Q & A: On Creation
Question: Who Made God?
Answer: The above question came from one of our second graders in the Parish School of Religion and was asked while I was visiting the classes last Tuesday evening. There was a follow up question from another student, “How does God create?” These are good and profound questions, and can lead us to better understand the nature of God.
The short answer is that no one made God because He has always existed. God is eternal, without beginning or end. The long answer begins with looking at the world around us. In our experience we know that everything has a beginning and that everything is eventually destroyed. Someone made the computer I’m typing this on and the paper that it’s printed on; likewise, the tree that paper came from grew from a seed that came from another tree, and so on for everything. Logically, we know that this can’t go on forever, into eternity. There has to be something outside of this chain of causes, which isn’t explained by something else but which explains its own existence.
Have you ever set up a chain of dominoes and then knocked them over? The dominoes represent the universe and the person represents God. God sets up the dominoes and then starts the whole chain, but He isn’t simply another part of the chain, He’s present at every part of it. Another way to think of it is like a library. When you go to the library to borrow a book, if they don’t have the book they can borrow it from another library. What if that library doesn’t have the book? Then they could borrow it from another library, and that library from another, and so on. However, unless someone actually has the book, then you’re never going to get it. In a similar way, we receive our existence from others, and they received their existence from others, and so one, but there has to be someone who simply is and possesses existence in themselves. Therefore, God reveals Himself to Moses as, “I AM WHO AM” (Exodus 3:14), and St. Paul said, “For in Him we live, and move, and exist” (Acts of the Apostles 17:28). God is the One who IS, and He is the cause of our existence. In the Catholic Tradition St. Thomas Aquinas described God as Ipsum Esse Subsistens, or Subsistent Being Itself, because God’s very nature is to exist while His creation (everything besides God) could not exist.
There’s a joke about a scientist who told God that we don’t need Him anymore, because we can even make life through our scientific knowledge. So God invited the scientist to go ahead and show Him what he could do. The scientist then reached down to gather some clay to form into a person, but God stopped him, saying, “Get your own clay.” When we make something, a painting, or a chair, or a garden, we make it out of stuff that already exists. We make a painting with a canvas and paint, a chair from wood, wicker, or plastic, and a garden from seeds or saplings. God is capable of making things in this way, but He can also create things directly, from nothing. God can both give something existence and give it form.
This particular bulletin article might not be interesting to everyone, but I hope it will be to some people, and I hope I’ve done justice to these ideas and explained them well. I also hope that we can all respond with gratitude for the sheer gift of existence, which can come from God alone.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Once a month I’ll write an article answering a question from a parishioner on the Church, the Mass and sacraments, the Bible, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, spiritual theology, or anything related to Christianity. Either write your question down and put it in the collection basket, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.