Can God create a rock so big...

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Greg, Jul 9, 2007.

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  1. Greg

    Greg Puritan Board Sophomore

    Well, I'm sure you know the rest of that age old question. How would you answer it though?
  2. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I'd tell the man he needs to repent of his unbelief. These are usually the facile arguments that unbelievers concoct that they might supress the truth in unrighteousness. I probably would just not answer the fool according to his folly lest I be like him. Frankly, giving any validity to the objection is part of our problem somtimes.

    The argument is based on a philosophical conception of God that, to be God, God has to be able to do anything. If God can create a rock so big He can't move it then His inability to move the rock is a limitation. If He can't create the rock then He is limited by His inability to create the rock.

    I don't have a conception of God that He can do anything for He reveals that He cannot lie. He cannot deny Himself. He must punish sin.

    And He cannot create a thing that would be greater than or equal to Himself. It might satisfy the unbeliever if you state that the question itself is like asking if God can create a round square and that it is a nonsense question but, again, the problem is unbelief and not syllogisms with these kinds of objections.
  3. regener8ed

    regener8ed Puritan Board Freshman

    God cannot act contrary to His nature.
  4. etexas

    etexas Puritan Board Doctor

    I have been asked that before.........I REFUSE to answer it, the question is always asked by infidels, who want to weaken your faih and blaspheme God, I will not give the satisfaction of an "answer".:2cents:
  5. Don Kistler

    Don Kistler Puritan Board Sophomore

    God can do anything that is possible to be done. God cannot will Himself out of existence. God cannot cease to be. It is not possible for God to be and not to be at the same time.

    The question is, therefore, if the impossible is possible, which is a contradiction of terms.

    Don Kistler
  6. Greg

    Greg Puritan Board Sophomore

    Great point Rich. Thanks.
  7. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The technical name for the fallacy is "complex question." Imagine if someone were to ask you: "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" It can't be answered in yes or no fashion, which is what the foolish unbeliever most likely wants because he knows that either answer would trip you up. Like everyone else has said, the question rests on a faulty understanding of God's nature. The person asking it assumes that we believe that being God means being able to do anything but this is not the case.
  8. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    If you consider a rock that large, the definition of lift becomes meaningless. Objects move relative to other objects (motion is not absolute). Lifting is simply separating two objects of mass - the one so massive that due to inertia, it experiences no measurable acceleration relative to the other as they are forced apart. Consider progressively massive rocks on earth. At some point the rock either collapse into the earths crust, or it becomes a planet and the earth becomes the rock. This would apply to any other planet. If the rock is in space, there is no other rock to lift against. Objects so massive they can not be forced apart would not be identifiable as separate objects - it would be one object.

    Also the question implies an internal contradiction of what God can do. Can an omnipotent being create something that an omnipotent being could not move, implies both an all-powerful being (capable of creating objects of unlimited mass), and a limited being (unable to move an object of some mass).

    The question is a good exercise of the mind (like Zeno's paradox), but it has no theological implications. I consider it good fun, like any riddle or a puzzle. It really has no application to God's nature - it is merely mental slight of hand.
  9. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    The best answer to the question I've read came from non-Christian on a chess website I frequent. I answered the question in the third and forth post on the thread, but bbarr's answer was the best (the initial post wasn't bad either).

    The thread was titled "My response to the unliftable rock" and is found on the Red Hot Pawn website here:
  10. x.spasitel

    x.spasitel Puritan Board Freshman

    I posed the question to a Muslim once (not in a mean fashion -- explaining that it was a question often asked Christians and I was curious what his response would be.) He said, "God is all-powerful. He can do anything He chooses to do. Hence, He would be able to create a rock so big that He could not lift it. God is all-powerful, and can do anything He chooses to. Instantaneously He would be able to lift that rock." I'm not sure how helpful that response is, but I found it interesting.
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Of course you could ask your Muslim friend how he knows that. There idea of Allah is that he is so much higher than we that we cannot even conceive of how he is. I've seen one quote that states: "Whatever you think Allah is, he is not."

    Thus, if your friend says that he conceives that Allah can create a rock that big, then he cannot do it.
  12. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore


    ...I mean No :D.
  13. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    I remember telling some folks at a church years ago that there were some things God can't do: He can't lie, He can't will Himself out of existence, He can't do things contrary to His nature, etc. They were willing to admit these things, but they seemed uncomfortable with the basic idea that there are things that God can't do.
  14. BrianLanier

    BrianLanier Puritan Board Freshman


    God cannot create a stone which He cannot lift.

    This is not a problem however, since this is just to say that if God can create a stone then He can lift it.

