You know that logical impossibility thing that people use to disprove God or whatever? Can God make a stone so heavy that He can’t lift it? It’s meant to be a logical contradiction proving the incoherence of omnipotence as an idea – I personally prefer the burrito example (can God make a burrito so hot He can’t eat it), but anything along those lines will do. If God cannot eat the burrito, He cannot eat all things, and if He cannot make the burrito, He cannot make all things. One way or another, He cannot do everything, and therefore cannot be properly omnipotent. I say this with some hesitancy, but – let’s talk about that for a second.
The thing is, it’s not really an interesting argument, right. I don’t think anybody takes it seriously – it’s meant to be an irritation rather than a legitimate point of discourse. I’m genuinely not sure if I should be putting something out into the world about it. I guess some people have taken it seriously – for instance, Aquinas writes about the full range of possible action, arguing that God can do all things that can be done, that He can do everything that can reasonably be included within the scope of omnipotence. It’s a nice idea, but it does hinge on some very specific theories about how good and evil relate to each other. For example, Aquinas’s whole thing is that sinful or bad actions are inferior forms of the perfect action. If you have sex with your partner, that’s perfect, and if you cheat on them and have sex with someone else, that’s an inferior form of the same act. That is, faithful and unfaithful sex are not treated as two separate actions – they’re the same act, but one is better or more perfect than the other. From that perspective, Aquinas argues, God is omnipotent in that He can do the perfect form of every action. He specifically can’t do something like cheating on His partner, because that’s an inferior form of the act – so in that sense, God actually can’t do everything, because He can’t be less than perfect – but the perfect act is assumed to contain within itself all parts of lesser acts, which, again, are simply inferior or degraded forms. His omnipotence therefore rests in His ability to do the perfect form of every act, which collectively make up the sum total of all possible actions. He can only have sex with His partner, which is the most perfect form of sex, and which encompasses all the parts of sex that exist in an incomplete or partial way in every imperfect form of sex. It’s stupid, but this whole thing is stupid, so you just have to deal with it.
So the whole thing about the burrito argument is that some little shitheads think it’s like a sick burn on Christianity. It’s treated as proof of the incoherence of Christian belief – you know, they believe that God is omnipotent, but omnipotence is a self-refuting idea, as evidenced by the burrito problem. I started wondering, though – this is such a bong-rip idea, but I wondered about the implications of affirming both halves of the paradox. Can God make a burrito so hot that He can’t eat it? Both yes and no at the same time. He can make a burrito so hot that He can’t eat it, and He can also eat it. He can make a rock so heavy that He can’t lift it, and He can lift it. God can make the rock unliftable and still lift it, and yet the rock remains unliftable even as it is lifted. There’s just something satisfying about affirming that paradox.
Normally, obviously, things are either able to be lifted or not able to be lifted. Those are by definition mutually exclusive categories. It doesn’t make sense to claim that something can be both at the same time. But I think the broader point in affirming that sort of illogical statement – you know, aside from winding up shitheads – is to insist on the hierarchy between logic and the divine. Why subordinate the supernatural to the bounds of logic and reason? Why give up ground on divine omnipotence simply because of some little shit and his burrito? If God can be both one and three, He can create and lift an unliftable rock.
And this isn’t necessarily a case of religion versus reason, right. It’s not religious illogic on one side and rational skeptics on the other. There’s a broad spectrum of attitudes even within the bounds of Christianity. For people like Aquinas, there’s a real concern to maintain the logic of belief. He’s really focused on the internal consistency of the faith, on working out a system where everything lines up and makes sense to a rational, thinking person. He accepts that the divine is ultimately beyond the scope of human knowledge, but insists that our frameworks and language still correspond to the true nature of the divine in a meaningful way. He would say that it’s impossible for a rock to be both unliftable and liftable at the same time, that it doesn’t make any sense. As we’ve seen, he would try to shift the definition of omniscience towards something that he considers more logical. I think, for me personally, I’m a little happier to take the illogical at a breezy face value. If it’s an impossible self-contradicting burrito, then that’s what it is. Fuck it. I don’t care. God can make magic burritos.