3.3 Problems with Divine Omnipotence

Omnipotence

Omnipotence is a part of the concept of deity; God, if he exists, is omnipotent. It is sometimes argued, however, that the concept of omnipotence is paradoxical, logically incoherent, and so that it is logically impossible that there be any being that is omnipotent. This position, if it can be sustained, precludes the existence of God.

The argument that the concept of omnipotence is paradoxical is best introduced by presenting the theist with a dilemma. Any one of a variety of questions—e.g. "Can God create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?" or "Can God create a law that binds himself?"—might be posed in order to introduce this dilemma.

For each of these questions, God, if he exists, will either be capable or incapable of performing the feat described. The atheistic argument is that either alternative forces the conclusion that God is not omnipotent. The argument, constructed using the first of the questions above, therefore has the following structure:

The Paradox of Omnipotence
(1) God either can or cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it.
(2) If God can create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, then God is not omnipotent.
(3) If God cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, then God is not omnipotent.
Therefore:
(4) God is not omnipotent.
(5) If God exists then he is omnipotent.
Therefore:
(6) God does not exist.

The controversial premises of this argument are the second and the third. Proponents of the argument defend these premises in the following way. If God can create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, then there is something that he cannot do, namely lift the rock in question. If God cannot create a rock that is so heavy that he cannot lift it, then there is something that he cannot do, namely create such a rock. Either way, then, there is something that God cannot do, and if there is something that he cannot do then he cannot be omnipotent.

One response the paradox of omnipotence is to attempt to dissolve the problem. GB Keene argued that statements such as “God cannot create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it”, despite their superficial linguistic structure, affirm rather than deny God’s power.

The most common theistic response to the problem, however, rests on the thought that omnipotence is limited by logical possibility. An omnipotent being, it is suggested, is one that can bring about any logically possible state of affairs. The existence of a rock so heavy that God cannot lift it, though, is arguably a logically impossible state of affairs. God’s inability to create such a rock, it is claimed, therefore does not count against his being omnipotent.



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Has two subs:
Dissolving Paradox
and Omnipotence impossible

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