By Stephen P. Willis
“Who made God?” What a good question! It is one that is raised when people think about theological and philosophical things. It is one asked by little children as they try to get a grasp on spiritual matters and the world around them. I know, I asked it as a youngster myself when I was probably seven years!
Like a few others, I am a contact for Steve Rudd’s “Interactive Bible”Web Page on the Internet (www. bible.ca). Recently I received this question from one who visited that site: “Hi! My daughter has asked me a question to which I have no answer. Who created God, if he created the world and all on it? Thanks.”
I received the question during the December school break and I was also reading some of Anselm’s works in a recent publication of his Major Works, so I put off answering him for a time. Below is basically the answer I sent to him; I have reworked it a bit and added a few notes to publish it here. I was trying to address the matter for both the child who asked, and the grown-up who had to think about how to answer. Maybe this is useful for Truth Magazine readers as well.
An Introduction to the Reply
I hope you don’t think I forgot about this question. True, I’ve put off answering it for a bit. One reason was it arrived during the time my kids had off from school, and I was trying to spend a little more time with them than at my computer. But another reason is the question itself. It is a great question. It has a great answer, but as you indicate, one which is difficult to express. And it is important that the answer and the way we answer is the right way that will guide our children into faith.
Let me begin with a personal story. I said it is a great question. I asked it myself when I was young. My dad, Cecil Willis, who passed away a couple years ago, was a preacher. I remember at one church (Brown Street in Akron, Ohio), when I was pretty young, that it was decided that for a time, they’d put a question box in the foyer of the church building for religious or Bible questions. I had my question: “Who made God?” For several weeks they announced that there was a question box and that those with a question should submit it. Every time they asked, I rewrote the question and put it into the box. I expect I did so about ten times (or more?)! I was anxious for an answer! Well, finally a night came when Dad was going to start answering some of those questions, and his first one was mine: “Who made God?”
The funny thing is, I don’t have a real recollection of the sermon. You know, just last year I obtained all Dad’s sermons. I hadn’t thought of it before, but maybe I just have the lesson he presented. I do know the lesson I learned either then or later: Nobody made God. Of course, as you noted, this is difficult to explain to a young one. I expect I had the same question after the sermon as before. Even though I believe and teach that nobody made God and that he is the eternally existing one, I have continued to have an interest in the “arguments” about the existence of God. I know how the question affected me when I was young and I want to be able to answer in such a way that some can get past that question better than I did — if possible.
Following that interest, one other reason I was putting off answering you was because of a book I was reading and another I was about to read. Both dealt with the question of God. One was The Quest for God: a personal pilgrimage, written by Paul Johnson from a Roman Catholic point of view. Another, which I had in a pile to read was Anselm of Canterbury: The major works. Years ago I came across one of the most thought-provoking les- sons on the existence of God written by Anselm (See his Proslogion 2). It’s now called the “Ontological Argument.” I had always wanted to read more, and finally found this book, published in 1998 by Oxford World Classics. I really wanted to read both — and possibly another by Aquinas who made four arguments for the existence of God. I knew I couldn’t wait that long to answer you, but did want to get into the Anselm book first.
So, I have been reading the book and all the while, knowing that what I was reading dealt with the answer to your question and mine from long ago. I guess I finally felt I must get back to you with something. I realize that whatever I might write may leave you or your child about where I was after Dad’s sermon, but I hope that it will provoke you to keep trying to teach your child, and that whatever I may write may be helpful to your daughter in her spiritual life.
The Reply: Nobody Made God
So, “Who made God?” Nobody. God is the creator of all other things. God didn’t even create God, for God has existed for all time, even before there was what we call time. God is eternal. We are not eternal, so it is very hard for us to grasp the idea of what it is to be eternal. The Bible starts with the assumption, no — the fact, that God existed before anything else was created: “In the beginning, God . . .” (Gen. 1:1). A point corresponding to this is the fact that Jesus is also eternal, since he is God, the Son, also called the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
When Moses was at the burning bush, being sent by God back to Egypt, he asked about God’s name so he could tell the Israelites that it really was God who had sent him. The reply was enigmatic: “I AM WHO I AM” (NASB, or “I AM THAT I AM”). Moses was to tell them that “I AM” has sent him (see Exod. 3:14ff ). This may be hard to explain to a young one. Moses no doubt had trouble explaining to the Israel. It means that God is the eternally existing one. “I ALWAYS AM” might be another way of saying it. The expression used was from the “being verb” that we learned in school, but from the Hebrew language. We might say someone was, or something will be, or even that something is. God eternally is — present tense. The Old Testament name, “Jehovah” (ASV ), or “Yahweh,” came from a variation on that Hebrew being verb. To understand God’s very name, is to begin understanding that he is the eternally existing one who needs no other to create him.
