This week marked the beginning of a new year of Sunday School classes at our church. Each year provides a fresh opportunity to help young minds think well and further their relationship with and understanding of God. I like to ask the incoming first graders for their biggest, hardest question about God. That gives us the whole year to make sure they hear the answer.
After recovering from the question of one child who asked “How do mommies and daddies make babies?” (“for the love of everything, child, ask your parents!!”), one boy volunteered that he has “at least 500 questions” but “can God make a rock so big he can’t pick it up?”
Little person; big sounding question.
I’ve heard adults toss this question around as if it is actually a reasonable or somehow intellectual inquiry (Yes, guilty), so I’m not surprised this first grade boy picked it up and has been wrestling with it. In fact, start typing “Can God make a…” in your search bar and watch as “Can God make a rock so big that he can’t lift it?” appears as a search suggestion. It’s a common thing to wonder and ask.
So, can he? Can he make a rock so large that he then can’t lift it? I propose we answer the question with more questions. In the words of C.S. Lewis: “Can God draw a square circle?”
Or, what does ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ smell like? Tell me whether the color magenta tastes sweet or sour? At the heart of the questions is a fundamental flaw that becomes more and more apparent as we think up new examples:
In the whole of Scripture, we fail to see examples of God being a God of nonsense. He created a universe of order and law and meaning. Since his character is unchanging, and his creation is surely an outpouring and reflection of who he is, we can expect that he, too, is logical and consistent and lacking in the nonsense department (All platypuses aside. I joke.). To ask whether God can have dominion over something that he cannot then have dominion over is nonsense. To ask what the sound of a song smells like is nonsense. The questions here are category fallacies: two things are in two separate categories, therefore it is logically invalid to attempt to place one into the other’s category in this way. They are mutually exclusive. If the rock had the quality of being under God’s control, it cannot also have the quality of NOT being under God’s control. In short, CAN God make a rock so big he can’t lift it? No, because that is a ridiculous non-question, and his omnipotence is in no way infringed upon by nonsensical questions.
So, rather than drone on about category fallacies and paradoxes during Sunday School next week, or simply shoot down the question, I will instead continue to ask silly questions until the first graders can see on their own that some questions are not as daunting as they may first seem. Sometimes, the answer is just…
PITFALLS: A Quick Guide to Logical Fallacies for Families
is coming soon!
and we’ll tell you when it’s released!