God cannot be defined from a standpoint within creation. (Image: iStock)
Q&A: How Did God Come to Exist?
by Kent Brower
Q: If God created everything, how did He come to exist?
A: This question has occupied philosophers and theologians for centuries. It is a sub-set of the question about the existence of God.
Perhaps the most famous proof for the existence of a Divine Being is Anselm’s (1033-1109) ontological argument. It has been refuted and refined countless times over the ensuing centuries.
All the proofs for the existence of God can be falsified, according to some philosophers. That, in itself, does not mean that God cannot or does not exist. Simply, it means that we do not have the intellectual tools to comprehend the God who is outside of our limited time and space frame of reference and who cannot be comprehended solely within it.
The limitations of reason affect atheistic fundamentalists like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens as much as they do believers who seek to prove the existence of God from a human perspective.
From a biblical perspective, however, the question is never asked directly. That is not because the authors are not sophisticated enough to think about it. Rather, Scripture starts with the premise that God is prior to, and outside of, the created order.
God is. Moses’ question about God’s identity is answered with the statement, I AM WHO I AM (Exodus 3:14). The God of Israel is neither part of nor dependent on the created order—God simply is.
Genesis 1:1 confirms this view. It describes the createdness of the time-space universe but makes no attempt to explain how or when the Creator came into existence. It states that God is the origin and the source of all things. That language is confirmed in the New Testament (John 1:1-4; Acts 17:24-28; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:2-3).
It appears, then, that even to frame the question of God’s existence in terms of creation is foreign to the biblical perspective. It confuses categories. God cannot be defined from a standpoint within creation. Rather creation can only be understood in light of the Creator.
The majestic imagery of Job 38-41 makes this point, exactly. Human understanding and knowledge, profound though it might be, is incapable of fathoming either the glory of creation or the mystery of the Creator.
Silence is Job’s response to Yahweh’s profound questions. Only when Job understands the mystery and absolute priority of God, who is neither defined by creation nor confined by it, does he really know God (Job 42:5).
This answer is uncannily postmodern. Scripture’s grand narrative does not argue for the existence of God at all. It presupposes the sheer liveliness of the triune God who creates, sustains, and redeems creation but cannot be understood as part of the created order nor determined by it.
Kent E. Brower is vice principal and senior research fellow in biblical studies at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England.
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Holiness Today, March/April 2012