Question & Response – The Paradox of Omnipotence


So about a week ago I opened my big mouth and made a bold pronouncement about what I believe to be a delution in the way in which Atheists approach the world.  You can read it here – “Atheist Delutions” 

Well as you can imagine it garnered quite a response, in fact it was the second most read post I’ve written all year.  Out of that post I received one very thoughtful response from a reader with the screen name “Allalt” in which he posed several philosophical questions to the existence of God.  I can’t take the time to answer them all here but it did give me an idea.  I often get questions and comments that are too big to fully explore in the comment section so I’ve decided to add a new semi-regular feature that I’m calling Question & Response – Q&R for short.  Once a week or so I’ll tackle one of the big questions I get with a dedicated post of its own. 

I can’t take credit for this idea though.  Brian D. McLaren, author of such influential (and controversial) books as “A New Kind of Christianity”, “A Generous Orthodoxy” and “Adventures in Missing the Point” does a similar thing on his blog, http://www.brianmclaren.net/.  He explains that its call Question & Response because to call it Question & Answer assumes he’s always right and leads to the assumption that he’s trying end the conversation.  That’s not the point, the point is to further explain a point of view and keep the conversations going. 

So without further preamble, he’s Allalt’s first question, at some point in the future I’ll try to get the rest but for now he’ll just have to be content with one response.

“Can God Create a boulder so heavy even he can’t lift it?” 

The short answer is YES. 

But in order to understand the short answer I have to give a long one.  I (and most Christians) subscribe to the doctrine of The Trinity in which God exists simultaneously in three “persons”;  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

I’ll explain them in reverse. 

The Holy Spirit is just what it sounds like.  As a spirit being God has no physical form and so the question of whether or not He can create a boulder He can’t life is irrelevant.  Without physical form He couldn’t lift a pebble let alone a rock or a boulder.  The Holy Spirit works within the hearts and minds of people.  If the Holy Spirit moves one of his followers to go out and lift a boulder he will also provide the “strength” and tools to do so – things like bulldozers, cranes and dynamite would probably be helpful in this situation but at the end of the day, God is not physically doing any of the lifting so the question is irrelevant.

The Son is the historical person of Jesus Christ.  Now some Christians reading this may take issue with my assertion that Jesus was a historical person and is not “living” today, others may take issue with my assertion that Jesus was indeed God.  My view on all of that is a discussion for another time but the point is that as a physical person Jesus was limited to the normal size and strength of an average man.  So again, yes, he could create a boulder so large he couldn’t lift it.

When discussing the nature of what we call the Father we need to get a bit more metaphysical.  I believe that God the Father exists outside of time and space as we know it.  Therefore limitations to his physical form, whether human or spirit are not the kinds of things that even need to be considered.  Existing outside of physical reality means that any intervention within physicality is at once both bound by the laws of nature and can occur super-naturally.  The question of whether or not he could move a massive boulder would depend on which form he chose to take when he entered the physical world, if he enters as a man, like Jesus he would be limited to the logical limitations of a man, as discussed above but if He enters as an earthquake, a rushing wind or a fire as he did when he appeared to Moses and the profit Ezekiel that’s a different story.  God is not limited by physical reality in any way, until he chooses to enter our physical world and then only limited to the extent that his chosen physical form is limited.  So the answer here is again yes, but he could just change his physical form into something else that could, i.e. the flow of this river is taking too long, time for an earthquake.

I don’t expect I’ve really changed Allalt’s mind or given a definitive answer to the question but that’s the best I’ve got.

Cheers!

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