Evaluating the Omnipotence Paradox                                                     by Jack Kettler


The omnipotence paradox asks if it is possible for an all-powerful God to make something that He cannot do. Scripture makes it clear that while God is indeed all-powerful, He cannot do certain things because they go against His nature. For example, He cannot lie, be tempted by evil, or stop being God. God's power does not always mean that He can do anything. Some things are impossible or violate His nature as God. Thus, the idea of creating a rock so heavy as to defy His power is impossible and goes against the very definition of God as omnipotent.


The “paradox” of God creating a stone so big that He cannot lift fails to take into account that God's omnipotence is inextricably linked to His divine nature. God's power and abilities are unlimited, yet still exist within the confines of His eternal nature. His nature defines His limits or lack thereof. As such, the question of creating a stone too heavy for Him to lift is an impossibility. Moreover, the paradox is a sophomoric word game trick that ignores established definitions in His revealed Word.


One can object to the omnipotence paradox because it confuses the true meaning of “omnipotence.” Unfortunately for the atheist, his understanding of this term differs from the theist's, thus obscuring the fundamental premise of the paradox. This disparity in understanding undermines the logic of the paradox, thus creating a nonsensical debate.


A brief definition of Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence:


Omnipotence means that God is in total control of Himself and His creation. Omniscience means that he is the ultimate criterion of truth and falsity so that his ideas are always true. Finally, omnipresence means that since God's power and knowledge extend to all parts of his creation, he himself is present everywhere.


Without using established definitions, those promoting the above Omnipotence paradox have failed to prove anything except their own ignorance.


One response given to the above paradox is by Augustine of Hippo:


According to Augustine:


“But assuredly He is rightly called omnipotent, though He can neither die nor fall into error. For He is called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills, not on account of His suffering what He wills not; for if that should befall Him, He would by no means be omnipotent. Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent.” (1)


Augustine's answer to the Omnipotence paradox is that God is called omnipotent because He can do whatever He wishes. However, the fact that He is omnipotent means He cannot do certain things like die or make mistakes. In other words, His omnipotence does not extend to changing certain core aspects of His character.


The Problem of Evil is a more serious example of an Omnipotent paradox.


Regarding this paradox, Gordon H. Clark stated:


“Man is responsible because God calls him to account; man is responsible because the supreme power can punish him for disobedience. God, on the contrary, cannot be responsible for the plain reason that there is no power superior to him; no greater being can hold him accountable; no one can punish him; there is no one to whom God is responsible; there are no laws, which he could disobey.”


“The sinner therefore, and not God, is responsible; the sinner alone is the author of sin. Man has no free will, for salvation is purely of grace; and God is sovereign.” (2)


The above citation was Clark’s proposed solution to the problem of evil. God is, in fact, the ultimate cause of sin rather than the proximate cause. Nonetheless, He is not evil, for He committed no sin. Moreover, He is not responsible for sin, for there is no one to whom He is accountable. God is just, for whatever He does is just. The sinner is responsible for his sin. Therefore, the creature has no right to stand in judgment over his Creator.


Calvin, in his Institutes (III, xxiii, 8 & II, iv. 3), makes a convincing statement regarding this paradoxical dilemma:


“Here they have recourse to the distinction between will and permission. By this they would maintain that the wicked perish because God permits it, not because he so wills. But why shall we say “permission” unless it is because God so wills? Still, it is not in itself likely that man brought destruction upon himself through himself, by God’s mere permission and without any ordaining. As if God did not establish the condition, in which he wills the chief of his creatures to be! I shall not hesitate, then, simply to confess with Augustine that “the will of God is the necessity of things,” and that what he has willed will of necessity come to pass.” (3)


According to systematic theologian Charles Hodge, the best method of dealing with the question of God’s Omnipotence and sin is stated:


“To rest satisfied with the simple statements of the Bible. The Scriptures teach, (1) That the glory of God is the end to which the promotion of holiness, and the production of happiness, and all other ends are subordinate. (2) That, therefore, the self-manifestation of God, the revelation of his infinite perfection, being the highest conceivable, or possible good, is the ultimate end of all his works in creation, providence, and redemption. (3) As sentient creatures are necessary for the manifestation of God’s benevolence, so there could be no manifestation of his mercy without misery, or of his grace and justice, if there were no sin.”


“As the heavens declare the glory of God, so He has devised the plan of redemption, To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God,” (Eph. 3:10). The knowledge of God is eternal life. It is for creatures the highest good. And the promotion of that knowledge, the manifestation of the manifold perfections of the infinite God, is the highest end of all his works. This is declared by the Apostle to be the end contemplated, both in the punishment of sinners and in the salvation of believers. It is an end to which, he says, no man can rationally object.”


“What if God, willing to shew his wrath (or justice), and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory,” (Rom. 9:22, 23). Sin, therefore, according the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun.” (4)


In closing:


WCF CHAPTER 5 Of Providence 5.4:


“4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.”


God foreknows and foreordains everything, including evil; nevertheless, he is not the author of sin. Everything He does is right simply because He does it, and whom does He give account? Will it be you, O man? If there is a standard above God that He is accountable to, then He is not God. The reader may not like this conclusion on an emotional level, yet it answers the paradox.


Let it be said:


“God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:4)  


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Augustine, City of God, Book XII, Ch.5, sec.8, page 434.

2.      Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason and Revelation, (The Trinity Foundation, Jefferson, Maryland), p.241

3.      Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, XX-XXI, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960) Book III, xxiii, 8 & II, iv. 3 p. 956.

4.      Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), p. 435.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife, Marea, attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of 15 books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at Amazon.