Occasionally I hear questions posed to Christians that are designed to make us flustered. One example is the question of whether or not God can make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it. The question is meant to position the Christian in one of two undesirable answers:
- If the answer is yes then that means that God can make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it. That would mean that there is something that God can’t do. The all-powerful God but be powerless over this object.
- If the answer is no then that means that God cannot make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it. That would mean that there is something that God can’t do. The all-powerful God is not able to do something.
Variations of this question abound. For example, when I visited a Youth Group I was asked whether God could create a hot dog so hot that even He can’t eat it. The point is that the Christian is meant to feel like they can’t answer the question because, either way, they would be asserting that there is something that God cannot do.
However, the answer to this question is quite simple. The answer is no. God cannot make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it.
The truth is that there are many things that God cannot do. Logically, God cannot clone Himself because anything that He creates is a creature by definition and not a god. What about from the Bible? In Titus 1:2 we see that God doesn’t lie, but Hebrews 6:18 goes even further and tells us that God cannot possibly lie. The reason is that He cannot go against His character and nature (which is supremely good and righteous). This does not refute the Christian understanding that God is ‘omnipotent’.
The Bible teaches that God is the creator of all things and is able to do whatever He wants (e.g. Jeremiah 32:17, 27, Isaiah 46:9-11). This is precisely what is meant when Christians speak of God’s omnipotence, namely that God is able to carry out all that He has determined to do and nothing can stop Him. The qualifier is in what God wants or what God has determined to do because whatever God desires to do is an expression of His nature, which is ultimately good. He cannot contradict who He is.
So God is all-powerful but cannot lie. God is all-powerful but cannot sin. And, with reference to this specific question from above, God is omnipotent but cannot create a rock so big He can’t lift it. If God wanted to lift it then nothing could stop Him. If God could create a rock so big He could not lift it then that would mean that the God described in Jeremiah, in Isaiah, and the rest of the Bible is inconsistent in His own character or a liar.
The next time you’re asked a question that may stump you, stop a moment and think about the character of God and what the Christian Scriptures teach about Him. When we peel back the cultural expectations and look past the caricatures and stereotypical ways of speaking or understanding our faith then we might be surprised at how clear the Scriptures are about seemingly ‘hard’ questions that come our way. Ultimately, we should be aiming to continuously renew our minds with God’s word so that we can know the truth, proclaim the truth, and defend the truth.