Rationality Rules On The Unmoved Mover

Is the unmoved mover a bad argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have been dialoguing with an atheist via text message a local pastor told me about. Last night, we were talking about Aquinas’s argument for the unmoved mover. He wanted to send me a video arguing against it to get my thoughts. He told me the video was by someone who went by “Rationality Rules.” I have noticed that so many people who identify themselves by rationality or reason or logic often honor the idea with their lips, but their heads are far from it. I asked him to send it so I could see it. It can be found here.

Fortunately, it comes with a long description to show many of the main points. I found it amusing that towards the start we have Aquinas and Peter Kreeft both having dunce hats put on their heads. Yes. Aquinas, one of the greatest minds in Western civilization should have a dunce cap on. It’s amazing the arrogance that these guys have.

Anyway, RR says he’s not going to deal with Aquinas’s, but Kreeft’s, because, you know, the arguments are basically the same.

No, they’re not.

But hey, apparently it would be too hard to, you know, go and look online and actually read the original argument and actually work to understand it and see what it’s really arguing. Nope. Just go for someone you think is giving the argument. Kreeft is a wonderful philosopher, but here he is also speaking for laymen and not giving the argument in its full sophistication. Unfortunately, I think he also gets it wrong, but let’s see what is said.

Anyway, this is how RR sums up the argument syllogistically.

• Everything that exists is in motion.

• Everything in motion is caused to be in motion by something else.

• Something must’ve existed without a cause.

• We call this first-cause (or unmoved mover) god.

• Therefore, god exists.

This isn’t the argument.

For one thing, we have to ask what is motion. Motion is not just movement, but movement is a type of motion. All movement is motion but not all motion is movement, at least in the physical sense. We know this because Aquinas would talk about movement in angels and angels are not physical. Your atheist friend can say he doesn’t believe in angels. Irrelevant. Aquinas does and Aquinas knows they are not physical so his argument is not limited to the physical.

What is being talked about is potential becoming actuality. Potential is the capacity for change that something has. Actuality is the way that it is. I am sitting right now as I type this. I have the potential to stand, kneel, lie down, jump, etc. If I do any of those, such as stand, then I am actualized my potential to stand and from there, I have the potential again to sit.

This is indeed caused in some respect by another. I do something because I want something outside of myself, which is what would be called The Good. My will is driven towards this. Every one of us desires what we think of as The Good. We can disagree on what we think The Good is, but all of us do want it and when we do something, we are doing it for something we perceive to be a good.

Aquinas is also talking about objects that have no will. A hand moves a stick which moves a rock which moves a leaf. Remove any piece of the chain and the leaf doesn’t move.

So what is the cause of this change? Aquinas says we have to find what it is to avoid an infinite regress. What kind of regress is he talking about? It’s either per accidens or per se. In the former, suppose mine and Allie’s parents both die suddenly. Could we still have children together? Absolutely. All things being equal, there is nothing about our reproduction that is hindered or helped by our parents being alive. That is irrelevant.

Now consider a chain that’s more per se. Each event is dependent on what came before it. Consider a Rube Goldberg machine. That is what it is like. This is the point of Aquinas. This means that everything in the chain is being used as an instrument, but if there are secondary causes, there must be a primary cause. The chain has to find its origin somewhere.

Note that this is also not saying it has to start there chronologically, as the universe being eternal is at this point irrelevant to Aquinas. It’s saying that there must be some great source, such as a gear that all the other gears have to move around and if the big gear stops, the little ones do as well. For Aquinas though, this place where the buck stops must be unmoved itself. If it is not, then it is part of the chain and the chain still needs to be explained.

If we see anything that is in motion, then we need to explain that. That would include the universe because I think it’s quite uncontroversial to say the universe undergoes change. We can all agree to that one. What needs to be at the root is something unchanging in its nature.

RR says the first flaw with this argument is that it does not prove that Christianity is true.

It would not prove that this Unmoved Mover still exists, that it’s a being, that it’s conscious, or that it impregnated a virgin, in order to sacrifice itself to itself so that it could forgive you for your ancestors’ actions… or in other words, it would not prove that Kreeft’s very specific interpretation of the Christianity is true.

This is the common silly objection that so many atheists have. You have not proven that this God is the Christian God, therefore the argument fails. Yes. What a great rejoinder, except the argument was never meant to prove the Christian God. Aquinas knew this. Every defender of the argument knows it. Aquinas could use this argument, but so could the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. So could the Muslim philosopher Avicenna. Put these three in a room together and they will not dispute this argument. They will agree to it. That’s when the disputes start. Who is this mover?

