Logic and God’s omnipotence

More than twenty years ago, when I was a student at the Utrecht University, I read the following reasoning about God’s omnipotence: of course God is not omnipotent, because his power is limited by the laws of nature – i.e the laws he himself had created. So, e.g., when he created the circle, he was obliged to keep all the points of the circle to the same distance of the centre. Because he cannot break his own rules, he is not omnipotent. QED.
Now, although I liked the line of thought – that was obviously just a hilarious student-joke, there was of course a fallacy in it. It kept me thinking about the problem for some time.

Today I found a more interesting – and funny – piece, posted to the Fabric-of-Reality mailinglist by Bill Taylor.

Heavenly chorus: Oh God, you’re so all-powerful, all-wise, all-kno…
Russell: Hey wait a minute though! If you’re all-powerful, you should be able to create a rock too heavy for you yourself to lift.
God: ‘Course I can!
Russell: Well go on then, we don’t believe you.
St Peter: Now wait a minute Bertie, you can’t just…
God: That’s OK Pete, it’s a fair question; and we’ve got plenty of time to spare! Here we go then…
[God clenches his hands together, closes his eyes, heaves and sweats, thinking a huge boulder into existence.]
Chorus: WOW!!
[Various members try to shift it. Not even a budge]
Russell: Well then, now G, (or is it Jee?), your turn.
[God grasps the boulder, heaves profusely, grunts all to hell, budges the boulder a little, but can’t actually get it up]
Chorus: OOOOOOooooooooooooh hhh….
Russell: Hah! So you’re NOT omnipotent!
God: Course I am! If I want to shift it though, all I have to do is recreate myself to be a bit more powerful!
[God adopts a sublime countenance, eyes (even more) heavenward. Coloured lights
appear racing round his head, sparks crackle profusely, many other effects.]
Chorus: WowWEEE!
God: Now we’re OK. Look…
[Lifts boulder with one hand; hurls it off into space, it falls with ever increasing rapidity… …giant crash in far distance]
Hellish din, very faint:
Oh Geeeez! What was that? Who’s spilling the lava again!
Russell: But wait just a cotton-pickin minute, as our fundy friends might say. So that wasn’t you NOT being able to throw it the first time, then?
God: Course it was. I’m just more powerful now.
Russell: Well, we’ll call the earlier you G-1. Now you’re G-2.
God: Yep, and if you want me to do it all again…
Russell: Yeah yeah, been there, done that. But can you create a rock so heavy that ALL the G’s, all infinitely many, beyond G-omega, beyond-all-inaccess ibles, beyond…
StPeter: Oh shut up!! This is *really* boring! AMBROSIA TIME, everybody… .

As it turned out Bill Taylor posted it many years ago on the Math-Forum, where someone named G. Frege changed the end:

/> Heavenly chorus: Oh God, you’re so all-powerful, all-kno…
/> Russell: Hey wait a minute though! If you’re all-powerful, you should be able to create a rock too heavy for you to lift.
/> God: ‘Course I can!
/> Russell: Well go on then, we don’t believe you.
/> St Peter: Now wait a minute Bertie, you can’t just…
/> God: That’s OK Pete, it’s a fair question; and we’ve got plenty of time to spare! Here we go then…
/> [God clenches his hands together, closes his eyes, heaves and sweats,
thinking a huge boulder into existence.]
/> Chorus: WOW!!
/> [Various members try to shift it. Not even a budge}
/> Russell: Well then, now G, (or is it Jee?), your turn.
/> [God grasps the boulder, heaves profusely, grunts all to hell, budges the boulder a little, but can’t actually get it up.]
/> Chorus: OOOOOOoooooooooooohhhh….
/> Russell: Hah! So you’re NOT omnipotent!

God: Yes, you are right. As you can see.
God: But now look, even I cannot _lift_ the stone I can make it (?) vanish. đŸ™‚
Russell: Ehrrr?
God: Look.[swish – suddenly the stone has vanished…]
God: Well, now I’m all-powerful again.
Russell: Well… ok… Hmmm… Wait a second… but… Hmmm, I mean, if you REALLY WERE all-powerful you certainly could also disintegrate yourself, right?
God: Sure.
Russell: Please prove it to me.
God: Well, ok.
[swish – suddenly god has vanished…]
Russell: Incredible!
Russell: God? Hey, where are you…?!
St Peter: Well, Bertie, he’s gone…
Chorus: He’s gone, gone, gone forever…
Russell: Incredible.
St Peter: Well, he was God!
Chorus: He was God! He w a s all-powerful, all-kno… [etc.]
Russell: I believe. (On the other hand… Since he has gone. What’s left?)
Hellish din: Hehehehehe…

.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s