Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Paradox of the Stone

"Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it?"

I'm sure you've heard this question before. You've likely also tied your brain in knots trying to find the answer. Atheists have used this paradox as a "gotcha" for believers about the omnipotence of God. If someone answers "yes", then God is not all powerful and therefore cannot be God. However, if they answer "no", God is likewise not all powerful, and therefore cannot be God.

Either answer brings you back to the same conclusion: If God is not able to create this rock, or if He's not strong enough to lift it, He cannot be omnipotent. Aside from the fact that it anthropomorphizes God and misunderstands His infinite Being, it's an interesting conundrum. 

In thinking about this question, I read some online articles from various philosopher theologians who've come to the conclusion that no, God cannot create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it, because God cannot do what is logically impossible. It's like creating a round square or a married bachelor.

But the more I got to thinking about this, the more it became clear to me to trust what Scripture has said in Matthew 19:26: "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." This passage from Matthew is Christ's own words. In fact, Christ Himself is the key to this paradox.

Those who ask this question first have no understanding that God is triune - Father/Son/Spirit. At the incarnation, God showed that He can indeed separate Himself from Himself, as the Father was in Heaven, the Son was on earth, and His miracles came by the Holy Spirit.

We know that Jesus is the Creator, as Scripture tells us (John 1:3, John 1:10, Colossians 1:16Hebrews 1:2). So, as Creator He created every rock in the universe. 

Let's think about God's omnipotence for a moment. It is an attribute of His nature. What would He have to do not to be able to lift a rock that He has created? He would have to empty Himself of His omnipotence; He would have to humble Himself. Philippians 2:5-7 tells us that's exactly what He did. 

God humbled Himself and became a man (Matthew 1:23).

Herein lies the key to this supposed "gotcha paradox". In the man Christ Jesus, God both humbled and emptied Himself of His omnipotence. While He walked upon the earth, there were plenty of rocks He could not lift. He both created them - and could not lift them. Therefore, Christ Himself makes the impossible possible.

And yet, through His triune nature, God the Father and God the Spirit remained absolutely all powerful. God emptied Himself in Christ, but Christ did not cease to be God. Nor did God the Father lay down His omnipotence. Since Jesus willingly took on a man's physical limitations while He lived among us, there were things He could not do in the flesh, such as lift huge, heavy rocks. 

Are there rocks on this earth that YOU cannot lift? Of course there are. (Remember, Christ was fully man - a normal, every day man. Despite His miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit, He was not a "super hero" in the flesh, as He lived daily in submission to the Father. He could only do what He saw the Father doing. John 5:19)

The Paradox of the Stone breaks down when we forget that Jesus Christ is God who became a man and willingly laid aside His omnipotence. It likewise breaks down when one forgets that God is triune and the Father and Spirit did not cease to be Almighty. 

Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it? Yes, He can, and yes, He did in the man Christ Jesus. But He only did it once, and it will never happen again. Through the incarnation of Christ, the Son of God lived the sinless life that we could not in order to save His people from their sins.

So the next time someone comes at you with the "gotcha paradox" of a rock so heavy God cannot lift, they've actually touched upon one of the boundless mysteries of God. The paradox isn't about the rock at all, but about God Himself, who both laid aside His omnipotence and yet remained Almighty. Those who wish to trip up a believer about what God can and cannot do with a rock has actually opened the door to hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps the rock that needs to be moved...

...is their heart.

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