Can God Create A Rock So Heavy That He Cannot Lift It?

By Evan Minton

Many times when talking with non-believers, they will appeal to some sort of one-liner or meme to render their unbelief a more credible position than the reality of an omnipotent God. Nevertheless, although these one-liners seem credible to the untrained mind, they actually don’t work as arguments. The same goes with this riddle, which basically attempts to pit God against himself in asking, “Can God create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?”

This question reminds me of when the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus in a no-win situation by asking “Should we pay taxes to the Romans?” If Jesus said yes, then that would mean that He was siding with Rome, the people hated Rome and wanted their Messiah when he came to overthrow the Romans and destroy them. Answering yes would turn the Jewish people against Him. They might even stone him or something! On the other hand, if Jesus said no then he’d get in trouble with the Romans. It’d be treason. No matter which answer Jesus gave, it seemed, He would get Himself in trouble. We all know what happened next and how Jesus brilliantly wiggled out their trap. (Mark 12:13-17, Luke 20:21-25)

The Christian Apologist seems to be in the same position. “Can God Create A Rock So big he cannot lift it?” If we say yes, then we concede that there is something God can’t do because God would then create a rock which He couldn’t lift. The thing God couldn’t do would be to lift the rock. On the other hand, if we say no, then we also concede that there’s something God cannot do. Namely, create a rock which He can’t lift. Either way, our answer will affirm that God is not omnipotent, or so it seems.

I think this attempt to stump the theist and get him to admit that God is finite is a pretty bad one. For it misunderstands the definition of omnipotence. When we Christians say “God can do anything” we don’t mean literally everything. When we say that God can do the impossible, we don’t mean he can do the logicallyimpossible. By impossible, we mean things like creating things out of nothing, keeping people in a fire from burning, having a guy walk on water, or make a 90 year old woman get pregnant and give birth to a healthy son, and things like that. We don’t mean God can do absolutely everything. We mean only what is logically possible (that is to say, things that are not contradictory concepts).

There are some things God cannot do simply because He is omnipotent. If God is infinitely powerful than it’s impossible to create a rock so large He cannot lift it. For if there was anything He couldn’t lift, that would prove Him a being of finite strength. But a being of infinite power could create a rock of infinite size and infinite weight and still be able to move it. It is because God is infinitely powerful (i.e omnipotent) that He cannot create a rock too hard for Him to move.

This little riddle is akin to asking “Can God’s infinite power overwhelm His infinite power?” Or it’s like asking “Can God beat Himself in a fist fight” or “Can God think up a mathematical equation too difficult for Him to solve”. It’s sheer nonsense. C.S Lewis once said “Nonsense is still nonsense even when we speak it about God.”You’re basically asking if a Being of unlimited power can produce something to limit Him. But His unlimited power, by definition, rules out that possibility. An unlimited being cannot create limits for Himself.

The definition of omnipotence does not mean being able to do the logically impossible (to do something logically contradictory). God cannot create square circles, married bachelors, one ended sticks etc. God can do anything that’s logically possible, that is; not logically contradictory. God can create out of nothing, God can make ax heads float in water, He can make animals speak in a human tongue, He can cause a virgin to be pregnant, but He can’t make something exist and not exist at the same time, He can’t cause an animal to speak in a human tongue and be silent at the same time, and He can’t make a woman both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. Nowhere in The Bible does it say that God can do the logically impossible. That is not the definition of Omnipotence.

There are other things God cannot do. Not just logically impossible things. He can’t commit sin. He cannot do evil acts because God is sinless and holy (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 25:8; Psalm 34;8; 2 Corinthians 5:21, etc.) and so to do those things would be to contradict His own morally perfect nature. Titus 1:2 says that it’s impossible for God to lie. It’s not that God merely chooses not to lie, but that He’s literally incapable of it. Why? Because lying is a sin and sin goes against God’s morally perfect nature. God can no more do evil then fire can cause things to freeze.

Richard Bushey of “ThereforeGodExists.com also wrote about this question. And he said in the article “This is not to say that logic is some sort of force that transcends God that he is a slave to. But rather it is to say that logical consistency is founded in the person of God himself.” Indeed. Logical Consistency is a character trait of God like holiness, love, justice, etc. Indeed. God is a rational Being. Even if God’s power did allow him to do the logically impossible, at the very least, His nature would prevent Him from doing so.

Can God do anything? Yes. So long as it’s both logically possible and in accord with His morally perfect character.

