Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Rock So Heavy Even God Can't Lift It? (Tales of Facebook Nonsense Questions)

I took this photo of a bald eagle near my house.

(Because I'm explaining logical incoherence to my philosophy of religion students.)

Occasionally a Facebook atheist asks me this: "If God is all-powerful, can God then make a rock so heavy even he can't lift?" This question is supposed to throw theists into fear and loathing. But it doesn't, since it's a nonsense question, equivalent to wondering if square circles exist. Instead, the Facebook atheist should be filled with cognitive self-loathing.

Yale University philosopher Greg Ganssle writes:

"A physical object that is so big that an all-powerful being cannot move it is a self-contradiction. There cannot be such a thing. It is like a square circle. So God cannot make one. You see, to say that God is all-powerful does not mean that God can do any task I can name in words. It means he can do anything that is not a logical contradiction. A square circle is a logical contradiction. It is a logical impossibility. It is really not a thing at all and therefore it is not surprising that God cannot make one. It is not a real limit to God's power that he cannot perform contradictions."
- Ganssle, Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy, 157

Note: The question, "If God made the universe, then what made God?" suffers the same fate; viz., it is logically incoherent. If God is, by definition, self-existent (necessarily existence), then God never began to exist. Thus, to ask what made God is nonsense.)