“Can God create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?”
Many of you have probably heard this question and others like it before. It’s directed towards God’s omnipotence, which basically means He is all-powerful. What is its aim? Its purpose is to show that the concept of omnipotence is incoherent or illogical. If your answer to the question is “no”, then there is something God can’t do. If your answer is “yes”, then there is something God can’t do. Either way, God cannot do something, so it would seem He is not omnipotent, nor is omnipotence possible. In other words, it is absurd. For those of us who think God is omnipotent, this poses a problem. The Bible is quite clear that God can do anything (Gen. 18:14, Mk. 10:27). So is this a powerful refutation? What does the Bible mean when it says God is omnipotent? What does omnipotence really mean?
First, the question is nonsensical, because it basically pits the power of God against the power of God. It is like asking who would win an arm wrestling match against a man and himself. This is simply nonsense. God isn’t two, He’s one.
Second, when arguing against omnipotence, we first need to know what it means. Some take omnipotence to mean that God can do absolutely anything without qualification. Can He create a square-circle? Can He create a married bachelor (assuming bachelor designates an unmarried person)? Can He make things both true and untrue at the same time? The answer is no. They are logically absurd. Instead, omnipotence means there is no limit to the logically possible things that God can do. The question in the beginning describes a logically impossible state of affairs, so we should have no problem saying that God cannot create a rock so heavy He can’t lift it. For those of you who are uncomfortable with God having limits, I wouldn’t even call them limits. These logically impossible objects or states of affairs are simply meaningless nonsense, and the God we worship is neither meaningless nor nonsensical. It’s no limit on God’s power if the absurd can’t be done.
Some of you may still be uncomfortable with this. Does this mean that God is bound by the laws of logic? Is He subservient to them? Not at all. Instead, God Himself is logical, just as He Himself is good. God is always consistent with His character, which is why He cannot lie (Heb. 6:18) or deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). So He is always logically consistent because it is essential to His character. This gives us great confidence in His promises, because He never means the opposite of what He says. When God makes promises to us, they are always true promises that He will bring about. This gives us great confidence in the God who gives us the promises, because we can always trust Him to behave in a wholly good and just way. While human beings are like walking contradictions, doing both good things and evil things, God is always good, always just, and always holy, without exception.