Can God create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?
m (Can God make a rock so heavy He can't lift it moved to Can God create a rock so large that he can't lift it?: I like this phrasing slightly better.)
m (Can God create a rock so large that he can't lift it? moved to Can God create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?: No, "heavy" was better...)
Revision as of 14:38, 1 August 2006
This is a rather silly conundrum designed to show that "omnipotent" is actually a meaningless term.
Omnipotent means "all-powerful". If God can do everything, then He should be able to create such a rock. But once the rock is created, He should also be able to lift it, which contradicts the first claim.
This is reminiscent of a story about a medieval arms salesman who boasted that his sword was so sharp that it could penetrate any armor, and his shield was so tough that it could withstand any attack. A member of the crowd called out, "What happens when you strike your sword against your own shield?" The salesman was stumped.
The answer is that the salesman was lying about one of his products. Or to put it another way, a perfect sword and a perfect shield cannot exist simultaneously. If there exists any sword that can penetrate all shields, then by definition there does not exist any shield that can withstand all attacks.
Similarly, there cannot exist a rock that cannot be lifted in a universe that also contains a God who can lift anything. Yet this proves that there is something that God cannot create.
How do we get out of the paradox? An atheist would answer that the very idea of being "all-powerful" is meaningless and not worthy of consideration in the real world. However, apologists often respond that "all-powerful" means "God can do everything... that is logically possible."
While this is a plausible way out of the paradox, it may also be seen as the first step down a slippery slope: if God cannot make a square circle because the definition is nonsensical, then neither can he make an electron with both well-defined position and well-defined momentum, because such a thing is self-contradictory in exactly the same way. How many logical restrictions can we put on God's powers before he ceases to be omnipotent?