    See C. Wade Savage's Article, "The Paradox of the Stone" in The Philosophical Review 76 number 1 (1967): 74-79.

    Savage makes this argument in detail.

    He concludes by saying:

    "[ . . . ]God's inablility to create a stone which He cannot lift is nothing more or less than a necessary consequence of two facets of His omnipotence. For is God is omnipotent, then He can create stones of any poundage and lift stones in any poundage. And "God can create stones of any poundage, and God can lift stones of any poundage" entails "God cannont create a stone which He cannot lift."

    If anyone would like to view a copy of the article and don't have access to old copies of The Philosophical Review, just U2U me.

    Hope this helps.
  15. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    That would be a really good way to answer it. After that they would go away scratching their head and sorry they even brought it up...never to return with other stupid questions.
  16. BrianLanier

    BrianLanier Puritan Board Freshman

    The only problem is that the question could be posed as a broadly logically possible problem.

    Then someone could say that it is a contradiction (as Anthony did above) and therefore is not logically possible. However, it has been argued that it is not obviously a contradiction when the argument is laid out formally. (I'll try to do this later--I'm on my way to work.)
  17. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I was just being sarcastic, since that is not how anyone would expect that question to be answered, making it about rocks and physics. The people who ask this question are usually not smart enough to comprehend an answer on this level, they are just being funny. At least that is my expereience.
    When I have been asked this question they were not seriously wanting an answer but just to cause problems.
    So I answerd like the above people saying that it is impossible for God to lie or do anything contrary to a Holy character, that ended the conversation because they were just making a joke.
  18. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    Bahnsen answered this question no. He said that omnipotence is not defined in Christian theology as the ability to do anything. In Christian theology, omipotence means that God has the power to do all His holy will. As I recall he used this in the Gordon Stein debate and it flustered Stein. Anyway, it is a nice, simple answer that does not require several minutes of explanation.

    First Catechism:
  19. Brian Bosse

    Brian Bosse "The Brain"

    Hello Everyone,

    Let me try and flesh out the formal argument against God implied by the question. I am using a Reductio Ad Absurdum proof...

    Let A: The God of Christianity does not exist.
    Let B: God is omnipotent.
    Let C: God can create anything.
    Let D: God can create a rock too heavy to lift.

    1. Prove: A
    2. Assume: ¬A (RAA Proof Form)
    3. ¬A → B
    4. B → C
    5. C → D
    6. ¬D (The Christian says, "No, God cannot create a rock too heavy to lift.)
    7. ¬C (Modus Tollens on steps 5 and 6)
    8. ¬B (Modus Tollens on steps 4 and 7)
    9. ¬¬A(Modus Tollens on steps 3 and 8)
    10. A (Law of negation)

    This proof is valid. However, the Christian would argue that the proposition in step 4 is false, thereby making the proof unsound. As Scott pointed out, being omnipotent does not mean being able to do anything. Here is a definition for omnipotence...

    Definition: Person A is omnipotent if and only if person A can do what he wills.

    Once the definition is provided for omnipotence, then the sting is taken out of the question in relation to the property of being omnipotent. If I were an atheist, upon hearing this response I would ask: Can God will to create a rock too heavy to lift? Now, my reponse would be that God cannot will to create any object that has contradictory properties. The property of being a rock and the property of being "too heavy for God to lift" are not compatible. Again, if I were an atheist I would ask: Why are these two properties contradictory?

    Does anyone care to give this last question a go?

  20. BobVigneault

    BobVigneault Bawberator

    Yes, Brian, I see what you did there. (Whispering - I haven't got a clue what he's talking about). I arrived at pretty much the same conclusion. Here is how I got there:

  21. Civbert

    Civbert Puritan Board Junior

    Excellent question. I think I have a more elegant solution than my first answer - which also answers your question.

    First I would define omnipotent as being able to do whatever is logically possible. Thus an omnipotent being can not make a square circle. Now I can apply this to the rock. Is the rock in question logically possible?

    Can a rock have a mass so great that no force can move it?

    All physical objects have a definite mass. The force to move it would be simply the mass times the acceleration caused by lift. No matter how great the mass, there is a calculable force that can move it.

    In the case of the rock, the force to move it would be the force necessary to overcome gravity - which is a function of the mass of the rock, and the mass of Earth (or whatever planet you wish).

