The Nature of the Creator

In an earlier blog I wrote about why a creator makes more sense for the origin of the universe, at least to me, than any of the alternatives.  I did not go into any details there concerning the nature of a universe creator, but would like to do that here.  I have read a number of books and articles that covered this same ground, some of which I agreed with and some not.  But I want to provide my own take on this.

Powerful

In my way of thinking, power is required to produce something.  And the bigger and grander the product, the more power is required to produce it.  As humans we think of ourselves as pretty powerful, and yet producing something the size of the moon is well beyond our ability to execute.  I cannot imagine the amount of power that would be required to produce a universe.  Even a universe that unrolls from a singularity would require an amazing amount of power to start it, and keep it unrolling.

I have no idea about what lies beyond the universe we inhabit, nor what limits there might be on a universe creator in that realm.  But within the context of the creation, I think it is safe to identify the creator as all-powerful, omnipotent; without equal in power and ability; able to do whatever he chooses.

Intelligent

The more complex and elegant the design, the more intelligence is required to produce it.  And can you think of anything that is more complex or elegant than the universe, apart from its creator?  Is there anything about the creation that its creator would not know?

Transcendent

A creator would be distinct from his creation, independent of it and not limited by it.  Space and time are two limitations that we are very familiar with.  Everything in this universe, that I know about, is limited to being in a single location at any one moment in time.  And everything that I am aware of experiences the passage of time in a forward only manner, although I am aware that there is some thought that in the quantum world that forward only direction may not be completely applicable.  This lack of limitation has some interesting application to a creator.

Not being bound by space means that the creator can be multiple places at any one instance of time, or even in every place within the universe.  This means that the creator could be omnipresent, everywhere at once.  While I am able to be multiple places at once, limited by the size of my body, the creator could be everywhere in his creation, since unlike me, he is not limited by space.

Even more interesting is that the creator would not be bound by time, meaning that he could move both forward and backward in time; be in multiple time periods simultaneously; or even be concurrently present at all points of time.  That is admittedly hard to visualize, but if, as scientists claim, time is just another dimension, then it is really little different than being in multiple places at one time, which is something that even I can do in a limited fashion.

If the creator is intelligent enough to create our universe, is able to be everywhere within it, both in space and in time, then he could know everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen.  He would be omniscient.

Miracles

A miracle is generally defined as something that has a supernatural origin, an act of a deity.  Much of the argument against miracles assumes that there is no creator.  But there are those who will argue that even an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator would be unable to produce a miracle.  But that does not really make sense, since creation itself is an act of the creator, a miracle.  I can find no rational argument for supposing that a creator would be unable to interact with his creation, i.e. perform miracles.

I am able to manipulate the creation in some limited extent to accomplish my own goals.  Why could not the creator be able to do the same thing?  While I am not able to manipulate the laws of physics to accomplish my goals, is there any reason to suppose that a creator could not?  I was a software developer for many years, the creator of little software worlds.  Most users of those applications were limited by the user interface in what they could do.  But I was able to tweak the underlying data in ways that they could not, allowing me to accomplish things that the average user could not.  That is really no different that the creator manipulating the underlying laws and constants that drive our universe to accomplish something that I would be unable to.

Miracles are impossible if there is no creator.  But if there is a creator, then miracles should not be a surprise, even miracles that we do not recognize as such; rather they should be expected.

Purposeful

While it is by no means certain to me, it does seem like a creator would have a purpose in his creation.  In other words, he had a reason for producing a life friendly universe.  Other than for the production of some form of life, it is hard to determine what his purpose might have been, assuming all we had to go on was creation itself.

But if he had a purpose in creation, and especially if that purpose included intelligent life, it would seem reasonable to assume that he would be active in his creation, at least enough to make sure his purpose was fulfilled.  It would also seem likely that he might want any life that developed to have some concept of him and his purpose.

Other Attributes

There may be other attributes for a creator that could be derived from there being a creation, but these are the ones that seem clear to me.  And of course there are many other attributes that specific religions give to their creator, or god.  But without the creator himself providing some glimpse of his nature or purpose, I am not sure how one would go about deriving those attributes.

I will look later at the God of Christianity, seeing how well he fits the above, as well as any other attributes of his nature that he has revealed to us.

Making Sense of it All

There seems to be two general thoughts regarding this universe and the life it contains.  Either it was intentionally and purposefully created.  Or it just happened randomly, without purpose.  While there may be some other broad category that I am unaware of, it seems like everyone I have ever discussed this with, read about, or listened to fell into one of these camps.  And some of them quite adamantly so.

