Can God do Anything?

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Can God do anything? 99% of the time people say "yes". We're trained to believe this since our youth. Rarely do we go back in our minds to question those notions fed to us while children. For the remainder of their lives, many end up harboring unchecked, infantile notions. This notion of God's limitless power might have originated to loyally defend a Superman image of God; it's sacrilegious to limit God in any way. 

However, such a notion that God is capable of anything, actually renders God into a vicious, careless, and even powerless being, while also viewing the world replete with impossibilities. 

This position that God can do anything, is baseless. Furthermore, the burden of proof on those holding this view. The burden is not upon us to disprove it, since we need not disprove what does not exist in the first place. But, although we have no burden to disprove this theory, let us do so to benefit others in a fundamental measure.

Inherent Contradiction

The simplest rejection of God being capable of literally anything, is this false claim: "God can do anything, including removing all of His powers, rendering Himself incapable of doing anything." This view is self contradicting. This argument alone shows that God cannot do anything we imagine.


If God can do anything, He should be capable of creating another God. However, He truly cannot create another God, since He is the sole creator of the universe. The newly created duplicate God cannot claim responsibility for creating the universe, since the true God already did so. Therefore, God cannot do "anything" we imagine, since He cannot create another God. The Rabbis already taught, God does not do the impossible:

Maimonides: Guide for the Perplexed 3:15

The "impossible" has a stable nature, one whose stability is constant and is not made by a maker; it is impossible to change it in any way. Hence, we do not ascribe to God the power of doing what is impossible. No thinking man denies the truth of this maxim, and none ignore it – except for those who have no understanding of logic . . . Likewise it is impossible that God should produce a being like Himself, or destroy Himself, or make Himself physical, or change Himself – all of these things are in the category of the impossible, and cannot be attributed to God . . . It has become clear then that, according to every opinion and school, there are things which are impossible and which cannot exist. The power to bring about these impossible things cannot be ascribed to God. The fact that He cannot change them does not imply inability or deficiency of power on His part. 

Maimonides is clear: reality has limitations. Certain things cannot be, what we call impossibilities. Another example: a circle cannot also be a square. It is impossible that one thing could at the same moment be something else. And since this is impossible, God's power plays no role, since power is only applicable to real things, not to non-existences, like impossibilities.

How would we answer this claim:

"We can't know how, but God can do anything. There is some system outside of our world and beyond our logic, in which God operates, where He can do what is impossible on Earth."

Although treated as fact, this is an assumption. For no one has experienced anything but an Earthly existence. Therefore, we are incapable of any positive knowledge of God, be it abstract or experiential. All we have are God's words.

God created our senses and intellects, for He wills us to obtain truths; to perceive accurately and to arrive at logical and true conclusions. He commands us not to favor a poor man in a court case (Exod. 23:6), since He desires justice and not sympathy if the poor man is a crook. He also commands us to depart from any falsehood (Exod. 23:7). Thus, God desires man abides by truth. God says, "I do not change (Malachi 3:6)."  Therefore, God will not change and ask man to violate these commands. Thus, these are absolute truths; matters which God will always favor and never change. Now, one who suggests that God can do anything, must also say that God contradicts Himself. God said He does not change, but if God can do anything, why can't He change Himself? if he can do anything, why has He determine these Torah principles t be eternal?

"I am first and I am the last, and besides Me there is no other god (Isaiah 44:6)." God says He was first, before all else. But if God can do anything, He should be able to make something else first, and this "absolute" truth should be meaningless, since He can change it. 

God says He is "one." But of what truth is this, if He can make Himself into three, as the Christians suggest?

God's absolute declarations are without number.  To imagine that God can do anything at all, is to disregard the absolute nature of His claims. Furthermore, God's declaration that "I am one", teaches us that His world and ours share common truths. He is imparting HIS truth that works in OUR world. Therefore, to suggest He functions in a world that conflict with ours, is contrary to the entire Torah.

We conclude that as God is trusted, that He desires truth, and He says things about Himself ("I am one") in His Torah, a system that is never to be changed (Deut. 13:1) God thereby tells us there are absolute truths that cannot change. This refutes the opinion that God can do anything. 

However, if we take the other position that there is no absolute truth, and that God may do anything, one of our wisest teachers – Maimonides – taught that we forfeit the afterlife. Maimonides as well as literally every Prophet, Rabbi, and Sage taught that Torah is absolute truth and will never undergo any change. And if we feel certain truths are not absolute (i.e., the 13 Principles), Maimonides writes that one has no share in the Afterlife. Nothing is more severe.  The absolute nature of Torah is expressed in the commands not to add or subtract from the Torah (Deut. 13:1).  The Torah will never be changed. It is true eternally. God cannot violate His word.

Therefore as the only knowledge we have of God are His words, and as we know that God does not wish to mislead mankind, we trust that there are many things that are impossible, that God cannot do. And we must further appreciate that these limitations that even God cannot violate, are actually God's perfections. Being limited to complete honesty, righteousness, justice, and charity, God is thereby perfect. This is the greatness of God, that He is perfect. Being limited is not a detraction of that perfection. It adds to it.