Today’s Question

If God created the universe, who created God?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to Today’s Question

  1. eSefardi says:

    Actually, this is the wrong question to ask because it starts from the wrong premise. Your question should be, “why does anything exist at all?” Having established how and why anything exists at all, you would then have the intellectual leeway to pursue the questions you’ve asked. Please be prepared to fully explain with logical reasoning, “why anything exists at all.”

  2. santitafarella says:

    eSefardi:

    I understand the difficulty of your question—it is the ontological mystery—the mystery of being.

    Why does anything exist at all?

    But positing “God created matter” does not seem to me to solve the question because God—well, where did God come from?

    There is an infinite regress involved for both the theist and atheist positions.

    And there are no “wrong questions to ask.” You might not like the question that I asked, but it’s not wrong to ask it.

    As for your question, I freely admit that the existence of the universe, and why anything exists at all, is a mystery, and perhaps insoluable, but “solving” a mystery with an appeal to the presumed existence and activity of another mystery (God) does not (to my mind) even begin to solve the mystery of BEING itself.

    Physics may one day arrive at something like an answer to the question.

    But it also may not.

    Now that I’ve done my best with your question, might you try mine directly: Who created God? Or, where did God come from? Is God infinitely smart, and if so, where did all those smarts come from—just out of nowhere? Did those smarts to make the universe just always exist for eternity?

    And how do you arrive at your answer? By reason? By faith?
    How do you know, if you think that you know?

    I myself am an agnostic. Isn’t such an insoluable problem best approached with doubt (as opposed to certainty)?

    —Santi

  3. Jared says:

    Hi Santi,

    It is Jared in Oklahoma. Thanks for replying to my earlier comment on your epistemology post. Nice little blog you have here.

    I don’t speak for the previous commenter above. And I also do not necessarily dispute your point that there is something which at least roughly appears to be a metaphysical regress problem for both the atheist and the theist. But in answer to only one of your questions (who created God?), theists would say that, if God exists, God is a necessary being.

    You probably know most philosophers accept the modal concept of necessary beings–it isn’t really controversial that some things (for example numbers) exist out of necessity and are contingent on nothing. They exist because they must exist. And that is all.

    Admittedly strange stuff.

    Whether or not God exists and is one of these necessary beings, and how one could know God exists, I’m not touching at the moment. But the concept of necessary beings is one that is widely accepted.

    I think there is a great mystery to all this that stretches the limits of the human imagination. It is similarly interesting (at least to me) to ask “who created numbers?” Not in pursuit of an answer, but more in the spirit of expressing the awe we feel in confronting the bizarre truth that some things are not contingent. They are just there.

    At least, that is my perspective.

  4. santitafarella says:

    Hi Jared,

    First, because you have been hard at work in grad school, I figured that I would not email you these past six months—I didn’t feel you needed distractions. I’m glad to hear from you, and that you seem to be doing well.

    And I saw your wife’s blog over the summer—good stuff on England.

    (And I told you Barack would win!)

    ANYWAY, as to the metaphysics, I’ve never thought of numbers in the way that you describe above—that’s very interesting, even profound.

    I suppose that God could certainly be like that. It’s a rather Platonic way of thinking about things.

    But this is also problematic because it is hard to imagine how the mind of God should stand in as necessary, and not simply the laws of physics, or axioms, themselves. It seems that God overflows what is minimally necessary—having not just a mind that calculates and creates the universe, but that feels emotions and functions as a persona with desires and aversions (and all the other anthopomorphic stuff that is projected by humans onto God).

    And if God is necessary, along with numbers, are you saying that God functions as a kind of axiom?

    To my mind, the axioms that we have to minimally have for reasoning are the Aristotalian ones: (1) existence exists; and (2) things have identity (A is A).

    I hope that you are right—that God exists. I would very much wish for a God that makes everything work out in the end.

    But the problem of suffering seems insermountable to me. It is a very fearsome Kali-like God that exists, it seems (one like the one that talks to Job in the last chapters of Job)—if God exists.

    I find God very unnerving. But if a gentle Jesus God (without the hellfire), meek and mild and calm and reasonable exists, and lets everybody into heaven, and is inclusive of gay and straight, then I’m all for God existing.

    Hurrah to such a God.

    Hey wait, didn’t I just describe Barack Obama?

    —Santi

  5. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    Another quick thought here.

    You might consider going to Amazon and getting an old copy of Gabriel Marcel’s little book “Existentialism” and reading the first essay in it. Marcel was Catholic and makes points similar to yours about the “ontological mystery.” I do think that we live in a world that is awe (and fear) producing. Why there are numbers is as profound as why there should be a God—or the wierdness that there might not be a God and yet everything is still here.

    Whatever is going on, it’s “wond’rous strange.”

    —Santi

  6. Jared says:

    Santi,

    You were right about Obama. And I voted for him, though I still respect and admire McCain. Somewhat related: As friendly as I can, I will say that I think you sound a tad alarmist in your posts on Rick Warren. But that is a discussion for elsewhere.

    Hope your classes are going well–still teaching New Testament? This semester, I’ll be doing some grad work in the philosophy department as well. I’m excited to see where it leads.

    I grant your point about the mind of God being perplexing. I sincerely hope to study aseity in more detail. But for the moment, it just seems more mysterious to me than anything else. Whereas, for you, a divine mind tends to discredit the very idea of God.

    I think I would once again appeal to a less controversial parallel. It is a bewildering mystery that any sentient minds should exist at all, let alone the mind of God. Yet, here we are. I think when your criticism is broadened, it seems, to me at least, equally absurd that any minds should exist. Which leaves us simply with mystery, not contradiction.

    I reserved a couple of books by the author you mentioned. Thanks.

  7. santitafarella says:

    Jared,

    Gabriel Marcel was a theist and an existentialist—and though he was a friend of Sartre, he thought Sartre’s thought lacking because it did not take the ontological mystery very seriously.

    I am happy to keep open the possibility that God exists (it’s why I’m an agnostic). I do think that the ontological mystery will always be with us. I think it’s a bit foolish to deny it.

    As for the New Testament, I’m actually teaching short fiction this semester. Our college is small and the classes rotate.

    New Testament as Lit. will come around again in a year or two (I’d guess) and probably nobody but me will want to teach it.

    As for Rick Warren, I agree I gave him a bit of a WWF smackdown. I think he probably deserved it a bit.

    I know Michael Shermer likes Rick Warren.

    Hope your schooling is going apace, and keep in touch when things slow down for you.

    —Santi

  8. Minds Erased says:

    Santi –

    In answer to your original question, I believe that god was created by humans in an attempt to prematurely satisfy their curiosity about the answers to questions which seem unknowable. That, of course, removes god from the equation concerning who or what created the universe, and as I’ve been reminded today after reading some thoughtful comments on my own blog, it really is OK to say “I don’t know” or “I don’t know yet” rather than pounce on the first explanation that happens to strike one’s fancy.

    Just my $.02.

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