But does it really matter what you believe about how our universe, and life, came to exist?  Is it more than just an academic question?  While I believe that some aspects of the question are academic, I also believe that there are some real practical issues involved as well.

On the somewhat academic side, it is much easier for me to grasp that the universe was created with purpose, rather than just springing into existence from nothing, on its own and for no reason.  I know there are many people who seem OK with the latter, but I suspect, at least in part, that it is because the alternative is unacceptable to them.  If the idea of God is offensive to you, then the only alternative is to be willing to accept that you are the product of an endless sequence of random chances, and the implications that brings.

Those same people who find a creator to be unacceptable will often times accuse me of substituting ‘God did it’ for scientific discovery; as if somehow the two are incompatible.  Personally, I see no issue with accepting that God did it, while at the same time trying to figure out the details of what he did.  Accepting that the truck I drive was made by someone does not prevent me from trying to understand how it works.

The more science discovers about how the universe was formed, and how it functions, the more impressed I am with the creator who put it all together.  This universe is complex, much more so that it appears on the surface, with an awful lot of moving parts that need to fit together with a great deal of precision.  Why is that so?  Why is there life in this universe?  Why do we have the ability to think rationally?   Could it all have happened by chance?  I suppose so; but it makes much more sense to me to see it as the work of a creator who has a purpose for all that he does.

But ultimately, does it really matter whether or not we have a purposeful creator?  I believe it does, and dramatically so.  If the universe was intentionally and purposefully created, then it would stand to reason that I have a purpose; there is a reason for me being here.  But if the universe is just the result of some cosmic happenstance, then there really is no purpose for my existence.  the universe is no better off for my presence, and would be no worse off if I did not exist.

If I was created with purpose, and I have purpose, a reason for being, then what I do in this life matters.  Now I may or may not invest much time and effort in trying to discover my purpose; and actually it appears to me that few really do.  But at the very least I will live as if I matter, and that other people around me matter.  That people have value simply because the creator made them.  But think how much better it would be to have some understanding of what the creator’s purpose is for your life, and them living to fulfill that purpose.  Rather than just existing, you could find fulfilment in being what you were made to be.

But what purpose could you possible have if the universe is simply a product of blind chance?  You, or your society, might assign to you some purpose.  But what makes that purpose any better than any other purpose?  Or no purpose at all?  If we have no real purpose, and we are just accidents, then we really have no value as people, and the implications for that are pretty frightening.  Think about it.  If you have no value, then does it matter how I treat you?  Is it not reasonable to just live this life, enjoying it the best I can, without regard for anyone else?  Fortunately, even most who believe we are a cosmic accident are unwilling to live as though life had no value; although I am uncertain why that is.  Maybe they really don’t believe they are an accident.

Finally, if this life is simply the product of a long line of random events, and I am nothing more than one more link in the chain, then there is no reason to believe that I have any future. When this life is over, then I am done, and it would be foolish not to maximise my pleasure and satisfaction during the brief moments I have to experience them.

While having an intentional creator does not guarantee a future beyond this life, it does open up that possibility.  And that is really at the heart of the gospel message of Christianity; that the creator made me for a purpose that extends beyond this life.  And all who will walk before him in faith will experience life with him forever.  And in that case it really is important how I life my life here.  Sacrifice and self denial is not the foolish choice that they would be if I had no future.  Rather they become key components to becoming what the creator made me for.

While I know that everyone will not agree with me, the only way I can make sense of my existence, as well as the rest of what I see around me, is by accepting that it was intentionally produced, that there is a purpose for my existence, and that my life has some meaning.  And it would seem to me that even those who will deny this, actually believe it at some level, or why act as though their life had meaning and purpose?

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.- Revelation 3:20

What Purpose, Apart From God?

Does your life have purpose, a reason for being?  The answer to that question is really dependant on the existence of an intentional creator; a creator for this universe, and so, indirectly, you.  Is this universe and all it contains the product of a creator; God?  Or is it just the product of random chance?

Most people I have talked with seem to feel like their life has purpose; purpose gives meaning to life, and it keeps me going when life isn’t fun. Google defines purpose as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”  My purpose as a human is based on the reason for which I exist.  So just why do we exist?

I am convinced that this universe, and my life, were created by God, and that he had a reason for doing so.  I believe that reason has to do with preparing me, and others like me, for a life with him that extends beyond this universe.  God’s purposeful creation gives my life purpose, a reason for being.  I exist because God made me, and he made me for a reason.

But what if there is no creator?  What if all we see is the product of blind chance?  Naturalism is a philosophy that operates under the assumption that all that is, is the result of natural processes, that there is no supernatural agent responsible for creation.  This is the position of atheists, as well as others who reject that the universe was intentionally created.

