Sunday, June 21, 2009

Omnipotence Paradox

Omnipotence: Omnipotence (from Latin: Omni Potens: "all power") is unlimited power.

Paradox: A paradox is a statement or group of statements that leads to a contradiction or a situation which defies intuition; or, it can be an apparent contradiction that actually expresses a non-dual truth (cf. Koan, Catuskoti). Typically, either the statements in question do not really imply the contradiction, the puzzling result is not really a contradiction, or the premises themselves are not all really true or cannot all be true together.

Omnipotence Paradox. This is not really new. I have read this in forums and blogs many times. This argument is used to prove or show that God is not omnipotent. One of the most famous I read and know in forums and blogs is the Stone Paradox: Can God create a stone so heavy that he himself cannot lift it? Both possible answers would tell us that God is not omnipotent. Another example I read is this: Can God create a being that is more powerful than him? Again, the answers (yes or no) would tell us that God's power is not limitless. Now I read at theAtheist blog some interesting examples about the Omnipotence Paradox. The examples I read there are:
  • Could God kill himself? One might question why God would have the desire to kill himself, but that is not a valid reason for dismissing the question. If God can kill himself, then he lacks the power of immortality (perhaps a poor choice of words, maybe ever-existence would be better), if he cannot, then he lacks the ability to kill himself.
  • Could God create a truly immortal being? Similar to the above but a step removed. If God can create a truly immortal being, then he lacks the ability to end the life of that being, if he cannot create a truly immortal being, or if he can create a truly immortal being that he can then kill, then either he lacks the ability to create a truly immortal being or that being he creates is not truly immortal.
  • Could God create a being more powerful than himself? You might also ask whether God can create a more powerful God? This is particularly interesting as it applies across multiple definitions of the word omnipotent (see below). If God can create such a being, then he is clearly not of unlimited power (for a being to be more powerful, there must, by definition, be something the new God can do that the old one cannot), and if he cannot, then that is an ability God lacks.
  • Could God make himself no longer omnipotent? Rather than questioning whether God is omnipotent, this dispenses with that and rather asks whether God can make so that he is no longer omnipotent, or such that he is no longer a God. If so, then what impact does that have on the established belief systems, and how would we know?
Is God really omnipotent?


No Guy in the Sky said...

I like this line of reasoning. I like to go down the line of omniscient. If he is why did he torture job on a wager with Satan, when he knew Job would pass the test. He could have told Satan why wager, I know the outcome. Same with Lots wife. He knew she would look back, after he had angel tell them not to look. So when he said he would spare her, he knew that was a lie. He knew Eve would eat from his fav tree, after he told Adam not too. Even though he knew this, he still chose to punish all mankind. For 2000+ years according to bible he waited before he sent his son to be tortured for our sins. When being omnipotent it seems ridiculous he couldnt just say,"Oh what the hell. I forgive you all. I just love you little human critters so much!"

With all of this and so much more. How does anyone still believe this crap? :)

Discreet Infidel said...

I agree. Maybe God has other plans to that. I mean who are we to question Him right? Hahaha ;)

jong said...

I like your article "Problem of Evil" ( better because there are certain flaws in the arguments on the omnipotence paradox, mostly revolving around the definition of "omnipotence" itself.

There are many meanings of "omnipotence", some of which are as follows:

1. A deity is able to do anything that is logically possible for it to do.

2. A deity is able to do anything that it chooses to do.

3. A deity is able to do anything that is in accord with its own nature (thus, for instance, if it is a logical consequence of a deity's nature that what it speaks is truth, then it is not able to lie).

There are many other definitions, but with those three alone the omnipotence paradox hardly seems like a paradox at all.

To quote from Wikipedia:

In the scholastic understanding, omnipotence is generally understood to be compatible with certain limitations upon a deity's power, as opposed to implying infinite abilities. There are certain things that even an omnipotent deity cannot do. The statement "a deity can do anything" in only sensible with an assumed suppressed clause, "that implies the perfection of true power." This standard scholastic answer allows that creaturely acts such as walking can be performed by humans but not by a deity. Rather than an advantage in power, human acts such as walking, sitting or giving birth were possible only because of a defect in human power. The ability to 'sin', for example, is not a power but a defect or infirmity.

I could go on but I would rather direct you to Wikipedia (search "omnipotence" and "omnipotence paradox") as they have answers about the stone that was created too heavy that the deity could not lift it (described as a "square circle" - a logical fallacy).

Anyway, the only way for an omnipotence paradox to make sense is if we define "omnipotence" as "the ability to do anything - anything at all - even if it defies reason, logic, or the deity's own will".

Discreet Infidel said...

I agree. I defined 'omnipotence' as the ability to do anything (even illogical). But I thought nothing is impossible with God?

Speaking of omnipotence/power, can God heal an amputee? :)

Discreet Infidel said...

I remember Karen Owens' paradox on omniscient and omnipotence:

Can omniscient God, who
Knows the future, find
The omnipotence to
Change His future mind?

jong said...

If you define 'omnipotence' as "the ability to do anything, even illogical", then you might be at risk of falling for the straw man argument, because I don't think that the theists define 'omnipotence' as such.

Discreet Infidel said...

I do not think that that is a straw man. There are also theists who define omnipotence as I defined.

So God can't heal an amputee? Or God can but just do not want to? :)

jong said...

"So God can't heal an amputee? Or God can but just do not want to?"

Now that's more like it. The Problem of Evil. I told you I liked that piece better. :)

Discreet Infidel said...

That question is also similar to "Can God prevent unecessary sufferings?".

Thanks for appreciating that work although that was not really something new. :)

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