Why can’t God do the impossible?

I received an excellent question recently about God and logic. The respondent was essentially asking why God can’t do the logically impossible and if His inability to do so mean that there is some sort of “logical fabric” in the universe to which God is subject. Does this logical fabric precede God?

My response is below:

I was very excited when I saw your question because it is so deep!  I can tell that you’ll go far in your pursuit of these things since you are asking such fundamental questions!  It sounds like there are two things we will want to address. First, why can’t God do the logically impossible?  Second, where does logic come from anyway?

It will be helpful to answer the second question first, and we can borrow from the thinking in the Moral Argument to aid us.  Remember that in the Moral Argument we came to the conclusion that virtue or “the good” is rooted in God’s nature.  The “good” is the way that God is fundamentally.  It is for that reason that God is both morally good and not subject to an external moral law.

Logic, similarly, is rooted in God’s nature.  Rational thought is the way God thinks.  Geisler puts it this way in Systematic Theology in One Volume, “God does not merely choose to be rational and consistent. He is rational by his very nature. The scriptures inform us, for example, ‘It is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb. 6:18) and that ‘He cannot deny Himself’ (2 Tim. 2:13 NKJV).  Likewise, God cannot be irrational.  It is contrary to His nature as the ultimate, perfect, absolutely rational Being in the universe to violate the laws of logic.” (pg 68, emphasis original).

There are a couple of things that follow from this.  First, it would be nonsensical to say that God can transcend the laws of logic.  Since logic is rooted in God’s nature, then one would have to say that God must transcend himself (which is absurd).  Logic is not a creation of God, and therefore is not some external “thing” that he can rise above.  We can also see why God will always act rationally; it is in his very nature to do so.

We are not arbitrarily rooting logic in God’s nature.  Remember that, just as in the Moral Argument, we experience logic firsthand.  Since we experience logic firsthand then we can think through what the best explanation for it may be.  The best explanation for rationality in the universe is that it should be rooted in God’s nature.

Although this gives us a fair answer to your first question regarding God’s inability to do the logically impossible, more can be said about that also.  The problem here is with referent.  Imagine that I asked, “Can God create a ‘feave’?”  Such a question doesn’t have an answer because there is no such thing as a “feave”.  The word “feave” doesn’t refer to anything, I have just combined letters in a nonsensical way.  So there isn’t really an answer to the question because the question is incoherent.  What if I were to ask, “Can God create a square-circle?”  Just as in our previous example, a “square-circle” is a meaningless combination of words.  It makes no difference that the words “square” and “circle” are sensible because I have mashed them together in nonsensical fashion.  There is no object known as a “square-circle” for God to create, so there really isn’t even an answer to the question.  The question itself is nonsense.  So when we say that God cannot do the logically impossible, what we are really saying is that there are no such things as logically impossible feats for God to perform or not perform.  We can only construct logically irrational combinations of letters/words.

Some might argue that God must transcend logic.  We’ve given an answer to that already, but we can also ask them what exactly they mean by this?  Typically what they have in mind is that God should act illogically, but this is not transcending above logic but rather falling below it.  I suspect that one will have difficulty describing what it would even mean to be more than logical and that they will inevitably fall into a description of acting less than logical.

Sincerely,

Matt Bilyeu


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