Visit Evan’s Blog @ CerebralFaith.Blogspot.com


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32 replies
    • Evan Minton says:

      You misunderstood me. I didn’t say walking on water was logically impossible, but that it was “impossible” in the colloquial sense. That these kinds of things are what Christians mean when we say “God can do the impossible”. It’s not logically impossible, but impossible under ordinary non-divine-intervention circumstances. Certainly there’s nothing *logically* impossible about walking on water. No laws of logic are defied in such an event, just laws of physics, which I certainly think God has the power to defy.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        Ah. I misread it. However it still begs the question of where is the proof of him doing these impossible (but not logically so) things? You are pretty much relegated to the bible and events that the logical explanation is ignored.

        Reply
        • esbee says:

          here is something I have been wanting to ask an atheist or scoffer or unbeliever…do you actively seek out hindus, muslims, Buddhists, wiccans, satantists to ask them similar questions about their faith as you do about the Christian god and faith? Why is it that at colleges across the US the atheists professors only seek out the Christians to pick on and bully for their beliefs but never say anything bad about msublim, eastern religions, satanists, wiccans or scientology?

          Reply
          • toby says:

            Why is it that at colleges across the US the atheists professors only seek out the Christians to pick on and bully for their beliefs but never say anything bad about msublim, eastern religions, satanists, wiccans or scientology?
            Because we leave that to christians. And they often do.

      • TGM says:

        “No laws of logic are defied in such an event, just laws of physics, which I certainly think God has the power to defy.”

        This is strange reasoning, Evan. The laws of physics are the mathematical description of how the universe operates. To violate the laws of physics, then, would be to also violate mathematics. But to violate mathematics one must contradict logic, as math and logic are the same. So how could God change the universe if he cannot break the laws of logic?

        Reply
  1. toby says:

    square circles, married bachelors, one ended sticks
    Using non-euclidean geometry in a warped space an object could appear square, but actually be circular.

    Married bachelors would be a same sex marriage.

    A one ended stick is a branch.

    How does one know that what we think is logically impossible is actually impossible? It seems logically impossible that the supernatural could communicate with the natural as there are no conceivable means by which that can take place. When asked how the supernatural can affect the natural the only response from apologists is “I don’t know” or “Well, it’s not logically impossible.” It’s probably impossible. Would not anything that happens inside the universe not be natural by default and thus render supposed “supernatural” occurrences merely anomalous or currently unexplainable natural events?

    Reply
    • esbee says:

      Most folks do not understand non-Euclidean geometry. God gives us much simpler ways to understand his greatness, power and infinity–the stars, multitude of living organisms present in nature from pole to pole, birth, etc. things that even children can understand.

      Same sex marriage partners call their spouse “husband”..

      A branch is part of a tree trunk which has roots that go all the way into the ground to a definite ending and its other end is at the ends at the tips of the branches, thus a tree itself has 2 ends. . A branch only becomes a stick when it is broken off from the original tree, thus giving it a new end.

      Reply
  2. Mark says:

    The answer is also, “Yes, God can create a rock so big that he can not lift it. ” The issue is with a misunderstanding of God. He is beyond creation even the laws of logic etc. Because every law must have its origin in the lawgiver who is also the creator and beyond His creation. Yet even to ask this question gives us a segway into sharing the gospel, by asking can an eternal God die for your sins. Yes for both questions the answer is found in Jesus. The questions are based on a misunderstanding of who God is, but when God the son (through whom are all created things) set his power aside and became a man there were many things He couldn’t do as a man( however in that same mystery we know He was also all-powerful God) but the answer is in the misunderstanding of the triune eternal God. Good article.

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      Your issue is a misunderstanding of physical laws vs human laws. One is required to have a law giver, the other is not. This is merely an attempt at god of the gaps. You not understanding how physical laws operate does not mean scientists either don’t or can’t know that.

      Reply
      • Mark says:

        Kyle: This is not a scientific question it is a philosophical one. Feel free to check out the wiki on this question as it has plenty of answers you may findkre interesting than mine. I was saying that omnipotent God is not bound by physical laws, you are assuming that scientific laws or physical laws are purely natural and not subject to a law giver. I was saying that a supernatural God is not bound by physical scientific “laws” which are only called laws by scientists to explain (so far) consistent “natural” phenomenons. They are not laws in the human sence only consistent and logical observations. However a God outside of his creation is no more boind to them than a computer programmer is bound to his program. I was pointing out that true omnipotence is not bound to our understanding of omnipotence simply because we are a part of creation and not omnipotent. So my explanation about God’s omnipotence and the solution being Jesus is because Jesus is the incarnation of God. And is the truth He reveals to us about Himself. Again it is a theological and philosophical question. There are questions that science can’t answer, bjt that doesn’t mean that there are not answers if you will look for them.

