We believe that God is All-Powerful. Have you ever had anyone say to you, “OK, then, can God create a rock so big that he cannot lift it or a snowball so heavy that he cannot throw it?” Ah, trick questions, but they have filled cynics with glee and provided Christians with head-scratcher for centuries. I couldn’t trace who first asked the rock question, but did find that it is part of a larger system of questions composing “the omnipotence paradox,” which actually dated back to the Middle Ages. They were addressed by Christian Theologians like Thomas Aquinas and even the Muslim Scholar Averroes. Enough history…
The point I am going to make here may surprise you but I believe that there are things that God cannot do. Some theologians have tried to explain these paradoxes by making a distinction between power and ability. In the words, God’s power can make the big rock- no problemo – but he does not have the ability to lift it because he cannot do what simply cannot be done.
Clear as mud? Let me get more specific. God cannot do those things which are limited by the illogical. I am not saying that God is limited by the laws of logic because he is Logic. Just as he is Love, he is also Mind, Intelligence. Thus God is limited by that which is not logical.
For example, Aquinas said, “God cannot make the things that are, never to have been.” In other words, God cannot make something that has happened to “unhappen.” While he forgives the sins of the past and does not deal with us according to them in Christ (treating us just-as-if-ied never sinned), he cannot make us so that we never committed those sins in the first place. In the same way, God cannot make a square circle, a giant midget, a jumbo shrimp (sorry- that’s an oxymoron) or a rock so big that he cannot lift it. These concepts are not even “things”; they are contradictions that have no reality.
This “limitation” is actually an encouragement to my faith. I believe that God does not use his power to play around with things that do not matter, like some immature wizard. But his power is demonstrated in things that directly affect us, such as Creating the universe and Redeeming sinful people like me, through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13-20).
I’ll let you think about this and maybe you can come up with some other things that God cannot do. By the way, I’ve got two more… later.