Many Atheists have stumped Christians with a simple question for years. One person, a former Atheist turned Christian, who calls them-self ASA Jones, appears to finally have an answer. S/he posted the following message on this web site http://www.ex-atheist.com/. The following message is unedited, followed by my response.
The Question: Can the Christian god create a rock so big that he can’t lift it?
ASA Jones’ answer:
“My 7 year old daughter provided me with one of the best answers to this question; ‘I can't give you a smart answer to a dumb question!’
The question is constructed in such a way that no matter how one answers it, God's omnipotence is compromised. If one answers 'no', then God cannot create such a rock, thus God is not powerful enough to do something, therefore He is not 'all powerful'. If one answers 'yes', God creates a rock that He cannot lift, but because He cannot then lift it, God is not powerful enough to do something, therefore He is not 'all powerful'.
However, when we examine the question by analogy, its unfairness is made known. Compare the 'rock' question with the following:
A genius is so smart that he should be able to successfully pass any test, including a test that would qualify him as an idiot.
It is obvious that the 'rock' question itself contains a contradiction. In other words, the question itself does not make logical sense. It's the same type of contradiction that is made when we say that someone has accomplished the impossible. If they have, then it wasn't impossible to begin with. We see language at its logical limits; we understand what is being said (someone has accomplished what was previously thought to have been impossible to accomplish) but the language that is used to convey the idea makes it logically incomprehensible.
Rephrased, the 'rock' question is actually asking, "Is God so powerful that he can successfully do anything, including things that he couldn't do?" It would seem, then, that the most correct answer would be 'no'. God cannot do those things that God cannot do. (And, yes, the Bible does say that there are things that God cannot do.) No matter how big a rock is created, God will always be able to move it. God is not powerful enough to compromise His own power.
However, if we get beyond the deficiency of language in order to understand the concept behind the question, the answer in the affirmative can suffice just as well. When we say that God is all powerful, the definition need not be carried to hyper-literalism that renders it incomprehensible. 'All powerful' can be taken as hyperbole and be more accurately defined as 'the most powerful thing that can possibly exist'. Can the most powerful thing that can possibly exist create a rock so large that it could not lift it? Yes, it certainly could. Although we may ask why, and if, it would choose to do such a thing, it would still remain the most powerful thing that exists.
Despite the above argumentation, I still prefer the answer, ‘I can't give a smart answer to a dumb question!’”
If I were to judge your brief essay on accuracies, I would have to congratulate you, because as far as I can see, the majority of your statements are correct. In fact, you inadvertently proved an atheistic point. Perhaps you’ve gone back to your roots and didn’t even realize it.
Your most impressive point of all is: “It is obvious that the 'rock' question itself contains a contradiction. In other words, the question itself does not make logical sense.” That’s the point! The question is asked simply by reapplying the same biblical logic that describes Yahweh, only in the form of a question to make the believer think about how illogical the answer could be. It’s not actually meant to be answered, because both answers are impossible, but they are stated in the Bible as if they are true. This is exactly why we ask it.
A married bachelor cannot exist by definition. Regardless of how you spin it, the bottom line is, you’re either married or you’re not. You can’t be both. We see the same conundrum in the Bible.
Yahweh is said to have multiple contradicting powers.
1. He knows all, including the future.
2. He can’t be wrong.
3. He can change the future.
Think about these for a moment. If he already knows what’s going to happen, and he can’t be wrong about what he knows, that means if he alters the future, what he thought was going to happen is now different. So, he was either wrong, or he can’t change the future because he already knows what’s coming.
One being, regardless of how superior, cannot be both all-powerful, and all-knowing. It’s simply illogical to be both, and that is the point of the rhetorical question. It’s not actually about a rock. Perhaps you felt it was a “dumb question” because you misunderstood its intent.
The unfairness you speak of comes directly from the biblical description of the god you are defending. Atheists did not create the unfair logic here; we just reformatted it as a question to force the Christian apologists to see the illogical basis behind their metaphysical assertions about their god.
So, what has every Christian apologist done when faced with illogical statements in the Bible? You claim hyperbole, of course. Beginning in Matthew 10:34, where Jesus allegedly said: “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword, to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother…” is of course, just an exaggeration according to Christian apologists. But a talking snake and donkey; yes, those were real.
Moreover, Yahweh simply spoke “Let there be light,” and there was light. He created the earth and every animal in the world out of nothing with his supernatural powers, but required a man’s rib as materials to create a woman. This is the type of theistic logic that loses me beyond belief.
It’s a tired concept to pick and choose what is literal fact and what is hyperbole in the Bible, but the typical Christian spin-doctor apologist has mastered it. For many of us, the thinking doesn’t stop with the canned Christian answer.
You pointing out that the ‘rock’ question is impossible to answer, is simply stating what we Atheists already knew before we asked you to answer it. The question is impossible to answer because it’s impossible for your god to exist.
I sincerely hope you reconsider your post, and reply here with an actual response to the meaning behind the question, and a reply to the Atheist assertion of the impossible facts that describe gods; instead of focusing on the semantics of the words used in the rhetorical questions we ask.
I look forward to hearing from you.