Now if naturalism is true, and we are simply the product of blind chance operating through natural processes, does life have any purpose?  To the naturalist, life is nothing more than a series of complex chemical reactions, that just happen.  It has no reason for its existence, and thus no purpose.  We are fundamentally no different than a bug or a rock.

But does it really matter if I have a purpose for being or not?  I believe it does.  If I have no purpose, then does it really matter what I do or how I live my life?  After all, my life is really little more than an accident, and will soon be over.  And nothing I have done, or failed to do, will really matter.  If I was to find a cure for cancer, or go down in history as the worst mass murderer, what would it matter?  If I, as well as those around me, are nothing more than minor blimps in cosmic history, with no purpose and no significance, then it does not matter whether I lived or not.  My life has even less purpose than the science experiment performed by a high school chemistry student, which at least is conducted for a purpose.

But it is hard to live like that.  I want to believe that my life has some purpose, that what I do really matters.  And so I invent purpose for myself.  I convince myself that I need to leave the world a better place than how I found it.  Or I set my purpose to be enjoying life to its fullest, experiencing all that the world has too offer.  But regardless the purpose I set for myself, whether self centered or others centered, it is not really the purpose that I exist for.  That purpose simply does not exist, at least not if we are only the product of blind chance.

Trying to live life as if it had purpose, while at the same time holding to naturalism is irrational, an incoherent worldview.  The only way ones life can have any real purpose is if it exists for a reason.  And there can be no reason for our existence apart from an intentional creator.  It is the creator who gives us purpose.  There is no other way.  We cannot give ourselves real purpose.

Without Excuse – Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20 NIV

The more I study the cosmos the more in awe I am of the Creator.  I cannot peer into a single living cell and not be impressed with its complexity, and then give glory to its Creator.  Standing atop a mountain and surveying the grandeur around me invariably causes my spirit to soar in thankfulness to the one who is responsible for it.

I do understand that all of this has taken form over millions and billions of years.  And I do understand, at least to some extent, the natural laws that are responsible for that shaping.  But that only deepens my awe and appreciation for the one who was able to produce those laws and processes that have served him in bringing the universe, this planet, and the life on it to where it is today.

I have tried hard to imagine all of this coming to be apart from a creator; but have failed miserably.  It all screams ‘creator’ to me.  And, according to Paul, the creation delivers that same message to all people.  In the passage above Paul claims that God’s power and divine nature are clearly seen in the creation itself.  And history seems to verify that.  Few cultures in the known history of humanity have failed to look into the heavens, or to the world around them, and failed to see someone(s) being responsible for it all.

At least until relatively recent times that is.  Now, more and more people have come to be able to imagine all of this coming to be apart from a creator; that it just a fortuitous happenstance.  And the signature of the creator in his creation is ignored or ridiculed as something seen only by the weak or fools.  But Paul gives us a different reason; that it is because they have chosen to suppress the truth that is so clearly made known by the creator, because of their own condition.

I don’t believe that most atheists are any more wicked than many who claim the name of Christ.  But admitting there is a creator makes one answerable to that creator.  The easiest way to not be answerable to him is to deny his existence.  If there is no creator, then I am ultimately not answerable to anyone.

But someday we all will stand before our creator to give answer to him.  And responding to him with “I never heard of you” will not be acceptable.  The creator has clearly revealed himself to humanity, and so we are without excuse when we come before him.

Pride: A Pathway to Foolishness – Romans 1:22-23

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans 1:22-23 NIV

God’s creation is wonderful and declares his power and glory.  Few who look closely at the workings of the universe, and of life, can come away from the experience without marveling.  I struggle to understand how one could look at the creation and fail to see the hand of the creator at work.  And yet there are those who do.

The wise, the intelligent, the learned.  Why do so many of them reject God today?  What is it that causes them to turn from worship of the creator, to worship of the creation itself?  Is it really wisdom, like they claim? Or is it something else?

In the 11th chapter of Genesis is the legendary story of the Tower of Babel.  In this story it is said that mankind began to build a tower that would reach up into the heavens, to make a name for themselves.  While the word pride is not used in this account, I do believe it is at the heart of it.  It was pride in their own abilities that led to the building of this tower.  Pride that caused them to attempt to put themselves in God’s place.  Pride that led them to believe they could replace God.

And I believe it is pride that causes so many today to turn from God, reveling in their own wisdom and understanding, and in the process becoming fools.  Education and learning are wonderful things.  Modern science is a great tool to help us to understand the creation around us.  But when we put education or science on the throne, instead of God, we have done what Paul is expressing in the verses above; claiming to be wise, but becoming fools.

