible not because the Omnipotent Being doesn’t have sufficient power to make it be, but rather because they are logical contradictions. A triangle, by definition, has 3 sides and 3 angles, so having a “2-sided triangle” is a logical contradiction. That’s like asking “Can an Infinite Being, a being without limits, impose limits on Himself?” The very definition of an infinite being eliminates that possibility. Or put another way—can an All-Powerful being do something that limits His power. The very idea of an All-Power being with power that is limited is illogical- Beign All-Powerful rules out the possibility of being limited. Or put another way, there are some things an Omnipotent can’t do precisely because he is Omnipotent. You’re basically asking if a Being of unlimited power can produce something to limit Him. But His unlimited power, by definition, rules out that possibility. An unlimited being cannot create limits for Himself.
The Christian understanding of Omnipotence is not that an Omnipotent Being should be able to do absolutely anything, but rather those things that are logically possible. It’s worth noting that “Defying logic” and “Defying physics” are two different things. One might argue “You Christians think God can walk on water- that defies logic!” To that I would argue, no, it defies physics, not logic. Making a square circle defies logic. As a Christian, when we say “God can do the impossible”, we don’t mean that God can do the “logically impossible” (i.e. make married bachelors, square circles, etc).
A rock (stone) by definition is made of matter and is of a finite size. An Infinite Being, by definition, is not finite. So in order for a rock to be too Heavy for an infinite Being, it would need to be of infinite size (and weight for that matter). But, by definition, this is not a rock.
In short, the “Stone Too Heavy to Lift” Paradox does not “prove” Omnipotence is not possible, and thus God is not possible, but rather simply illustrates that the Christian’s idea of God doesn’t meet the Arguer’s idea/concept of what it means to be Omnipotent (God).
But Jesus beheld [them], and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. | Matthew 19:26 KJV
For with God nothing shall be impossible. | Luke 1:37 KJV
Behold, I [am] the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? | Jeremiah 32:37 KJV
I agree, the God described in the Bible is truly “omnipotent.” Where we disagree is you believe “omnipotent” means being able to do absolutely everything, including those things which are logically impossible (can God make a married bachelor? No, then not God!), contradictory (can God make 2 + 2 equal 4 and not equal to 4 at the same time? No? Then not God!), or which go against His Nature. I, on the other hand, believe that “omnipotent” doesn’t necessarily mean being able to do absolutely everything. I believe, and which is the subject of the debate, is that the atheist, who, in this instance happens to actually go by the name “TheAtheist”, has a misunderstanding of what it means to be “omnipotent” from a Christian perspective. Most reputable Theologians adhere to the notion that at there are indeed some things God can’t do (they would against His nature, which warrants a much deeper discussion). Certainly within the Catholic faith, doctrine and Church teaching uphold that there are indeed some things which God cannot do.
My opponents cites passages from the Bible, and uses this same Bible to lay the foundation for his claim that the Christian believes God is an omnipotent being, one that has absolutely unlimited powers. This is the heart of the Paradox. The arguer believes that if “omnipotent” means “unlimited powers”, God is believe to be “unlimited”. If the arguer could somehow cleverly devise a scenario that would appear to “limit” God, this “proves” God is not omnipotent, and therefore proves God doesn’t exist. To which I respond, “No, no no.” The Christian faith (mine in particular) believes there are some things God can not due by virtue of the fact that he IS omnipotent.
The Bible, as with all texts written by a human hand (the Bible was inspired by God, but written by humans) must be taken into context. I truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God—written by humans over the course of time and inspired by God. At the same time, I believe that the Bible passages must be taken into context (who wrote them, when did they write them, who was the targeted audience at the time of writing, etc) in order to be properly understoof.
The early Biblical writers employed, as do writers of our own age, literary techniques in their writings. How can you be sure that when the writers of the Bible say (imply) that “God is Omnipotent,” they mean (imply) that He can truly do EVERYTHING, even those things which are contradictory? How can you be so sure that when you read a text from the Bible, your understanding of it is the exact same understanding of the writer who wrote it (or God who inspired it, for that matter)? This argument is based on an assumption that YOU interpret something (a text) exactly the way it was intended. My challenge to you is this—how are you so sure YOUR understanding of texts that describe God as having, as you put it, “Absolutely unlimited powers” is the correct understanding? Keep in mind, I’m asking you this because you (not me) were the one that brought the Bible into the discussion as a basis for your position. I did not (at least not yet anyway).