One passage explains it from our time-referenced point of view: “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes round and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, [is] THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME” (Rev. 4:8; see 1:8). The same is said of Jesus: “Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday and today, [yes] and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Let me approach it from another way: Everything comes from something, forever going back into time (regression) until you come to something that must be either eternal or popping into existence out of nothing on its own without an outside source creating it (if there were someone or something creating it — that some- one or something would be another generation to go back). Pretty much the two options are: eternal matter or an eternal being (God). I would point out that some scientists today actually are positing (without proof ) that maybe matter pops into and out of existence all the time and at some point when it popped into existence, all that we see came from that one pop — that happened not to go out of existence. And, that this happened all on its own, with no help from an eternal being (God). If it didn’t come into existence at some point, then matter must be eternal — assuming, as some do: if there is no eternal God. If matter is eternal, then God didn’t create it. Those who believe this would probably say that matter, in the form of humans, created God in their minds. The Bible does not teach that matter created God, but just the opposite: God created the heavens and the earth.
Of course, if matter is not eternal, the other option is that God is eternal, always existing, and that he brought everything else into existence and continues to operate on the universe by sustaining its existence. Here are some steps to think about, and perhaps when the right time comes to offer to your daughter. Which is more reasonable:
Something from nothing, or something from some- thing?
Order from disorder, or order by design and intelligence?
Life from non-life (rocks, chemicals), or life from other life?
Intelligent life from non-intelligent life or intelligent life from intelligence?
The eternal existence of a divine being, God, answers these questions more reasonably to me: He is the Something that gave rise to all else. He is the intelligent designer that gave order to our cosmos. He is the Life that gave life. He is the Intelligence that gave intelligence.
Others have offered proofs about God by saying he is the first to all things that move. Nothing first moved God. He is the first to all created things. Nothing first created God. He is the sustainer of created things. Nothing sustains God as he always is by his own nature. He is the source of goodness and ideas of goodness. Nothing had to tell God what is good. He is the source of morality. We are not able to be objective enough to generate our own morality. God is able.
Thinking about that last part, reminded me of some- thing many little children learn early in life when they were taught about prayer: “God is great. God is good.” (“And we thank Him for our food.”) To be the greatest and the most good meant he had to have no one before him in anything: time, power, mind, creation. God is first because he is God.
Now, as I said, some of that may generate more questions. Good, if it means one continues to seek God. As I mentioned, I have studied some of the “traditional” proofs for the existence of God. Anselm was one of the better ones to me. I found it in a small book, Ten Great Works of Philosophy, New American Library, 1969). Now here it is in the Anselm book I’ve obtained which goes on for more than the two and one-half pages of the other. Last year I restudied them and included Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Descartes, Leibnitz and others. Some have taken the approach that we can believe in God from pure reason. Immanuel Kant wrote a book, Critique of Pure Reason, and in the sight of many skeptics, pretty well knocked down many of the proofs, but then offered his own proof for the existence of God from morality. To me, that proof was pretty reasonable; so much for his critique.
A class I took on the Philosophy of Religion made the point that the traditional proofs for God probably no longer convince anyone to cross from unbelief to belief. Unfortunately, in this age of materialism and skepticism, this may be so. But these arguments do strengthen our faith in God and that we can understand him from reason and the creation — as well, of course, from the Scriptures.
The Scriptures teach that those who come to God must believe that he is (Heb. 11:6). And that the “righteous man shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It seems to me that much of what we understand and know about God is from faith, not an unreasonable faith, but still faith none-the-less. Philosophers call this fideism (from the Latin word for faith; we get “fidelity” from that word). This is defined as, “the doctrine that knowledge depends on faith or revelation rather than reason” ( The Canadian Oxford Dictionary). Nature and the Scriptures are that revelation of God. We shall know more when faith becomes sight, that is, when we stand before him and are able to spend eternity in heaven with him.
Now I realize that much of this is over the head of a child. You asked for help for you, so you could help her. I would just try to point out to her that God is the “I AM,” the eternally existing one, and as such he has no creator. He is the Creator of all else. And, explain to her that she will understand more as she grows in her faith and knowledge about God. Read some of the passages I mentioned above to her. You may personally wish to read more of the traditional arguments for God’s existence. You can find them in books under these headings: Philosophy (some of the names above), Theology (systematic theology) and Apologetics (why we believe what we believe). One I found on the Internet was the Kalaam Ontological Argument (try the Yahoo search engine). It was very impressive. Of course, keep reading your Bible and don’t be caught in the snares of men’s philosophy rather than living by the teachings of Christ (see Col. 2:8).
A short note on Dad’s sermon: His sermon records indicate these occurred in 1960, however, rather than
give an outline title, he only recorded: “Answered Question”.