Monday, May 24, 2010

Who Made God?

Tyler (a fifth grader) asked me this about a week ago, and he did it so sweetly with such serious intonation when speaking that actual question - "Who...MADE...God?" - that I couldn't stop smiling while responding.

I love these questions, especially when they are being asked by children. With a child, I can come right back with a question, like, "Well, what do you think?" and no matter how long the conversation carries, the child will still lean towards you and listen intently when your response finally arrives.

Here is my response. Don't take it for granted and, please, don't just cast it aside. I've thought on this one a long time.

Tyler asked, "Who made God?"

"Who made you?" I asked.


"Well, did anyone help?"


"Mom, man!" said his brother. I was driving them home after Youth First (see the link on the sidebar).

"And dad!" said his other brother, in kind of a sing-song way, raising one finger into the air.

"Mom. And dad," said Tyler.

"So who made them?" I asked.

"Grandma and Grandpa," he said, after a pause.

"Who made them?" said I, and so on. In my rearview mirror, he looked more confused than when he'd asked the question.

Because we began, we understand beginnings - or we understand the reality of beginnings. First, people begin. Then people exist. Causes cause. Effects result. I turn the ignition, the block jumps to life; I press the pedal and fuel injects and we move. Cause and effect. But someone made the car. And, of course, I was made, too.

But no one made God, I said. He just is. Now, let me build on my response a bit for the sake of this post.

It's easy to assume that because most things seem to begin, then everything must. Bertrand Russell suggested that many years ago when he argued that if the universe never had a beginning, then there is no God (or "first cause" of the universe). If the universe did begin, he argued, then we must ask, "Who caused God?" - or, as Tyler put it, "Who...MADE...God?"

God was not made because he never began. He simply is. I quickly admit that it is difficult to get my mind around such a notion - though we can understand this. A common analogy is, "What would it be like if Hamlet asked Shakespeare who wrote you?" Initially, that seems like a smack-down question because, of course, Shakespeare did begin (ah ha!)...but not in text! No matter how realistic a character may seem or how inspiring their journey, if they are created in a fictional realm then they are created in text or the small screen or the html of the web and are thus trapped by that world. Hamlet has never been seen, met, hugged, or spoken to because unlike Shakespeare (or us) he is not flesh and blood in a universe with some pretty unbending laws, like, 1) the first law of thermodynamics which suggests energy cannot be created or destroyed, and 2) the second law which suggests that the universe is running out of usable energy. This means that one day the universe will run out because this universe once began. Just like Tyler! Just like me!

I find that incredibly comforting, for two reasons.

First, my emo side wakes up and I'm like, "Okay, so I'm not alone in all of this? The universe, too, is dying!" Is that morbid of me? :)

Second, if this all began, it had a beginning - and nothing has ever begun without a beginning. Listen: this is so crucial and exciting and astoundingly promising! If the universe began, then whatever caused it is some amazing stuff or some amazing, uh, cause.

The laws of a universe - as far as we know - are only applicable within the framework of that universe. This means that between the beginning and the end, the laws apply - but not outside of those limits. This means that the first cause isn't bound by 1) time, 2) laws of expansion and contraction 3) laws of physics 4) gravity 5) biology 6) or...thermodynamics because he existed before the first cause. Those laws all exist after the moment the universe begins, not before.

And, so, if the first cause is not held captive by any of those laws, then it is child's play for us to consider the following question: "What if the first cause can actually be known?" All he would have to do is show up in our world.

If energy is eternal and no one created it, then it has always existed. But if it runs down and becomes unusable, then the fact it runs down implies that one day it will run out. Anytime I run out of gas in my car or ink in my pen or battery in my iphone, I'm out. The universe is in the same shape.

Normal Geisler puts it this way: If a God (or a first cause) exists who has no beginning, then asking, "Who made God?" is like asking, "Who made the unmade?" or "Who created the Uncreated?"

God did not begin and he will never end. He simply is, always, and if you were every going to walk into a group of people and tell them one thing about God, apparently that's a pretty good thing to start with.

Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, 'The god of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" Exodus 3:13,14

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." They said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." John 8:56-59