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Who Created the Creator? And Other Questions about God

written by Aaron Brake

Who Created the Creator?Questions

The kalam cosmological argument is a simple yet profound argument for the existence of God. It goes as follows:

 

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. 

After establishing that the universe has a cause, Christian theists would go on to argue that God is the cause of the universe coming into being. But some skeptics are unsatisfied with this answer, claiming that if the universe itself was caused by God then one is justified in raising the question “What caused God?” or “Who created the Creator?” This is similar to Richard Dawkins question “Who designed the designer?”[1]

There are several problems with this line of inquiry:

First, who exactly is asking the question “Who created the Creator?”[2] Not atheists like Richard Dawkins. Dawkins does not believe in God, let alone a created god. However, Christians are not asking this question either, for Christians hold that God is an eternal, self-existent Being, i.e., the uncaused first cause. To whose belief does this question apply then? Neither. This leads us to the second problem.

Second, the question is fallacious, committing what is known as a “category mistake.” A category mistake is committed when two ideas or categories are mixed together that do not belong.[3] For example, asking “What does the color blue smell like?” or “How much does the number 3 weigh?” commits a category mistake. Smell is not something that can be applied to color and weight is not something that can be asked of numbers. In the same manner, asking “Who created the Creator?” applies the concept of “created being” to a Being who is not created, namely, the Christian God. In other words, if an atheist wants to ask the question “Who Created the Creator?” he needs to ask someone who believes in a finite, created god. But to ask Christians “Who created the Creator?” is essentially the same as asking “Who created the Uncreated Creator?” which is nonsensical. To raise this question shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian view of God.

Finally, the question “Who created the Creator?” commits a second fallacy known as a “complex question.” A complex question is a form of question begging, combining two questions into one while presuming the existence of a certain condition.[4] In this case, the condition that is presumed is that God was created. The question “Who created the Creator?” can really be broken down into two questions: (1) “Was the Creator created?” and (2) “Who created Him?” The fallacy lies in the fact that the questioner assumes the answer is “yes” to the first question and masks this assumption in the form of a complex question. Since Christians answer “no” to the first question, the second question “Who created the Creator?” should not even be raised.

In short, not everything has a cause; only those things which begin to exist have a cause, as the kalam cosmological argument states in premise one. God had no beginning and therefore needs no cause. 

Can God Make a Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It?

This question is an oldie but goodie. Indeed, many atheists and skeptics have posed this question in an attempt to stump Christians and somehow disprove the omnipotence (and existence) of God. Maybe you’ve been there. Fear not. The question in no way proves any sort of deficiency in the character or nature of God. Rather, like the question “Who Created the Creator?” this question is flawed and fallacious in several ways.

Problem #1: This question commits the fallacy known as a loaded question. 

Imagine if I were to ask you, “Have you stopped beating your spouse yet?” If you answer yes, that means you were beating your spouse but have since stopped. And if you answer no, that means you’re still a spouse-beater! Either way you answer the question you automatically concede that you have engaged in spousal abuse. This is a no win situation because the question itself starts with a false assumption (i.e., you beat your spouse) and is therefore a “loaded” question. Likewise, the question “Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?” also begins with a false assumption, i.e., God is not omnipotent. If you answer “Yes” to the question then God is not omnipotent since He can make the rock but isn’t powerful enough to lift it. But if you answer “No” then that also means that God is not omnipotent since He couldn’t make a rock so big He cannot lift it! In other words, the question itself is dishonest, a pseudo-question, since it begs the question by assuming God is not omnipotent.

Problem #2: This question also commits a categorical fallacy. 

The question itself is incoherent and meaningless. Suppose I ask you, “What does the color blue smell like?” or “How much does the number seven weigh?” These are category mistakes because colors don’t smell and numbers don’t weigh anything. They are logical impossibilities. In the same manner, asking the question “Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?” is essentially to ask “Can God’s power defeat His own power?” This is nonsensical and a category error since the question is being incorrectly applied. Greg Koukl has stated, “The question is nonsense because it treats God as if He were two instead of one. The phrase ‘stronger than’ can only be used when two subjects are in view…Since God is only one…it makes no sense to ask if He is stronger than Himself.”[5]

Problem #3: This question also commits a straw man fallacy. 

