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Is omnipotence intrinsically paradoxical?

  1. Mar 24, 2005 #1
    Is omnipotence intrinsically paradoxical?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 24, 2005 #2
    I think so. The old saw about God creating a stone too heavy for Him to lift illustrates the idea pretty well. Infinite power in a universe of finites doesn't really make sense. For example, "How much of God's power is necessary to create a planet?" becomes non-sensical when that amount of power (X / Infinity), and 20 times it (20X / Infinity), have no relation to each other because they are both fractions of infinity, makes no sense.


    The Rev
  4. Mar 24, 2005 #3


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    I like this example better than the rock example:

    If God is all-powerful, he should have the power to create another God. What happens if both Gods want the same slice of pie? If God II gets it, then God I was not all-powerful. If God I gets it, then not only is God II not all-powerful, but God I is also not all-powerful, as he did not have the power to create another all-powerful God.
  5. Mar 25, 2005 #4
    Yes, and there is a general pattern emerging with these paradoxes. I just can't put it into words. It's like a generalized version of the unstoppable force vs. immovable object paradox.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 25, 2005
  6. Mar 25, 2005 #5
    Well guys i think you are dwelling into land your minds cannot encompass. Questions like can god create another god are begging the question. Just like the question if god can create rock heavy enough.......

    Since religious post are prohibited here, im not gonna go to deep, however, god by definition cannot create god. Anything created is creation and god is not created. God by "default" escapes these question which are just to bring him into our realm of "created reality". This post belongs to religious forum if you want there are plenty which will solve all these questions and many more you did not even think about yet.

    with respect sneez
  7. Mar 25, 2005 #6
    God cannot create by your definition of God, or creating.
  8. Mar 25, 2005 #7
    God cannot create god. It means that whatever HE creates cannot be called god because it is created and god by definition is not created.

    i dont understand your post??
  9. Mar 25, 2005 #8
    If God cannot create another God, then God is not omnipotent.
  10. Mar 25, 2005 #9
    Read my previous post. God cannot be created because it would not be god. If you want we can make this about definition of god but that would be silly.

    Is infinity limited ? yet only one can exist.
  11. Mar 25, 2005 #10
    [tex]\mathbb{I}[/tex] and [tex]\mathbb{Q}[/tex] are both infinite sets, yet there are two of them, and none is a subset of the other, either, nor do they intersect. Unless you define "infinity" some other way.

    The underlying paradox of omnipotence is created as soon as you bring a limit to it; i.e., God cannot do something. And that's the whole point -- God must be able to do everything, thus God is paradoxical.

    But the topic is omnipotence, in general; not the trivial case of God.
  12. Mar 25, 2005 #11
    Your view works only in theoretical mathematics. I agree that this does not belong here but as usual rethorics do not cut it.

    I let you than go back to your wonderland.
  13. Mar 25, 2005 #12


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    By whose definition? Did God himself tell you this? That a god can only be God if he is uncreated? Not all conceptions of god involve uncreated beings.

    By the way, I'm familiar with theistic responses to the problem of omnipotence. The two common ones are that God cannot do what is logically impossible and that God cannot do what is outside of his nature, or power, to do (they aren't always phrased this way, but generally boil down to this). The first is a copout that doesn't deal with these paradoxes. Of course, God cannot behave in such a manner that leads to contradiction because it is logically impossible. That is the very argument being made here: That omnipotence is logically impossible. The second doesn't even defend omnipotence. Heck, I have the power to do everything that is in my nature to do. There's nothing special about that.

    You can post theistic arguments as well as theodicies, so shoot away. You just aren't allowed to disuss the sacred texts of specific religions. Rational theology is allowed; revealed theology is not.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2005
  14. Mar 25, 2005 #13
    Like i said. It is about how we define god. However, only logic dictates that god cannot be created since he is considered(depends on your version of god) infinite(absolute) (Omnipotents, etc). For something relative cannot create absolute. But this might be on the edge of faith even though it is only logical.

    As far as your nature goes i dont know if you are trying to compare your reality with that of God? But that is personal taste. For you and i came from non existance. God is not bound by time and nothing else, hence exists since ever. Like i said hardly can we discuss this without going into theology (even faith). I was trying to say that god creating god is bad example but i c that for some ppl it can work. Just depends on their definition of GOd which is personal believe and im not gonna go there.
  15. Mar 26, 2005 #14
    I believe it is well established that concepts of infinite sets can easily lead to paradoxes. This is not limited to the paradox of infinity implied within the definition of omnipotence, but is applicable also to well-defined sets in mathematics. For example Russells paradox, or the Barber paradox. There are many examples on the same theme. None of these paradoxes have prevented eminent mathematicians from doing legitimate studies of infinite sets.

    MF :smile:
  16. Mar 26, 2005 #15
    sneez, define this "infinity" of yours.

    What's that supposed to mean? Seems to me you're the blue-pill.
  17. Mar 26, 2005 #16


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    A friend of mine swears by hard boiled eggs and oysters.
  18. Jul 22, 2005 #17
    omnipotence means simply all-powerful.

    By saying that it is a paradox to call God omnipotent since he can not defy logic is simply stating that God is limited by nothing more than the laws of existence.
    It is a falsified catch-22...
    If theists admit that God is not limited by the laws of existence, they are admitting that he is outside of existence or non-existent.
    If they say that he is, they are admitting that his powers have limits.

