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Who Made God?And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler
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Chapter OneTough Questions about God
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My daughter Ruth, a pastor's wife, told her oldest son, Samuel, who was then about four years old, "Go ask your grandfather." A moment later I was confronted with this tough question: "Grandpa, where is the mind in the brain?" This question is easy enough to answer for a college or seminary philosophy student who knows what a category mistake is, but how do you explain it to a four-year-old?
As parents and church leaders who have ministered to small children know, the toughest questions typically come from the youngest members of the congregation. Often these are about God-such as, "Daddy, who made God?" More than a few parents have heard this question before, but only a few can answer it.
We must be prepared to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15) to every sincere question we are asked (Colossians 4:6). Here are some of the toughest ones I've been asked over the past fifty years of ministry. I will try my best to answer them so that even young boys and girls can understand.
WHO MADE GOD?
Who made God? No one did. He was not made. He has always existed. Only things that had a beginning-like the world-need a maker. God had no beginning, so God did not need to be made.
For those who are a little older, a little more can be said. Traditionally, most atheists who deny the existence of God believe that the universe was not made; it was just "there" forever. They appeal to the first law of thermodynamics for support: "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed," they insist. Several things must be observed in response.
First, this way of stating the first law is not scientific; rather, it is a philosophical assertion. Science is based on observation, and there is no observational evidence than can support the dogmatic "can" and "cannot" implicit in this statement. It should read, "[As far as we have observed,] the amount of actual energy in the universe remains constant." That is, no one had observed any actual new energy either coming into existence or going out of existence. Once the first law is understood properly, it says nothing about the universe being eternal or having no beginning. As far as the first law is concerned, energy may or may not have been created. It simply asserts that if energy was created, then as far as we can tell, the actual amount of energy that was created has remained constant since then.
Further, let us suppose for the sake of argument that energy-the whole universe of energy we call the cosmos-was not created, as many atheists have traditionally believed. If this is so, it is meaningless to ask who made the universe. If energy is eternal and uncreated, of course no one created it. It has always existed. However, if it is meaningless to ask, "Who made the universe?" since it has always existed, then it is equally meaningless to ask "Who made God?" since he has always existed.
If the universe is not eternal, it needs a cause. On the other hand, if it has no beginning, it does not need a cause of its beginning. Likewise, if a God exists who has no beginning, it is absurd to ask, "Who made God?" It is a category mistake to ask, "Who made the Unmade?" or "Who created the Uncreated?" One may as well ask, "Where is the bachelor's wife?"
WHY COULDN'T THE WORLD ALWAYS HAVE EXISTED?
Christians naturally believe there must be a God because the world had a beginning. And everything that had a beginning had a beginner. But the tough question to answer is how we know the world had a beginning. Maybe the world always existed.
Famous agnostic Bertrand Russell presented this dilemma: Either the world had a beginning, or it did not. If it did not, it did not need a cause (God). If it did, we can ask, "Who caused God?" But if God has a cause, he is not God. In either case, we do not arrive at a first uncaused cause (God).
The answer to this tough question is that it, too, asks a meaningless question: Who made God? To put it another way, it wrongly assumes that "everything must have a cause" when what is claimed is that "everything that had a beginning had a cause." This is quite a different matter. Of course, everything that had a beginning had a beginner. Nothing cannot make something. As Julie Andrews once sang, "Nothing came from nothing. Nothing ever could." So God does not need a cause because he had no beginning.
This being the case, we need only to show that the universe had a beginning, to show that there must have been a cause of it (i.e., God). Two strong arguments will be offered as evidence that the universe had a beginning. One is from science-the second law of thermodynamics. The second is from philosophy, namely, the impossibility of an infinite number of moments.
According to the second law of thermodynamics, the universe is running out of usable energy. But if the universe is running down, it cannot be eternal. Otherwise, it would have run down completely by now. While you can never run out of an unlimited amount of energy, it does not take forever to run out of a limited amount of energy. Hence, the universe must have had a beginning. To illustrate, every car has a limited amount of energy (gas). That is why we have to refuel from time to time-more often than we like. If we had an unlimited (i.e., infinitely) large gas tank, we would never have to stop for gas again. The fact that we have to refill shows that it was filled up to begin with. Or, to use another example, an old clock that gradually unwinds and has to be rewound would not unwind unless it had been wound up to begin with. In short, the universe had a beginning. And whatever had a beginning must have had a beginner. Therefore, the universe must have had a beginner (God).
Some have speculated that the universe is self-winding or self-rebounding. But this position is exactly that-pure speculation without any real evidence. In fact, it is contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. For even if the universe were rebounding, like a bouncing ball in reverse, it would gradually peter out. There is simply no observational evidence that the universe is self-winding. Even agnostic astronomers like Robert Jastrow have pointed out: "Once hydrogen has been burned within that star and converted to heavier elements, it can never be restored to its original state." Thus, "minute by minute and year by year, as hydrogen is used up in stars, the supply of this element grows smaller."
If the overall amount of actual energy stays the same but the universe is running out of usable energy, it has never had an infinite amount-for an infinite amount of energy can never run down. This would mean that the universe could not have existed forever in the past. It must have had a beginning. Or, to put it another way, according to the second law, since the universe is getting more and more disordered, it cannot be eternal. Otherwise, it would be totally disordered by now, which it is not. So it must have had a beginning-one that was highly ordered.