Also, to say that it doesn’t show the mover still exists is just fallacious because once Aquinas establishes God, he goes on to establish things that can be known about God from reason and natural theology and that includes His eternality and immutability among other things. People who argue against the argument like this are just intellectually lazy. Of course, we knew that when we saw the bad representation of the Trinity anyway.

The second fallacy is that of special pleading. Something must have existed without a cause. That’s not the argument though. It’s that something must have existed that is not in motion like everything else is. God is not moved by anything else. He moves all other things. Aquinas does say why as well. Special Pleading fails.

The last two objections deal with the Big Bang Theory. Unfortunately for RR, these are irrelevant. Aquinas’s argument is not about the origins of the universe. The Big Bang Theory could be disproven tomorrow and Aquinas would be unfazed. The universe could be shown to be eternal and Aquinas will still be standing. Aquinas would ask why you’re talking about all this stuff about how the universe came to be when his argument says nothing about that.

In conclusion, it will be good when RR deals with the real argument. If he wants to do so, I suggest for a good understanding he consider something like reading Edward Feser. Feser’s “Aquinas” would be a great introduction for him. As it stands, RR has dealt with a straw man and the dunce cap needs to be removed and put on the head of the rightful owner.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


Deeper Waters Podcast 8/26/2017: Gerard Verschuuren

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Science has taken many twists and turns throughout the centuries. From the ancient Greeks through the medievals to the time of the Reformation and the Enlightenment and up to modern times. Today, science is the language of the day. It is the force that most people take the most seriously. We are in the age of progress and have no need of the ideas of the past that bear no relation to modern science.

But what if they do?

Nearly 800 years ago, a monk was born named Thomas Aquinas. His intellectual tradition had a major impact on the world as he formed a bond between Aristotelianism and Christianity. Aquinas had some interest in the science of his time, but if we were talking about great scientists of the past, his name would not likely come up as he’s much more known for his philosophical and theological conventions. To change Tertullian’s statement, what has Aquinas to do with modern science?

He could have quite a bit actually. The philosophy of Aquinas could have severe ramifications for science and how it is done. As one who considers myself a Thomist, I was alerted about the book Thomas Aquinas and Modern Science. I decided to get a review copy of it and the author of it, Gerard Verschuuren, will be my guest.

So who is he?

Gerard wears many hats. He is a scientist, a speaker, a writer, and he serves as a consultant. He has a doctorate in the philosophy of science and today serves as a human geneticist. As of 1994, he lives in the southern part of New Hampshire.

We’re going to be talking about what role Thomas Aquinas has for modern science. Perhaps it the case that old Aquinas should not be forgot. What does Aquinas have to say for modern cosmology and genetics? Could it really be that scientists might actually need to study some metaphysics? Could it be that if they don’t, that are possibly doing metaphysics and just doing it very poorly and their science could actually improve with metaphysics?

What about questions we have today? Did the universe have a beginning? Would a multiverse be a problem? Should we even be using the metaphysics of Aquinas since we know he got them from Aristotle and Aristotle has been shown to be wrong in his physics hasn’t he? If so, why should we care about his metaphysics?

Evolution is sometimes seen as a defeater by many Christians and atheists. Is it? What would Aquinas think of the work of Darwin? What would he think of by contrast of the Intelligent Design movement? Does Aquinas have something that both sides can learn?

What about our minds and bodies? How do the two of them interact? Does Aquinas have something to say about that as well? What would Aquinas think of Near-Death Experiences? Would he support a dualism?

Also, what about our modern government? How does Aquinas say about how we should all function together? Does he have anything to say about our economic struggles today?

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode. Aquinas was a fascinating thinker in his day and still deserves to be listened to today. Please be watching and consider leaving a positive review on ITunes of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Every Beatitude Included In The Beatitude Of God?

Hello readers, and welcome back to Deeper Waters, where we are always diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re going to wrap up not only our look at the divine beatitude, but our look at the doctrine of God. We’ve come that far in the Summa! What will we be doing tomorrow? Well if you want to know readers, you will have to come back tomorrow! For now, we’re going to wrap up our look at the doctrine of God which as has been said, has used the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read at newadvent.org. Our topic tonight is the question of if every beatitude is included in the beatitude of God?

