The Christian understanding of God is that of “the” ultimate (maximal) Being, the architect and creator of everything (all that is seen and unseen as we say). God is the First and the Last. Reality does not exist outside or apart from God. Space/time (the universe we know) was created by God.
Christians also believe that God is transcendent (other) from the universe He created. When the writer of Hebrews says “the universe was formed at God’s command” and “what is seen is not made out of what is visible”, he is saying that God initiated the material universe from His immaterial, preexisting being by His command (will) out of nothing.
Yes, no material thing.
This is hard for us to grasp. It suggests that God is, in essence, immaterial – like unembodied mind or pure consciousness or something like that. It’s a mystery. We can’t go back prior to the beginning and “see” what reality or God was like, but we understand that the material universe had a beginning, which means that God is something other than material.
The beginning of the universe is confirmed by science. The universe began from the point of singularity that can be calculated to a point of mathematical precision. Before that point, which we can trace to the millisecond, we can go no further. This is a boundary beyond which our ability to fathom the material universe cannot go.
God, therefore, exists “outside” (transcendent from) the space/time continuum that we know as the universe. He is somehow different and distinct from it. As best as we can determine, He is timeless and immaterial
This concept of God differentiates Christianity from all the Eastern religions and from all forms of pantheism and paganism.
Though we may struggle to know “what God is like”, we can know something of God through the material reality He created in the same way we can know something of an artist from the art he creates. Knowing something about the artist from his works, though, isn’t the same as knowing the artist himself.
Still, we are not left completely in the dark. Paul says that God made Himself evident in the world He created. (Rom. 1:20) The fact that something exists instead of nothing is indicative of a creator God. We can know something of God by the very fact that He created a material world that is separate and “other” than Himself.
In a material world, we have to strain to find mutuality “others”. It doesn’t come naturally. We are very conscious of our separateness – from each other and our creator – so much so that we have some difficulty connecting with (emphasizing) others, and we are tempted to believe we have no creator.
Not being of the same “substance” as God (timeless and immaterial – what Paul calls “heavenly” or “spiritual”), we know the material world much more intimately than the realm in which God exists (not that He doesn’t also exist in this material realm – though He transcends it). Yet, being made in God’s “image” suggests that we also have some ability to connect with His immateriality in some sense.
I say these things in preface to my thoughts today, which come from the Old Testament: the book of Genesis, and the book of Ecclesiastes. My thoughts begin with the beginning:
“And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years….'”
This isn’t the actual beginning, but very close to it. It is the first thing God does after creating “the heavens and the earth” (which is the Hebrew expression that means the universe). His first act of creation after forming the material universe was to call into existence “lights in the expanse of the heavens”, and He did it for a purpose.
(Not that these separate aspects of creation were necessarily a linear progression in the sense of completely separate “acts” of God. We might read these passages that way, but it isn’t the only way to read them.)
What was the purpose for which God established lights in the expanse of the heavens? To separate day from night and for signs, seasons, days and years – to establish measurements of time.
Interesting…. God wouldn’t need those things to measure time. What is time to God? Why did He create ways to measure time?
It seems obvious that He created the ability to measure time for us. Why, though, should we even want to measure time?
Maybe a better question is: why would God want us to measure time?
We don’t really question our need to measure time. We just do it. We take time for granted, and our “need” to measure it
And why would God set up the universe that way so that we would be so cognizant of time? He obviously desired it and designed the very universe to make us cognizant of time, but why?Continue reading “What Was God Doing with Time and Eternity?”