Can God make a rock so big He can’t move it?
Maybe you’ve heard this infamous question asked by an atheist or skeptic. Or maybe you’ve wondered something similar yourself. Essentially, this tricky question tries to create a word trap in which the person answering has to say that God “can’t” do something: either He can’t make a rock too big to move, or He can’t move the rock. To say that God can’t do something seems to challenge His very nature—specifically, His omnipotence.
Omnipotent is a mash-up of two words: omni, meaning all, and potent, meaning powerful. Omnipotence, then, is a character trait that describes God as all-powerful—or able to do whatever He wills. We know God is omnipotent from verses like Genesis 18:14, Daniel 4:35, Jeremiah 32:17, and Mark 10:27.
So what about the rock question? Does it really present a challenge to God’s omnipotence? Well, firstly, the set-up of the question itself doesn’t make much sense if you think about it. God created all matter in the universe, and He even created gravity itself and set the laws of physics that govern our reality. So the idea of God struggling to lift or move a rock because of something like gravity or weight doesn’t seem like something that could happen. Instead, I think the heart of the question could be better rephrased like this: Is there anything God can’t do?
To answer, we need to consider what omnipotence means and what it doesn’t mean. I’m sticking by my definition that God has the ability and power to do whatever He wills—or whatever He decides to do. But there are certain things He does not do and will not. In a sense, He can’t do these things and still be Himself. For example, we know from Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 6:18 that God cannot lie. Hebrews even says it is “impossible” for God to lie (NIV). Not because He isn’t clever enough to figure out how, but because He just won’t. He doesn’t lie. That’s an essential part of His character. God can do whatever He wills, but He will not do anything inconsistent with His own character.
So, in conclusion, there is nothing God can’t do (but don’t get too hung up on that wording). However, there are some things He won’t do. What other challenging questions about God have you heard, and how would you answer them?