What do you desire? Does it somehow find its place in God? Aquinas says it does. Now of course, some of these are things we desire that are reflections of God. I think of many the young woman I met who has said she wants to be married to Jesus. Well in a way, I can understand what she means, though it doesn’t make much sense to me, but she cannot walk down the aisle and marry Jesus literally. If she wants a husband, she’ll need to look at humanity.

However, could it be that something that she does desire can be found in God and a husband is something that is meant to reflect that? Of course. What all could she want? Maybe she wants love. That’s definitely in the nature of God who is love. Maybe she wants security. That’s found in the providence and power of God. Maybe she wants sex. That kind of intimacy is also found in the love of God. Maybe she wants to be a mother. God is the one who makes the barren woman more than the mother of many according to Isaiah 54:1.

This is the line of reasoning Aquinas brings to the table. For instance, God does not have material joys such as riches in His nature, but He is self-sufficient within Himself. He not have physical pleasures such as food and drink within Himself, but He does give the pleasure of having us being provided and cared for.

Aren’t there some false desires? Of course. However, the only reason someone desires something is that they perceive that something as good. Hitler really thought he was doing something good. He thought the murder of millions of innocent Jews was a good thing for his own sick reasons. He was wrong of course and I do wish to be clear that is condemned 100%, but the reason he pursued it was he thought it was good.

A murderer might commit a murder for what he believes is justice. His means of getting what he wants are wrong, but we will not say that justice is a bad thing. A woman might commit an abortion to be financially secure. We do not condemn wanting to be financially secure, but her means to get it is wrong.

However, the good desired does in some way find its place in God. The murderer might want justice on his own terms, but he should instead seek to leave the case in the God of justice and the way he has set for humans to bring about earthly justice. The mother might want financial security, but she should trust God to provide and if she can’t handle a child, put the child up for adoption.

What about the rest of us? Seek our joy in God ultimately. We can enjoy many things here, and we should, but we should not lose sight of the greatest joy of all.

We shall begin another topic tomorrow.

Is God The Beatitude Of Each Of The Blessed?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a blog devoted to helping readers dive into the ocean of truth and swim for all its worth! Our subject of discussion the past few months has been the doctrine of God. Our guide for this study has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read for free at newadvent.org. Our topic tonight is the divine beatitude and we’ll be asking if God is the beatitude of each of the blessed.

Aquinas says no, which could be seen as a surprise, but there is a reason for this. Aquinas is not one who wants to limit God, but he wants to be sure that we are being accurate with our philosophical terminology. Aquinas has said earlier that the joy of the blessed is in the beatific vision where they see God as He is.

However, there are degrees of joy, and there are some Christians, myself included, who believe this is what is meant by our rewards. We will have a great capacity to enjoy God based on how we responded to Him in this life. Now that doesn’t mean there will be unhappy people in Heaven. All will be happy, but some will have more to be happy with.

Of course, the object of this vision is always God and so the object of joy for the blessed will be God. Aquinas does not deny this. However, the joy comes in knowing God and knowing is an act of the intellect. Thus, the joy is found in the action of knowing the one who we are with.

Marriage provides an example of this that we can understand. The lovers enjoy the sight of one another, but they both know that the best realization of their joy will come in the physical act of intercourse with one another. The object of their love has not changed from dating to marriage, but the way that they are able to express that love and know the other person has increased (It is interesting in this light that in biblical terminology, to have intercourse with someone is to know them).

For all of us, we should be humbled at this. While I do say the knowing is an act of the intellect, this does not mean its reserved best for the solely intellectual types. C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere of how you can be an apologist in a church service watching some lady in the pew and your pride is tempted to think of how much more you know about doctrines and church history and evidences then that person does, but then you get reminded that when it comes to personal holiness, you’re not worthy to untie her shoes.

Our goal then should be that no matter our position, what we have, we give to God. If you have a strong intellect, give that to God. If you have a great singing voice, give that to God. If you have strength of the body, give it to God. Think of the parable of the talents and use whatever it is you have to the glory of God.

We shall conclude this topic tomorrow.

Is God Blessed According To His Intellect?

Hello readers and welcome back to Deeper Waters, the blog that seeks to explore ever deeper the ocean of truth! Our topic recently has been the doctrine of God, the highest thought in Christianity, but then, the highest thought period. How you answer the God question will determine how you answer every other question. Our guide for this journey has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read for free at newadvent.org. We’re on the topic of the beatitude of God now and our question tonight is if God is called blessed according to His intellect.

