Can god create a rock that is too big/heavy for god to pick up? Many first year philosophy students have encountered this question. It provides a great basis for which to deny the omnipotence of god. It also drives theists who persist in traditional Christian models of god absolutely ape shit.
First of all omnipotence:
The word is derived from Latin, Omni (all) Potens (power). To be omnipotent, then is to be all powerful. In the case of the Christian god omnipotence implies infinite being without limitations. If one has limitations then one could not be omnipotent. A being with limitations could not be truly all powerful, although appearing so.
So to the question posed above. Can god create a rock that is too big/heavy for god to pick up? This is pretty slick because regardless of your answer, yes or no, you end up concluding that god cannot be omnipotent. He may be more powerful than his creatures, but that doesn’t make him all powerful…just more powerful. This would also negate god’s supposed perfection and infallibility as he must be limited by the laws of physics and such.
If you answer yes, then god has exceeded his boundaries or limits. His creation therefore extends beyond his control. If the rock is too heavy then god must have limits. If you answer no, then god must not be omnipotent at all. He can only create within certain limits which he cannot extend past.
In the most basic sense an omnipotent being is logically impossible. But, now we must consider whether the question posed above is actually ad hoc, that is to say that the concept of omnipotence does not include being subject to exceeding it. Otherwise we have to consider that the question is required by the concept of omnipotence itself. The later being my general position.
So perhaps god is not absolutely omnipotent. Maybe he is simply accidently omnipotent?
Of course, this poses the question as to whether the being in question was really omnipotent in the first place. I would offer that the answer is still no, not omnipotent. The being is simply more powerful than humans. However, our species has certainly created objects too heavy for a single person (or even several people) to lift, at least without devices to provide needed leverage. Could we argue that humanity is therefore omnipotent, at least accidentally? Are we not gods, to pull a scriptural passage out of its context? Yet, I doubt anyone would argue for our omnipotence, unless you were a member of a cargo cult watching us descend from the skies in our giant gleaming silvery birds.
Is it, rather, as Isaac Asimov (an affirmed atheist) suggested more of an omnipotence due to being a so-called irresistible force? What happens when said force meets an immovable object? Kablooey? I once ran a car I was driving into a wall. I got injured and found that when I met an unmovable object it caused pain.
Augustine of Hippo suggests in his treatise, The City of God that deity is essentially omnipotent:
For He is called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills, not on account of His suffering what He wills not; for if that should befall Him, He would by no means be omnipotent. Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent
For once I find myself agreeing with C.S. Lewis who stated flatly that the so-called question of the omnipotence paradox is so much nonsense along the order of calling a circle a square.
It’s ultimately an unanswerable question regardless of what form your solution takes, essential, accidental or absolute and others. The solutions all have flaws that defy logic. A paradox, being a paradox, lays waste to logic’s attempt to reason around it.
The problem is that the contradictions presented by a paradox generally indicate a lack of knowledge or information. One of the best known is the disparity between Newtonian physics and quantum mechanics. The former working well in relation to large objects and planetary bodies and, the later, with small and minute items or quanta, but when looked at from a large overview gives the impression that the universe might be operating with two different sets of rules.
Logically it is reasonable to assume that this is not the case. Einstein spent the rest of his career looking for what is often called the unified field theory, hoping to unite the seemingly disparate systems. The search continues to this day. Unlike scientists, theologians use ad hoc reasoning to get past the issues created by the whole question of omnipotence.
Theological reasoning is ad hoc, in this insistence, because it excludes the question of exceeding said boundaries from the discussion of god’s omnipotence. In other words, god is omnipotent in relation to us and that is that.
God as presented in Christian theological models, including post modern attempts, is logically impossible of which the omnipotence argument is only one such positive denial. Another issue to be considered is that omnipotence actual contradicts omniscience. An omniscient being logically cannot be omnipotent. Said beings foreknowledge conflicting with its ability to willfully act in order to change outcomes, but that is another 870 words or so to be tackled in a future post.