Home > Theism > Can God Make a Rock So Big He Can’t Move It?

Can God Make a Rock So Big He Can’t Move It?

A rock so big that even God can't lift it?

Apparently back in the olden days you had to get naked before you could move giant rocks around.

Do you have a good answer to the question?

If you answer yes, then God cannot be omnipotent because he cannot move his own rock.  If you answer no, then God cannot be omnipotent because there’s something he can’t make.  Either way, it seems, God cannot be omnipotent.

There are several ways around the paradox.

My friend and mentor, Michael Fisher, answers conclusively no, because God’s not dumb.  Why would he want to make a rock so big he couldn’t move it?

My friend, Rico Ignace, who has his Ph.D. in astronomy, asks: under what conditions? Once an object reaches a certain mass, the laws of physics cause it to implode upon itself.

The standard philosophical answer is that omnipotence doesn’t mean the ability to do anything, only anything which is logically possible.  God cannot make 1 + 1 = 3; he cannot draw a picture of a square that is also a circle (in the same sense that it is a square); and he cannot make a rock so big he can’t move it.  A logical impossibility is not a true limit on God.

Perhaps you’re not convinced.  Let’s say God is unable to make a rock so big he can’t move it, and I concede that this does in fact make him somehow less than omnipotent.  Even still, this question must be answered: in what practical sense does this differ from actual omnipotence?  The only thing God can’t do is become less powerful.

But let’s move past the verbal games.  I’m convinced that omnipotence is not the right place to start in our thinking about God.  A better place to start is his character: merciful, compassionate, just, forgiving (Exodus 34.6-7).  Besides, the Bible explicitly says God cannot do some things: he cannot lie (Hebrews 6.18), he cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2.13), etc.

Christians have always believed that God is most fully revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, in his death and resurrection. We believe that, paradoxically, God’s power is best seen in his subjection to humility.

The Bible doesn’t answer all our questions.  But if you give it a chance, you’ll find that the Christian worldview offers challenging responses to nearly any intellectual attack you care to bring against it.

Can God make a rock so big he can’t move it?  If you are only asking in order to get out of having to take the God question seriously, allow me to suggest that God’s desire is to move you closer to himself.  But he will not overpower you to do it.  Perhaps you are the rock that God cannot move.

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Categories: Theism
  1. November 17, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Good post.

    There is no wrong place to start contemplating the being of God, provided you don’t stop somewhere short of His mercy and grace.

    • November 17, 2009 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks J.K. Perhaps what I mean is that it’s not as helpful to start with God’s omnipotence as it is with other aspects of his character. You can easily end up with the god of the philosophers instead of the God of the Bible.

  2. A,K.
    November 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    I once said to my Uncle (a confirmed Atheist) that there is nothing God cannot do except look directly upon sin as it is repugnant to him. Now, how biblically based that is, I couldn’t say as I’m only a layman and haven’t studied to the point in which you have. Couldn’t even tell you where you could find reference to it in scripture.

    My Uncle said that God’s limitation was his flaw. I was very young and didn’t know what to say. Nowadays, I would tell him that Christ is the way God looks at sin. That He is the bridge. But I would like to know how you would answer.

    • September 29, 2012 at 1:07 am

      Sorry for the delay of several years in responding. I took a hiatus from blogging for a few years. I’m not sure that my response will be relevant any more, but for the sake of anyone else who may read the comments, here is my response:

      I think it’s interesting that your uncle is essentially rejecting a god of his own making. He is not interested in looking at the biblical God to see if, perhaps, a radically different view of God is more internally consistent (and compelling). It seems to me however that God can and does look directly on sin – He must in order to punish it. I understand that you said this in the midst of the conversation, and you would say things differently today. The fact that sin is repugnant to God must be seen as a virtue, not a flaw. We should expect that if God is real that He will not merely turn a blind eye to the atrocities that happen on a daily basis on our planet. I would think that you and your uncle would agree on that.

      Ultimately, I think you will see more results if you spend your time talking to God about your uncle before talking to your uncle about God.

  3. carl sweatman
    November 18, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Another possibility would be to consider the nature of the question itself. It’s intentionally loaded. It would be similar to asking a husband who is greatly respected in a community, “Hey, do you still beat your wife?” Either way he answers, his respectability is immediately called into question (if not rejected). Same sort of thing with the question about God and the rock.

  4. graphicartist2k5
    December 28, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    if God couldn’t lift a rock He created that would NEVER be bigger than He is, then He wouldn’t BE who He is. it’s that simple. this really doesn’t require any deep, theological study to figure out.

