Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Silly Things to Say..."Who made God?" *

So before I start this post, I'd just like to extend a sincere thanks to the blog Apologetics 315 for adding blogGNOSIS to their notable Christian Apologetics Blog Directory. That can be found here.

So if any of you have read Richard Dawkins' God Delusion or even heard him speak, you are likely to have heard something along the lines of "But cosmological and teleological arguments for the existence of God just don't work because eventually you still have to answer the question 'Who made God?'"

This question has been forcefully thrown at the theist since long before Dawkins conceived of it, and unfortunately for him, it has been answered for just as long.

Given that we are in the middle of discussing the various arguments for God's existence, I figured it might be useful to take a break and discuss this frequent objection to many of them.

The problem is that the question doesn't make any sense.

Now before you object, "It makes perfect sense to me..." let me explain.

The Christian position is that God is self-sufficient in every way. What arguments for God seek to show, in fact, is that He is a necessary being. For example, the Kalam argument that we covered concludes that there must be a personal cause of the universe. Not that there might be one.

And further, part of the way it shows this is by showing that what philosophers call an 'infinite regress' is impossible. The chain, whether it be of causes or explanations, has got to stop somewhere. What the theist does is simply say, "Wherever it stops, that is God."

So when someone asks "Yes, but who made God?" what they're really saying is something like "Who caused the uncaused Cause?" or maybe "What explains the unexplainable?" When phrased this way, the error becomes clear.

The question also takes a couple other forms. For example, you may have heard someone say something like "But what was there before God made the universe?" or "What did God do for the eternity before creation?"

These, too, are simple misunderstandings of the Christian claim, and of modern science. Scripture teaches that God is an eternal Spirit and that He exists as a Trinity. While this concept is a post for another time, it is worth noting here that it serves to solve the problem of what God 'did' 'before' creation. He existed in communion with Himself--totally self-sufficiently.

Also, we know from modern cosmology that time and space itself began at the Big Bang along with everything else. So to ask what God did 'before' creation makes no sense. There was no 'before' in a temporal sense.

Also, Dawkins' own form of the question involves complexity more than causation or explanation. His argument is basically that regardless of how complex the early universe must have been, whatever caused it must have been at least as complex, and therefore demanding its own explanation.

This sounds clever until one thinks about it a little more closely. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that God must be complex in His nature, and in fact the church fathers (anticipating such an objection) nearly always maintained that He wasn't. Also, it is not at all clear why a cause must be of equal or greater complexity than its effect. And besides, we have already shown that the only type of explanation that makes sense for the universe is some sort of supremely intelligent mind. And this mind, if identified with God, needs no explanation.

God is unique in this respect. He is the only thing that is completely self-contained. He is Himself the ground of all goodness, morality, reason, life, and being. And He is necessarily so. To ask why He is is simply to misunderstand the point. It is literally a nonsensical question.

This will hopefully become more clear when we consider the next argument in our series: the ontological argument. It is my personal favorite and I love to talk about it, so bring your thinking caps. Stay tuned...

* If you were expecting Part 2 of the Leibnizian Cosmological argument for God, I apologize. It occurred to me after the first one that any real discussion of PSR is just too much for this blog. However, if you're really interested (and it would make me feel very good if you were), feel free to leave a comment to that effect on Part 1. Also, the picture I used is of course the standard Facebook 'no image' indicator. I hope I haven't broken any copyright laws. Sorry Facebook.

** Be sure to check out the new video in the 'Featured Video' section, where several very smart scientists discuss the fine-tuning of the universe.


  1. This is indeed a silly thing to say. I run into it all the time in everyday conversation, unfortunately. Excellent critique.

  2. Great article.

    For an interesting example of extraordinary complexity from extreme simplicity, consider fractals. The famous Mandelbrot Set is often claimed to be the most complex thing in the universe, but it can be generated from about 20 lines of BASIC script. (In a more sophisticated language, you could probably do it in one line).

    Extreme complexity in expression resulting from simplicity in origin.

    Not only is Dawkins' argument silly, it relies on a demonstrably false supposition.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys!

    Sentinel: great illustration. How did you find the blog?