Skeptics often think they can devise clever arguments that debunk the biblical record. But instead, they end up providing a quintessential example of sophistry — i.e., crafty but specious reasoning. Here is a case in point:
The Bible says that the “Lord God” is “almighty” (Rev. 11.17; cf. Gen. 17.1; 28.3; 35.11; Ex. 6:3). The term (pantokrator) means “all-powerful” (Bauer, et al., p. 613). It indicates that God possesses unrestricted dominion as the sovereign of everything. Indeed, “there is nothing too hard for” God (Jer. 32.17; cf. Gen. 18.14; Job 42.2; Mt. 19.26).
However, to cast doubt on that concept, the skeptic asks: Can God create a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it?
The ostensible predicament is this: If the answer is yes, then God lacks lifting power. If the answer is no, then God lacks creative power. Either way, the skeptic claims, God cannot be omnipotent.
A Logically Incoherent Question
First of all, the question itself is logically incoherent. It is like asking whether God can create a married bachelor or a round square. By definition, bachelors are not married; squares are not round. Hence, these self-contradictions do not exist in the realm of either reality or even potentiality. Rather, they fall within the category of the absurd.
In this case, the skeptic isn’t interested in rocks. What the skeptic is really asking is this: Can an all-powerful God be so powerful that he overpowers his all-powerful nature? Can he be all-powerful and powerless at the same time and in the same sense?
Sadly, the skeptic thinks reasoning in contradictions is clever. So before you answer their folly, just ask them this: Can you stop killing children?
If they answer yes, they’ve admitted to homicide. If they answer no, they’ve admitted to being a homicidal maniac. And if they should say something like, I have never killed children, you need only answer: And God has never created a rock so heavy he cannot lift it.
If they are wise, they will finally see the folly in asking questions with inherent contradictions.
But if they are still unable to see it, they will likely complain that you haven’t answered their question. At that point, gently remind them that they haven’t answered yours either.
Once you have brought about this stalemate of silliness, kindly encourage them to read this article — assuming they are interested in engaging in a more robust level of thinking.
“The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Prov. 15.2).
“Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment” (Prov. 15.21).
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov. 18.2, ESV).
“For the foolish person will speak foolishness…to utter error against the Lord” (Isa. 32.6).
A Flawed Definition
Second, the skeptic’s question depends upon a flawed interpretation of divine omnipotence.
With an impetuous yen to scorn the creator, the skeptic rashly assumes that if God is all-powerful, he must be able to do anything human beings can propose — including logically inconsistent things — or things that deny God’s own perfect nature. But that is not what divine omnipotence means (see more below).
But for the sake of argument, let’s accept the skeptic’s definition of omnipotence: God can do any hypothetical thing, including logically incoherent things.
With that definition, we need only answer like this: Yes, God is so powerful that he can create a rock he cannot lift AND he can lift it.
When the skeptic complains about the contradiction, remind them that they were the ones who made the contradiction in the first place. If omnipotence means that God can do the contradictory, then this conundrum presents no challenge whatsoever to the omnipotence of God. An all-powerful being can make infinitely heavy rocks that he cannot lift, which he can lift.
Using their own flawed definition against them, then, God remains omnipotent.
The Omnipotent Nature of God
Finally, let’s explore the true meaning of omnipotence.
Grasping The Concept
When the Bible teaches that God is all-powerful, this by definition implies that there are some things God cannot be or do. The logical principle is this: God “cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2.13). He cannot be self-contradictory. God must be who he is — not who he is not .
For example, since God is perfect in all his ways (cf. 2 Sam. 22.31; Deut. 32.4), it follows that he can't be imperfect. He “cannot deny” his own perfect nature. Perfection precludes imperfection.
If he is all-true, he must be all-true — it is thus “impossible” for him to lie (Heb. 6.18; Tit. 1.2).
If he is all-good, he must be all-good — he cannot be wicked (2 Chron. 19.7; Job 34.10, 12).
If he is all-light, he must be all-light — he cannot be dark (1 Jn. 1.5).
And if he is all-powerful, he must be all-powerful. This means that it is impossible for God to be unable to do something he wills — not because he is weak, but precisely because he is all-strong.
When skeptics hear that God cannot be this or that it is impossible for him to do that, they fallaciously think that means God is powerless or imperfect. But the premise — It is impossible for God to be without power — does not yield the conclusion — God is without power. To argue that since the infinite cannot be finite, the infinite is finite is senseless. The skeptic reasons in contradictions and non sequitur.
The correct conclusion is this: Since God cannot lack power, he can only be all-powerful. Since it is impossible for God to be imperfect, he can only be perfect. Geisler and Brooks note that God “is only ‘limited’ by His unlimited perfection” (p. 31).
Therefore, as Job put it, omnipotence is the quality that enables God to “do everything” that is his “purpose” to do — everything that is consistent with his perfect nature (Job 42.2). Indeed, “he does whatever he pleases” (Ps. 115.3; cf. Ps. 135.6). When God wills something to be done, it will be done — there is “nothing too hard” for him!
Conversely, to say that God can’t lie, do wicked things, or be powerless is not to say those things are “too hard” for him — as if he isn’t strong or clever enough to be or do those things. It is rather to say that those things are simply not who he is — they do not align with his perfect “purpose” and nature.
In short, omnipotence means that God can do everything he wills; there are no limits to the power he exercises. This means that it is impossible for God to be unable to do something he wills. When the angel told Mary, “with God nothing will be impossible” (Lk. 1.37), that was a plain way of saying, when God wills to do something it is impossible for it to be impossible to him. And there is no power greater than that!