A second argument that the universe had a beginning-and hence a beginner-comes from philosophy. It argues that there could not have been an infinite number of moments before today; otherwise today never would have come (which it has). This is because, by definition, an infinite can never be traversed-it has no end (or beginning). But since the moments before today have been traversed-that is, we have arrived at today-it follows that there must only have been a finite (limited) number of moments before today. That is, time had a beginning. But if the space-time universe had a beginning, it must have been caused to come into existence. This cause of everything else that exists is called God. God exists.
Even the great skeptic David Hume held both premises of this argument for God. What is more, Hume himself never denied that things have a cause for their existence. He wrote, "I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause." He also said that it was absurd to believe there were an infinite number of moments: "The temporal world has a beginning. An infinite number of real parts of time, passing in succession and exhausted one after another, appears so evident a contradiction that no man, one should think, whose judgment is not corrupted, instead of being improved, by the sciences, would ever be able to admit it." Now if both of these premises are true, it follows that there must have been a creator of the space-time universe we call the cosmos-that is, God exists.
HOW CAN GOD MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING?
If God and nothing else existed prior to the creation of the world, the universe came into existence from nothing. But isn't it absurd to say that something can come from nothing? It is absurd to say that nothing caused something, because nothing does not exist and has no power to do anything. But it is not absurd to say that someone (i.e., God) brought the universe into existence from nonexistence. Nothing cannot make something, but someone (i.e., God) can make something out of nothing.
In fact, if the universe had a beginning (as demonstrated earlier), then there was once no universe and then there was-after God created it. This is what is meant by creation "out of nothing" (Latin, ex nihilo). It does not mean that God took a "handful of nothing" and made something out of it, as though "nothing" were something out of which he made the world. There was God and simply nothing else. Then God brought something else into existence that had not existed to that point.
Or to put it another way, creation "out of nothing" simply means that God did not create out of something else that which already existed alongside himself, as in certain forms of dualism in which there are two eternal substances of entities. This is really creation ex materia, that is, out of some preexisting matter outside of God. The Greek philosopher Plato held this view.
Neither did God create the world out of himself (i.e., ex Deo). That is, God did not take part of himself and make the world out of it. In fact, the orthodox Christian God has no parts. He is a simple whole that is absolutely one. Thus there is no way God could have taken part of himself and made the world. God is infinite and the world is finite. And no amount of finite parts can make an infinite, since no matter how many parts or pieces one has, there could always be one more. But there cannot be more than an infinite. Hence, no amount of parts would ever equal an infinite. So God could not have created the world out of part of himself (i.e., ex materia).
The world came from God but is not of God. He was its cause but not its substance. It came into existence by him, but it is not made of him. However, if the world was not created out of God (ex Deo) or out of something else (ex materia) existing alongside God, it must have been created out of nothing (ex nihilo). There is no other alternative. God made something that before he made it did not exist, either in him or in anything else.
The only place the world "existed" before God made it was as an idea in God's mind. Just as a painter has an idea of his painting in his mind before he paints it, so God had an idea of the world before he made it. In this sense, the world preexisted in God's mind as an idea before he brought it into existence.
WHAT WAS GOD DOING BEFORE HE MADE THE WORLD?
Another tough question often asked about God is this: What was God doing with all his time before he created? The famous fifth-century A.D. Christian teacher Augustine had two answers to this question, one humorous and one serious. The first answer was that God was spending his time preparing hell for people who ask questions like this! The serious answer was that God didn't have any time on his hands, since there was no time before time was created. Time began with creation. Before creation, time did not exist. So there was no time for God to have on his hands. The world did not begin by a creation in time but by a creation of time. But, you may think, if there was no time before time began, what was there? The answer is, eternity. God is eternal, and the only thing prior to time was eternity.
Further, the question implies that an infinitely perfect being like God could get bored. Boredom, however, is a sign of imperfection and dissatisfaction, and God is perfectly satisfied. Thus, there is no way God could be bored, even if he had long time periods on his hands. An infinitely creative mind can always find something interesting to do. Only finite minds that run out of interesting things to do get bored.
Finally, the Christian God has three persons who are in perfect fellowship. There is no way such a being could get bored or lonely. There is not only always someone to "talk to," but someone of perfect understanding, love, and companionship. Boredom is impossible in such a being.
HOW CAN THERE BE THREE PERSONS IN ONE GOD?
How can God be three and yet one? Isn't this a contradiction? It would seem that God could be one and not three, or three and not one. But he cannot be both three and one at the same time. It would be a violation of the most fundamental law of thought, namely, the law of noncontradiction.
First of all, the Christian belief in a Trinity of three persons in one God is not a contradiction. A contradiction occurs only when something is both A and non-A at the same time and in the same sense. God is both three and one at the same time but not in the same sense. He is three persons but one in essence. He is three persons but only one in nature.
It would be a contradiction to say that God had three natures in one nature or three persons in one person. But it is not a contradiction to claim that God has three persons in one nature. God is like a triangle. At the same time it has three corners and yet it is only one triangle. Each corner is not the same as the whole triangle. Or, God is like one to the third power ([1.sup.3]). 1 x 1 x 1 = 1. God is not 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, which is tritheism or polytheism. God is one God, manifested eternally and simultaneously in three distinct persons.
God is love (1 John 4:16). But to have love, there must be a lover (Father), a loved one (Son), and a spirit of love (Holy Spirit). So, love itself is a tri-unity.
Another illustration of the Trinity is that God is like my mind, ideas, and words. There is a unity between them, yet they are distinct from each other.
Excerpted from Who Made God? Copyright © 2003 by Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler. Excerpted by permission.
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