By speaking of blessed, we are referring to happiness. We do not take much time today to think about the happiness of God. Yesterday, I stated that happiness is not necessarily a feeling. God does not have passions in the sense that we do. He does have happiness, but it is not a feeling so much as it is an awareness. He has incredible happiness that is not an emotional state, for an emotion is generally a response to something else and God does not “respond” in time as we do.

However, he is happy. Why? For Aquinas, the highest joys can be found in the intellectual life and in a sense, this is so. After all, we do not believe that we have an advantage over God by our being material in that we can partake of greater joys than He can. God’s greatest joy is Himself. He does not need to be material in order to enjoy Himself.

Now we can say being material allows us to enjoy great joys of the body like food, drink, athletic activity, sex, etc. There is nothing wrong with any of these pleasures, but each of these pleasures are also pointers beyond themselves. Jesus used food to speak of the sustenance that only he provides and Paul described man and woman being one as a mystery and something not fully understood until Christ came along and we saw Christ and the church.

The intellect is that by which we understand something. It is a joy to think about that which makes us happy. Too often, we tend to do the opposite and sadly when we think about God, it often doesn’t make us happy. Our fallenness should be clear to anyone who is a Christian in that we do not think about what we ought and that even great truths we see in Scripture often do not make us happy.

But for God, He does understand and know Himself and so He is happy in Himself. It is when we see Him that we will be happy truly as well. All happiness we have here is meant to be a foretaste to the greater happiness that is awaiting us. The problem we usually have with these happinesses are that we take them to be the final. They are really the mirrors that are reflecting a greater happiness that awaits us.

Which brings us to an interesting truth. God does want us to be happy, but He knows that that happiness we seek ultimately lies only in Himself. We will never be truly happy until we know God as He is. Since that is where our ultimate happiness lies, does it not make sense to seek that happiness now?

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is God Blessed?

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a Christian blog seeking to dive into the ocean of truth! We’ve been spending time looking at the doctrine of God and right now, we’re at the final section of our study and that is the blessedness of God. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, which can be read for free at newadvent.org. I hope readers will continue studying the thought of Thomas Aquinas even after this portion of our study is done. Tonight, we will begin this topic by looking at the question of if God is indeed blessed.

Happiness. What is it? What does it mean? In our world, there is much confusion over the topic of happiness. Modern minds tend to understand happiness to be a feeling and having what one desires. Now there is some truth to that, although I would not say that happiness is a feeling but it is what produces a feeling that we call happiness. (I would also say the feeling of love is more that which is produced by the action of love)

The problem however is that we do not know what we ought to desire and if we look for something else to be the ultimate and receive that something else and it does not satisfy, we will be depressed. This does not mean that we cannot look to other things to bring about happiness to some degree. They just cannot bring us happiness.

For instance, as it stands, in the realm of things that aren’t specifically Christian, I can celebrate now the love of a very good woman, the friendship that I have with several people, and to get to think about the things that matter most. For the Christian side, I have the forgiveness of God, that He has blessed me with being able to serve Him, and that I have a great church fellowship. (Although I am still in major need of employment. We would still be very appreciative of any donations made)

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your life. Over here, the wife and I watch DVDs and enjoy video games together. Right now, she just got done asking me what the blog was about and we have some good discussion on these kinds of topics. Of course, she also makes sure I keep up with schoolwork. I can enjoy movies with friends and this evening will be enjoying gaming with friends, going to an ice cream parlor as I regularly do, and then going bowling. There is nothing wrong with enjoying pleasures in life provided we don’t make them everything.

What is happiness then really? Happiness is realizing your place in the universe and conforming yourself to it. Too often, we try to conform the universe to our desires. We should find the way reality is and not try to adapt it to us, but rather try to adapt ourselves to it. The problem is not our having desire, but our having improper desire. We desire too much the things that won’t satisfy, and we desire too little the one that does satisfy, namely God. For Aquinas, this happiness would not be reached apart from the beatific vision, that is, the seeing of God.

Is God happy then? Yes. He accepts reality as it is and accepts the reality that He is in fact God and is happy with that state. Hence, while there is much that is not good, that cannot detract Him from the overall good, which is Himself. We are promised that we will have similar happiness when we see Him.

God is blessed indeed, and by his grace, so shall we be.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Can God Do Better?

