I recently came up with a new game to play in the car with my son. It’s called ‘Nonsensical Questions” (or sometimes ‘The Impossible Quest’). It has become one of our favourite games to play on the way to school. We would take turns to come up with the most nonsensical or impossible questions we could think of. We have come up with quite a list:
‘What does yellow taste like?’
‘How heavy are numbers?’
‘How loud is a circle?’
‘How ticklish are letters?’
‘Can you make a square triangle?’
‘Can you make a stick with one end?’
And the funniest one was “how elephant is a waterfall?’!!
Every time we play this game, we never fail to have a good laugh.
At the simplest level, this is a quick and fun way to help him appreciate different kinds of things that make up reality and our experience of it (without getting into deep discussions at this age about what numbers actually are etc.). It helps him sort reality into categories (without the need to know what the categories are). He intuitively knows that numbers are not the same kinds of things as elephants. That you can’t know colours through taste or smell. That the properties of shapes don’t include sound.
But for me, a greater purpose for this game is to look at the very nature of God, being all powerful and all knowing. My son knows the bible says that all things are possible with God. But we want him to know what that actually means, and for his belief to be based on the right understanding of who God really is.
One day, after having played this game so many times in the car, I asked:
Me: ‘Can God make a stick with just one end?’
Me: ‘Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?’
Lewis: (with a thoughtful look on his face) ‘No….?’
Me: ‘Why not? Isn’t God powerful?’
Lewis: (paused then smiled) ‘That’s nonsensical, Mum!’
So we talked more about how it would be impossible even for God to know what yellow tastes like or how heavy numbers are. Not because God is not all-knowing but because those things aren’t knowable. And they aren’t knowable because they don’t make any sense. God can only know what is knowable. The same goes with His power. God can only do what is logically possible. He can’t make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it because that’s a contradiction. So the problem is not with God’s nature but with the impossible/nonsensical nature of those things.
This understanding is fundamental to so many issues relating to Christianity. For example, the apparent discrepancy of God’s omnipotence between Matthew 19:26 (with God all things are possible) and Hebrew 6:18 (it is impossible for God to lie). Some have tried to reconcile these two verses by suggesting that God can lie but He just chooses not to. That idea is flawed. God can only do things that don’t contradict His nature. God’s inability to lie is not a failure. If anything, it shows that He is an all-good God because it is impossible for Him to do any wrong.
But that will be another future conversation. At the moment I want to lay the ground work to help him later understand the problem of evil. Can God make people with free will who won’t sin? Can God’s righteous nature allow evil to go unpunished? Knowing that even some things are off limits to God is a good start to grapple those big issues.