Last time, I introduced the analogy of God being related to his creation like an author is related to her story. Since we have dealt primarily with the attribute of God being all-powerful, I raised one of the classic challenges to God’s omnipotence, and proposed that we address it with our analogy.
The challenge is this: Can God make a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it? As we saw, if God cannot make a stone that large, then there is something he cannot do, and therefore he is not omnipotent. Likewise, if he can make the stone, but can’t lift it, there again is something he cannot do, and therefore he is not omnipotent.
How does the theist escape this?
I think I have one vague way leading to one clear way.
Let us first suppose an author, whose abilities within the context of her story will (hopefully) help us see the way out. She is, for all intents and purposes, presumed to be all-powerful in the context of her story.
So let’s ask the question a different way: Can an author create a rock, within the context of her story, which is too big for her to lift?
The vague answer is this: The question makes no sense. We see, clearly, that she can create and destroy galaxies, entire Universes, with mere words. Can she not create a rock any size she likes? What does it matter if she can “lift” it? Can’t she always lift it, no matter how big she has created it? Are we to suppose, in the context of her story, that she will ever strain against the weight of any rock, or that she will ever strain against the effort of building a still larger rock?
And this leads to our clearer answer, which harkens back to the posts on infinity.
Let’s say she sets out to create that rock (in the context of her story), a rock so big that she cannot lift it. She builds a rather large rock – a boulder, let’s say. She then describes herself picking it up and lifting it. She’ll need a bigger rock.
So she builds a rock the size of a mountain. Again, she can lift it without effort.
She builds a rock the size of a continent. She lifts it.
She builds a rock the size of a planet. She lifts it.
She goes on, building them to the size of a solar system, a galaxy, a supercluster of galaxies, increasing the order of magnitude of this rock by hundreds and thousands at a time. At no point does she ever strain to create the rock, and at no point does she ever strain to lift it.
Soon, compared with the original rock, she is building rocks beyond description, except by numbers. She builds a rock that is 1 x 10^100, then the 1,000th power, then the 10,000th power, then 1 x 10^10^123, which is actually beyond human comprehension of any kind except that we know how to read numbers. Still, there is no difficultly either in creating it, or lifting it.
In effect, I would venture, the answer to the question is – well, she is infinitely powerful in the context of her story. There is no finite end to this challenge. I see no point at which she could no longer create bigger rocks, nor any point when she could not lift the rock she has created. The question pertains to infinity, and so the answer is neither “yes” nor “no.” It is better to say, perhaps, that it is not applicable.
Or, if it is not enough to equate “infinitely powerful” to “all-powerful,” I don’t know what anyone can be looking for when they say “all-powerful.”