Applying The Concept
Just as the question — Can you stop killing children? — recklessly assumes that the one who is given the question has already killed children, so the skeptic’s rock-lifting conundrum is a meaningless quibble, the premise of which is flawed. It irrationally assumes that if something may be said to be impossible for God, then God must not be all-powerful. But as we have seen, something may be impossible for God precisely because he is all-powerful.
In that light, there are several reasons why God cannot create a rock that is more powerful than he is, none of which yield the conclusion: God is not all-powerful.
First, an all-powerful being cannot create something more powerful than himself, not because he is impotent, but precisely because he is all-powerful. It is inane for the skeptic to insinuate that a rock could be more than infinitely powerful. As Geisler and Brooks put it:
“It is logically impossible for anything to be more than infinite because infinite has no end” (ibid., pp. 30-31).
The absolute can never be surpassed because it is absolute!
Therefore, when we say that God “cannot create” such a rock, it is not due to an impossibility of power — whether to create or lift. Rather, it is an impossibility of logical incoherence. It is not that God “cannot powerfully create” such a rock; it is rather that God cannot logically make anything more powerful than himself since there is nothing more powerful than all-powerfulness. He does not lack power; he lacks logical weakness due to his perfect nature. And creating a rock that is stronger than the almighty would require him to be logically weak.
Consequently, it is fallacious to suggest that since God “cannot create” something more powerful than himself, then God must be weak. For it is precisely because he lacks logical weakness and has all power that he cannot logically create something more powerful than himself. Hence, this so-called inability itself is “a mark of positive strength rather than of failure” (Erickson, p. 303).
In short, because God is all-powerful, he will always be able to lift every rock he creates — even infinitely heavy ones.
Second, not only does the skeptic’s conundrum not yield the conclusion they desire (viz., that God is not omnipotent), their argument itself is irrational. By suggesting that an omnipotent being can only be omnipotent if he is also not omnipotent, the skeptic commits a contradiction.
By definition, contradictions deprive themselves of the capacity to develop into reality. They lack the aspect of potentiality since they inherently make themselves non-existent. Indeed, a self-contradiction isn’t even a thing at all, but merely a combination of words that cancel each other out. So it is erroneous to say that because God cannot make a contradiction exist, there is some thing out there that the almighty cannot do.
In this case, God could never be both all-powerful and not all-powerful in the same sense. Either he is all-powerful or he is not.
It is clear, then, that skeptics reason senselessly when they conclude that since self-contradictions cannot exist, then God must not be all-powerful. For they irrationally imply that God could make a self-contradiction exist “if only he had more power” (Warren, p. 28). But their implication is false — and they know it. No amount of power can cause a self-contradiction to become reality. Self-contradictions are, by definition, “not subject to power, not even to infinite power” (ibid.). Since not even infinite power can actualize a self-contradiction, then the fact that God cannot do so does not prove he lacks infinite power.
In short, God cannot be both all-powerful and not all-powerful in the same sense, not because he is finite, but precisely because he is infinitely logical and infinitely powerful. His very nature is logically consistent; either he is all-powerful or he is not. Since he is all-powerful, then it is impossible for him to be not all-powerful.
Once again, then, the impossibility, in this case, affirms his infinite nature.
Finally, since the entire creation depends upon its creator for subsistence (Col. 1.17; Heb. 1.3), no created thing could ever overpower the creator of all. Indeed, the very act of creation makes the created rock inferior both in time and in power (cf. Rom. 9.21).
Therefore, to say that God cannot create a rock he cannot lift is not a denial of God’s power, but rather an affirmation of the subordinate power of every created thing. It is to say that no created thing — even a rock that is infinitely heavy — can defeat the infinitely powerful creator.
In short, God does not lack either creative power or lifting power; he lacks logical weakness. It is because God has no weakness that he cannot logically create a rock that is more powerful than himself — for he is infinitely logical and infinitely powerful, and to create such a rock would require him to be logically weak. Hence, it is really the creation itself that lacks the ability to overcome the power of its creator. In other words, the true weakness falls on the side of the rock; not on the creator himself.
Sophistry always seems clever when examined only shallowly. But when scrutinized in the light of fact and reason, it is exposed as senseless and flawed. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) once observed that “a little philosophy inclines a man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings men’s minds about to religion” (Essay 16, “Of Atheism”). That is certainly the case here.
As an all-powerful being, God can create everything and anything he wills to create; but everything he creates will always be inferior to him by the act of creation itself. No rock could ever defeat God, and it is irrational to suggest that an all-powerful being can only be all-powerful if he is also not all-powerful.
Let the skeptic reason in contradictions and falsehoods. Let them mock our faith in the almighty. We who believe in the infinite source of all that is true, logical, powerful, and good can laugh back at their folly, just as God himself who “sits in the heavens” “laughs” and “holds them in derision” for all their senseless scheming (Ps. 2.4; 37.12-13). Indeed, he will have the last laugh (Prov. 1.25-33).
 Logicians characterize these principles as the law of identity and the law of noncontradiction. It is erroneous to think that God is somehow subordinate to these so-called laws, or that he merely made them up. Rather, all principles of logic stem from the very nature of the all-logical God. Logic was not created by God; rather, it is merely a reflection of his mind. Objectivity, unchangeableness, and internal consistency mark the essence of logic; and that is precisely what God is like.
Bacon, Francis. “Essay 16 Of Atheism” from Essays, Civil and Moral. Upenn.Edu. Accessed February 24, 2023. http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/EtAlia/bacon16.html. Bauer, Walter, William F. Ardnt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1975. Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology: Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004. Geisler, Norman and Ron Brooks. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook On Christian Evidences. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Warren, Thomas B. Have Atheists Proved There Is No God? Moore, OK: National Christian Press, Inc., 1972.