Is god a paradox

Can God create a stone that He cannot lift?

A paradox that is raised again and again when talking to atheists about the belief that an almighty God can be possible. Because through his omnipotence this god should be able to create a stone that he cannot lift. However, a stone that God cannot lift would contradict the almightiness of God.

Many believe that this paradox proves the impossibility of a god and mostly see it as a manslaughter argument against belief. However, this paradox does not indicate that omnipotence is contradictory in itself, only that omnipotence is contradictory to our limited minds.

Most paradoxes do not indicate an impossibility, but rather an error in reasoning or the limited imagination of the mind. This is especially the case when, as here, too, it is about concepts that have to do with infinity.

An example from antiquity are the so-called Zeno paradoxes, especially that of Achilles and the turtle. Zeno was a philosopher in ancient Greece and dealt intensively with the contradictions of the movement. So he came up with the scenario in which Achilles competes with a turtle. To give her a chance, Achilles grants her a lead of 100 meters. Achilles himself can do this hundred meters in 10 seconds. In these 10 seconds, however, the turtle moves another 10 meters. In the second that Achilles needs to catch up these 10 meters, the turtle has covered a small part of the way again.

From this, Zeno concluded that, according to this logic, Achilles, although he is faster, would never overtake the turtle, since whenever he had caught up the lead of the turtle, this one, albeit tiny, distance would have been covered and would therefore always be ahead of Achilles.

Zeno must have already realized at the time that this was due to a mistake in his thinking, as he must have observed more than once how a faster runner gained a lead in a race.

With the development of the infinitesimal calculus by Leibniz and Newton, this paradox could also be eliminated mathematically. In this one divides the room into infinitely small parts. So it was a lack of understanding of infinity that caused the problems in Zeno's mind.

In the case of the paradox mentioned at the beginning, it is also the case that the difficulty of the human mind to grasp infinity is the cause of this contradiction. Only now it is not about infinitely small parts but about infinite power, that is, omnipotence.

However, there is also a thought experiment from mathematics, which in my opinion is equivalent to the above paradox, the so-called Hilbert Hotel:

Let's assume there is a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. We also assume that all rooms in this hotel are occupied.

Now a new customer comes to the front desk who absolutely needs a room. Instead of rejecting him, the receptionist has an idea:

He goes to room no. 1, knocks and politely asks whether the hotel guest would be willing to change to another room. After he has been convinced and has cleared his room, the receptionist lets the new customer into room no. 1. Now, however, he has the problem that the previous occupant of the room is standing in the hallway and waiting for his new room.

No problem, thinks the receptionist and knocks on room no. 2. He also asks the guest in room no. 2 whether they are ready to change rooms and lets the guest from room no. 1 to change to room no.

The receptionist continues this game on and on. In a hotel with a finite number of rooms, one last room would be reached at some point and the receptionist would no longer have a room to choose from, which he could offer this guest. In a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, however, the receptionist can continue this process ad infinitum and thus manages to fill a full hotel.

Even if other guests arrive, the same technology can be used to create a room for each of these guests, even though the hotel is fully occupied.

This seems extremely paradoxical, but this is only because it contradicts our intuition. The problem, then, is the impossibility of man to imagine infinity and not that there is anything wrong with this thought experiment.

It is the same with the apparent paradox of whether an almighty God is able to create a stone that he cannot lift. It makes perfect sense to assume that omnipotence means infinite power. The paradox here is not God's omnipotence, but the fact that we cannot grasp the concept of infinite power with our minds any more than the concept of a hotel with an infinite number of rooms.

Answering the paradox one can say, yes, an almighty God can create such a stone that he cannot lift, but he will then still be able to lift it due to his infinite power.

Just as the Hilbert Hotel can still be filled with other guests even if it is full, an almighty God can still lift a stone which he has created as not liftable for him.

I hope I have been able to illustrate with this article that this paradox lies in the impossibility of man to understand infinity and not in the impossibility of an almighty God.

I am a studied physicist, software developer and author of the book "Sci-Faith - The Compatibility of Faith and Science". My heart burns to look at and practice science from a foundation of faith. View all posts by Josua Göcking →