Can God make a rock so heavy that He can’t move it?
No doubt you’ve heard this, and it raises certain paradoxes of omnipotence that are tough to consider, and perhaps frustrate you.
Let’s start with this: does God’s being all-powerful mean that God can act contrary to His own moral nature—are there moral impossibilities for God? Specifically, could God, for example, make another God (an idol, let’s say) and fall down and worship it (and yes, notice my bent on worship again, eschewing our Catholic leanings)?
It seems inconceivable that God could engage in so blasphemous an activity as worshiping some other God. Could God commit adultery? Again, that seems impossible because that would be contrary to the essence of God. He is essentially holy and morally perfect and therefore cannot sin. So omnipotence should not be taken to mean that God can act contrary to His own nature. He cannot act against His own essence, which includes things like moral perfection. That would not be encompassed within omnipotence.
But what about logical impossibilities? For example, people will often ask if God can make a stone to heavy for Him to lift. If He is all-powerful, shouldn’t God be able to make a stone that is so heavy that He is unable to lift it? If you say, “No, He can lift anything!” then that means there is something He can’t do – which is make such a stone. This is a logical impossibility.
Could God bring it about that Jesus both died on the cross and did not die on the cross? That again seems logically inconceivable – that is a logical contradiction. Can God make a round square or a married bachelor? Those sorts of logical impossibilities are typically exempted from omnipotence. Omnipotence doesn’t mean the ability to do things that are logically impossible.
Indeed, something that is logically impossible isn’t really a thing at all, when you think about it. It is not as though there is some “thing” that God can’t do. Those are just contradictory combinations of words, and there is no such thing as a round square or a stone too heavy for God to lift. This is not an infringement of his omnipotence, as it is typically understood. Instead, it’s actually just an unintelligible “gotcha” statement that makes no sense, as it’s self-contradictory.
These sorts of questions need to be approached logically, as what they really are is an attempt to assert that foundationally-based contradictions are a basis for truth.
With love, always