Tag: omnipotence

Can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it?

Can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it? The question stems from the common knowledge that God is supposed to be all-powerful. Now, exactly what is power? Is it within the functionality of power to create a rock so heavy one can’t lift it? It seems to be like the question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object: the answer is that neither an irresistible force nor an immovable object can exist (or at least only one of the two may exists); it’s only in man’s imagination that such absolutisms are construed to be consistent with nature. It’s the convenience of words: they can be used or abused, inflected and combined in any way you want them to, seemingly able to accomplish anything. 

But the question is really not about power, but ability. If god is all-able, why can’t he create the circumstances we call “having a rock so heavy He can’t lift it”? Rather than trying to chalk this up to a physics question—since any amount of weight would be immaterial to God anyway—let’s consider it in the general case of God creating, at time x, a limitation of Himself at time x+n. That is, He creates the rock at time x and then experiences the limitation of not being able to lift it afterwards at a later time x+n. That is an interesting question, for if God is infinitely free, then how could He limit Himself, or even predict Himself, at a future time? And to say nothing of the fact that God may not operate within a framework of linear time anyway, making it ambiguous whether He may have lifted the rock before or after the time at which he decreed that He couldn’t lift it. Or did He both lift it and fail to lift it both before and after the supposed time? 

This sounds like another operation in linguistics: we think that, if God has “unlimited ability,” then He must be able to fulfill the condition of any string of words whatsoever we can come up with that would seem to indicate a state of affairs. If God is infinitely free, or if God operates outside of linear time (notwithstanding the fact that an “operation,” at least as such, is a process and requires the passage of time by definition), then the idea of “creating a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it” seems to be against His nature.

So, the question then becomes, “can God defy God’s own nature?”, as a god that cannot lift a given rock on some specific occasion is, apparently, not all-powerful. Or perhaps more accurately, since this is purely analytical, it’s “can God behave in a way that belies His own nature/definition?” So here we see that what the question hypothesizes is a logical paradox and is equivalent to the question of whether God could create a square circle—although that still leaves open the question of whether the fact that God can’t, for example, create a square circle makes Him not all-powerful. I don’t think it does because, if God is all-powerful, presumably omnipotence is a real thing. A square circle, on the other hand, is merely an absurdity concocted by linguistical combinatorics. (Yes, you could say that the thing in question is whether God’s omni-power is a real thing, but since for the sake of argument we don’t know whether it’s a real thing, and do we know that a square circle isn’t a real possibility, the square circle case therefore does not impinge on the case of omnipotence, at least if you accept my premise that the use of language can be a weaselly son of a bitch.)

That being said, in the many dimensions in which God does His godding, there may exist one very real sense in which He has created a rock He can’t lift—that is, real in the sense that we personally, physically experience it on a daily basis. Imagine that God makes a rock He can’t lift by continually deciding that He can’t lift it, until He decides that He can lift it again! And furthermore, maybe He could decide to make a rock that He can’t decide to be able to lift, until He decides that He can decide that again! Or He could decide to make a rock that He can’t lift until He decides that He can decide that He’s able to decide to lift it again. And so and and so forth. It’s easy to imagine that if He creates enough levels of this He could get lost in it and forget that He has the power! Maybe He could create an experience where He forgets His true self altogether! At least temporarily. Could we possibly call that experience…being a human being?  Indeed, if God is omni-present, then we must, for there can be no part of a human that is ever anything but God.