Reflections on the Origin of God

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter a few days ago, prompted by a question she asked me. She asked me, in her sweet, innocent 7-year old voice, "Who created God?" This is a perfectly valid question, for everything we interact with on a daily basis has a beginning and has a source, whether it be the seed of a plant or the parents of a baby. I tried to explain that God has always been and therefore has no beginning, to which she quickly and intuitively responded, but everything has a beginning. I decided to ratchet it up a notch on the theoretical scale and explained that time, as a construct, was itself created, and that if God created all, then He created time also, but He himself is outside of time and therefore would not be bound by it, just like she is not bound by the limits of a drawing she has created or a world she has designed with Legos. She blinked a few times, said that was too confusing and made her head hurt, and contented herself to being uncertain about how God's beginning can be sorted out. She was okay with not knowing.

This is a question that has entered the conversation of humanity for as long as there has been a humanity. You read ancient cosmological texts that point to a pantheon of gods as the source of all we see and they try to explain the origin of the gods. Some of them see a chief god birthed from a water lily that sprouts from a cosmic sea, who then gives birth to the other gods (Egyptian). Others simply have a pre-existing sky god that gives birth to all the other gods (Sumerian, Assyrian, Babylonian). These texts either ignore or dramatize the origin of the chief god of that ancient culture but they tend to not have an answer for what sourced that chief god. In other words, we are not alone in wrestling with the question of the origin of God.

Even in non-theistic circles, that point to natural processes as the sole influence on the world and reject the presence of any deity, we are left with the question of what existed prior to the birth of the universe. If there is a big bang, what happened prior to the big bang? There are numerous theories, from cyclical universes, wherein the heat death of one universe ends in a singularity, which is then the singularity that gives rise to the big bang in another universe, to simply saying "we can't know," since space-time itself is seen as a product of the big bang and therefore there can technically not even be a "before the big bang" since time itself arose from that big bang and "before" is a product of time.

The point is, God is so much other than us that our minds cannot even begin to comprehend it. We were birthed within time and cannot understand time any better than a 2-dimensional being would be able to understand 3-dimensional beings. So often, though, we think we have God all figured out, when in reality, He is so much other than us that there is inevitably more we don't know about Him then there is that we know about Him. Too often we simply resign ourselves to thinking of God as a bigger, better version of ourselves. The problem with this, though, is that it makes God like us, with all our foibles and follies, with all the hatred, anger, jealousy, fear, and insecurity that we possess. If God is just a bigger and better version of ourselves, then He is what we are, just with a bit more righteousness sprinkled in. When we think of Him this way we essentially box Him into the confines that we, in our time-bound finiteness, are bound to. Instead, we need to allow Him to be other than us.

This is part of why we need to take great care in our judgment of others. We, as humanity, were created with an eternal soul that seeks to be reunified with God, yet we all, to various degrees, struggle to find our way to Him through the pitfalls and misunderstandings of our own making. This is part of why we cling to Jesus and the guide and example for living. In the incarnation of Jesus, God entered time; God entered space. God, the boundless one, entered the boundaries of this physical world so we could learn to know God. We cling to Jesus because our souls yearn to be reunited with God, and through Jesus we have the best picture of God that we could ever hope to have within our limited human experiences.

God is big enough to know himself and is not offended when we fumble and stumble about trying to learn to know Him better. He says that if we seek Him we will find Him if we search with all our hearts. He wants us to seek after Him, and when the last trumpet sounds and He welcomes us into His presence face to face, we will find Him, and we will know Him, even as we are also known by Him.

In the meantime, we seek to know Him through this physical world, through our study of the teachings of Jesus, through our participation in the divine liturgy as an opportunity to commune with His presence amongst us, and through our fellowship one with another, for we each are members of the Body of Christ and can help each other learn more about God as we interact one with another.

Let us boldly walk where He leads, with minds open to learning more about Him, not only from Holy Scripture, but from the Creation He has made, and the image-bearers of Him, our fellow humans, that walk this earth with us.