Many skeptics today claim that God is dead, buried by modern science and philosophy. But which God—or gods—have they buried?
In his published article Jesus And The Identity Of God, the eminent New Testament scholar and former Oxford chaplain, N.T. Wright, remembers how he would often meet with the new undergraduates to introduce himself and get acquainted. Naturally as chaplain he would inquire about their personal religious beliefs. Many were atheists. Wright recalls, “I developed a stock response: “Oh, that’s interesting; which god is it you don’t believe in?” Then after they stumbled out a few phrases in response the chaplain would reply, “Well, I’m not surprised you don’t believe in that god. I don’t believe in that god either.”
“What most people mean by ‘god’ in late-modern western culture”, writes Wright, “simply is not the mainstream Christian meaning.” Indeed this seems to be true; and not just among college undergraduates but even among some of the most prominent (and influential) atheists of today.
It should be an obvious fact that if an atheist really wants to defeat and discredit the notion of the Christian God, he has to address the Christian God; not some caricature of the real thing (not all atheists do this). The skeptic can take down as many distortions of the divine as he pleases; but if that’s all he’s taking out, then—whether he likes it or not—the God we are really defending will remain firmly standing without wound or blemish.
Christians, as a matter of orthodoxy, defend the Creator who is the self-existent, pure act of infinite being itself; and thus it is more precise to say, not that he exists, but that he is existence. But due to the finite limitations of human reason, it is more profitable (and more possible) for us to speak about what God is not; or to speak about this infinitely perfect Being by using analogy. Thus we might say that God who necessarily contains all perfections within himself is all-knowing, all-loving, all-present, and all-powerful (even though it is more precise to say that his infinite power is his infinite love which is his infinite knowledge, and so on).
All this is to say that God is the uncaused infinitely perfect act of being itself.
of the attributes that Christians believe God possesses is omnipotence. Omnipotent means “all-powerful.” Since we believe that God is all-powerful, atheists and agnostics will often throw up the following challenge:
“Since God is all-powerful could He create a rock (or whatever physical object they decide to insert here) that is too heavy for even Himself to lift?”
Here’s what they are trying to do: they are trying to force us into a contradiction which “proves” that God cannot be all-powerful. If we say yes, then it appears our omnipotent God cannot lift the rock He created — and therefore He is not really all-powerful. If we say no to the question, then it means He cannot do the task and is therefore not omnipotent. It appears we have been owned… right?
But the atheist’s argument fails because there is a big problem with the question itself; it violates the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction, first described by the great philosopher Aristotle, states that things that are logically contradictory cannot exist and are, in fact, absurd. For example a “square circle” cannot exist because in order for a square to be a square it must not be a circle, and vice versa. Furthermore, a married bachelor cannot exist since a man must be unmarried in order to be a true bachelor.
When we say God is omnipotent, we mean there is nothing logically possible that He cannot do. Stated another way, God can do all things provided the things are not logical contradictions. God cannot create square circles, nor married bachelors, nor rocks too heavy for Himself to lift. God cannot do these things because God is Truth (Jn 14:6) and truth, in order to be truth, can never be contradictory.