I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
In this installment, I want to go a little deeper into the issue of God’s power. God is called “almighty” fifty-eight times in the Bible, forty-eight in the Old Testament and ten in the New. Historically, this has been taken to mean that God has the power to do anything that power can do. If you are collecting nerdy theological terms, this is called “omnipotence.”
Some have tried to challenge this belief with questions like, “Can God make a rock so big or heavy that he can’t lift it?” They think that whether you answer “yes” or “no” to this question, you undermine the doctrine. If you answer “no,” then there is something God cannot do, so he is not all-powerful. If you answer “yes,” then since he cannot move it, there is something God cannot do, so the doctrine is undermined. However, this is a silly challenge if you look a little deeper.
First, it is a logically absurd question. Remember I said almighty means God has the power to do anything power can do. What power cannot do is accomplish something that power cannot do. (Ya think?) Power cannot do the absurd.
Second, what would it mean for a rock to be too heavy for anyone to lift? It would mean it had so much mass that it had an irresistible gravitational attraction. However, such an object would attract everything else to itself. If all of matter were in one lump, what would it mean to lift it? “Lift” usually means moving in an “up” direction. However, which way would be “up?” Moreover, if such a universal lump existed, what sort of resistance could there be to God moving it? There would be no other objects to provide a gravitational attraction against the effort to move it, and no air to provide drag.
Third, what would it mean for a rock to be too big for God to move it? In this case, it would actually be possible for God to make a rock too big to move.
“Ah ha! See? He’s not all-powerful, omnipo.. omnibus… om nom nom… whatever you said!”
Not so fast. I said it would be possible. However, in order to make it, God could make a universe in which all that existed was the rock, and just enough space that the rock filled all of space. What is movement? It is a change in location in space. However, in such a world, since there is no empty space, movement is impossible.
“Wait! I clicked on this to read about God, not rocks!”
Fair enough. I think we’ve squeezed enough out of this. Let’s move on.
What omnipotence does mean is that the same God who made all of matter, energy, space and time can also do all the other miracles found in the Bible. Some have balked at things like Jesus’ virgin conception, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Resurrection because they don’t happen very often. Well, of course not. If they did, they wouldn’t be miracles, and they would prove nothing. However, if God made the universe, then a pregnant virgin or a dead man rising is not even difficult. And if he raised Jesus, he will raise you too on the last day. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians (that’s first Corinthians, Mr. Trump) 15:20-24,
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
In my next article, I will address God as love, and (brace yourselves,) the Trinity.