In conversations about God I’ve had with a wide variety of people, as well as theological lectures I have witnessed either in church services or through independent study, God has frequently been referred to as an “omnipotent” being. When I was young, before I began questioning the existence of God, I used to take this information wholly and without argument.
If a God created existence, that God must be omnipotent, correct? This is, after all, the basis on which God is based in nearly every monotheistic religion.
However, omnipotence is, in itself, problematic and creates irreconcilable paradoxes in not only God’s metaphysical prowess, but also in the context of human free will.
First, a definition of “omnipotence” is in order. To be omnipotent is to be “all-powerful,” meaning a God that is omnipotent must be fully capable of performing any task no matter how big or small. An omnipotent God would have absolutely no restriction to their power.
But, logic fails when a God is described as omnipotent.
As described above, an omnipotent God would be fully-capable and unrestricted in ability, so the enduring question must be asked:
Can an omnipotent God create a stone the omnipotent God cannot lift?
Some would say “yes” if pressed for a quick answer, claiming that because God is all-powerful, the creation of an immovable stone is well within God’s power. However, this answer explicitly states that God is actually impotent. If God can create a stone that God cannot move, then God’s failure to move the stone is a sign of his impotence. Likewise, if God cannot create a stone that God cannot lift, the failure of God to create such an immovable stone is a sign of impotence.
No matter which way one answers, God is actually impotent.
When I would ask priests, pastors, and Christian adherents about human nature and how such evil in the world can exist despite an omnipotent and omnibenevolent (all-loving) God, I was told the vast majority of the time that evil exists in the world because humans choose to do evil. Basically, God granted humanity free will.
God’s impotence complicates the argument of free will as well. Can an omnipotent God create a person that said omnipotent God cannot control?
God creates a person and for the sake of example, this person’s name is Reggie. Reggie has free will and over the course of Reggie’s life, he will make decisions that align him as either good or evil. If God were omnipotent and omnibenevolent (wholly good), then God would make Reggie be wholly good, for the possibility of Reggie being evil (as a creation of God) would stand in defiance of God’s omnibenevolence. If Reggie were forced to always choose good — because Reggie must be wholly good — then Reggie does not have free will.
This is what’s known as the Problem of Evil. The mere existence of evil raises serious questions of not just an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God, but of God’s entire existence. An omnibenevolent God just would not allow evil to exist and an omnipotent God would have the ability to create a space where evil does not exist. The fact that history is littered with people who have done evil, reprehensible things requires the questioning of God’s actual existence.
Basically, either God is impotent or simply does not exist. Humans do not have free will so long as an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God exists. Yet, humans do make choices. I made the choice to quickly jot down some thoughts on omnipotence. I could have just as easily chosen to watch YouTube videos instead.
The fact that I made the choice to jot these words down is proof alone that God cannot be omnipotent, especially considering that to God, these words are heretical. As I am currently sinning in the most mortal of capacities, if an omnipotent God existed, I would not be able to hit the publish button right… about… now.