Time and time again, throughout philosophy
, people challenge the omnipotence of the Christian God
. Being such a public figure
, I am certain that He gets this a lot.
The standard argument against the omnipotence of God runs as follows:
- If God is omnipotent, the He can do anything
- Therefore, God can create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it.
- But if He cannot life it, then He is not omnipotent.
- Likewise, if He cannot create such a rock, he is not omnipotent.
- Therefore, God cannot be omnipotent
This paradox of omnipotence
seems unsolvable. The main problem with this argument is the vagueness of the first premise - the definition
The second premise of the argument is the main problem. It asks us to pit God's omnipotence to create rocks against His ability to lift those rocks. For any rock that can be created it can be lifted. The existence of a rock too heavy for an omnipotent being to lift is a logical impossibility.
Some object that the nature of Omnipotence allows one to create logical impossibility. If He cannot, then He is not omnipotent. Consider the following argument:
- If God is omnipotent, then God can create a square circle
- God cannot create a square circle (according to theists)
- Therefore, God is not omnipotent
Of course, premise (a) can be any logical paradox from round triangles to impossible rocks. This argument has the form:
p -> q
This is a valid argument known as modus tollens, hence, we must turn to the soundness of the premises to see if the argument fails. Premise (b) is fair, and it is the one that is agreed upon. Premise (a) must therefore to be examined. Premise (a) can be broken into the following:
- God is omnipotent (according to theists)
- Thus god can create or do anything
- A square circle is a thing
- Thus God can create a square circle
Please note that draws a conclusion
from the premises of theism
If theists do not accept these premises, then the reduction ad absurdum
of theism fails. The only objection to this is that theists have
weakened the concept of omnipotence.
First off, theists overwhelming agree with (I). The problems begin with
(II). What is omnipotence? The ability to create or do anything?
Contrary to Webster, when a theist asserts that God is omnipotent, they
God is a maximally powerful being
This means that God is the most powerful being that can exist - He can
do anything that can be done.
What about premise (III)? Can God create a square circle? A circle
is a "plane curve at all points equidistant from a fixed point", while
a square is "a rectangle having for equal sides". Let us now
look at this again.
God can create a square circle.
A maximally powerful being can create a four equal sided curve at all
points equidistant from a fixed point
It is obvious to all that such a thing cannot exist
. If such a thing
cannot exist, then it cannot be created.
God cannot create that which cannot be created
This is a contradiction of (IV) above and (1) from the original argument,
thus they are unsound and the argument fails. Clearly (III) is false -
it is not a thing, nor is it even a valid abstraction.
Returning to the nature of a maximally powerful being, this means that God can do anything that can be done. God can create things that exist now such as people, rocks, trees, stars, planets. God can create things which do not exist now, such as Martians - as long as their existence does not involve a contradiction.
Once again, returning to a previous topic, the maximally powerful nature might be seen as a weakened version of omnipotence. The question is on what grounds? Is being maximally powerful and having the ability to create logical impossibilities more powerful than just maximally powerful? This objection just returns back to the being that reasserts square circles which has been shown as unsound. No being that can create logical impossibilities simply because they cannot be created.
Does this limit omnipotence? If a being cannot create that which cannot exist, is He limited? This question is suspect, it does not assert anything that is not evident by logical analysis, nor does it assert anything about the nature of the being. It is trivially true. While it does not assert anything about the nature of God, it fails to show a contradiction from the theistic premises and is itself reducible to absurdity. Simply, a Being cannot be faulted for creating that which cannot exist, because that which cannot exist cannot be created. God does not lack any ability to create things that cannot exist, because there is no such ability.
To sum it up:
God is a maximally powerful being.
That which cannot exist, cannot be created
There is no contradiction
from these two assertions, neither has the omnipotence of God been demonstrated to be a paradox
, rather the arguments against omnipotence have been shown to rest on absurdity