    It's crap.
    Anything that is postulated to exist must inherently be limited to the laws of existence.
    If the laws of existence are all that is limiting God, he can still be deemed omnipotent because he has the power and ability to do anything that it is conceivably possible or logically consistent to do.

    That does not limit his power down to human levels.

    Can you do anything that it is logically consistent to do?
    I would like to see you create a second Sun in this Solar System.
    You can't.
    Not because it is logically inconsistent, because it isn't, but because you do not have the power to do so.
    According to theists that believe God is omnipotent, God does have that power.

    It should be noted that I am not a theist, I am simply making the argument that omnipotence is not logically inconsistent.
  19. Aug 1, 2005 #18
    Why can't God exist, be omnipotent, and defy logic?

    It seems to me that any proof on the necessity of logic for existence would have to rely on logic, and would be circular.

    Therefore omnipotence might be paradoxical, but true.

    Of course if God did not have to be logically self consistent, not only would this thread serve no purpose, but also this forum, and philosophy :smile:
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2005
  20. Aug 1, 2005 #19

    Les Sleeth

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    I'd say it isn't paradoxical, but rather that omnipotence isn't indicated. Here's how I contemplate it, and for this contemplation I will assume God exists (which I am not saying he/she/it actually does).

    In these times, we've learned to look first to what evidence most supports. What evidence do we have of God's omnipotence? Before I offer my own views, I ask anyone to give us all one bit of evidence or one sound logical reason to assume God is omnipotent.

    If we have no direct evidence which indicates omnipotency, then we are left with inference. Again, assuming God exists and is responsible for bringing about creation, and since we know creation doesn't require infinite power to have been brought about, then why assume its creator is omnipotent? The only logical assumption is that if God exists and is responsible for creation, then God is at least powerful enough to create this universe. "At least powerful enough to create this universe" is not omnipotence.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2005
  21. Aug 2, 2005 #20


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    That's a very good point, Les. Where does the conception of God's omnipotence come from? Is it part of a sacred text, or was it invented by the early medieval scholastics?
  22. Aug 2, 2005 #21


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    I don't know the background behind this, but an off-the-cuff guess is that God is attributed omnipotence because God is generally conceived of as the greatest possible being/entity. If God is not omnipotent, it follows that there could be a being more powerful than God, in which case the whole concept of God would be thrown off. The easy away around this is to essentially attribute infinite powers to God so that such a move is impossible.
  23. Aug 2, 2005 #22


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    I found an entry in the Catholic encyclopedia:

    • The omnipotence of God is a dogma of Catholic faith, contained in all the creeds and defined by various councils (cf. Denziger-Bannwart. "Enchiridion", 428, 1790). In the Old Testament there are more than seventy passages I which God is called Shaddai, i.e. omnipotent. The Scriptures represent this attribute as infinite power (Job, xlii, 2; Mark, x, 27; Luke, 1, 37); Matt., xix, 26, etc.) which God alone possesses (Tob., xiii, 4; Ecclus. I, 8; etc.).


    It begins with Aquinas' definition of God's omnipotence, but ends with the above paragraph. I guess it does have some scriptural backing.

    This gets interesting. I looked up the meaning of the Hebrew word Shaddai. It is the plural form of the word Shad, which simply means "powerful one." Apparently when the term is used in the old testament, it literally means "powerful ones" and is used as one of the names of God (implying that early Hebrews were actually polytheistic?). It was first translated to the Greek Ikanos, which means "all-sufficient." It is translated into English versions of the bible as "Almighty." Strange that the Catholic Encyclopedia claims that the word literally means omnipotent.
  24. Aug 3, 2005 #23

    Les Sleeth

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    I was going to answer from the historical perspective but I see you came up with some good stuff.

    It is distressing to follow the development of dogma because, IMO, all the places where it pops up (whether in religion or anywhere else) is right where there are explanatory "gaps" in some belief system. If there were evidence and logic which justified a belief, then why stick dogma in there?

    It requires a careful study of early Judiasm and Christianity to see both the pious and the opportunistic reasons for the belief in omnipotence. I have challenged that belief on logic grounds for many years, and omniscience too for similar reasons.
  25. Aug 3, 2005 #24
    If a human gives birth to a child, then one day that child grows up to kill thier parent,isn't that the same thing? On some level we could be considered "omnipotent". It's all in perspective. We are capable of creating things that destroy ourselves. Omnipotence doesn't preclude self destruction. Or at least it shouldn't IMHO. Basically a being who can do anything, can kill himself, Can make himself human, can create a being as powerful as he is( though not more powerful). because such a being can do anything by definition. You say he can make a rock too heavy to lift, but if he's mos powerful, he will not be able to create such a rock that he cannot lift, because there are no limits to his strength.
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2005
  26. Aug 3, 2005 #25


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    It's not the same thing at all. There is no extant claim that humans are omnipotent, as there are obviously things that are beyond our powers. (This holds even if we look at simple cases that don't involve paradoxes, such as the ability to fly unaided by aircraft). You're right in a sense to point out a sort of ambiguity in the word "omnipotent," which might be the cause of the apparent paradoxes being discussed in this thread. But it's safe to say that no remotely reasonable sense of the word "omnipotent" could be attributed to humans.

    Well, that's exactly the sort of question the paradoxes turn on. If God is omnipotent, shouldn't he/it be able to create such a rock? Does not the inability to create such a rock imply that God's creative powers are limited, and doesn't this imply in turn that God is not truly omnipotent?
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