Things God cannot do

The thread about Jesus’ death and salvation got me thinking. If I understand what at least some people are saying, the only way we can be saved from eternal agony was for Jesus, nobody else, to take on all the punishment we seem to somehow deserve for what we’ve done.

So there's one. God could not/can not find or accomplish another way to save us from the punishment he devised.

Apparently God is not allowed to create a duplicate of himself. I wonder why.

I’ve heard that God cannot create a person without a soul. Why not? That would seem to be a solution to the abortion debate. God knows which fetuses (fetusi?) will be aborted, so no souls for them!

There must be more, but I’m always impressed by preachers are always coming up with things that God is not able to do.

The traditional response to this observation is to say that God cannot do things that are logically impossible.

The question then becomes: does God determine what is logically possible?

If so, then the original problem remains. If not, then God is not the ultimate determinant of what reality is and should not be worshipped as such. God becomes merely an extremely powerful being that may have been responsible for the creation (not ex nihilo) of the observable world.

I once read a theological essay which argued, IIRC, that there are five things God cannot do:

  1. believe (since God’s self-awareness is based on knowledge rather than faith)

  2. change

  3. forget

  4. lie

  5. die

Your touching on the concept of the Trinity…somewhat difficult to grasp. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate but one thing at the same time.

So, Jesus was God on earth yet Jesus was a separate individual at the same time. In effect Jesus intervened on human’s behalf with God. Presumably God could have come up with any number of ways to ‘save’ humanity but was not inclined to do so. Jesus, basically, offered a means to salvation for the human race when he died for our sins. Jesus is NOT being punished on our behalf.

By definition God is omnipotent and omniscient. It is not so much a question of whether God cannot do a thing because theoretically God can do whatever it pleases. Just because God can do a thing however does not make God obliged to do a thing.

For a better trick arguing against omnipotence is can God create a rock so large that God cannot move it? Whichever side you pick on that question throws into doubt the ability for anything to be truly omnipotent.

Because our soul is one of the things that makes us human. Not to get too Platonic here, but it would be like creating a dog with leaves and roots - you might be able to create some sort of creature like that, but it wouldn’t be a dog.

This is the only answer I know of to evade the ‘rock so big it can’t be moved’ problem.

Why can’t God lie? I can see why God may never feel it is necessary but I don’t see why God couldn’t lie if God wanted to.


No, we do, by our definitions.

For example, we can define a geometric shape with three sides as a triange. Logically, God (or anyone else) cannot create a four-sided trinagle, since, by (our) definition, a four-sided polygon is not a triangle.

Likewise, if God is defined as omnipotent, then He cannot create a rock that He can’t move, since such an object, like our four sided triangle, is a logical impossibility.

Well, for starters, if you define God (as He traditionaly is) as the Creator of All Things, then He cannot create a duplicate of Himself, for you can only have one Creator of All Things.

Zev Steinhardt

** But he can change our definition.

But what determines the rules? Presumably, the concept of an unmovable rock couldn’t be manifested… but did God make it impossible for that to occur, or are those rules beyond the power of God to change?

Zev, I’ve thought long and hard about the logical imposibilty angle and I agree with it up to a point. But does it not also mean that he cannot have perfect knowledge of the universe (without changing the nature of the universe) or be outside the universe, yet still able to affect it.

Why? Apart from personal beliefs is there any fundamental reason why there couldn’t be an entire race of ‘Gods’? Maybe each one creates their own universe to play with or they agree to take care of different parts of designing our own universe (i.e. one takes stars, one take planets, one takes the fundamental forces and so on). Certainly just one could do it all but maybe they enjoy working by committee.

I’m not arguing for that case but I don’t see why there must only be one God from a logical perspective.

I should have added that I wasn’t thinking of such self-negating items as circles with corners and four sided triangles. Those would be some new thing with a different name, just as a dog with roots and leaves.

But a truly omnipotent being should be able to concoct a critter just like himself, or a man without a soul (Hitler?) just because he wants to. Although how could any such being really want anything?

So can God kill himself? And leave his creation? Maybe he did, yet I bet some of you say he can/t.

(I did do an archive search on this, but they seem to only allow search words of four or more letters)



Zev Steinhardt


Well, again, if you define God (as He often is defined) as the Creator of All Things, then, by definition, there can only be one God. You can only have one Creator of All Things.

Now, if you want to challange the definition itself, that’s a different story…

Zev Steinhardt

Um, Zev… have you really considered the implications of God’s being inside the universe?

It would follow that God could be destroyed.


Perhaps there is no “Creator of All Things”.

The answer to this question lies in religious traditon, not logic. From a logical standpoint, yes, God should be able to do any of the things you mention. The reason he can’t (at least in my eyes) comes from religious tradition and explanation, not logic.


I’ve been hoping to get back the three-letter search back myself for ages.

Zev Steinhardt

Logically, if God created the universe, then He’s outside it, no?

Again, I agree that from a strict logical point of view, God could choose to no longer exist. The reasoning why this is impossible is religious in nature, not logical.

Zev Steinhardt

One could certainly argue that point. But then we’re not talking about God as He’s traditionally defined.

Zev Steinhardt