Can An Atheist Raise a Stone Paradox So Paradoxical It’s Incoherent?

The answer to the above headlined question is yes.  It happens all the time unfortunately.  I wanted to address and crack the old stone paradox once and for all to show how silly of a question it is.

For those who don’t know, the stone paradox is usually phrased if God is all-powerful, then can he create a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it?  I’m sure you’ve heard it or one of its variations sometime or another in your life.

There are different routes the theist can take to defuse to such a “dilemma.”  Probably, one of the best answers I’ve heard of comes from philosopher J.P. Moreland.  He responds with no, but not because of a deficiency God has.  Moreland argues the problem is with the stone and its nature, and not with God’s.  To call for an infinite rock, as the stone paradox does, is a contradiction in terms.  It’s what’s known as a category error, which is to erroneously classify one sort of thing as another.  Rocks, boulders, stones, gravel, diamonds, minerals, Geodude, are all contingent, finite objects.  This is true of them by their definition.  They must have boundaries out of logical necessity.  A finite stone can’t be infinite.  Such a thing is meaningless and does not exist.  Hence, there is no inconsistency in theism.

God: unable to create or lift an infinite Geodude or any of its heavier evolutions since...ever.

The heart of the question essentially deals with defining God’s omnipotence and deciding on how it’s applied.  Being all-powerful does not entail being able to do anything.  There are plenty of things the theist is more than willing to concede that God can’t do.  One of them is ability to do the logically impossible. Concepts that defy the laws of logic like square circles or married bachelors, or in this case, stones of infinite mass are not only meaningless, but do not exist.  To simply ask if someone can do the logically impossible is non-sensical.

Also entailed under God’s omnipotence is the inability to do what’s against his fundamental nature.  This is a subset of what’s logically possible.  Therefore, testing God’s omnipotence by asking if he can die or be deceived are again logically incoherent.  It’s no issue for the theist to concede God’s inability to do either.  God, by definition, is all-good, eternal and sovereign.  If God was to lie, it would violate his omnibenevolence.  Therefore, he can’t perform it without compromising one of his essential properties.  Does this make him anything less than God?  No, of course not.  Do we say a square is less of itself because it can’t be circular?  Honestly, it doesn’t analytically follow then to even pose such queries about his nature as they’ve already been answered.  Moreover, if God were able to lie or die, it would actually be a proof of imperfection.  If we hold to St. Anselm’s definition of God being the greatest conceivable being possible, then he must not be able to die or lie because a perfect being should not be defective in any way.  The abilities to lie or die are deficiencies, and the ability to do them is not a perfection.

The stone paradox is guilty of the same tautological crime.  It could be rephrased can God create a being greater than himself.  The answer is clearly no.  If God were able to do so, then he would not be God and nor would the created being.  Not to be pedantic, but by definition God is uncreated, and once again to make such a claim is nonsense.

In summary, God’s omnipotence is not raw creative power or energy.  It’s more accurately defined as the ability to do whatever it is logically possible for God to do.  Therefore, the answer is no.  God can’t create a stone so big that he can’t lift it.  Basically, when the atheist asks this species of questions, it’s the equivalent of them opening his or her mouth and uttering, “fleegle-flaggle-floogle-flum.”

I would like to leave you with another video from a theist on YouTube.  He addresses and defeats the same problem.


Modus Pownens


7 thoughts on “Can An Atheist Raise a Stone Paradox So Paradoxical It’s Incoherent?

  1. Two things:

    1. I think J.P. Moreland’s critique is really just a side-step from actually answering the question. By simply asserting that a ‘rock’ is a finite object and to pose a question that would convert a finite object into an infinite object and, therefore, simply decreeing that it is a categorical error is just being lazy. One could just replace the term ‘rock’ with ‘object’ and we would still need an answer from Moreland. Having said that, I agree that God couldn’t create an object he couldn’t carry because it is a logical contradictory is the correct answer to the question.


    “It could be rephrased can God create a being greater than himself. The answer is clearly no. If God were able to do so, then he would not be God and nor would the created being. Not to be pedantic, but by definition God is uncreated, and once again to make such a claim is nonsense.”

    I don’t want to challenge this claim, as I think it is valid. However, it didn’t get me to thinking of the question, “Could God create a being that is His equal?”

  2. I think the phrasing of the stone paradox is poor. It’s incoherent and I believe Moreland is justified in pointing that out. Precision in language and distinctions are important in philosophy.

    In regards to plugging in object instead of anything else, I don’t know if that would work either. Correct me if I’m wrong, (I’m willing to be convinced otherwise) but entailed under objecthood is finiteness. The statement all objects are finite I believe is analytic in nature. I believe finiteness is contained in the concept of an object, so I still think it’s a category error to ask for an infinite object. Whatever object in question, if infinite, would no longer exist as an “object.” It would be something else. Please point out if I’m missing something. Ontology is difficult.

    I do think you bring up an interesting point about could God transform something finite and transform it into something infinite. I would answer no for a couple reasons. I think it’s logically impossible for something to exist both finitely and infinitely. I already answered God cannot do the logically impossible and that “inability” is not a problem to the doctrine of omnipotence. Secondly, as a theist, there is only one actual infinite, and that’s God. A quantitative actual infinite does not exist. And I already said in the post God could not create himself or something equivalent to himself. I know I rambled a little, but I hope I made sense.