Hello everyone and welcome to Deeper Waters, a blog dedicated to diving into the truth of Christianity! We’re right now going through the doctrine of God in Christian thought. The guide that we are using for this fascinating study is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, a work that can be read for free at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re going to wrap up our look at the doctrine of the power of God and ask if God can do better than he does.

A lot of readers I think will be surprised and say “Of course he can’t! He’s God!” However, if you say that, Aquinas is in disagreement with you. Now there are some ways he does agree he can’t do better. For instance, if you say better refers to God’s activity rather than to what was created, then no, God could not have created in a better way. If you mean that the universe could be better than it is, then yes, Aquinas agrees with that.

There are exceptions. Four cannot be a greater number than it is. If it had something added to it, it would not be four. The reason is that in this case, it would change the substance. A man turned into an angel would no longer be a man as an example. (Hence, when people die, they do not become angels.)

There is an old joke that the optimist believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist is afraid that this is correct. This was the position of Leibniz as well. When the humanist Voltaire wrote his Candide, he wrote it to mock the idea that this is the best of all possible worlds.

God has ways he could improve this world. For instance, do you think that humanity is good? If so, then God could have just added one more human. Space problems? Okay. Change the order of the universe and make everything correspond somehow. Still, you could add more. The same could be said of angels. If angels are good, then creating more of them would make things better.

Substances however do not become better by having more of them. Substances are good by virtue of what they are. We could always celebrate having more, but that won’t make them better by quality. It will simply be that we have more of a quantity of things that are better by quality.

When it comes to this with the problem of evil, a great mistake many atheists make is that they assume the world has to be perfect in every way for God to have created it. The mistake the Christian makes is that he gives in to this paradigm and just says “It will be better in Heaven.” Now no doubt it will be, but it is up to the one who is pushing the problem of evil to show that this was wrong on God’s part and that there is a necessary contradiction between a good God and the existence of evil in the world. So far, this has yet to be done.

The big question to ask for us now however is not what God could do. We should ask what are we going to do with what God has done. There is no doubt that we can do better and our God certainly deserves the best from us.

We shall start a new subject tomorrow.

Can God Do What He Does Not?

Hello readers and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a blog dedicated to diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, we’re studying the doctrine of God in Christian thought. We’ve been using the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which can be read for free at newadvent.org, as our guide for this study. Right now, we’re studying the topic of the power of God and the question we’re asking tonight is “Can God Do What He Does Not?”

This might seem like a difficult question at first in the sense of wondering what exactly is being asked. The idea is whether or not God is forced to do what he does. Does he have to do one thing and if something happens, then that is the only thing that could happen? Is everything predetermined in the sense that even God is predetermined?

Aquinas says no and points to Matthew 26:53 as his authority with the reminder that Jesus said the Father could send down twelve legion of angels. We know from Scripture that that didn’t happen. Keep that in mind would-be philosophers. The greatest Christian philosophers used Scripture. (As one of my philosophy professors said in our class one day before reading Scripture, “This is a Bible.”) A good Christian philosopher will know Scripture well.

It has been said when we looked at the will of God that God does not act from necessity. The only thing that He wills of necessity is Himself. That means everything else that he wills he wills contingently. He did not have to create, but he chose to create.

Aquinas tells us to look at what the purpose of creation is. Creation is for the glory of God. All things were created that God might have glory and so the divine wisdom acts through the creation in order to bring glory to God. It should be obvious that the end for which creation was made is greater than creation itself.

Because of this, the creation does not restrict God. He can do whatever He wants in it that will bring about glory for Him. God could have acted in any number of ways a number of times. This is especially so if you have beings that have free-will roaming around creation who act out of their own freedom, though acting in a way that is foreknown to God.

But is there any restriction on the way God acts? Yes. God acts according to his nature. God cannot lie for instance. God cannot violate the laws of logic either. God will always act in a way that is wise and just. The point is that there are many different things God is capable of doing in a situation that are wise and just.

For us, we should learn then to trust God. Because God does not act the way that we want Him to, it is easy to think He acted in the way He ought not. God has a number of options on how He can perform and whichever way He chooses, we should believe that He is working all things to our good (if we are Christians) and more importantly, his glory.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Can God Change The Past?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a place where we dive into the ocean of truth! We’re studying the doctrine of God right now in Christian thought. Our guide for this has been the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, a work that can be read for free at newadvent.org. Tonight, we’re going to be looking more at the topic of the power of God and asking if this power of God is capable of changing the past.

