What's P'shat?

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The Paradox of Power (Shelakh)

What's P'shat?

Can God create a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift it? Theologians have been debating this question, known formally as the “omnipotence paradox,” since the middle ages. In a sense, the premise behind it is nonsensical: to suggest that something unlimited might actually be limited by the fact that it cannot have any limits is semantically clever, but it is practically meaningless. That’s what the great Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas was getting at when he wrote in his Summa Theologica that “only that which can possibly be, or can possibly be done, falls within the scope of divine power.” Averroes, a prominent Muslim philosopher, echoed these sentiments in his Incoherence of the Incoherence by claiming that “even the omnipotent cannot bring it about that existence should become identical with nonexistence.” So no, these men would insist—God can’t create a rock that He can’t lift. That’s illogical.

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