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Who Created God?

5

September 24, 2012 by mattfradd


How should one respond to the old school boy’s retort, “if everything needs a cause, who caused God?” Well, in the limited space I have available (due primarily to your attention span), here’s one way.

Firstly, believing philosophers and theologians do not maintain that whatever exists needs a cause. Instead, they propose that certain classes of things need causes, such as things which have a beginning or things which don’t have to exist.

If something came into existence at a certain point in time–that is, if it had a beginning–then there needs to be a cause, an explanation, for why it came to be. But if something exists outside of time–like God–then it does not need an explanation for its beginning because it does not have one.

In the same way, if something doesn’t have to exist then we need an explanation for why it does exist. But if something does have to exist–if it is a necessary being like God–then it does not need a further explanation.

The things we see around us in the universe, including space and time themselves, appear to have had a beginning, and so they need a cause–a reason why they began in the first place.

In the same way, each particular bit of matter in the universe doesn’t seem to be necessary. It could not exist. Therefore, we need an explanation for why it does exist.

Believing philosophers and theologians thus propose God as the ultimate explanation for these things. But since he is a necessary Being that exists outside of time, he needs no further explanation.

Indeed, the question, “Who created God?” is nonsensical, because it amounts to asking, “Who created an uncreated Being?”

PS Catholic Answers will host a 2 hour open forum just for atheists today from 3pm-5pm, Pacific. You can listen live here or if you’re reading this post after the show has aired you can download the podcast here.

5 thoughts on “Who Created God?

  1. William Alan Carr says:

    You said “In the same way, each particular bit of matter in the universe doesn’t seem to be necessary. It could not exist. Therefore, we need an explanation for why it does exist.” I don’t understand this statement.

  2. mattfradd says:

    If something is not necessary then it needs an explanation outside of itself for why it is. If something is necessary then it does not need an explanation outside of itself for why it is.

    Is the universe necessary? One strong reason to think it not is that according to the standard model of the universe, it began to exist at an event which has been called “the big bang.” Since matter (as well as space, time and energy) began to exist, it is not necessary and thus needs an explanation outside of itself for why it is.

  3. Del Myers says:

    “But if something exists outside of time–like God–then it does not need an explanation for its beginning because it does not have one.”

    This is not true. Teleology (the theory of causation) doesn’t have to do with time. For instance, the angels exist outside of our experience of time. Yet, they have a beginning. This beginning is not temporal, it is ontological. Regardless of whether or not the being is inside of time, it must have sufficient reason to exist. The reason for a thing to exist is its cause for existence.

    The interesting point of the question posed is that it is exactly where the teleological argument for the existence of God is supposed to end you up. When you argue that everything that we experience must have a preceeding cause, and that there cannot be an infinite series of causes, the natural question is, “well, how did it all start?” The answer given is that there must be a self-consistent uncaused cause that is the root of the reason (or, in the Greek, “logos”, also “word”; St. John chose the opening words of his Gospel with purpose) for everything that exists and/or happens. The question is not, then, “Who caused God.” The argument goes that we have come to the conclusion that there _must_ be an uncaused cause. We say that the uncaused cause is God. The other attributes of God (love, mercy, justice, etc.) are a different question.

    • mattfradd says:

      Thank you Del,

      I appreciate your thoughts.

      While it may be true that angles exist outside of “our experience of time,” they clearly have some form of sequentiality – they were created at this point, some fell at this point, others chose God at this point etc. So I stand by my words that God alone exists outside of time.

      Pope John Paul II said that “He [God] is Eternity…while all that is created is contingent and subject to time [General Audience of Sept. 11, 1985].

      That would include angels and the souls of the blessed in heaven, as Ratzinger said:

      Even the souls of the blessed, since they are in communion with the Christ who has been raised in a bodily way, cannot be thought of without any connection with time. [International Theological Commission, Some Current Questions on Eschatology (1992), “The Christian Hope of the Resurrection,” 2.2].

      But I thank you for your thoughts.

      Thanks again.

    • NemoHas says:

      God is eternal and supernatural (above nature), whereas angels and souls are only aveternal (because they do experience a kind of time [time is just a measure of change], but without end) and praeternatural (beside nature).

      I used to think about this question, and what I came up with is that since we live in a natural and finite universe, when we look at physics and science and come to the conclusion that there has to be a first Creator, we can know that He is above nature, and therefore we cannot understand God in our finite world, but we can know He exists.

      I think you kind of said that. Anyway, about Love and Mercy and justice, etc., because our intellects (souls) are beside nature, we can reason about and experience these supernatural things. And of course when we die; receive the Beatific Vision to see God as he is.

      Anyway, just thought I’d share my two cents, even if it did nothing more than clarify some terms…

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