One of the many objections to the existence of the God of Christianity that skeptics often raise is, "Can God create a rock so heavy that He could not lift it?" Generally, the Christian who is asked this question responds with a quick "no," to which the skeptic objects, "If God cannot create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it, then is he logically not omnipotent?" Often leaving the one who is asked the question without a valid answer, the skeptic appears to have shown that such a God could not exist, and is essentially satisfied in his or her own mind. Similar objections involve whether or not God can lie, or whether or not God can sin - both arguments used to allegedly demonstrate that God cannot exist. But is the question itself a valid question, or a misunderstanding of the divine attributes of God? (Photo credit: Garden Classics)
The first question assumes the premise that God is bound by His creation, by gravity. However, this premise is fallacious from the start. God is the Creator of "the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1), having create the Natural Laws by which the universe holds together - chemical laws, physical laws, mathematical laws, the like. God also created gravity and linear time by which those who live in this universe are bound. However, as Creator, God is outside of linear time, gravity, and the natural laws. Only an infinite God could create a finite universe - He could not create something more infinite than Himself, because there cannot be two infinites. This can be likened unto saying that Plato can be found on a certain page of his works. The question is illogical, because the creator is not bound by his creation. Consider also a man who creates a computer program: he is not bound by the limits of his program, but nevertheless he created - and maintains - his program.
But does this mean that it could not be the God of the Bible, since Genesis 18:14 says, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Judges 1:19 reveals, "The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron." It is often claimed that this verse conveys that God could not stop the iron chariots. But the text does not convey this, it states that the people could not. A few verses later, it is explained that it is not that the Israelites "could not," but that they "did not" based on choice. We then consider Matthew 13:58 (paralleled to Mark 6:5), which says, "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." When Matthew says that Jesus did not do many miracles there, we must note two things: 1) Jesus performed at least a few miracles in Nazareth, 2) it was not for lack of ability on God's part, but because of the "lack of faith" of the people living there. This is evident in several other passages of the Gospels as well.
But could God create a rock so heavy he could not lift? Aside from the fallacy of assuming that God is bound by gravity, and indeed He is not bound by His creation, we must elaborate that the very question is based upon a false understanding of words such as "almighty" and "omnipotent." These terms do not mean that God can do anything. God cannot do what is contrary to His nature, or contrary to logic. Power is the ability to effect change, to make something happen. God, who in very nature has unlimited power, (Job 11:7-11, 37:23; 2nd Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 4:8), can do whatever is possible to be done. However, God cannot do that which is actually impossible. This is because true impossibility is not based on the amount of power someone has, but it is based on what is truly possible. The truly impossible is not made possible by adding more power, it still remains impossible. Impossibility means the same thing whether or not God is involved, unless the context notes otherwise.
Concerning Almighty, in Hebrew the phrase is shadday, meaning almighty, most powerful (BLB Lexicon). The Hebrew for powerful is 'astam, meaning to be vast, be numerous, be mighty. Evidently then, God can do things which are possible - parting the Red Sea, raising Himself from the dead, healing parts of His creation, walking on water, calming a storm, the like. But God cannot do what is actually impossible, as God cannot contradict Himself. This is not evidence against God, on the contrary, we ought to be glad God cannot do certain things - He cannot lie or deny Himself (Hebrews 6:18; 2nd Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). This is because of the nature of reality and the nature of God. God cannot created a two-sided triangle, a square circle, a married bachelor, nor could A = non-A, any more than 2+2=5. For God to create a rock so heavy even He could not lift is illogical itself - the rock would have to be infinitely large to defeat an infinite amount of lifting ability. Only God is infinite.
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God is holy (Isaiah 6:3; 1st Peter 1:16), and therefore He cannot sin. James 1:13 also reveals that "God cannot by tempted by evil." Simply because nothing is too hard for the Lord does not mean He will do it. While in earth, God had the capability to sin, but He did not sin - He never gave into temptation, nor did He lie. If God cannot sin, is He truly omnipotent? God's divine attributes include: eternal (Psalm 90:2); immutability, or unchanging quality (James 1:17); love (1 John 4:8); omnipotent, or all powerful, the Almighty One (Revelation 1:8); omnipresent, (being everywhere present at all times, Psalm 139:7-11); holy - absolute purity and separation from evil (Habakkuk 1:13); righteous, just (Psalm 11:7); and truth (Titus 1:2).
While God can do anything He wishes to do, God will not act or do things in such a way that are contrary to His will. To create rock that is so heavy that even He could not lift it is, at the core, dealing with this issue: God denying Himself. God would not deny Himself. A common objection about God incarnate deals with walking on water. Often the objection is raised, "If God will not do what is impossible, then how could He break the laws of nature, against science, and walk on water?" Some have tried to come up with a naturalistic explanation, yet none have truly succeeded. How then do we deal with this apparent paradox? If God will not do the truly impossible, how could He walk on water? The answer is rather simple, actually. As humans, we do not walk on water because it is not humanly possible. But God is not human, nor is He bound by the limits of His creation. God has mastery over His creation, and is not bound by the natural laws. It is true that Peter briefly walked on water to go out and meet Jesus, but we must remember that this was through faith - supernatural circumstance.
It is not natural for a man to walk on water, but it is supernatural. Likewise, a man cannot merely call to the skies during a storm, "be calm," and it would be calm. However, while on earth, Jesus calmed a storm, because He has control over His creation. It is possible for God to do such things, and God is not equal or surpassed by anything. It is possible for God to allow us to walk on water, to calm seas, to cross on dry land where mere hours before a river was, to raise the dead, or multiply food, but simply because is possible for God does not mean He is obligated to do so. For this reason, it is beneficial to be familiar with God's Word, so that we may better understanding His will, His plan for mankind, our eternal destinies, and our current purpose on this earth, as well as a better understanding of the nature of God.
God's power is evident from the very beginning. As mankind, we require materials, tools, programs, chemicals, to create things. We require pre-existing material, we cannot actually create something out of nothing. However, God spoke, "Let there be..." and it came into existence. By the mere Word of God, things came into existence. How much greater is He than us! Just as it is described in Psalm 33:6, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth." God is the preserver of the earth (Psalm 36:6), and just as Job 38:8-11 conveys, "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said,'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?" God had set a limit for the oceans, which would overwhelm us if He had not.
Colossians 1:17 and Hebrew 1:3 that Jesus, who is God, holds all things together. Physicists cannot understand what binds the atom's nucleus together, but as with everything else in Creation, God holds it together. If God was not actively involved in His creation, we would not be able to hold the universe together. It is because of this that we understand there is no reason for God to create something infinite, because He is infinite. Since God is infinite, logic cannot reveal how an infinite producing an infinite somehow greater than itself is possible. It is illogical, to postulate that something can be greater than infinity. God, who is outside of time, space, and the natural laws, and therefore not bound by them, logically would not create something greater than Himself, because it would go against His very nature.
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