The Power of God
Posted by madcap on January 13, 2008
“For this alone is lacking even to God,
to make undone things that have
once been done.” –Aristotle
I was once asked “if God can do all things, can He create a stone too heavy for him to carry?” I had not previously thought that deeply about it, having always taken for granted that God was all powerful. My Protestant upbringing never really asked these types of questions, leaving me ill prepared to defend my position. One of the major draws that has led me towards Catholicism is their tradition of tackling the big questions, using not only the Bible, (Sola Scriptura) but also the insights and wisdom of church fathers such as St. Thomas Aquinas. For the past two years St. Aquinas has been my refuge amongst the deluge of doctrine, and a vehicle for my return to the Christian faith. Aquinas has helped put back together what Nietzsche had once helped tear apart.
Today I can answer “No; God can not create a stone too big for him to carry, but, this takes nothing away from the omnipotence of God.” Why? Because the lack of nothing does not deprive infinite being of anything. Thomas states that “it is better to say that such things cannot be done, rather than that God cannot do them.”
Aquinas covers this topic thoroughly in question twenty five of his Summa Theologica, in six articles. In his third article titled, Whether God is Omnipotent, Aquinas fist addresses the meaning of what is stated, “since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, God can do all things, is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible.” Aquinas continues, “It remains therefore that God is called omnipotent because He can do all things that are possible absolutely.”
Aquinas concludes his argument with the following, “Now nothing is opposed to the idea of being except non-being. Therefore, that which implies being and non-being at the same time is repugnant to the idea of an absolutely possible thing, within the scope of the divine omnipotence. For such cannot come under the divine omnipotence, not because of any defect in the power of God, but because it has not the nature of a feasible or possible thing… hence it is better to say that such things cannot be done, than that God cannot do them.”
Once again, a simple matter of common sense.