Where Did God Come From?
Where did God come from? This is a complex question that assumes that God came from somewhere. By contrast, the Christian view is that God has always existed. But does it make sense to believe in the existence of something that has no beginning? Let’s explore.
Have you ever noticed how kids ask the toughest questions? Usually at inconvenient times. And the kid usually has an unfair advantage: You’re struggling your way through remembering and trying to articulate the mysteries of the universe to a five-year-old brain. All the while, the kid is sitting there with an attention span long used up, thinking, “It’s a simple question. This shouldn’t be this hard.”
Here is a very relevant question that I have heard my kids ask, and I think it’s a pretty common kid question. I think this is one of those questions it’s helpful to think through and have a good answer for. It goes like this: “Where did God come from?”
It’s not a bad question. Everything that we know of came from something. Your TV came from the store. Your house came from a builder. You came from your parents. If everything came from something, then where did God come from?
Now, the Christian answer to this is that God didn’t come from anything. God has just always been there. He has always existed. This is what the Bible means when it says that God is “from everlasting to everlasting” (1 Chron. 16:36).
Where did God come from? “The Christian answer to this is that God didn’t come from anything. God has just always been there.”
But it’s hard for anybody—adults and kids alike—to picture what it means to have always existed.
A Helpful Metaphor
The reason it’s difficult for us to imagine is that we live in time. We can’t even experience more than one moment at a time. We can’t relive the past or tell the future. So it’s understandably very difficult for us to even think about experiencing “everlasting to everlasting.”
This is where it helps me to picture a book and its author. A book has a beginning and end. It starts on page 1. And if you are a character in the book, it’s going to be very difficult for you to imagine anything existing before page 1. But the truth is, there is a whole world that exists outside of the book. And that, of course, is the world of the author.
The author exists before the book was written and will continue existing long after the final page. From his vantage point, the author can see the whole story. The author doesn’t feel anxiety knowing that something terrible happens on page 87, because the author is well aware of the resolution that’s going to happen in the final chapter.
Where did God come from? “The author exists before the book was written and will continue existing long after the final page.”
There is a way that the characters in the book could get to know the author. And that would be for the author to write himself into the story as one of the characters. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, that’s exactly what God has done to reveal himself to us. In his own spiritual autobiography, Lewis explained,
“If Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing. Hamlet could initiate nothing….Shakespeare could, in principle, make himself appear as Author within the play, and write a dialogue between Hamlet and himself.”
Similarly, God wrote himself as one of the characters in our history. His name was Jesus.
There’s more than one angle to answer a great question like “Where Did God Come From?” But again, it might be helpful to remember a couple steps. First, the Christian answer is that God has always existed. And second, even though it’s hard to imagine someone always existing, just think of a book and its author. The characters in the book don’t experience a world existing before and after their story, but that world they don’t experience is very real.
Two Options the Further We Go Back
Can we take the answer just one more step deeper? At the end of the day, if you go back and back and back through history, you arrive at a beginning point to the universe.
And if you keep going backward, you are faced with two options. Either there was nothing there; the universe popped into existence out of nothing. Or something was always just there—something capable of creating a universe. It may be hard to imagine that there was something that was already just there, but it makes more sense to me that something was there and created the universe than that there was literally nothing that created the universe.
So, are there good reasons to think that there was a God, already there, who created the universe?
Why I Believe the Best Explanation for the Universe Is God
Think about things that didn’t used to be here that do exist now. Cell phones. Trees. Airplanes. You and me. And all these things that exist, but didn’t used to, have something else in common: they were all caused to come into existence. Something caused their existence. They didn’t pop into existence out of nowhere.
There’s no good reason not to apply this logic to the universe as a whole. Not only is the universe made up of things that didn’t used to exist, but the evidence is in; the votes are tallied: the universe itself didn’t used to be here. For one thing, the energy in the universe is constantly being converted from usable energy to unusable energy. The sun and stars, for example, are diffusing their energy outward in an irreversible process, to where, eventually, they will “burn out.”
“The sun and stars are diffusing their energy outward in an irreversible process, to where, eventually, they will ‘burn out.'”
Since the universe’s energy is constantly being converted from usable to unusable—since it’s a closed system moving toward “entropy” (a state of disorder and energy equilibrium)—then the universe is well-illustrated by an hourglass with sand currently running down.
Here’s an important question: Could an actual hourglass have been like this, with sand continually running down, forever? No, if the hourglass had been like this forever, then the hourglass’s sand would have run all the way down forever ago, right?
Now, for the million-dollar question: Could the universe—with its energy constantly being converted from usable to unusable—have been here forever? No, if the universe had always been here, then the universe would have run out of usable energy forever ago. Again, the evidence is in, and the consensus of cosmologists is that the universe didn’t used to be here.
“The evidence is in, and the consensus of cosmologists is that the universe didn’t used to be here.”
So, we have a universe that didn’t used to be here. Question: how did it get here? Could the universe have popped into existence out of nothing? Surely there is a better explanation.
Considering the Options
Could the universe have caused itself? But that’s logically impossible.
Could the universe have been caused by another universe, or by a universe machine that pumps out universes? But science hasn’t even been able to discover the outer limits of our vast universe, let alone discover a hypothetical universe machine. And even if the universe machine did exist (for which we have no scientific evidence), how did it get here? Even though the question gets pushed back a step out of sight, the question doesn’t go away.
Or there is the ancient explanation that ironically continues to look better and better as science advances: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). As mentioned earlier, everything that didn’t used to be here has some kind of cause. But God, by definition, is eternal; He needs no cause. And given the options—1) the universe randomly popped into existence out of nothing (logically impossible); 2) the universe created itself (logically impossible); 3) the universe was created by a universe machine (a naturalistic theory about something impossible to detect scientifically); and 4) the universe was created—which option makes more sense?
Where did God come from? “God, by definition, is eternal; he needs no cause.”
Possibly the most profound question ever asked is, “Why does something exist rather than nothing?” If there is no God, and the universe didn’t used to be here, then why do we have a universe? There’s really no good answer. But if there is a God, things start making sense. And that’s a major clue that there is a God: a universe that didn’t used to be here.
A God who has always existed may be difficult to wrap my brain around. But, to be fair, if there were no God, then living in an awe-inspiring and life-permitting universe which came from nothing seems much more difficult to comprehend.