Can God make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?
It’s about logical paradox. When something is a paradox, it loses meaning.
God cannot make a rock so heavy He cannot lift it, because that is a meaningless statement.
God cannot defy logic. He is still, however, all-powerful.
God doesn’t defy logic. God is rational by nature. To be all-powerful means to have the ability to perform all that is possible (logically meaningful) to perform. Therefore He cannot do things which are logically meaningless, like create something that is logically impossible — a rock He can’t lift… or do something that defies His perfect nature — like lie (with malicious intent). (Keeping the future from us is not a malicious lie.)
Ultimately it is not an exercise of power, but of weakness, to do things which defy God’s perfect nature.
God is still free when His nature is rational. To explain, I will quote from Geisler and Feinberg’s “Intro. to Philo. / A Christian Perspective” —
“Essentialists contend that God’s nature is the ultimate norm in accordance with which His will cooperates. …God wills what is essentially good without there being some ultimate standard beyond Himself. The ultimate norm for all good flows from the will of God but only in accordance with the nature of God. Thus God is neither arbitrary nor less than ultimate,” (323).
God’s nature is good and rational, and He wills in accordance with His nature — which is not beyond Himself.
This means there is no such thing as a rock He can’t lift (it is impossible for such a rock to exist) — and He can’t create a thing that is impossible to exist, because it has no meaning.
For all the same reasons, He cannot create a situation where He can lie maliciously, nor can He create a God greater than Himself. It is impossible for Him to change His own rational, good nature… to do that would be to defy His nature. He is the only truly free being because of His nature — to defy His nature (impossible for God) equates to bondage and weakness, not freedom and strength.
Here’s something I hadn’t mentioned yet… from my “Intro to Philo. / A Christian perspective” book by Geisler and Feinberg….
Other theists explain that the problem begins with the use of a double negative: “If God cannot make a stone that He cannot lift, then He is not omnipotent.” If we were to put this into logical notation, however, the statement would read: “Any stone which God can make, He can lift.”
The question, “Can God make a rock so big He can’t lift it,” is not asking “is there omnipotence” — but, instead, is asking “what is the nature of omnipotence?” — it is not asking “Is God ominipotent?” or “Is omnipotence possible?” — it is asking, “does being omnipotent mean you can even contradict your own omnipotence?” And the answer is: no — that is not what omnipotence means. Omnipotence applies to the real world, and things that are meaningless, contradictory, and paradoxical are not part of the real world.
“A rock so big God can’t lift it” — think about that all by itself. It contradicts His omnipotence and is therefore a meaningless figment of the imagination. A rock so big God can’t lift it is a logical impossibility. That is why people answer “God cannot do the impossible” — it is shorthand.
There is a verse that says “With God, all things are possible,” — but He is not talking about logical impossibilities — He is talking about reality. Creating a rock so big God can’t lift it is not an “anything” it is a “nothing.”
While we’re on the note of omnipotence despite not exercising it — in Jesus we see true omnipotence. He could have brought swift justice to His accusers, but He sacrificed His life for them instead (and rose again, ’cause He’s God).