    Force = G x ( mass_earth x mass_rock) / Distance_center_mass^2

    God can not make a rock so heavy that He can not lift it, because such a rock is itself a self-contradiction.
  22. x.spasitel

    x.spasitel Puritan Board Freshman

    I have rather a problem with that assertion. It places logic as the supreme ruler of the universe, a force which even God is subject to. God dwells beyond the bounds of human logic, and if He wanted to show our pathetically simple minds a square circle He could and would. The point is that a human mind cannot comprehend a square circle, not that God is beyond that ability, if that were His holy will. God, of course, cannot lie, so within our human universe to do something contrary to the logic of our universe would be contrary to His position as creator of our universe. But beyond what we know, there is nothing in human logic that constrains God.
  23. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Besides the fact that God cannot exercise anything contrary to his character, one could argue that the question is invalid due to the Creator/creature distinction. Created things have limitations, by definition, and therefore God cannot take all limitations off of created things. This is the same line of reasoning Rich was alluding to when he said that God cannot make another God. Certain attributes of God are incommunicable, and even the attributes that are, cannot be communicated to the degree that God possesses.
  24. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Brian, please critique my argument. We’ll see if last quarters logic 101 has helped me any! p.s. I don't know how to insert those cool logic symbols :(. I think 'D' is biblical and thus the Christian view of God.

    Question: Is God’s creation of an object he can’t lift logically possible?

    Answer: I agree with Civbert’s definition that Omnipotence is the ability to do whatever is logically possible.

    A: God can do anything that is logically possible (i.e. God is Omnipotent).
    B: God’s creation of a rock that he can’t lift is logically possible.
    C: God can create a rock that he can’t lift.
    D: God is in ‘absolute’ control of all creation as he determines and upholds it, etc.

    1. A
    2. B --> C
    3. D
    4. C --> ~D
    5. B --> ~D 1, 4, Hypothetical Syllogism)
    6. ~ ~D 3 (double negative rule)
    C: ~B 5, 6, MT
  25. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    It seems like omnipotence would constitute the ability of God to do what He willed, not what is logically impossible. Being omnipotent, He has the ability to fulfill His decrees.
    Then as God, and as a logical being, He would not do anything that would contradict Himself. Fulfilling His will and decree would take precedence over logic, but His decree would be founded in logic and the law of contradiction. He would use logic in His plan, but it is not something He is subject to. As God, He would have created the laws of logic and contradiction, thereby making Him greater than them. In my humble opinion
  26. BobVigneault

    BobVigneault Bawberator

    God is not governed by logic but man's comprehension, apprehension, understanding is CERTAINLY governed by logic. I'm tired of the anti-Clarkian line that Clarkians put logic above God. It's not true. God spoke the word, the logos, the expression, the rule of order and this "logos" brought order and reason. We we say that 'logos is God' we mean that the logos is not dependent on any created thing or mind other than God's mind. We cannot step out from under the logos to comprehend anything.

    Logic is such an component of creation that we cannot escape it for a moment.
    The question in the OP is not a logical question.
  27. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    If God created logic, then yes, my position would subject God to his creation. But that’s not my position. My position is that logic is a part of God’s nature, and since he is bound by his nature, this presents no problem. Also see this thread:

    If you want to debate these points, please start a new thread so as to not get this one sidetracked. Btw, I’m not sure what CT’s present viewpoint on the subject is.
  28. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    The answers that are being given in response to the original post have been based on logic. See Civbert. Thus making it a question logically if God could create a rock so big that He could not lift it...Why does it matter? It is like sitting around thinking on, "What if cat really meant dog?" Like we used to do when we were kids. Or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I am not saying we should not think on such things, but what is it if it is not ultimately a philsophical and logical question? It is interesting to sit around and ponder but in the end why does it matter?
  29. Cheshire Cat

    Cheshire Cat Puritan Board Sophomore

    Of course it is a philosophical and logical question. You say, "it is interesting to sit around and ponder but in the end why does it matter?". For a Christian, this is like saying, why even discuss theology? All theological questions are philosophical as well. I don't see how one can divorce the two. This is why it matters.

    How 'bout this question: "Does God exist"? Uh oh, I guess this is an interesting question to sit around and ponder, but in the end, why does it matter?!?

    This is the philosophy section after all!

    Edit: Oh, I see its not in the philosophy section, hehe.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2007
  30. BobVigneault

    BobVigneault Bawberator

    One day a small boy was walking with his dad on a beach. They noticed that several hundred starfish had washed onto the beach and would die there. The little boy ran and picked up a starfish and it asked the boy, "Can God make a rock so big that even he can't lift it?" The little boy told him, "No, because the question itself is flawed with fallacious reasoning." He set the starfish back down on the beach. His father said, "Son, you can't make a difference to all these starfish who ponder the existence of God", and the boy replied, "No, I made a difference to THAT one".

    (And the starfish died on the beach but it died a little more enlightened.)

    Gosh, that story still brings a tear to my eye. (Sigh)
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