The Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines "omnipotence" as "an agency of force of unlimited power." What does this mean precisely?
So-called skeptics haved played all kinds of games over this issue. One
common challenge against the existence of God is an argument like the following:
"Christians say that God is omnipotent. So answer me this: can God create a rock so heavy that even He can't lift it? If He can, then He is not omnipotent because He can't lift it. If He can't, then He isn't omnipotent because He is unable to create such a rock. Either way we have a paradox, therefore an omnipotent being (God) cannot exist!"
Look like a good argument? It isn't. The resolution to this false dilemma rests with the true nature of omnipotence. I will resolve this dilemma at the end of this paper.
Most people, if asked, would probably describe omnipotence something like the following: "it's the ability to do anything." That is the kind of definition that is assumed in the argument given above. However, it is not the precisely correct definition of omnipotence.
What is the precise definition? "The ability to do anything that is possible." In other words, God can't do anything that is impossible. Before anyone jumps down my throat for teaching a limited, less-than-Almighty God, allow me to offer a few examples:
1. God cannot lie. (Which Scripture itself affirms.)
2. God cannot do evil. (Evil is that which is opposed to the will of God; If God wills to do something, then obviously it cannot be evil.)
3. God cannot be mistaken. (This stems from omniscience, the twin attribute to omnipotence.)
Here are a few more concrete examples:
4. God cannot score twenty runs by hitting a Grand Slam.
5. God cannot create a make a perfect sphere with sharp corners.
5. God cannot make a square with sides of different lengths.
6. God cannot make an object that is 5 grams in color.
What's wrong here? Let's look at the last two examples. In each case, the sentences are basically OK from a grammatical perspective. They have nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions all properly arranged as a meaningful sentence should. However, grammatical accuracy is a necessary but not by itself a sufficient condition to convey real meaning. When the definitions of the words are considered, we discover that the sentences are in fact internally contradictory and nonsensical.
"Make a square with sides of different lengths." Squares do have sides, but it is inherent in the definition of a square that they always have sides of equal length. An object with sides of different length is not a square. The statement is meaningless gibberish when closely analyzed, even though the general grammar structure is fine.
"Make an object that is 5 grams in color." Objects do have the property of mass, and they do have the property of color. But each property is distinct. We do not speak of a weight of yellow, nor a color of 5 grams! Once again, the statement has no actual meaning.
C.S. Lewis once observed that many of the supposed great objections to the existence of God were in fact predicated on just these types of "nonsense questions." The problem was not the existence of God but the erroneous nature of the objection. Christians faced with such challenges need to learn how to analyze the challenge and expose the fallacious assumptions on which they so often rest, rather than taking the challenge for granted and then trying to humanistically rationalize an answer to it.
So what of the Rock so heavy that God cannot move it? Hopefully now you can see the answer for yourself. Finite mass is a property of all physical objects. Rocks are physical objects. Therefore, any rock will have a mass, but it will be a finite mass. There is simply no such thing as an item with the property of infinite mass. God can indeed pick up any object that He can possibly create, and the whole question is irrelevant (that is, nonsensical) for "objects" that are impossible to create.
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