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Who made God?

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Of all the hard questions produced by atheists, the granddaddy of them all is surely this: “If God made everything, who made God?” To understand the thinking behind the question, let’s turn to the High Priest of Atheism, Professor Dawkins himself. In his 400-odd page polemic against his creator, The God Delusion, he wrote the following: “The whole argument turns on the familiar question ‘Who made God?’ which most thinking people discover for themselves. A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us escape. This argument…demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed.” [1] Ho hum.

So let’s get this straight. We start by saying that anything with a degree of complexity must have been designed. Seems logical. And the designer behind that thing must be more complex than the thing itself. Good so far? But if we apply this to God, if follows that we have this infinitely complex being, but no one there to have designed him. Therefore he can’t exist, can he?

hands_of_god_and_adam-400Looks like Dawkins might have a point, doesn’t it? Okay, let’s continue the logic and see where it takes us. So if there is no God, it follows that everything ultimately came from nothing, right? Now hold on a minute. Something doesn’t quite ring true there, does it? The chain of logic seemed to be in order right up to that point where our alternative necessitated non-existent space/time/matter bringing itself into existence. Maybe we need to back up and check our thinking.

There is a false assumption at the core of the “Who made God” objection which is the idea that humans are capable of understanding the attributes and properties of God, such as his eternal and infinite being. Yet there is a very good reason why this is not so. The universe you and I inhabit consists principally of three things: time, space and matter, which means that our only frame of reference is to these three things. God, on the other hand, is by definition timeless, transcendent and spirit – the exact opposite of the attributes for which we possess any hard knowledge. In other words, these three attributes of God just happen to lie completely outside the realm of human scientific enquiry, which is confined to time, space and matter, and so our ability to pronounce authoritatively on the existence of God using our knowledge and experience alone is about the same as a three-year-old pronouncing authoritatively on the reasons for the causes of the First World War.

As an illustration, imagine a foetus that could think and reason as well as a fully grown adult, and imagine that it was aware of the water surrounding it, but of nothing beyond that. Its entire sphere of knowledge consists of water, and everything outside water is an unknown, including, of course, its mother. Now, would that foetus be any position to make scientifically verifiable statements about the probability of the existence of a mother by trying to understand the attributes of the mother? To the foetus, which knows nothing but a life lived in water, and therefore has no ability to conceive of life outside water, the idea of a being that is said to exist outside water would appear to be utterly inexplicable. Such a foetus might well conclude that such a being is very very improbable. Of course this doesn’t mean that the foetus has no mother. All it means is that the foetus cannot understand the concept of a mother.

And so it is with Man. Trying to determine the probability of God by trying to grasp the concept of an eternally-existing, uncreated being, is merely a fruitless attempt to superimpose our knowledge of time, space and matter on a being for whom by definition these characteristics simply don’t apply. On the basis of our knowledge and experience alone, the best we could do would be to say that the probability of the existence of a timeless, transcendent spirit who made the universe is 50/50.

But this is not the end of the story. For whilst we can’t determine the probability of God by looking his attributes, we can do so by asking what is the likelihood of the universe even existing given under the God hypothesis or the non-God hypothesis.

Let’s look at the non-God hypothesis first. Broadly speaking there are two competing theories of the “Big Bang”. One proposes that it was literally the start of everything. In other words, prior to the Big Bang there was nothing – no pre-existing time, space or matter. The other assumes the prior existence of space time and matter. The problem with the first is that of nothing producing something. The problems with the second is that it implies eternally existing matter, and that a tiny amount of matter can order itself into a universe of intricacy and beauty. Let’s plug these versions into our question:

1.      “What is the probability of absolute nothing being capable of producing a universe?”

2.      “What is the probability of matter existing eternally and being capable of producing a universe from itself?”

In case you didn’t work it out, the answer to both questions is zero. Or to put it another way, they are infinite improbabilities. Rephrasing the original question, we might well ask: “If everything made everything, what made everything?”

But what if we plug God into the same question? “What is the probability of an infinite and omnipotent entity being capable of bringing a universe into existence?” Well here the answer is clearly the opposite of the others. The likelihood of an omnipotent and infinite entity being capable of bringing a universe into existence is an infinite probability. Which is in effect the teaching of Romans 1:19: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

The “Who made God?” question turns out to be high irony. We have enough knowledge to state that matter cannot have created itself, or appeared from nothing, or been eternally existent, which you would think ought to tell us something. But instead of concluding – as logic would suggest – that it must therefore have been created by something outside the material universe, this very knowledge is then used as a reason for rejecting the only plausible explanation out there. And then when the death of God has been proclaimed, back goes the unbeliever to believing the falsehoods which he knows are impossible.

It’s a bit like a man looking at the Great Pyramid of Cheops, scratching his beard and shaking his head in bemusement saying, “I just can’t understand it. How on earth did they get those stones there without lorries and giant excavators. Now I know that those stones can’t have appeared there from nothing. And I know they can’t have gotten there by themselves. And I know that they cannot have been there forever.” But the more he tries to understand how the men of those days could have put these stones into position, the more he fails to understand it. In the end he gives up, shrugs his shoulders and says, “Oh well, I suppose they must have just appeared there, or got there by themselves, or been there forever after all.” Such thinking may be many things, but logical, rational and reasonable it certainly isn’t!

If you begin your theory of the universe with anti-logic, you’re going to have to go on with anti-logic. Which is why in the The God Delusion, Dawkins explains the beginnings of life in a sentence you sense he would rather not have had to put it in at all, but knew he must otherwise some little boy out there might point the finger at him and blurt out, “Hey look! The professor has got no clothes on!” And what was his explanation? “Life”, he explained, “needed some luck to get it started.” [2] That was it. The mechanism whereby dust became a living creature was some luck! Notwithstanding his desperate desire not to be thought ridiculous, the little boy stood and cackled derisively at the professor anyway.

So that’s the alternative, folks. Something from nothing, followed by a little bit of luck to turn rocks into bugs, then a long bloody process where we take our place as 55th cousins twice removed to the dung beetle. Or we can go with the timeless, transcendent, spirit God, without beginning and without end, who spoke a universe into existence for his glory, and crowned it with the creature made in his own image. Now that’s not a hard question, is it?

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Black Swan, 2007), p. 136.[]
  2. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (London: Black Swan, 2007), p. 169.[]
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