The Theological Questions page contains an answer to the question: "If God is all-powerful, can He create a rock which He cannot lift?". In case you have not read that page, here is the answer I gave:
No, and that does not in any way diminish His power.
You see, when we say that God is "all powerful", we don't mean that He can do absolutely everything - including absurd and self-contradictory things. We mean that God is the most powerful Being of all; none can be more powerful than Him.
A hypothetical "rock that God cannot lift" would be more powerful than God in at least one respect, namely inertia, the ability to resist movement. Since God is the most powerful Being of all, no creature could be more powerful than Him in any area. So no rock could ever be resistant to God's power to move it.
This does not diminish God's omnipotence, rather it confirms it. God is the most powerful Being of all, thus nothing can be more powerful than Him. If He could create anything more powerful than Himself, He would not be the most powerful Being of all. But because He is the highest Power, He cannot create a rock which he cannot lift.
The same thing goes for all similar questions: "If God is all powerful, can He create a being equal to Himself...zap Himself out of existence...do evil?" etc. ect.. As St. Augustine wrote: "Neither do we lessen (God's) power when we say He cannot die or be deceived. This is the kind of inability which, if removed, would make God less powerful than He is....It is precisely because He is omnipotent that for Him some things are impossible."1
Recently, someone posted an insight into this on my guestbook. I liked what he said, so I had a small email exchange with him, and received his permission to post it on this site.Great page, very resourceful. a comment on the answer to "can God create a rock He cannot lift" in the theological questions section in the apologetic section: your answer on a creature, the rock, cannot be more powerful than God as to resist God. Here is my humble opinion as to what can be added to the answer: the question is not properly asked, it can't be answered. First, where do we find God's physical hands to lift the rock.
Here is what he said:
Second, God Who is omnipresent, is not confined to a certain place, and thus is not influenced by gravitational force. also, I don't think God is simply the most powerful, He is all-powerful. To say that He is simply the most powerful, is to put Him only on top of the hierarchy. But He is not only the most powerful and the top of the hierarchy, but He is transcendent from the hierarchy. He is the perfection of power, and I don't know if this is theologically right: that God IS Power, He is the criterion of powerfulness, He is perfection of power. He is all powerful, that He can cause everything that is possible.
Another answer to the question "can God create a rock He cannot lift?" is that since the scenerio is impossible, then such creation cannot be done. I think an abstraction of our minds does not mean it is possible. haha, you don't know how much impact this question probably had on me a few years ago, in a way it was probably one of the questions that motivates me to study theology and religion from a philosophy and rational point of view
My response was as follows:Thank you for the insightful comments. If you agree, I could quote you on my page as an additional answer and give you credit.
Yes; I agree that the question is not properly asked. Most skeptical arguments aren't. The fact is, Christianity has never taught that God can do absolutely everything we can imagine! Great Christian thinkers such as Sts. Augustine and Aquinas commented centuries ago on how God cannot do evil, nor cease to exist, nor do other things which are contrary to His nature, and how this does not violate His omnipotence. Skeptics just choose to ignore what they said and act as though they have "discovered" the ultimate inconsistency in Christian theology! As if no one ever thought of it before!
Perhaps "omnipotence" means that God can do everything in regards to His creation which does not violate His own Nature. In other words, He can cause a virgin to conceive, split the Red Sea, raise someone from the dead, etc., because these things relate to creation and do not go against His Nature. But He cannot commit moral evil, create a rock He cannot move, or create a being equal to Himself because such things violate His Goodness, Omnipotence and Infinity, which are His very Nature. He also cannot cause Himself to cease to exist because He is Existence Itself!
BTW, you are also theologically correct in saying that God is Power. God IS every one of His attributes: Goodness, Love, Mercy, Power, Wisdom, Immensity, Eternity, Existence, Omniscience, etc.
Do you think this is a good definition of omnipotence: "God can do anything regarding His creatures as long as it does not violate Who He is."?
Hmm, maybe I could turn that one question into a "Dialogue" article, including your comments and mine in this letter. How does that sound?
One more question: Have you ever heard the version of the question which goes "Can God create a square circle"? What is your take on that?
Thank you and God bless you.
He then responded:I think the definition "God's ability to do all things regarding His creations without violating Who He is" is a good way to define God's omnipotence in my opinion. In addition to that, if an abstraction suggests a situation where God's perfection is violated or lessened, such as the "can God create a rock that He cannot lift" situation, such abstraction is not possible in reality.
You may quote me in your page but please do not reveal my name, for I prefer not to take any credit. You may also turn the answers to the question in dialogue form if you prefer.
My thoughts on "can God made a square circle" is this: this is any abstraction that is not realistic. A nature is not its name: if a thing that has a certain nature and its nature changes to another nature, say, a black coal turns red when burning in the fire, blackness and redness themselves are not changing, but the coal which has blackness no longer has blackness but has redness. This does not limit God's omnipotence, but only show how God has designed His creations, that God has created certain thing changeable, and something unchangeable. It's more of how creation works, not how God is limited. It shows the limition of the creatures, not of God.
I must admit that I cannot quite answer this question due to my limitation. One question that I wish to ask: is it theologically right to say that redness, blackness, whiteness are concepts in God's Mind? I can only say that these forms are unchangeable, but I can't answer why and why they will not violate Who God is. Perhaps, an idea that can lead to an answer is that redness and blackness and whiteness do not actually exists, except their "existence" in matters. since these natures are not actual existence, but are more like "meanings", they won't experience change. it's like saying, can God change the meaning of nothingness?
Perhaps this sounds like I am trying to back out of the questions, but I think it might be true: that we can't talk about God Who is infinite with finite thoughts and finite logic. If I have a better answer I will e-mail that answer to you.
Thanks for the insights and helps and answers you have given me.
may God bless you
His answers are excellent. Let me just add a few closing thoughts:
A "square circle" is a contradiction in terms. It cannot exist; our minds cannot even conceive of what such a "shape" would be like. So it is quite possible that God cannot create such a thing, at least not in our plane of existence.
But perhaps the all-powerful Creator could make another dimension in which a square could be a circle and visa versa. As a sphere cannot exist in the second dimension, but can in the third, perhaps God could make a higher dimension in which a "square circle" is possible.
For God is, after all, the Creator of squares, circles, and of geometry as a whole. He has brought it into existence, and could possibly cause it to cease to exist, if He so willed. That is what it means to be "all powerful"! So there is no sense in trying to turn His creatures (the circle and square) against him, using their exclusivity to "prove" His alleged non-existence. The only reason why they are mutually exclusive is because He made them that way!
And He could unmake and remake the universe at will, if he so desires.