God Cannot Do Anything Logically Contradictory, or Can He?

God's omnipotence is often misunderstood, and thus many find it easy to reject it. However, it must be understood in context of God Himself.

A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend about God’s omnipotence. When the average person is asked to define ‘omnipotent’ or ‘all powerful,’ many say it means to be able to do anything. However, Scripture teaches that God cannot lie, change, or swear by any name greater than his own. Therefore, we both agreed that God’s omnipotence cannot mean that God can do anything possible.

I offered the perspective that God can do anything that is not logically contradictory, such as create a square circle. We both acknowledged that this popular understanding makes sense, but then he pointed out something that refutes this understanding. My friend mentioned that God does violate logic and reason in his very existence and actions. For example, God exists as a trinity, three persons in one God where each person is a separate person but not different gods. The idea of a trinity is logically contradictory because it promotes the idea of a single being existing as three persons, yet only one God. Such an idea violates logic.

Another example is God’s omnipresence, which holds that God exists fully in more than one place. This idea teaches that a single being can be in more than one location at a time, yet not be divided. Again, another idea that violates logic.

The idea of the resurrection from the dead also causes problems. Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead four days after he passed; even his family declared that his body smelled, meaning that it had begun to decay. Yet, Lazarus was raised from the dead. The idea of a decaying body coming back to life violates logic.

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his death. Add to this the fact that Jesus is one person of the trinity, meaning that he is fully God. Yet, when Jesus died, God did not die. Again, more violations of logic.

Scripture teaches that the shadow on the clock moved backward (Isa 38:8) and that the sun stood still in the sky (Josh 10:13). These passages show that at least twice, the Earth stopped turning, yet nothing flew off the surface, the planet was not destroyed, and life continued on. This, too, violates logic.

As these examples show, God violates logic in both his actions and existence, but the logic he violates is logic according to the understanding of finite man. God is the author of logic, but God’s reasoning, ways, and thoughts are greater and far above that of human comprehension (Isa 55:8-9). Therefore, to say that God’s omnipotence means that he cannot do anything that is logically contradictory is to fail to consider God’s person and practices.

Based on this, a third option should be considered: God’s omnipotence is such that he cannot do anything that violates his nature, person, or will.

From my readings of Scripture and considering that there are things about God that I will never be able to understand, for the creation can never fully comprehend the creator, I believe that the third option is the only one that can be sustained in light of the word of God. If we are to base our theology on Scripture, then we must wrestle with the things it records that do not fit into our understanding, reasoning, or logic.

Such magnificence, splendor, and greatness of God makes me praise him for being such a glorious God! It makes me realize that, though God is transcendent, he is also immanent and chose to save a lost sinner like me. The God who is above me also wants me to fellowship with him and have a relationship with him and, thus, God chose to save me out of grace and love. How wonderful is our God!

About John L. Rothra
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. ChrisB

    I think the technical definition of the trinity is not one person and three persons but one God and three persons — that is, one what and three who’s. If it was one who and three who’s, that would be a contradiction, but the former is not.

    From there on in your piece I think you’re misusing the term “logic.” Things can be logical even when they don’t square with common sense.

    God’s omnipresence isn’t illogical because God is defined as a being who is not defined to one spatial location. That this is outside of our common experience does not make it illogical.

    Resurrection (or, more accurately, resuscitation) isn’t illogical. It goes against normal laws of science, but that’s not the same thing. That’s the case for the rest of the examples you provide — violation of natural laws but not inherently illogical.

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