Why shouldn’t God be able to change the past? It would seem as if this would be something simple. My wife and I spent the evening watching a favorite program together. Maybe he could make it so that instead, we played a game on the Wii together.

However, Aquinas says that this is not the case. To say of Socrates that he sat and then say of him that he did not sit is to take what is true and then to make it false. It is asking God to make what is true to be false. He also has the belief of Aristotle behind him on that one. Aquinas gives this quote from Book VI of the Ethics that can be found in section 2.

For this alone is lacking even to God,
To make undone things thathave once been done.)

Quite revealing is the whole section before that:

The origin of action-its efficient, not its final cause-is choice, and that of choice is desire and reasoning with a view to an end. This is why choice cannot exist either without reason and intellect or without a moral state; for good action and its opposite cannot exist without a combination of intellect and character. Intellect itself, however, moves nothing, but only the intellect which aims at an end and is practical; for this rules the productive intellect, as well, since every one who makes makes for an end, and that which is made is not an end in the unqualified sense (but only an end in a particular relation, and the end of a particular operation)-only that which is done is that; for good action is an end, and desire aims at this. Hence choice is either desiderative reason or ratiocinative desire, and such an origin of action is a man. (It is to be noted that nothing that is past is an object of choice, e.g. no one chooses to have sacked Troy; for no one deliberates about the past, but about what is future and capable of being otherwise, while what is past is not capable of not having taken place; hence Agathon is right in saying

What this means is that once something is done, it is not undone. Indeed, were God to ever change the past, we would not know that it had been changed. How could we? If God made it so that my wife and I played the Wii together, then it would be in my memory that we did that. If I asserted otherwise, would I be speaking truthfully or a lie? We could have indeed watched a program, but then it would be that it was changed so that we played the Wii together.

If I say we played the Wii together, did we really do it, or did God change our choices for us? Will I have a memory of us doing that, or will I remember what I know we freely chose to do, namely watching a program together on DVD? The complexities that arise from such an issue are staggering.

It is my conclusion that God does not and cannot change the past for he does not change either what he is eternally doing. The first place ultimately to look for the answer is again, not in the world that we see around us, but in the very nature of God himself.

We shall continue tomorrow.

Is God Omnipotent?

Hello readers and welcome back to Deeper Waters, a place where we seek to always dive into the ocean of truth! Right now, we’re talking about the doctrine of God and we’re going through it little by little. It’s a huge topic after all! Fortunately, we have a great guide on our journey. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century monk, is our guide, and his Summa Theologica, which can be read for free at newadvent.org, is our text. Tonight, we’re on the topic of the power of God. We’re asking the question “Is God omnipotent?”

Many Christians have been stopped in their tracks sadly by this question: “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” My personal favorite answer to this question was the one given by Dr. Gary Habermas when I heard him bring it up at a talk one time. The answer is as follows:


Some Christians fear that we have abandoned omnipotence at this point. In reality, we haven’t. Why? Aquinas tells us. Aquinas points out that contradictions are impossible and power is only capable of doing all that it is possible to do. To make something like a square circle is nonsense. If it is square, it is not a circle. If it is a circle, it is not a square. C.S. Lewis once said that nonsense doesn’t cease to be nonsense just because you add the words “God can” before it.

The big rock question is just such a question. For one thing, a rock like that would to be infinite, but rocks are finite by nature since an infinite quantity does not exist. If it was measurable in some way, it could not be infinite. In other words, the questioner wants a rock that is finite and infinite.

Most essentially however, the answer is no because God can handle whatever he creates and to ask if he can create something that he can’t handle is nonsense. It means that there is a weakness on the part of God and weakness is not a sign of omnipotence but a sign of impotence. In fact, it is because God is omnipotent that he cannot do what the questioner asks if he can do.

This is also why it is impossible for God to sin or to lie or do any number of things. He cannot do these things because these are signs of imperfection and God does not have imperfection. Of course, we realize there are some differences when we get to the incarnation as Christ is fully God and fully human and in his humanity, he does take on the limitations of humanity, such as being able to be subject to death. In his deity however, he never is.

Unfortunately, Christians have for too long defended a view of omnipotence that is simply nonsense. There are a number of things that God cannot do and these are things he cannot do not because he is impotent, but because he is omnipotent. While there are still questions in this area, such as how the medievals would debate if God could swim, to which I’d say it’s nonsense to ask if an immaterial being can in immateriality do a material action, let us make sure we are not spending our time defending a view of omnipotence that is not biblical or historical.

We shall continue tomorrow.

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