The goal of the skeptic who asks this question is to somehow undermine the Christian concept of an omnipotent God. It is thought that if it can be shown there are some things God cannot do, this would prove that God could not be omnipotent and thus could not exist as Christians have traditionally portrayed Him. However, this line of reasoning is attacking a distorted concept of biblical omnipotence and is therefore guilty of the straw man fallacy.

So what does it mean then that God is omnipotent? Omnipotence doesn’t mean that God can do anything. There are actually quite a few things that God cannot do. He cannot make squared circles. He cannot make a one-ended stick. He cannot sin. He cannot improve His morality. So God is “limited” in a sense. But not one of these “limitations” has to do with power. Rather, they are logical absurdities. Also, notice that these “limitations” are not due to any defects in His character or power but rather they are the result of His perfection and rational nature! As Norman Geisler has stated, “He is only ‘limited’ by His unlimited perfection.”[6] To say that God is omnipotent then is to say that God can do anything so long as it is logically possible and consistent with His nature. God’s omnipotence does not mean that He can do what is impossible but only that He can do whatever is actually possible, i.e., whatever power can do. C.S. Lewis stated:

 

I know very well that if it is self-contradictory it is absolutely impossible…His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense…It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities…nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.[7]

Is the Trinity a Logical Contradiction? 

If the doctrine of the Trinity is a logical contradiction then it is necessarily false and should be abandoned. If this were the case the Christian worldview would also be seriously undermined since the Trinity is considered an essential Christian doctrine. Attempting to demonstrate its irrationality is one way that atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims have sought to falsify orthodox Christianity. None have succeeded. In most cases, those who attack the Trinity do not accurately represent or articulate the doctrine and so end up attacking a straw man.

A basic definition of the Trinity given by James White is as follows:

 

Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[8] 

The doctrine of the Trinity is neither a late invention nor a concept borrowed from pagan mythology. Rather, it is based on three lines of evidence presented in the Bible:

 

  1. There is one God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10, 44:6-8; Jn. 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19; 1 Jn. 5:20)
  2. There are three Persons who are God
    1. The Father is God (John 17:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6)
    2. The Son is God (Isa. 9:6; John 1:1, 8:58, 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1)
    3. The Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:17)
  3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons (Matt. 3:15-17; Matt. 28:19; John 16:13-15; 2 Cor. 13:14)

From these three lines of evidence it follows that God is Triune:

 

He exists eternally and simultaneously as three distinct and distinguishable persons (though not separate): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons in the Godhead, or Divine Being, share equally and completely the one divine nature, and are therefore the same God—coequal in attributes, nature and glory. God has revealed himself as one in essence or substance (being), but three in subsistence (personhood). In terms of what God is (essence), God is one; in terms of who God is (subsistence), God is three.[9]

 

Trinity can thus be defined as three persons in one divine essence or as one divine essence subsisting in three modes, the unity of essence being guaranteed by the consubstantiality and coinherence of the persons, the distinction of persons being manifest in their relations.[10] 

Christians have always maintained that there is only one God, i.e., orthodox Christianity is monotheistic. However, unlike other monotheistic religions, Christianity teaches there is a plurality of persons within the one divine essence.

So is this a logical contradiction? To answer this we need only consult the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction states that something cannot be both true and false at the same time and in the same sense.[11] For example, it cannot be raining and not raining at the same time and in the same sense. This would be a contradiction. When we apply this to the concept of the Trinity there is no inherent contradiction. The Trinity does not teach that God is both one God and three Gods or both one Person and three Persons at the same time and in the same sense. These would be contradictions. Rather, the doctrine of the Trinity asserts that there are three persons in one essence. This idea is not contradictory because it distinguishes between the concepts of person and essence. Norman Geisler states, “…while God is one and many at the same time, he is not one and many in the same sense. He is one in the sense of his essence but many in the sense of his persons.”[12] The doctrine of the Trinity does not violate the law of non-contradiction and cannot be rejected on these grounds. While it may be beyond the grasp of finite human reasoning to fully comprehend this doctrine, it does not follow from this that it is irrational, untenable, or indefensible. Since an inherent contradiction does not exist within the doctrine of the Trinity, the burden of proof rests with its detractors to demonstrate otherwise. 

