The Instigator
Con (against)
10 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Omnipotence is impossible

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/11/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,724 times Debate No: 19231
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (2)




This is my first debate here at Since I could be unfamiliar with some of the debating procedures that take place in this community, I hope that both my opponent and the community at large will guide me through the process, and correct me on any errors I might make in the process.

The debate I propose will be structured as follows:

Round 1. Acceptance (Pro)
Round 2. Constructive (Pro) + Constructive (Con)
Round 3. First Rebuttal (Pro) + Constructive (Con)
Round 4. Second Rebuttal (Pro) + Constructive (Con)

The resolution of this debate is at follows:
Resolution: Be it resolved that omnipotence is impossible.

My opponent (Pro) will be arguing for the resolution, and I (Con) will be arguing against it. There are 4 rounds in this debate, structured as described above, I now invite my opponent to begin his Constructive speech.


I will accept this debate on the grounds that God is real, therefore proving omnipotence.
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, I am glad that my opponent has accepted this debate, and wish him all the best.

The resolution of this debate is as follows:
Resolution: Be it resolved that omnipotence is impossible.

I (Con) will be arguing against the resolution. My opponent (Pro) will be arguing for the resolution. In this section of this round I will present my case against the resolution. My opponent will then make his or her case for it.

What is omnipotence?

There are several definitions of the term “omnipotence.”
1. having unlimited power [1]
2. having great power and influence [1]
3. having unlimited or very great power [2][5]
4. often capitalized: almighty [3]
5. having virtually unlimited authority or influence [3][4]

One dictionary of theology defines omnipotence as follows: Omnipotence is an attribute of God alone. It is the quality of having all power (Psalm 115:3). He can do all things that do not conflict with his holy nature. God has the power to do anything he wants to do. However, God cannot do that which is contrary to his nature. For example, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).[6] The Catholic Encyclopedia defines omnipotence as follows: Omnipotence is the power of God to effect whatever is not intrinsically impossible. [7] Despite these definitions, there are many people who define the term “omnipotence” as a being who is capable of doing absolutely anything.

However, as the entries above have shown, this is not a proper definition of omnipotence. Modern dictionaries define “omnipotence” to mean anything from “very great power” to “having unlimited power.” There are doubtless reasons why some people insist on this definition as being absolute and authoritative (despite the presence of several other definitions). The most famous one, of course, is the stone paradox: Can an omnipotent being create an object so massive that the omnipotent being cannot lift it. In essence, the alleged “paradox” comes down to the following question: Can an omnipotent being do what an omnipotent being cannot do?

These questions certainly raise a problem for the person who wishes to defend this particular definition of omnipotence. But is this the definition most Christian thinkers have used over the past two millennium? The answer, hardly surprising, is no. This is important because some contend that, at this point, the Christian is changing their definition of omnipotence. However, that is not the case at all. It is usually this person who is trying to force the Christian to use the word in a way that is at odds with traditional Christian doctrine.

Classical theists like St. Augustine, St. Anselm, and St. Thomas Aquinas said that even though God is omnipotent, God cannot do absolutely all things, especially those things that contradict his own nature. St. Augustine clearly denies that God can do absolutely everything and he grounds his denial in Scriptural asseveration that God cannot die or deceive. St. Augustine notes that the claim that God can do all things lacks Scriptural support. Similarly, St. Anselm says that there are many things God cannot do. For example, “God cannot be corrupted, or tell lies, or transform what is true into what is false (that is, undo what has been done).” [8]

The Catholic Encyclopedia emphasizes that the inability of an omnipotent being to carry out intrinsically impossible actions is not a limitation to its omnipotence, since a power that extends to every possibility must be perfect. [7] The intrinsically impossible is the self-contradictory, and the mutually exclusive elements it poses could result only in a string of words describing an unintelligible nothingness. “Hence,” says Thomas (Summa I, Q. xxv, a. 3), “it is more exact to say that the intrinsically impossible is incapable of production, than to say that God cannot produce it.” As intrinsically impossible must be classed:
1. Any action on the part of God which would be out of harmony with His nature and attributes.
2. Any action that would simultaneously connote mutually repellent elements, e.g. a square circle, a married bachelor, etc.

The stone paradox has been dealt with in many different contexts. Richard Swinburne, a prominent contemporary Christian philosopher, writes, “By God's being omnipotent I understand that he is able to do whatever it is logically possible that he can do.” [9] With this definition in mind, let us return to the problem of the stone and see if it is still a problem. The question we must ask is whether the stone is a logical possibility, and the obvious answer is that it is not. It makes no more sense to speak of stones which are too massive for omnipotent beings to lift than it does to speak of making square circles, or an Irresistible Force colliding with an Immovable Object. Both elements are mutually contradictory and the situation is intrinsically impossible.

If we have defined an Irresistible Force as “a force that cannot be stopped,” and an Immovable object as “an object that can stop all forces,” there is a logical contradiction due to their intrinsic attributes. This excludes God from being able to realize an incoherent state of affairs that involves an intrinsic logical contradiction. The best charge the atheist can make now (and a rather lame one at that) is that God cannot do the illogical. But, is that really a charge against God at all? Swinburne addresses this absurd charge by pointing out that “a logically impossible action is not an action. It is what is described by a form of words which purport to describe an action, but do not describe anything which it is coherent to suppose can be done.” [10] Indeed, most philosophers recognize the distinction between a sentence, which is a string of words that obey the rules of grammar, and a meaningful proposition that expresses an intelligible and coherent description.

