05 Apr 2009

Follow-Up to "Can God Make a Rock So Heavy…"

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Last week I tackled the old conundrum of, “Can God make a rock so heavy that He Himself can’t lift it?”

My answer was, “Yes, but He chooses not to.”

In light of the comments I received, I want to clarify two things:

(1) I somewhat flippantly concluded, “This question is no deeper than asking, ‘Can God kill Himself?'” I should have added that these questions are still very deep; my point though is that they’re not paradoxical.

(2) Several people couldn’t understand why I was devoting so much mental effort to the puzzle, since (in their mind) the answer was obvious: The omnipotence of God doesn’t require that He be able to do the nonsensical or the truly impossible. So for example, it is no argument for an atheist to say, “Can God make a heebie jeebie?” or “Can God make a square circle?” The believer doesn’t have to squirm and either answer yes or no; it is perfectly respectable for him to respond, “Those are silly and meaningless questions.”

But my point was, I think it is too glib to categorize “making a rock that God can’t lift” in the same way. We can logically imagine a rock so heavy God can’t lift it, if we concede that God would give up His power.

For Christians, there are a lot of questions like this, and the answer to at least some of them is clearly, “Yes,” and not, “That is a nonsense question because it relies on a logical impossibility.” To wit:

* Can God make people who can disobey Him?
* Can God make a planet that dissatisfies Him?
* Can God be killed by a few Italians?
* Can God make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?

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