Saturday, 12 July 2008

How faith in Jesus Christ resolves a fundamental paradox

There is an old conundrum often used to argue against the idea of an Omnipotent (capable of anything) God. It goes as follows:

"Can God make a stone so heavy He cannot lift it?"

A simple examination of the logical conundrum would lead to the conclusion that God cannot be omnipotent. If He CAN make such a stone, then He is incapable of lifting it by definition. If, however, he cannot make such a stone then that is also something He is incapable of doing. Therefore, God cannot be omnipotent - whichever way you look at it, there is something that God is incapable of doing. As the atheist writer Douglas Adams would have put it "So God disappears in a puff of logic".

The thought that has come to me recently is that this simple analysis doesn't apply to the Christian religion - and that the mystery of Incarnation (the Word became flesh and dwelt among us - John 1:14), offers a resolution to this paradox. The paradox would indeed be unanswerable for a God that lived forever distant from the Universe that He created. But the Christian message is that God became a part of His own creation; took on the form, and the frailties of a human being, and lived among us. This was a voluntary setting aside of his power and abilities - a human being cannot lift a rock that weighs more than a few hundred pounds. Of course, Jesus also performed miracles, but at the end, voluntarily laid down his life. Perhaps some expected him to bring matters to a head when faced with crucifixion; become an earthly King, and defeat the Romans, in some supernatural coup d'etat. And it would have been within his power to do so. But that was never the plan; it was to set aside his omnipotent power, and voluntarily become helpless in the face of a cruel and painful death.

And in the crucifixion, we also see the resolution of a similar paradox, which goes like this:

Is there anything an Omniscient (all-knowing) God cannot know?

One might pose the answer that a supposedly Omniscient being cannot know what it feels like NOT to know everything.

And again this is resolved in the person of Jesus Christ - God voluntarily laid aside the knowledge of everything, so that when, on the Cross, he cried out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46), he wasn't faking it - he felt exactly the sense of loss, confusion, abandonment, and brokenness that we all feel.

Only in this sense of feeling exactly what we, as limited, finite human beings feel, can we perceive of a God who truly stands alongside us in our suffering. And it is only because of this real experience of "not knowing" that God can truly be deemed Omniscient.

That is why the Christian God is the one whom I worship.


Pomoprophet said...

Thanks for your comment on my site! :) From scrolling through your blog seems like you're a very intelligent man!

Iain said...

Hi, Pomoprophet!

Thanks for your generous comment. Not so sure about "intelligent" though ... more like a geek. Like I'll hear a bit of music on a TV program and say "Oh that's the second movement of Mahler's Third symphony" and my son'll say "you're such a geek, Dad!"

They also call me a "boff" - not quite sure what that means, but I think it's short for "boffin" :-)