This October will mark 50 years that I have been doing question/answer sessions in lectureships and answering written questions in correspondence courses and online. One of the favorite questions from skeptics and atheists has to do with what God can or cannot do. Is there anything God can’t do?
If you say that there is something God cannot do, you have a direct conflict with numerous passages in the Bible that indicate nothing is impossible for God. If you say there is nothing God can’t do, you get a response like, “Can God create a rock so big He can’t move it?” There are all kinds of fun responses to that question. Marshall Keeble once said, “Yep, and He can create a bulldozer big enough to do the job.” Marshall was being funny and not proposing a serious answer. Theologians have constructed all kinds of elaborate arguments to respond to the question such as saying God cannot lie etc. The problem, however, is in a fundamental error in understanding.
My favorite analogy offered seriously is to ask the skeptic to draw me a four-sided triangle. It should be evident that the question is flawed. A triangle by definition has three angles and is subtended by three sides. In a Euclidean universe, a four-sided triangle cannot exist. A rock, by definition according to Webster is a mass of stone. If a mass of stone gets too large, it assumes a different name – asteroid, continent, planet, etc. Since God created the cosmos including planetary-sized masses of rock, the question reflects the ignorance of the person who asked the question.
If there were such a thing as a four-sided triangle, God could create it, but we have to throw out the question because it makes no sense to us. The same is true of a stone so big God can’t move it. Is there Anything God Can’t Do? That question is a way of avoiding the truth of what God has done.
I have many people who write me and say, “I don’t want anything to do with the church.” The obvious weasel word here is “church.” Webster has the primary definition of church as a place of worship. The biblical concept of church is very different. It refers to those who are called out of the world – people not a building. Jesus told Peter that He would build His church on what Peter had confessed—that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. There was no building at that time, nor during the lifetime of the apostles. We don’t try to defend what human-created structures and organizations do. No serious person would reject the church the Bible describes if they really understood it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018