        Reply
        • Kyle says:

          There never has been and never will be any scientific basis to believe in the supernatural. Science seeks to explain what it doesn’t know. Supernatural explanations are useless. Once an adequate explanation is found it is considered natural. You want to believe in an omnipotent god while also saying we might not accurately understand what that omnipotence entails? How is that even remotely cogent?

          Reply
        • toby says:

          However a God outside of his creation is no more boind to them than a computer programmer is bound to his program. I was pointing out that true omnipotence is not bound to our understanding of omnipotence simply because we are a part of creation and not omnipotent.
          Why suppose a god is omnipotent at all? I could equally say that there is a supernatural something that can do nothing but create universes, one after another, and has been doing so for an infinity. Can’t or won’t or doesn’t intervene, just makes those universes like a machine. Which to me is what the apologist’s god sounds like, a thing with no free will that is strictly bound to do what it’s nature dictates and never deviate. Why is this less likely than your god?

          Reply
  3. TGM says:

    The heavy rock scenario is not a logical contradiction. It’s actually a testable hypothesis, an experiment that God could run. As an indefinitely long experiment, it could never validate omnipotence, but it could at least keep him eternally busy enough that he won’t have time to “help us”.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      I think the question is the indictment of the idea of omnipotence. It seems to make the property of omnipotence logically impossible.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        I was just spitballing in my head with this. If God created the laws of logic, as apologists claim, how can he be bound by those very laws he created? This article would have you believe he can break physical laws which the apologist claims God created as well. What makes logic so special that it can be created by God, yet not broken?

        Reply
      • TGM says:

        That’s a good point Toby. ‘Omnipotence’ strikes me as being in the same category as ‘spirit’. An overused word that nobody can describe usefully.

        Kyle, I’ve wondered this myself. It seems that this issue is the logical equivalent to morality’s Euthyphro dilemma. Apologists would likely respond with ‘laws of logic are part of god’s nature’. This of course invites the equivalent counter-apologetic claims as to the scope of god’s nature. Und so weiter…

        Reply
      • toby says:

        I don’t think apologists have any proof or argument that logic is part of god’s nature. I think they just assume it. But, yes, it would then fall into the same problems as Euthyphro.

        Reply
        • esbee says:

          here is something I have been wanting to ask an atheist or scoffer or unbeliever which you seem to be…do you actively seek out hindus, muslims, Buddhists, wiccans, satantists to ask them similar questions debating their faith as you do about the Christian god and faith? Why is it that at colleges across the US the atheists professors only seek out the Christians to pick on and bully for their beliefs but never say anything bad about msublim, eastern religions, satanists, wiccans or scientology?

          Reply
          • Kyle says:

            I can take that one on. In the US, Christianity is the dominant religion. It enjoys much more freedom and protection from the law than any other religion (save for maybe scientology but that’s a different beast altogether). It also tends to be much more forceful with its practice and its followers. This leaves Christianity as the easier choice to debate. Also, specifically with regards to apologists, they at least try to form cogent arguments rather than falling back on such nonsense like “God works in mysterious ways” or “it’s called faith because I don’t need proof”. So to the point of do I seek out others? Not so much. I wouldn’t shy away from those if the opportunity presented itself, but there is a better chance those debates would devolve into the nonsense arguments I just referred to. It is also interesting to note your use of language about atheist professors “bullying” only Christian believers. Is this anecdotal or is there something more to back up this claim?

          • toby says:

            Kyle,
            Bravo! It’s the nearsightedness of the majority. “Everyone is beating up on me!” Though that “everyone” is a minority pointing out their faults. The majority doesn’t like being treated like it treats everyone else. By that I mean questioned in any way. They live in their bubble and dislike having it popped.

  4. Berj Manoushagian says:

    The answer given here to this alleged paradox is not correct.
    The problem is that the question contains a fallacy within itself making it an invalid question.
    Making Logic a standard that God has to meet makes Logic even greater than God.
    Who decides what is “logical”?
    Logic has no claim on God.
    An omniscient being has no need for logic because he does not need to do deductions to arrive at answers.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      Then explain to us why omnipotence is a coherent idea. If a god doesn’t need logic, then the fallacy you say the question contains couldn’t possibly bind that god’s hands and it could make something it couldn’t lift. the question itself points out the subjectivity of the notion of omnipotence. What is omnipotence? Does it entail physical strength to lift? Building anything it wants? Omnipotence is an supported concept.