In other words, a sequence of words describing an action that is incoherent, such as “moving while not moving,” cannot describe any conceivable state of affairs. “Moving while not moving” is a sequence of words that is not realized in any possible world. Swinburne points out that the first response to the paradox is to say a stone that cannot be made to rise by an omnipotent being is a contradiction, since an all-powerful being could lift anything. [10] He could not make such a stone because he can only do all things that are conceivably doable. His not being able to make such a stone is not a limitation to his omnipotence since it involves a contradiction.

Therefore, the paradox of the stone, and its derivatives, have failed to show the doctrine of omnipotence to be incoherent, unintelligible, or absurd, and there is no reason whatsoever to regard omnipotence as impossible.

[1] omnipotent. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. 14 August 2011. <;.
[2] omnipotence. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. 14 August 2011. <;.
[3] omnipotent. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. 14 August 2011. <;
[4] omnipotence. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. 14 August 2011. <;
[5] omnipotent. Collins Language. Harper Collins Publishers. 14 August 2011. <;
[6] omnipotence. Dictionary of Theology. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. 14 August 2011. <;
[7] omnipotence. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. Robert Appleton Company. 14 August 2011. <;
[8] St. Anselm. Discourse on the Existence of God. University of Notre Dame Press, 1979. Print.
[9] Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
[10] Swinburne, Richard. The Coherence of Theism. University of Oxford, 2003. Print.


Thank you for making this debate, have a good time.

"2. having great power and influence" Is a definition of omnipotence. As a believer, I cannot refute lots of what Con said, but, that one is debatable.

The president of the United States of America holds "great power and influence" around the world. This would be part of omnipotence, right? Could It be classified as omnipotence?

I believe it can.
Debate Round No. 2


The second definition of “omnipotent,” which comes from the Oxford English Dictionary, uses the example “an omnipotent sovereign” to describe an expression where “omnipotence” could be colloquially used to mean “having great power and influence.” Of course, this is not the definition usually employed by philosophers and theologians. I urge you, regardless of your position, to find objections to the points I have presented, if only for the purpose of acting as a devil's advocate, in order to pose questions or issues that other people might raise.

So far, my case stands and my points remain unaddressed.


gryphion forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


My case remains unaddressed. No reason has been offered for thinking omnipotence is impossible.

Please extend arguments, and vote for Con.


I formally accept defeat.

Side point: How do we know If the bible is true? If not, then most of your case is worthless.

You are a good debater.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by CarlosMarti123 6 years ago
"You are a good debater."


"Side point: How do we know If the bible is true? If not, then most of your case is worthless."

Well, my case doesn't actually depend upon whether the Bible is true or not (in fact, omnipotence could be referring to any other theistic or deistic conception of God, i.e. the God of Islam). Rather, my case depends upon whether omnipotence is **possible,** not whether it is actual.
Posted by CarlosMarti123 6 years ago
Well, this debate turned out to be quite a no-show.

Posted by CarlosMarti123 6 years ago
My case remains unaddressed. No reason has been offered for thinking omnipotence is impossible.

Please extend arguments, and vote for Con.
Posted by BlackVoid 6 years ago
Yeah the format alternates Pro and Con. You'll have to go first.
Posted by CarlosMarti123 6 years ago
@BlackVoid Woops! I meant:

R3. First Rebuttal (Pro) + First Rebuttal (Con)
R4. Second Rebuttal (Pro) + Second Rebuttal (Con)

I don't know why I put "Constructive (Con)" again. I think we can use the following format then:

R2. Constructive (Pro) + Constructive, Rebuttal (Con)
R3. Defense, Rebuttal (Pro) + Rebuttal (Con)
R4. Rebuttal (Pro) + Rebuttal (Con)

However, I have noticed that my opponent (Pro) cannot start in R2 since I started R1. It seems that debates here on can only alternate between Pro and Con each round, in the same order. Is this true and does someone know how to solve this?

Otherwise, I can begin with Con instead, though the debate format will not be what I first intended.
Posted by gryphion 6 years ago
Thank you, didn't see that.
Posted by PeacefulChaos 6 years ago
gryphion, you need to be arguing against omnipotence. The resolution states, "Omnipotence is impossible" and you are Pro.
Posted by BlackVoid 6 years ago
I'd suggest changing the format to make it more clear. You have Con as making a constructive 3 times with no rebuttals to the pro case Seems like an auto-loss for you. I'm sure this isn't what you intended, but thats what it looks like atm.

The most common format is

R1: Acceptance both sides
R2: Pro (con in your case, since you're going first) constructive. Con constructive and rebuttal.
R3: Pro defends case and refutes Con's. Con refutes everything Pro said.
R4: Pro refutes everything Con said in R3. Con refutes everything Pro said. No new arguments allowed as Pro can't respond.


R1: Acceptance both sides
R2: Constructive both sides
R3: Pro refutes Con's case, Con defends his and refutes Pro's.
R4: Pro refutes everything con said, Con refutes everything Pro said.

This format is somewhat controversial because of the 8000 character limit for each round. In R3, Pro can spend 8000 characters refuting Con's case. Con has to use his 8000 to both refute Pro's 8000 character ase and defend his from the 8000 character barrage. In other words, Con has to defend 16000 characters with 8000 in R3. However, it can be done and its been done before, so you could still pick this option if you want.

I'm just not sure what format you're trying to set up here, so clarifying would be great.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by ApostateAbe 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit
Vote Placed by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: PRO concedes.