Does God trip over a circular square?

Monday Musings for October 18, 2021

Good morning, Musers,

We human beings are too clever for our own good. Just because we have a grasp of syntax, we think that we can prove God out of existence by the use of a clever sentence. Can God make a rock so big that he cannot move it? ... is arguably the most famous of those types of challenges, but there’s an infinite variety. We will look at one of them today.

But no matter what sentences the skeptics throw at us, the principal that defeats these challenges is always the same: the propositional content of a sentence is what counts, not its syntax. Syntax and content are related… but they are not the same thing. They both must make sense before we can say that a valid thought has been communicated. So, what makes for the best sentence?

The best sentence is a sentence we can rely upon to communicate the intent of the author. Therefore, the best sentences are the clearest sentences… sentences that combine syntax, propositional content and style — but in a way that leaves no doubt about what the author had in mind.

In the case of God and his immovable rock, since God must act according to his nature, he cannot do anything illogical... and that’s the problem with that sentence. It sounds like it makes sense because its syntax is valid, but it “does not obtain” … which is the technical (philosophical) jargon for saying that the propositional content is not logical. But here’s what’s at stake.

Let’s say that you were sitting on a park bench with a sign that said, “Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture answered today”... and a high school boy stops by. He asks you the question about the rock. What are you going to do? Beat him about the head and shoulders because he does not understand the difference between syntax and propositional content? No!

Hopefully, you would be able to discuss it, though… even though an apologist is under no obligation to answer a question that has no logical propositional content.

Now, I think that it would be necessary to share with an earnest seeker why his statement doesn’t make sense — and therefore — why it’s not a threat to the existence of God. But the main job is not to answer a question; the main job is to engage with a person. Jesus Christ died for people, not for ideas… and we don’t want to send people to hell by insisting that communicating the “right” ideas in the “right” way is more important than delivering the basic truths of the gospel.

Now, it’s one thing if a person jumps on a message board and dumps a load of drivel. It is quite another when he or she engages with an apologetics ministry. Even if they unload their favorite anti-God polemic, on some level, they want to be noticed by God. This is why you should never answer a polemic with a polemic. It alienates… and it shuts down communication.

Instead, follow the advice in 1 Peter 3:15: offer them comfort and understanding. Our job is to engage the world as winsome followers of Jesus Christ. When people ask about the hope we have within us, we can tell them what Jesus had done for us. The gospel will be hard enough on them. It is unnecessary — nay, counter-productive — to make the doorway hard on them too.


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