Just to give you an example of what I’m talking about—and these are examples, not “Strawmen”—I’m using these as examples to illustrate my point. Writers in the 80’s and 90’s would often describe Michael Jordan (and sports stars today) as being “impossible to stop” and “he could do no wrong during the game.” Now, does that truly mean he could not be stopped—AT ALL? No. Certainly some men stopped him and kept him from scoring, but they employed a literary technique to underscore how great he played. Biblical writers did the same thing. How can you be so sure when they say “For with God nothing shall be impossible” that they also mean God can do that which is contradictory or logically impossible?
You say that God tells us everything is possible with him. Yep, he does. Where we differ is you believe this means ABSOLUTELY everything, even those things that are logically impossible or contradictory (e.g make triangles with just 2 sides and angles, etc) whereas I say God can only do the logically possible. God also tells us, in that same Bible, that there are indeed things He cannot do (see below).
You say the Christian God is defined as having absolutely unlimited powers. WRONG. The Bible does in fact put limits on what God can’t do. Interesting—you seem to presume the reason I didn’t put these in R1 was because these passages didn’t exist. There are passages in the Bible that state there are indeed certain things God cannot do:
a. Impossible for God to lie
Hebrews 6:17-18 “So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us.”
Romans 3:4 “God must be true…”
b. He can not deny himself
2 Timothy 2:13 – “he can not deny Himself.”
This refutes your statements that Bible says (unequivocally) that the God is omnipotent by your definition/understanding of “omnipotent”. I say, no—the Bible does indeed place limits on what God can do (he can’t lie, he can’t “not be true” , he can’t deny himself).
I agree -- the Bible doesn’t say outright that God can only do the things that are logically possible. However, the Bible is silent about a myriad of things. The Bible is curiously silent about putting your neighbor’s arm in a meat grinder. However, we can use other passages, teachings, and context to infer that the Bible would not condone the putting of your neighbor’s arm in a meat grinder. Likewise, one can infer (from other passages, teachings, context) that there are some things God cannot do. So, the fact that the Bible doesn’t say X, doesn’t mean X is not true.
Finally, just as you state that the Bible states nowhere that God can only do the logically possible, I can likewise state that neither does the Bible state that God has absolutely unlimited powers and is able to do the logically impossible. You cite a few passages that you believe “prove” that the Christian God should be able to do EVERYTHING, including the logically impossible. However, I just showed you some passages where the Bible does indeed put limits on what God can do (he can’t lie, deny himself, etc), underscoring the notion that the Christian idea of omnipotence does not include being able to do the logically impossible, the contradictory, or the absurd.
Because I have characters, let’s recap. The crux/formula of the “Stone Paradox” essentially goes like this.
A. The arguer defines “Omnipotence” as being able to do absolutely everything, without having any limits. The arguer may not outright define it as such, but it becomes evident as the Paradox plays on that this what they believe. The arguer immediately assumes that his definition of Omnipotence is in 100% alignment with how the Christian defines “omnipotence”.
B. The arguer then devises (or borrows) a contradictory scenario, which is illogical, in the form of “If God is Omnipotent, can He create a stone so heavy that not even He can lift it?”. Other similar, often funny, scenarios might take the shape of “Can God create a Square that has 5 sides?”, “Can God beat Himself up in a fist-fight?” “Can God devise a problem that not even He can solve?”, etc.
C. When the Christian answers “No”, the arguer then counters “See! There IS something God can’t do (be it create a stone so heavy, make 2 sided triangle, etc). You’ve just put a limit on God. God is not omnipotent, therefore, God doesn’t exist!”. The arguer then claims victory, often punctuating the exchange with a clever statement, such as “Checkmate.”
However, the problem is with the initial understanding of “Omnipotence”.