    “I don’t want to challenge this claim, as I think it is valid. However, it didn’t get me to thinking of the question, ‘Could God create a being that is His equal?’” Thanks for pointing that out to me. To me that what’s the issue the stone paradox tries to get at, but that might only be obvious to me. Another set of eyes is helpful for understanding.

    I appreciate your input like always, Oscar. =)

    Take care,

    Modus Pownens

    1. Yes, ontology is a tricky subject. Honestly, I haven’t thought about ontology that much, aside from the Ontological argument. It is an interesting thing to consider, though, whether an object is an analytic or synthetic judgement. I think we would have to define what an ‘object’ is. For instance, while there is nothing else besides God that is infinite from the negative (- 8) [sorry, don’t know how to make an infinite symbol], I think it can safely be said that heaven will exist infinitely (+ 8), at least according to traditional doctrine. In addition, the soul has the capacity to exist infinitely, and yet, can still be destroyed (citing the destruction of hell and its inhabitants). Therefore, according to Christian doctrine, God has the capability of creating something that is infinite, yet can be finite.

      Now, another interesting point would be, “Can something that is originally finite be made to be infinite?” Of course, an object cannot be simultaneously finite and infinite (though the soul apparently is), but I see no reason why God would not be able to change the ontology of an object. After all, God, according to Christian doctrine, supposedly existed simultaneously as both an infinite being (the Father and the Holy Spirit), as well a finite being (the Son). Then again, I don’t think anyone pretends to know how the Trinity actually works.

  3. Oscar,

    Sorry that it has taken so long for me to respond, but believe it or not Christian apologetics is not my day job, lol.

    Though this is not my strong point, I think the spiritual death or destruction you’re speaking about is incorrect. I’m unaware of where the Bible talks about the destruction of hell and its souls. If you would kindly cite where it is in there, I would appreciate it. Spiritual death, as I understand it, means “separation” and not “non-existence.”

    I think you might be equivocating “infinite.” The soul is eternal, but contingent. It has not always existed. It’s not qualitatively infinite like God, but quantitatively infinite. To be honest though, I don’t know how this is possible, and you bring up a point I had not considered before. I will do research into this. If I would venture a guess, God somehow sustains souls, but I don’t know the theology behind this. So, I could be off here.

    I don’t know if God could change the ontology of an object, since ontology deals with the objects and their relations. They seem to abide by the laws of logic and God does not do the logically impossible.

    I think you misunderstand the Trinity a little bit. The Son was never finite. He has always existed. Check John: 1:1-3. Though it’s true no one truly understands the Trinity, it’s three persons in one essence — three whos in one what as I was taught.

  4. The essence of the stone question is what is logically possible. The whole point of the question is to point out there are logical impossibilities connected to the idea of a particular cultural explanation of the word god. If omnipotency is a logical impossibility, it should not be used to define anything logically possible. If we decide and define a feat impossible to a god, then at the same time we have defined the idea of omnipotency as logically impossible. The point of the stone question is not to define a god as an impossible entity, but to point out the obvious fallacy connected to the idea of a particular god.

    A nother question is, if a god is logically possible at all? Yet a nother question would be, if a god is even remotely likely, and what can be known of such an entity? Logical deduction does not lead to a god. A god requires faith, and faith defies logic.

    Also, there are many religions in which a god has created or giveen birth to a nother god. These gods are not subject to the same fallacy, so does that make them more plausible gods? Why not?

    1. I’m sorry rautakyy, but I’m just not buying what you’re selling. Most intellectually fulfilled theists will concede that God cannot do the logically impossible, nor is such an admittance detrimental to theism. The logically impossible is essentially meaningless. A married bachelor and a four-sided triangle are gibberish. The same applies to an ultimate being creating something greater than itself. It’s utter nonsense. So yeah, God can’t do the non-sensical, and that somehow means omnipotence is a logical impossibility? Sorry, that simply does not follow from that. Also, if God doesn’t abide by the laws of logic, then on what grounds can you say he does not exist?

      Many have and will continue to argue God is not only logically possible, but necessary. That’s what the ontological argument attempts to demonstrate. That, implicit within the very concept of God is his existence. I’m not going to go into a very in depth discussion on God’s ontology, but deduced from the arguments for his existence are his attributes.

      “A god requires faith, and faith defies logic.” Faith does not defy logic. Faith works in accordance with logic. Blind faith is antithetical to logic, but faith, when properly defined and applied, just means to trust. Rautakyy, given your epistemology, have faith in science because science assumes there is an external, physical world that is intelligible to us. That’s taken on faith as there is no good scientific reason for science to be true. It’s the same circularity that I discussed before. Moreover, science is highly inductive in nature. The legitimacy of theories is probabilistic which means they aren’t deduced or proven true out of logical necessity. It just means they haven’t been proven false and or they’re probably true.

      Polytheistic gods can be cut out the equation simply through Occam’s Razor because their hypothetical existence raises more questions than it answers. It’s not as simple as a supreme being being responsible for the universe.

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