If God can do anything...

It's always fun to find little ways in which we can challenge God's supposed omnipotence, such as asking whether God can create a rock so heavy that he can't lift it. If God can't create such a rock, then that's something God can't do, and if there is something God can't do, then he would not be omnipotent. On the other hand, if God can create such a rock, that's good, but then he can't lift it; if he can't lift it, then he's not omnipotent. So either way the question is answered, God is in trouble.

There's plenty of other things it seems God could not do, such as making a triangle out of four sides, or a round square, but these are not as interesting as others that get deeper into our fascination with the idea of God.

Another version of the challenge is by attempting to ascertain the relationship between God and morality. Everyone could agree that if God exists, then God loves what is pious. But the question one could ask next is this: Is the pious pious because God loves it, or does God love the pious because it is pious? If piety is what it is because that's what God loves, then God's love is the reason why something is pious or impious, and if there is no further reason why God loves something, then this love turns out to be completely arbitrary and vacuous, for he could have loved something altogether different, since there is no better reason why he should love what he loves now rather than something else (remember, God is the ultimate reason in this scenario). In other words, there is no such thing as God's goodness here... only the resignation that we kind of have to like whatever God says, or else. So, if God says that murder is wrong, then murder is wrong; if God says rape is wrong, then rape is wrong. However, if God changes his mind and says that rape is morally good, then rape, given this definition of piety, would be morally good. In other words, whatever God says goes, simply because he says so. This is a bad alternative.

The only alternative left is to say that God loves the pious because it really is pious. In other words, God can use his infinite wisdom and his reason to figure out what is moral and what is not. Now we are justified in praising God's goodness; God really is good. He can tell what is good from what is bad, and he chooses what is good. So God is now saved... but the problem now is that God is no longer the source of morality! In other words, morality does not come from God (if it did, then that would be the first alternative, and we'd be back with an empty sense of what piety is). If morality does not come from God, then what do we need God for? Certainly not moral guidance, since we too can use our reason and our wisdom to figure out what is moral. So now that God and his goodness are saved, we realize that we also don't need him.

So, for the conventional wisdom that says that without God there would be no morality, we can now see that there are two possibilities left for us: either this is good, because morality, if it is the will of God, is ultimately arbitrary and we don't want our sense of morality to be something so half-baked; or this claim is simply not true, and we can rescue the objectivity of morality without having to appeal to God, since God himself would have to look at this same objectivity in order to figure out (and not decide) what is moral and what is not. Again, if this is the case, and morality is objective, then we just don't need God, and God is not omnipotent, for there is nothing he can do about this objectivity that is ultimately independent from him.

Yet another version is simply to ask why God would have created the universe to begin with. It is easy to say that God has a plan and a purpose, but why have a plan and a purpose to begin with? Why start it all? Did God feel lonely? Was he bored? Was creation simply a response to some feeling over which God had no control? Was God simply a slave to his own desires? Was it simply love? Love for whom? There was no one to love prior to creation... Whatever the reason, God followed this reason, God obeyed this reason... and if God was merely obeying, then he was obviously not in control of this reason, and if God could not control the reason(s), then God is not omnipotent...

Anyway, here is a more succinct implication of the belief in God's omnipotence, courtesy of my friend Laura: If God can do anything, he can make a mistake. Short and sweet...

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