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So... until I was listening to a homily for a priest whose podcast I edit, I believed that Can God make a rock He can't move? was an unanswerable question asked by smartaleck 4th graders.

However, apparently the answer is no. And the answer is no for a profound and interesting reason, not because of a tautology (although I find them profound and interesting sometimes too).

So, can we ask that question again now that it has an answer?


Here's the link to the homily if anyone is interested. It's from the pastor of the UW Catholic Center at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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    The question has always had an answer. The answer is that one who is omnipotence has infinite power. But infinite power does not permit doing the impossible--only that which is possible with great power. No amount of power allows the creation of rocks too large to move, or circular triangles, or something so cold it burns. – Flimzy Oct 17 '11 at 21:01
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    Question is meaningless. ding – TRiG Oct 17 '11 at 21:52
  • The question may be meaningless, but the answer is pretty meaningful. – Peter Turner Oct 17 '11 at 21:55
  • And that's a very good answer we can all learn from. Omnipotence doesn't mean can do the impossible. – user933 Nov 22 '11 at 7:33
  • Note that the question has been asked on the Philosophy site. The actual question about the rock is easily solved any number of ways and isn't terribly interesting to philosophers. The broader question of "Is the definition of God consistent?" is more interesting (but in my opinion trivially solved for Christians). – Jon Ericson Nov 22 '11 at 17:48
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    Of course that doesn't mean it shouldn't be asked here too, but please don't think of it as an argument seriously proposed by philosophers these days. That would be a form of strawman argument in my opinion. – Jon Ericson Nov 22 '11 at 17:57
  • @Jon, no I don't think it is terribly profound, I mainly ask questions here to placate freshmen I teach Religious Ed. to and we don't get exceptionally deep. But it's kind of sad that the philosophy site has the wrong answer accepted and upvoted. I agree that it's a strawman argument on Philosophy though. The definition of God is lacking the 'unchangeth' part. – Peter Turner Nov 22 '11 at 18:19
  • Sometimes people vote with their hearts and not with their minds, even on Philosophy. – Jon Ericson Nov 22 '11 at 18:41
  • The answer is that the Abrahamic god (not that I believe in it, but nevertheless) can both make a rock that is too heavy for him to lift, and can then go ahead and lift it. To subject a supposedly omnipotent god to the constraints of logic is to deny him omnipotence. – Steely Dan Jan 19 '12 at 16:22
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Well...

You could ask it. However, this question and questions like these are generally closed as duplicate pretty quick. They tend to be duplicates of this question:

How do you answer the unanswerable questions?

If you can form the question about omnipotence that isn't a duplicate, then, feel free to ask it. It looks like you might have taken a stab at this once, though:

What is the Biblical basis the for Immutable Nature of God?

  • Well that's the problem, for your first link it's assumed that it is an unanswerable question and for the second link (my question) I pretty much made it a premise of the question, not the question itself. So, I guess it's a moot point, but it's an inconsistent moot point. I won't bother asking until somebody answers a few of my other 'unanswerables', but I figured I'd write something about it here just to see what people think. – Peter Turner Oct 17 '11 at 21:00
  • @PeterTurner Ultimately, if you can squeeze it in somehow without it being duplicate, then go for it. I'd recommend you change the title question, but I know that you're good with wording, so I'm sure that you already know that. ;) – Richard Oct 17 '11 at 21:11
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There's a philosophical answer to this involving definitions of omnipotence and so on, and this is better handled (and is handled) on the philosophy stackexchange.

There is also a theological answer. In this, you are asking about a specific character with a specific set of given attributes in a specific collection of literature of a given religion.

Comments above state to the effect that the omnipotence of the Christian deity doesn't mean "able to do the impossible." I disagree. Having bonfires that ignite through the power of prayer, stopping the sun in the sky for an hour, feeding five thousand from a fish and a loaf of bread, turning water into wine, raising the dead by willpower alone: these are all impossible things.

So the answer is yes. Our failure to understand how this impossible thing could be done is not that particular character's problem.

(Edit: I originally answered this question thinking I was on the main site and thought that there was an interesting answer to be had. I realise now that I'm actually on meta, so I think it's worth keeping this answer as a suggestion that automatically closing questions like this might be a little premature -- something I note that this particular SE site is quite trigger-happy about.)

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