      Reply
      • Berj Manoushagian says:

        The issue of the coherence of terms that we use to try and ascribe qualities to God is not relevant to the original question of the article, although remotely related.

        First I will give my answer to the question, and then if you are interested, we can discuss related topics such as the irrelevance of logic to God and why we should not expect our words about God to be comprehensive predications.

        CAN GOD MAKE A ROCK SO BIG THAT HE CANNOT LIFT IT?
        The answer that is expected is either a Yes or No. Either answer leaves one in an apparent dilemma, and there seems to be no way out.
        If he answers “Yes, God is able to make a giant rock but He will not be able to lift it” then God seems to have one kind of Omni-attribute: Creative, but not another: Power to Lift. If he answers “No, God is not able to make a huge rock which He cannot lift” then again God is not omnipotent because He lacks the necessary creative powers to create large rocks.
        In either case, God is not omnipotent, therefore he is not a real God. Or, if He exists, he is lacking certain powers of omnipotence which we always assumed He possessed.
        Should we not then question His other assumed attributes or even His existence??

        THE SOLUTION
        The problem with the question is that it contains a fallacy within itself that is not evident at first sight.
        Can God, who is infinitely powerful, create another infinitely heavy object, which presumably He would not be able to lift?
        The first part of the question assumes that there exists one omnipotent being, because when we say God, we mean a single, unique being with Omni attributes. But then the second part of the question assumes that there are at least two of these omnipotent beings.
        That is, The questioner is really asking, Can God create another God?

        In expanded form, the question becomes: Can God, of whom we accept to be only ONE of in existence, (of course this part is not verbalized!) — the only one who is Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, etc., the only being who is, by definition, Eternal and UNCREATED, CREATE another God, a second God, who is also Omnipotent, Omniscient etc.?
        This is a fallacious question because the definition of the word “God” has changed in mid-sentence.

        The response should be another question:
        What is your definition of God, an UNCREATED or CREATED being?
        If this god is a Created being, then that is not the real God, because its Creator is the one we want to talk about. A created being implies a Creator, who is always greater than the created. Thus a created god is Not God.
        If God is Uncreated, then the fallacy of the question becomes obvious, because the question in its simplest form is:

        “Can an Uncreatable being be Created?”

        Our terms must always be clearly defined to avoid such errors.
        Other variations of what are called Omnipotence Paradoxes exist, such as:-
        Can God Commit Suicide? or
        Can God make a Round Square?
        All of them are based upon the misuse of words.

        Questions that have been used to try and discredit Theism are found to be Fatally Flawed challenges.

        Reply
  5. Jason Evans (Of On The Line Ministries) says:

    I always found this question to be a little bit funny. I mean, Jesus has a great sense of humor about Him. He basically asked who the coin belongs to by saying “Is his name on it?” Like a kid trying to take someone else’s lunch box only to find the other kids name on it. I would actually answer this question about the stone as a positive yes though. The reason I say this is because Jesus fell under the cross and someone had to help Him carry it. The thing about it isn’t if God can or can not, it’s will He or will He not? Here, I hope you don’t mind me offering this page to show what I am talking about: http://onthelineministries.com/the-trinity-explained/

    Reply
    • Kyle says:

      Your argument comes down to a pretty careless dodge. You say that he can create something heavy enough that once he limits himself (for instance by becoming man in the form of Jesus), he cannot lift it. You completely avoid the point of the argument to shoehorn in your own take on it.

      Reply
  6. Menenzes says:

    And if the non believer insists that an omnipotent God can do even illogical things, then God can create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift and then lift it. He will of course object this, and then you remember him that he is the one who give up on logic.

    Reply
  7. Richard says:

    “It’s not that God merely chooses not to lie, but that He’s literally incapable of it. Why? Because lying is a sin and sin goes against God’s morally perfect nature. God can no more do evil then fire can cause things to freeze.”

    What about in the Garden of Eden when God told Adam and Eve. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

    They didn’t die that day. In fact God had to drive them from the Garden so they couldn’t eat of the Tree of Life causing them to die later. In fact the only being telling the truth in the whole story was the serpent.

    Or what about this verse which says that the Lord essentially lies or deceives prophets. Apparently God is able to lie.

    And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. Ezekiel 14:9

    Reply

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