Dear Father Angelo,
I sometimes hear the following objection from non-believers: if God is omnipotent then He can create something He cannot destroy, but if He cannot destroy it then He is no longer omnipotent. And if He could destroy it then He could not create something He cannot destroy. Then in both cases omnipotence cannot exist, much less in God. How would you respond to this objection?
Please forgive me If at some point I made you either smile or despair with my questions; I have only shared what lies in the thoughts of a young Christian who tries to be stronger in the faith day after day, which It’s very hard and difficult in this world where everything that surrounds us leads to evil, and where our soul itself is locked up in this body, this cage of sin that suffocates us. Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus Christ, the only one who can get us out of all this and can give us eternal Salvation …
Answer from the priest
1. The premise “if God is almighty then He can create something He cannot destroy” is wrong and contradictory.
It supposes that the realities created by God have absolute independence from Him, as when man builds a house: this is independent from him and can exist even after his death.
No work of God can continue to exist without needing instant by instant to be preserved by Him.
Saint Augustine says that all realities are prone to nothing. They continue to exist because God grants it.
2. Furthermore, omnipotence means that God can create all possible entities.
Evil is not an entity, but the deprivation of an entity. Therefore the creation of evil is not part of divine omnipotence.
3. St. Thomas puts in other terms the sophism that you have reported: “If God can make past things non-existent”.
He writes: “We said above that the omnipotence of God does not include what implies contradiction. Now, that past things did not happen implies contradiction. Just as it is contradictory to say that Socrates sits and that he does not sit, so it is contradictory to say that he sat and that he did not sit. But to say that he sat is to say that the thing happened; saying that he did not sit is saying that it did not happen. So mentioning that past things did not happen is something that does not undergo divine power.
And this is what St. Augustine affirms (Contra Faustum 26, 5): “whoever says this: If God is omnipotent, He can make what happened as something that never happened, he does not realize that he says that: If God is omnipotent it is true, by the very fact that it is true, it is false”.
And even Aristotle (Ethic. 6, 2) says that “God is deprived of one capacity only: to ensure that what has happened did not happen” ”(Sum theological, I, 25, 4).
Your questions don’t make me smile at all. They are legitimate.
Many asked them before you.
I encourage you to grow in understanding your faith to have solid grounds for your hope.
I wish you well, I remind you to the Lord and I bless you.
January 23, 2016 | A priest answers – Dogmatic Theology – General