Monday, January 16, 2012

Can God Create a Stone Too Heavy for Him to Lift? By Charles Taliaferro

This question should immediately strike one as a word game. Many puzzles exist in the same category, such as, "Can God eat oatmeal that no one can eat?" Such puzzles are intended to reveal a logical problem with the divine attribute of omnipotence. If God can create a stone too heavy for anyone to lift, then there is one task God cannot do, namely lift any conceivable stone. But if God can lift any stone, then again there appears to be one task God cannot do, namely create a stone too heavy for God to lift. The argument concludes there cannot be an omnipotent God.

The most plausible and common philosophical response to this puzzle is to challenge the coherence of the task demanded. In order for someone to conclude that there is some state of affairs God cannot bring about, the objector must establish that the state of affairs is a genuine, bona fide possibility. It is no imperfection of anyone to be unable to make the concept of justice dance with the number two. The concepts of justice and the number two are not the sorts of things that can dance.

Does the above reply make "logic" something greater than God? No, "logic" is not the name of some concrete or abstract thing that can carry out tasks. When you cannot do something contradictory (such as make a square circle), it is not as though there is a force called logic restraining you. "Logic," in this context, may be . formulated in terms of two laws: the law of identity (A is A) and noncontradiction (A is not not A). These are not "laws," however, like the laws of nature (e.g., the laws of motion). They are, rather, necessary conditions of there being anything at all and for there being thought or language about anything at all. God the Son is identified in the NT as the Logos. Some philosophers and theologians have understood this to imply that logic and reason are attributes of God's excellent nature.

The stone paradox may be resolved in terms of strict logic, but does it not generate a more general problem? Can the God of Christian theism commit suicide? Tell lies? Do evil for its own sake?

Two replies should be considered. One is to claim God can bring about any of these states of affairs, but because of God's essential goodness, God does not do so. On this view, God is still omnipotent in the sense of being able to bring about any state of affairs. A second reply is to question an assumption behind the objection. Why think of divine omnipotence exclusively in terms of the bare scope of power? An important classical Christian tradition (Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas) holds that God's power is also supremely good. Is the "power" to do evil for its own sake a worthy, good power? Arguably, God's excellent power is the power to do good, not evil. A further exploration of this concept of divine power leads us away from the apparent word game of the stone paradox and focuses the mind on the nature of God's excellence, the object worthy of worship.

Extracted from the Apologetics Study Bible.

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