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Is the omnipotence paradox a good argument against God?

omnipotence paradox
Answer


An “omnipotence paradox” is an argument that the idea of an all-powerful being is self-contradictory and, therefore, impossible. To make this claim, however, a person needs to define omnipotence in ways contrary to Scripture. These paradoxes may prove that some conceptions of God are irrational; however, they do not prove that the God described in the Bible is impossible. The most famous example of an “omnipotence paradox” is this:

Can God create a stone so heavy He couldn’t lift it? If He can’t, then He is not omnipotent. If He can create it, then He is still not omnipotent, because He can’t lift it.

Using this reasoning, some conclude God cannot be omnipotent, while others argue that omnipotence itself can’t exist.

Several forms of the omnipotence paradox exist. This form of attack on God’s nature has been around for centuries; Thomas Aquinas argued the counterpoint in the early 13th century. Some version of this paradox can be found in historical records at least to the sixth century AD. Each time a variant is countered, attempts are made to strengthen the argument. Yet none have been able to take hold, even in some of the most prestigious philosophical circles. Eventually, all such arguments fall apart under scrutiny.

The problem with the omnipotence argument is that it reveals an error in forming a logical statement. Nothing meaningful is produced. Simply put, creating an omnipotence paradox means writing nonsense. It asks whether a force can overcome itself—to validate the criticism, we’d have to assume that equal forces are not equal. If God can create something, He can control it. That’s not a “limitation” of power; it’s an expression of it. Saying, “God cannot be more powerful than God, so He is not powerful” is absurd.

Further, these paradoxes rely on limited understanding of things like weight, gravity, and even objects. All of these would be under the control of any omnipotent being. If a being is truly omnipotent, he could modify gravitational force, time, and distance. There is no concept of “too heavy” from God’s perspective. Philosophers have strived to tweak the definition of omnipotence throughout history to address this flaw in the logic. The developers of these paradoxes struggle to truly comprehend an absolutely omnipotent being, and as a result they misrepresent what omnipotence is.

The question that needs to be asked is not “Can He?” but rather “Would He?” Would God create a situation where He had to change the foundational scientific principles as we, His creation, know and understand them? Would He change the strength of gravity or the relationship between potential and kinetic energy? Scientists and engineers are virtually unanimous that the balance of these kinds of physical relationships are finely tuned in such a way as to support our existence in this universe. In other words, this universe was created in such a way as to allow for life as we know it to exist. God wanted it this way for a reason. Things exist as they do because God wills it. The laws and rules of physics, mathematics, logic, etc., were designed so we would exist and He would be revealed to us through them. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Another common attempt at an omnipotence paradox is to ask if God can make a “square circle.” There, again, the problem is not power, but logic. Square and circle have different definitions. A “square circle” is not impossible; it’s nonsensical. In the most technical sense, we don’t need to answer that question at all, since it’s nonsensible.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God” (The Problem of Pain, Zondervan, 2001, p. 18). Omnipotence paradoxes that do not address the true creative power and deliberate will of God are just two mutually exclusive alternatives strung together to form nonsense. God’s omnipotence is not self-refuting.

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Is the omnipotence paradox a good argument against God?
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This page last updated: October 11, 2022