  5. January 14, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Dear RT John,

    It is like asking that can God become a snake? If the answer is yes, Christians have believed lomg that God has become Christ Jesus – man! To a Moslem the question is absurd. Water can never become gold since each has it’ sown particular properties.

    Alahj.

  6. November 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    I have thought more about this question since I made this post. It seems to me that it may be possible that God (the Father) could make a rock so big that God (the Son) could not move it. Just thought I’d add that.

  7. July 18, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    This type of question is representative of the type of hand-me-down “paradoxes” (usually careless) people use in attempts to prove that God cannot exist. If He cannot make a rock like this, then He is not omnipotent. If He can make a rock so big He can’t pick it up, then He isn’t omnipotent either. Either way demonstrates that God cannot do something. Therefore God is not omnipotent. Therefore God does not exist.

    Is this logical? A little. However, the problem is that this bit of logic omits some crucial information, therefore, it’s conclusion is inaccurate.

    What the above “paradox” lacks is vital information concerning God’s nature. His omnipotence is not something independent of His nature. It is part of His nature. God has a nature and His attributes operate within that nature, as does anything and everything else.

    For example, I have human nature. I can run. But, I cannot outrun a lion. My nature simply does not permit it. My ability to run is connected to my nature and I cannot violate it. So too with God. His omnipotence is connected to His nature since being omnipotent is part of what He is. Omnipotence, then, must be consistent with what He is and not with what He is not since His omnipotence is not an entity to itself. Therefore, God can only do those things that are consistent with His nature. He cannot lie because it is against His nature to do so. Not being able to lie does not mean He is not God or that He is not all powerful. Also, He cannot cease to be God. Since He is in all places at all times, if He stopped existing then He wouldn’t be in all places at all time. Therefore, He cannot cease to exist without violating His own nature.

    The point is that God cannot do something that is a violation of His own existence and nature. Therefore, He cannot make a rock so big he can’t pick up, or make something bigger than Himself or ‘will’ Himself out of existence, etc. But, not being able to do this does not mean He is not God nor that He is not omnipotent. Omnipotence is not the ability to do anything conceivable, but the ability to do anything consistent with His nature and consistent with His desire within the realm of His unlimited and universal power which we do not possess. This does not mean He can violate His own nature. If He did something inconsistent with His nature, then He would be self contradictory. If God were self contradictory, He would not be true. Likewise, if He did something that violated his nature, like make a rock so big He can’t pick it up, He would also not be true since that would be a self contradiction. Since truth is not self contradictory, neither is God, if He were not true, then He would not be God. But God is true and not self contradictory, therefore, God cannot do something that violates His own nature.

    Another way to look at it is realize that in order for God to make something so big He couldn’t pick it up, He would have to make a rock bigger than Himself. Since He is infinite in size, He would have to make something that would be bigger than Himself. Since it is His nature to be the biggest thing in existence because He created all things, He cannot violate His own nature by making a rock that is larger than He.Also, since a rock -by definition- is not infinitely big, then it isn’t logically possible to make a rock, something that is finite in size, be infinite in size (no longer a rock) since only God is infinite in size. At dictionary.com, a rock is defined as a “Relatively hard, naturally formed mineral or petrified matter; stone. a) A relatively small piece or fragment of such material. b) A relatively large body of such material, as a cliff or peak. c) A naturally formed aggregate of mineral matter constituting a significant part of the earth’s crust.” A rock, by definition is not infinitely large. So, to say that the rock must be so big that God cannot pick it up is to say that the rock is no longer a rock.What the critics are asking is that God become self contradictory as a proof He doesn’t exist. Their assertion is illogical from the start. They may as well be demanding that God create ‘square-circles’ So what they are doing is trying to get God to be illogical. They want to use illogic to prove God doesn’t exist instead of logic. It doesn’t work and the “paradox” is self-refuting and invalid.

    • September 29, 2012 at 12:55 am

      Great points Whyman! I completely agree. You filled out some parts I merely touched upon. I especially appreciate your discussion about God only doing those things which are consistent with His nature. This is a very helpful addition to the post.

  8. rickloinheart
    July 26, 2014 at 7:40 am

    There are many ways to look at this question but in essence the question is intrinsically impossible and therefore just nonsense. However that is a way to answer the question that will make them think.

    See: http://christianversustheworld.blogspot.com.au/2014/07/christian-versus-rock.html

    http://christianversustheworld.blogspot.com.au

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