This past Easter weekend, I had the awesome privilege of discussing Christianity with individuals from another country considering the claims of the Scripture upon their life. During the course of discussion, the individuals offered a question to me which they had been told undermined the notion of a God who is all powerful—“Can God make a stone so large that He cannot lift?”
That question is an excellent teaching tool for the existence of God, not evidence for the implausibility of an omnipotent God.
The Flaw in the Question
When my son was around five years old, he was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” He boldly proclaimed, “A dinosaur.” My son failed to comprehend something very important in reality—a human can never be a real dinosaur! His youthful mind had no understanding of such logical contradictions. He would have probably not understood either that a square cannot be a circle. An elephant cannot be a mouse. My young son engaged in irrationality and “silliness” as he ignored the “law of non-contradiction.” The law of non-contradiction is reflected in the created order because it is sourced in the character of God.
Something cannot be itself and not itself at the same time. “Two plus two equals five and two plus two equals four” is a contradictory statement. The proposition “God is all powerful and NOT all powerful at the same time” is a contradictory statement. The assumption behind the question is that God can do anything (He can make a huge stone). Yet the question goes on to imply that He cannot do something (He cannot lift it). The question combines two propositions that are mutually exclusive—God can do all things and He cannot do all things. Thus the question invites the responder to try to resolve a logical contradiction. The question is nonsensical just as my son’s wish to be a human and a dinosaur at the same time.
Please note that violating logical contradictions is not the same as a miracle. Omnipotence in the Scripture is never defined as violating laws of logic. But that is a post for another day.
Answering the Question
If the questioner continues to insist on irrationality and logically contradictory questions, then you combine contradictory propositions in a question back to the questioner. “If an all powerful God can create situations which he can’t handle, then can He not also handle situations which He cannot handle?”
After you point out that the questioner is adopting irrationality which children (and adults) often adopt, pose other questions, “From where did ‘logic’ come?” “How can a naturalistic, secular worldview account for the non-natural and transcendent laws of logic?” It can’t. Only the Christian Theistic worldview can.