One of the “show stopping” questions posed by atheists is this one: If God created the universe, who created God?
It is a clever question, and has stumped many a person who believes in God, but the question, itself, is flawed. Let me explain.
In my response, I am indebted to John Lennox who’s answer to this very question is embedded at the end of this blog article. John Lennox, is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and a frequent speaker on topics of science, philosophy and religion. He has twice debated the vocal atheist, and Oxford professor, Richard Dawkins, who wrote a book, The God Delusion, using this question as a centerpiece.
The flaw of the question is that it is loaded with the assumption that God was created. The response of the Christian (or theist generally) is that such a notion (that God was created) is not a notion about God at all, but a notion about a god – a created thing. Another word for such a thing is an idol.
God, by definition, is uncreated, eternal, always existing. Indeed, this is the assumption of Genesis 1:1:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….”
In the beginning was God. The Hebrew phrase, “the heavens and the earth”, means all that is – all of the material world. In the beginning, before the material world, existed God…. This is the idea expressed in Hebrew 11:3 where we read:
“[T]he universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible'”
In the Old Testament, we are told that God identified Himself to Moses this way (Exodus 3:14):
“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
And Jesus echoed that self-identity when he answered the religious leaders who were questioning his authority as follows(John 8:58):
“Before Abraham was, I AM.”
The interesting thing is that Christians, and Jews before them, have always viewed God as the eternal, uncaused Cause of the universe as the passages noted above indicate, going back to the very first verse.
Meanwhile, scientists thought for centuries that the universe was past-eternal. This assumption fueled the thrust of the scientific community toward materialism and away from the notion of God as the Judeo-Christian had always supposed Him. That appeared to change with the confirmation of the “Big Bang”.
Scientific materialism was cast adrift by the implications of the Big Bang. If the universe had a beginning, it could no longer be thought of as past-eternal. If if had a beginning, it had a Beginner (a cause). This Cause had to be (at least) greater than the effect and greater than the sum of the effect, just as a creator must be greater than its creation.
Whatever caused the universe, had to exist before the universe. For many materialists, however, they could not go back to theism. They were adrift in outer space, carried by the propulsion of their materialism. They had to find a new mooring for it, and they have been searching ever since.
Today, scientific materialists have developed the theory of the multiverse – an infinite number of universes – a virtual universe producing machine – but they have only punted the question down the line. The Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem indicates that any universe or multiverse, if you will, must have had a beginning. (To be fair Vilenkin doesn’t dismiss the possibility that the universe may have existed statically from eternity and then, spontaneously began to expand, however unlikely that may be – and this still begs the question of what came before the static universe to cause it to be.)
These mental gymnastics are necessary to attempt to escape the implications that our material universe had a beginning and, therefore, had a pre-existent Cause. While scientists were perfectly comfortable assuming that the universe was eternal (and still struggle to claim it is (static or otherwise), even in the face of the scientific facts), they are not at all comfortable assuming an eternal Cause of the universe who Christians call God.
This is the environment in which the Richard Dawkins of the world ask, “If God created the universe, what created God?” The materialist can think of nothing, in effect, other than an eternal regression of causes. The multiverse infinitely begs that question, as does the static universe of Valenkin. And the materialist insists on shackling the theist with the same limitations – an infinite regress of created creators.
To this implication, John Lennox poses the question to Dawkins: “If we assume the question ‘Who created God?’ is a legitimate one, and if Richard Dawkins believes the universe created him, who then created his creator?”
And all of this misses the point, which is that the idea of God is exactly the idea of an eternal, always-existent, uncreated being with mind and volition. Anything other than that, including everything that had a beginning, is not God! This has been the biblical idea of God back to the beginning, when God (who already was, always was and always will be) created the heavens and the earth.
This very idea is expressed in John 1:1-3 when he said:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”