If God is All-Powerful Can He Do Anything?

The Islamic theological position regarding God’s ability is eloquently summed up in the following creedal statement found in The Creed of Imam Al-Tahawi. It states,

“He is Omnipotent. Everything is dependent on Him, and every affair is effortless for Him.”

A common contention or question regarding God’s power and ability is that if God is omnipotent then can He create a stone He cannot move? A key point to make in answering this question is to highlight that ‘Omnipotence’ is misconstrued as ‘all powerful’. What omnipotence really implies is the ability to actualise every affair, rather than raw power. So God being able to “create a stone He cannot move” actually describes an affair that is impossible and meaningless, just like if we were to say “a white black crow” or “a circle triangle” or even an “amphibian mammal”.

Such statements describe nothing at all and have no informative value, they are meaningless. So why should we even answer a question that has no meaning? To put it bluntly the question is not even a question.

Another way of looking at this is that since God is all powerful it means that He will always be able to do what He wills, as the creedal statement above mentions “and every affair is effortless for Him.” Therefore omnipotence also includes the impossibility of failure. The questioner however is saying that since God is all powerful He can do anything which includes failure! This is irrational and absurd as it is equivalent to saying “an all powerful being cannot be an all powerful being”!

To conclude, God can create stone that is heavier than anything we can imagine, but He will always be able to move the stone, what must be understood is that failure is not an aspect of omnipotence.

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Comments (4)

    • Well, I’ll give it a try. I’m an agnostic so don’t take this as ripvesentatere of any Christian church’s doctrine but this is what makes sense to me.God’s omnipotence can be preserved if the limitations on his behaviour are set by no outside authority or force but by himself, by a part of his nature as central as his power and his knowledge: his omnibenevolence. He must always do the best thing. The best for the universe in general, for his entire creation. He must allow moral evil to exist because to do otherwise would destroy our gift of free will. We are not his puppets or his toys but his children and he gives us the power to hurt each other and ourselves. He does not step in and smite the ungodly on a regular, detectable basis because that would reveal him too directly and take away our ability to deny his existence and live our lives without him. Apparantly our ability to reject him is better in the long run for us and for the universe. Yes, that answer takes a fair bit of faith to accept. The problem I have is not with Christianity’s solution to the Problem of Evil but what C.S. Lewis called the Problem of Pain. Not to dance too close to your personal life but why the hell should you have debilitating pain or your husband MS? He can wipe all sorts of pain out of existence without interfereing with our free will. We already suffer and die: was syphillis, was cancer, was rabies (to grab an example or two at random) necessary for the divine scheme? Lewis’ solution is a harsh one (as I understand it and I may be wrong). God is a blacksmith, working our souls on the anvil of the Universe. Each blow strengthens us, makes us more like what he needs. The key text would be: For He is like a refiner’s fire Malachi 3:2And that requires insane levels of faith to believe.

  1. * ‘To put it bluntly the question is not even a question.

    ‘Therefore omnipotence also includes the impossibility of failure. The questioner however is saying that since God is all powerful He can do anything which includes failure! This is irrational and absurd as it is equivalent to saying “an all powerful being cannot be an all powerful being”!

    ‘what must be understood is that failure is not an aspect of omnipotence.*

  2. Being an atheist here in the Philippines is exmteely hard. Asking people Do you believe in God is hitting a panic button. I dont go around telling people I am an A much as I would love to share this self-liberating and self-fulfilling experience. I wish people will take the time to ask the right questions.

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