Learn all that you can.  Explore the creation.  Understand how it works.  Make our world a better place for all.  But in the process, don’t be a fool and forget the creator.  Honor him as God!

Followup on the Kalam Cosmological Argument

I have had some interesting twitter feedback on my recent post on the Kalam Cosmological Argument and thought it would be worthwhile to share some of it, mostly because it illustrates some of the response that you might expect from an atheist when making this argument.

Before looking at the response it is worth pointing out my position in regard to this argument.  First, I do not believe that it is possible to prove the existence of God, and I do not use the Kalam argument for that purpose.  Second, I believe in God because of my own personal experience with him, not because of any argument.  And third, I use the Kalam argument only to demonstrate that it is rational to believe in a creator.

Alternatives

The primary objection to the Kalam argument seems to be that there are alternatives to a creator, including:

  • An oscillating universe
  • A multiverse
  • A self created universe
  • Generated by a super intelligent civilization

I have read about all of these alternatives and find them interesting.  But they are no easier to prove than a creator.  We cannot look outside of our universe, or back before it began.  Science is driven to find answers, and all of the suggestions above, with lots of variety, have been proposed as solutions to where the universe came from.  But for none of them is there any hard evidence; only paper models.  It is worth noting that I was given a link that was supposed to provide evidence for a multiverse, but it appears to be a controversial interpretation of data rather than concrete evidence.

I have no issue with science proposing models and trying to provide an explanation for how our universe came to be.  But I also believe it is important to realize that just because science can propose a model that has some explanatory power does not make that model correct.  If so, there are multiple causes for the beginning of our universe, since there are multiple models

And even should an oscillating universe, or a multiverse be true, it does not ultimately address the issue of what started it all initially.  Only a self-starting universe could eliminate the need for a creator, and the only one of these theories I have studied proposed that ultimately we were the creators, due to some exotic properties of the quantum world.

Belief In God Is Irrational

A second point of attack is that it is just irrational to believe in God/god/gods.  But just why is never explained, apart from “there is no evidence”.  Which always leaves me wondering why belief in a multiverse, with no real evidence, is rational.

Rational means “based on or in accordance with reason or logic”.  So is belief in God rational?

  • A creator seems more logical than no creator.  
  • Our universe does appear to be finely tuned for life.  
  • I have experienced something in my life that is foreign to some and common to others that I am convinced is the work of God.  
  • I have seen firsthand the transformation that occurs in the lives of some who commit their lives to God.
  • I have read of similar experiences for many other people.  
  • History supports a nearly universal belief in the supernatural across cultures.  
  • Miracles sure seem to happen, and they demand a supernatural.  

None of these alone might be good reasons for believing in God.  Nor are they evidence in the scientific sense of the word.  But they are evidence, and to me at least, the logical response to that is to believe in a god of some kind, and I have chosen the God of the Bible.  Belief in God is rational.  Disbelief in God, given the evidence I have at hand, is irrational.  But it is too easy to dismiss evidence that is inconvenient.  You see it in nearly all areas of life, and everyone is guilty of it at times.  So it is not surprising that those who find belief in God to be inconvenient will dispute any available evidence and claim that there is none.

Attacks On Objectivity

When all else fails you can expect to have your intelligence, objectivity or sanity challenged.  That has not happened much with this most recent experience, but has been pretty common in the past.  And it is not something that only one side in the debate is guilty of.

Too often the assumption seems to be that if I disagree with one of your cherished positions, then something is wrong with me.  The alternative is to admit that you (or I) might not have something right, perish the thought.  It is much easier to simply disregard anything that doesn’t fit with ones own particular world view, rather than evaluating it to determine if it is truth and should be adopted.  And Christians are as guilty as atheists in doing that.

And so, when agreement does not quickly happen, we too easily revert to childishness and accuse our opponent of being ignorant or closed minded.  And while sometimes that is true, more often it is simply because of how tightly we hold to our positions, a position that appears foolish to the other side.

I believe in the God of the Bible.  It is ingrained so deeply that it is hard to consider any other alternative, although I do make the attempt on occasion, mostly because I value the truth.  While I understand atheism at some level, it is so contrary to everything I hold to be true that I find it difficult to fully appreciate their perspective.  And I have no doubt that it works the other way as well.  And I try to remember that when involved in a discussion with an atheist.

