Answering this question is kind of like answering a riddle. And it's a riddle designed to disprove the all-powerful nature of God by proposing something that is a contradiction in itself. The setup might go something like this:
Friend 1: God is all-powerful. He can do anything.
Friend 2: So God make a rock so big He can’t lift it?
Friend 1: No, God cannot create a rock like that.
Friend 2: Then God is not all-powerful.
Friend 1: Well, then He must be able to create the rock.
Friend 2: But then He cannot lift the rock! So again He is not all-powerful.
The first hint we have that this riddle is a contradiction has to do with the definition of "all-powerful." We might assume that “all-powerful” implies an ability to do anything. So if God is all-powerful, then that would mean He can do anything and if He can’t do something, then He must not be all-powerful. But...that's not what "all-powerful" means.
"All-powerful” describes the amount of power that God has—not His ability to do literally any imaginable thing. Yes, God has an unlimited amount of power to do whatever is possible within His nature/character (Job 11:7-9, 37:23, 42:2; Psalm 147:5). So part of figuring out this riddle is knowing that being "all-powerful" does not mean being able to do whatever anyone conceives in their mind.
Yes, it's true. There are some things God cannot do. In fact, WE as humans can do some things that God can't do—like sin, change our minds, and tell a lie. God cannot do these things (Numbers 23:19; Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2) because that would go against who God is, and if He did do these things, He wouldn’t be God anymore.
But just because humans can do these things, that does not mean that we are more powerful than God or that He is somehow not all-powerful. Remember, “all-powerful” isn’t about one’s ability; it is talking about the amount of God’s power. And He has an endless amount of power (Genesis 18:14).
In fact, God has the power to supersede nature if He chooses—which is what a miracle is, something that interrupts the way things naturally happen. When a miracle occurs, we realize how powerful God really is because it is something that man could never do. Only God has the power to perform miracles that go against nature's established laws.
“How much does red weigh?" Is there an answer to this question? No. But you can still physically measure the weight of an object. Red is still a real color. Weight and color exist, but these two categories don’t go together. In the same way, God cannot create something or perform an act that is outside the realm of what is actually possible.
For example, He cannot make a one ended stick, a square circle, or a married bachelor. These are impossible or contradictory situations that God cannot do because they aren't even logical. Just because someone can string words together to describe something (like a 2-sided triangle), that doesn't make it a real possibility. Illogical objects or ideas do not take away from God’s power. If something is truly impossible, you cannot make it possible by adding more power to the person attempting to do it.
So what's the answer to this riddle? Is it within the realm of possibility that God can make a rock so big He can't lift it? No. God cannot do this because it's an illogical object that only exists outside the realm of possibility. However, God is still all-powerful because He has an unlimited amount of power to act within His own nature and unlimited ability to do what is actually possible.
No, God cannot make a rock that's so heavy He cannot lift it. Why? Because a rock so infinitely heavy that an infinite being such as God cannot lift it is something that only exists outside the realm of possibility. God cannot create something or perform an act that is outside the realm of what is actually possible. God is still all-powerful because He has an unlimited amount of power to act within His own nature and unlimited ability to do what is actually possible. Describing God as “all-powerful” does not mean that He can do whatever illogical thing a person can name; it means He has an unlimited amount of power to do what is possible and within His nature.
Hanna loves spending time with kids and teens. She enjoys being detectives with them to investigate God's Word to discover truths to answer any questions. She is the co-author of a newly published apologetics curriculum for children and teaches one online for highschoolers-adults. To learn more about her ministry you can visit networkerstec.com. For fun, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee, read historical fiction, and paint.