Is God Unjust? What about Those Who Have Never Heard?

When handling commonly raised questions and objections it is important for Christian apologists to have “thirty-second answers” memorized and ready at the helm. These should aid Christians who desire brevity in time without compromising content. Many situations call for a quick, succinct response where information must be conveyed and yet time is of the essence. This is often the case in debates and witnessing opportunities. A thirty-second answer may be used as a first response in hope that a longer, more detailed answer can then be unpacked as time, inquiry, insight, and the Holy Spirit dictate. 

With this in mind, the question of the unevangelized is sometimes posed this way: “If Jesus is the only way of salvation, and a person must hear the gospel and trust in Christ in order to be saved, what about those who have never had a chance to hear the message? Isn’t it unfair that God condemn those who never even had a chance to accept Jesus?”[13] My quick reply to the destiny of the unevangelized usually goes something like this:

 

God knows who will and who will not accept the gospel, and He providentially ensures that those who will accept the gospel have a chance to hear it before they die. Those who do not hear the gospel and are condemned are those who wouldn’t have accepted the gospel, even if they had heard it.[14]

This succinct answer is appealing because I believe it may be employed by Christians across a broad theological spectrum, including both Calvinists and Arminians. Granted, how this response is cashed out will be quite different for Calvinists and Arminians, but nonetheless this barebones reply at least provides the apologist with a quick retort which can then be unpacked theologically as needed. 

For the Calvinist, God knows who will and who will not accept the gospel because He knows who His elect are, and He providentially guarantees that they hear the gospel and sovereignly regenerates them once they do (Acts 16:14). As Paul states, “These whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). On this view, because unregenerate man is a slave to sin (John 8:34), by nature a child of wrath who suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and does not seek God (Eph. 2:3; Rom. 1:18, 3:11), there is no one who would willingly accept the gospel and be saved apart from the monergistic salvific work of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9).

On the other hand, an Arminian may employ this answer as well by an appeal to God’s middle knowledge. On this view, it is argued that because God possesses knowledge of counterfactuals in all possible worlds (1 Sam. 23:11-12), He knows what individuals would or would not freely do in any given situation when presented with the gospel (Matt. 11:20-24), i.e., He knows who would and who would not receive the gospel. God is willing that none should perish (2 Pet. 3:9) and has actualized this world with an optimal balance of saved and lost, providentially ensuring that those who would accept the gospel have a chance to hear it before they die, “having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God” (Acts 17:26-27). 

Given these views, for both the Calvinist and the Arminian, those who do not hear the gospel and are condemned are those who would not have accepted the gospel even if they had heard it. These lost individuals are those whom God knows would reject the saving message and would freely choose to remain in willful rebellion against Him. Thus, on both scenarios, there are no individuals unjustly condemned due to “accidental” features of history, e.g., where or when an individual happened to be born. Though God would be completely just in leaving man to his own devices in his fallen and depraved state, out of His love, grace, and mercy God has chosen to actualize this world in which many are saved and come into the incommensurable good of knowledge of Him.

 


[1]See Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 188.

[2] Thanks to Greg Koukl for this insight.

[3]Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, Come, Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logical Thinking (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 108.

[4]Patrick J. Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, 10th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2008), 152.

[6] Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990), 31.

[7] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 1940), 18.

[8] James White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998), 26.

[9] Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 65.

[10] Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985), 309.

[11] Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 272.

[12] Ibid. 272.

[13] In the broad generalized camps of “exclusivism” (sometimes referred to as “particularism” or “restrictivism”) and “inclusivism,” I fall into the exclusivist camp. The question and answer posed here assumes exclusivism is true, a defense of which will have to wait until later.

[14] This is essentially the answer provided by William Lane Craig in Hard Questions, Real Answers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), chapter 8.

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