The Rock of All Ages

 

 

by “jjmarkka”


Can God create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?"

This certainly isn't one of the brightest questions. However, many people think it proves that absolute omnipotence is not a logically sound concept. The question seems to vex Christians, and I have heard it is a hindrance of faith to some people. They announce they can't "abandon their reason".

(Now, if there exists a person to whom this question is a true intellectual problem, he probably hasn't started using his reason. )

Nonetheless, the problem can be formalized as follows:

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- If God can create a rock so big that he cannot lift it, he is not all-powerful. An all-powerful (almighty, omnipotent) being can lift any rock, no matter how big it is.

- If God can't create such a rock, he is not all-powerful. An all-powerful (almighty, omnipotent) being can create as big a rock as he wants.

Be it this or that, God can't be all-powerful.
***

However, the problem is not with God nor with omnipotence, but inside the question. It includes a contradictory definition. You see, the object under discussion -- the rock -- has been defined as an object that an all-powerful being cannot lift. And this creates a problem.

-An all-powerful being can lift anything.
-The posed question is about object A.
-Object A is a rock that an all-powerful being cannot lift.
-Therefore, object A is a rock that cannot be lifted by a being that can lift anything.

The definition of object A is nonsensical; it is self-contradicting. Such a rock does not exist. That's not enough: such a rock couldn't exist, even in theory.

A square that has no corners doesn't exist, either. But just as the rock in question, it is impossible that it even could exist -- because squares, by definition, always have four corners. Talking about an image that simultaneously has four corners and no corners at all is pointless. The words don't mean anything.

The case with the rock is identical. The question in no way questions the existence of an all-powerful being; au contraire, it really asks nothing at all. The rock is algebraically a member of two such sets the intersection of which is an empty set:

If the rock is a part of reality, it belongs to the set "all bodies", and every element in that set can be lifted by an all-powerful being, by definition. On the other hand, the rock belongs to the set "bodies that an all-powerful being cannot lift" (a set that is, in addition, self-contradictory *grin*). The intersection of these two sets is empty, for there is no body that simultaneously can and cannot be lifted. Because the intersection is empty, the rock cannot exist even in theory.

Thus, the answer is: "No, he can't. The rock mentioned in the question means nothing."

"If God is all-powerful, he should be able to create such a rock!"


At times, you really get to hear an objection like this.

The rock in question is a nonsensical, illogical and inherently self-contradictory body. The objector not only believes in the existence of nonsensical, illogical and inherently self-contradictory bodies; he also requires that God is able to create such a body, so that he could believe in God's omnipotence.

This is remarkable, because usually the table is turned: Christians are blamed for believing in "nonsensical", "illogical" and "inherently self-contradictory" things. :)

No. If people want to talk about God and his properties in a meaningful way, the language must follow the rules of human language. It isn't necessary for God to be able to perform nonsensical fiats which have been defined in meaningless sentences with self-contradictory terms.

"Can an all-powerful and all-knowing being invent a problem so difficult that he doesn't know the solution?"

This effort fares no better. We're still talking about triangular circles.

This is pitting God's omnipotence and omniscience against each other, but omniscience can be seen as just a special case of omnipotence. Being all-knowing is exersicing one's omnipotence over knowledge; an all-powerful being can already solve every problem.

And the problem mentioned in the question is self-contradictory. It is a problem that cannot be solved by a being that can solve each and every problem. Such a problem doesn't exist. It even cannot exist.

God doesn't "lack" anything, if he cannot make such a problem exist. Why not? Because the sentence still means nothing. It is a contradiction of terms, just like having Gyro Gearloose invent a bulb that emits "dark light".

No being can create -- be he all-powerful or not -- a clear-sighted person who is stone-blind, silent noise, squares without corners or problems an all-powerful being cannot solve. Not the being nor his omnipotence is deficient; the tasks are contradictions of terms.

If this question has been an intellectual barrier to you, it is time to trash it and get to know The Almighty. He is looking for you to make of your life something very special.