On Annunciation Day, the New York Times published an attempted philosophical demonstration that our idea of God is incoherent.
God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone. If He can lift it, it’s not unliftable. And if He can’t lift it, He’s not omnipotent.
Also: God can’t be all-pure and all-knowing, because He would know what we know. And we know sins–like lust, envy, or even cold-blooded malice. Being human means knowing sin. If God is morally perfect, then He doesn’t know about being human.
…Challenge accepted, sir.
God has certainly created plenty of stones that no human being can lift–even with the help of a backhoe or crane. But things like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can move some of those “unliftable stones.” And, according to plate tectonics, the earth has long-term forces within her that produce mountains out of mole hills–by moving “unliftable” stones.
So maybe we have to say that the only “stone” that no force on earth can lift is: the Earth itself.
But the Earth does move, as we deduce from astronomical observations. (Plus the few people who have visited outer space have seen this with their own eyes.) A force exists which moves even our entire planet.
So maybe the sun is “the unliftable stone?” Well, no. Apparently, the solar system moves; galaxies move.
So the only “unliftable stone” is: the entire universe.
But hold on. Yes, the universe does not have another location to which it can be moved, so it cannot be moved from place to place. But it has “moved” in another way. Its existence is not absolute. It could not exist. Therefore, something–some force–moves the universe to exist, as opposed to not existing.
That is God. The only “unliftable stone” is: God Himself.
Therefore, the argument “God cannot be all-powerful, because He cannot create an unliftable stone” actually means “God cannot be all powerful, because He cannot create another all-powerful God.”
But this is no argument against God’s omnipotence. Create means: produce a creature. Creatures and the Creator are not commensurate things; God is infinite, while creatures are finite. Among finite things, there can be multiple instances of the same type of being. You can have one, two, or a dozen eggs. But there cannot be multiple instances of infinity; that makes no sense. God not being able to double His own infinite power doesn’t make Him anything less than infinitely powerful. The unity and indivisibility of the infinite God pertains to His omnipotence.
“One cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them,” writes the philosopher.
Ok. But even we limited human beings regularly experience lust, envy, and other sins, without committing those sins. We can know lust, envy, or malice by falling victim to acts of lust, envy, or malice by someone else. Or we can experience temptations to lust, envy, malice–but not actually sin. We can resist such temptations.
So even limited, human experience shows that the argument against divine omniscience–on the ground that moral purity means ignorance of sin–doesn’t hold water.
But there’s an even deeper problem with this argument against God’s omniscience. It presumes that God’s “moral” perfection–his sinlessness–involves moral choices like the moral choices we make. That He would achieve moral purity by avoiding sin–like we try to do.
We make moral choices–either for good, or against the good–because we finite creatures grow over time (hopefully towards a good goal.) But God does not grow; He does not change. His unchanging, pure goodness is the good goal of the human moral life.
God knows that we defect from Him, and how we do, and why we do; He knows our sins much better than we know them ourselves. But that does not make Him guilty of them.