Can God create a stone too heavy for Himself to lift? This question is an attack on the very nature of God. It attempts to demonstrate that a being with infinite power is a contradiction and so cannot really exist. If, for instance, we say that God can create a stone too heavy for Him to lift, then there is an act of which He cannot perform (Namely, lifting the stone that is too heavy for Him) and is therefore not all-powerful. On the other hand, if we say that God cannot create a stone too heavy for Him to lift, then there is an act of which He cannot perform (Creating the stone that is too heavy) and is therefore not all-powerful. We are left with a question to which no correct answer can be given. But is this really the case?
To understand the problem with this question, we must first have a proper definition of omnipotence (maximal power). Omnipotence, as it should be understood in Christian theology, is “the ability to do anything that is logically possible.” So to say that a being is omnipotent is to say that there is no logically possible thing this being cannot do.
When seen in this light, it becomes very apparent that the question is misleading. The task being presented before God in the objection is a logically impossible one. Made explicit, the question would read something like “Can a being that can do all things create something that he cannot do?” Presented this way, the absurdity of the question starts to emerge. This type of question would be similar to asking “can a bachelor ever become a married bachelor?” To be more clear, logical impossibilities are, in all actuality, not things at all, but just a contradictory sequence of words. (e.g. square circles, loud silence, etc.)
So the simple answer to this question is no, God cannot create a stone that is too heavy for Him to lift. The reason is that this would be a logically impossible task. As we have seen, the definition of omnipotence does not include the ability to do what is logically meaningless. On the other hand, if the skeptic wants to insist that the definition of omnipotence should include the ability to do logical impossibilities, then the question self-destructs.
If we define omnipotence as “the ability to do anything logically possible or logically impossible,” then God is able to create a stone too heavy for Him to lift, and then He can lift it. If the skeptic at this point says “aha that is impossible and contradictory,” then we just point to his own definition of omnipotence which affirms that God can do that which is contradictory. In either of these circumstances, it is clear that this objection is very superficial and mostly word-play rather than substance.
- Omnipotence is defined as “the ability to do that which is logically possible”.
- The task of God creating a stone too heavy for Him to lift is a logically impossible task.
- If we define omnipotence as the ability to do logical and illogical things, then God can create a stone too heavy for Himself to lift, and then he can lift it; all the while remaining omnipotent.