I do have a moderate level of intelligence.  I make every attempt to be objective and see all sides of an issue and make decisions accordingly.  And apart from belief in God, no one has ever given me any indication that they questioned my sanity.  I am devoted to God and embrace science, finding little real conflict between the two.  And I find it both humorous and sad when people on both sides of the debate are offended by where I stand, often in the same debate.

Kalam Revisited

Whatever begins to exist has a cause:  This seems to be pretty obvious but is sometimes countered with an example from Quantum Mechanics.  QM is a field of physics that deals with the very small; sub-atomic particles.  At this level particles have been observed appearing from nowhere, similar to what one might expect if they had suddenly come into existence without a cause.  Yet those particles could just as easily be involved in a Star Trek type teleport, which is know to happen in QM.  Using this as a disproof of this first premise is at best grasping at straws.

The universe began to exist:  Few challenge this premise any longer.  The scientific evidence for the universe having a beginning is pretty overwhelming.  One thing that is important to note here is how one defines ‘universe’.  Some define it as everything that there is.  Others more narrowly as the space/time and mass/energy that came into existence at the big bang, leaving open the possibility of something bigger beyond that is unreachable with our powers of observation.  And I personally use this term in the second sense.

Therefore the universe has a cause:  This conclusion seems to be one that should be unquestioned, and yet it is.  Although in all fairness what is actually questioned is what that cause might be.  While the person challenging the conclusion may just appear to be rejecting the whole argument, when you question them you will find that they readily accept that the universe probably had a cause.  They just don’t like to include the possibility of a creator as a cause; preferring instead to attribute the cause to a multiverse, an oscillating universe, self creation, or some other solution that doesn’t include a personal creator.

They will argue that there is no evidence for a creator, which is true, while ignoring that there is no real evidence for their favorite cause either.  They might also argue that because of the lack of evidence that it is best not to draw any conclusion, while at the same time rejecting one of them that is contrary to their world view.  And they will argue that it is irrational to accept the possibility of a creator, but rational to accept that the universe might have created itself.  And, in this most recent exchange, that it is rational to accept that some advanced civilization might have created the universe, but irrational to accept that an advanced individual being might have created it.

All in all, I still believe that the Kalam argument is a valid one when used to demonstrate the rationality of acceptance of a creator.  But do not expect to be able to use it to prove the existence of the God of the Bible.  It just does not work for that.

How Big Is God?

One of my favorite web sites is The Scale of the Universe. This is an interactive site that helps to give a perspective on just how big things are in the universe.  I find it interesting to scroll through the site, comparing the size of different objects.

I would suspect that most people have no idea how big the universe is, or how small its individual components might be.  And even looking at the numbers it is still hard to fathom; it is so big, and so small, that the numbers are almost meaningless.  Just how big is the universe?  It is bigger than we can observe, but the observable universe is estimated at 9.3 * 1028 meters (93,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 meters) or 93 billion light years across.  In other words, it’s pretty big.

At the other end of the scale is the theorized ‘string’ of string theory.  These are estimated to be 1 * 10-35 meters in length, or 0.00000000001 yoctometers long.  Just for comparison purposes, a few other objects are listed below.

  • Electron – 5 * 10-15 meters
  • Transistor Gate – 2.5 * 10-8 meters
  • E. Coli bacteria – 2 * 10-6 meters
  • Ant – 4 * 10-3 meters
  • Human – 1.7 meters
  • Large Hadron Collider – 8.6 * 103 meters
  • Earth – 1.27 * 107 meters
  • Sun – 1.4 * 109 meters
  • Oort Cloud (outer limits of our solar system) – 2 * 1016 meters
  • Milky Way – 9.3 * 1026 meters

But what does this have to do with how big God is?  If God exists (and I believe he does), and he created the universe (which I also believe), then it might be interesting to compare his creation with that of the next most capable known ‘creator’ in the universe, us.  Collectively, we have been able to to produce something as big as 8.6 * 103 meters in length, and as small as 2.5 * 10-8 meters.  

In contrast, God has produced something that is 1025 times bigger and 10-27 times smaller.  So, by one measure at least, God is about 1026 times bigger, stronger, smarter and all around more capable than we are.  That is 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger. Is God really so much bigger than I am; for all practical purposes, infinitely bigger?  

Even though the numbers given in the previous paragraph are nothing but conjecture, I do accept that one who is able to create the universe we live in, a universe whose size and complexity are beyond my comprehension, is infinitely more capable than I am.  And that he is just as much beyond my comprehension as is his creation, of which I am a tiny part.

I can study his creation and come to some limited understanding of it.  And I can invest time in knowing God, and come to some limited understanding of him.  But I can never really get more than a glimmer of who he is; my limited and finite mind is not capable of comprehending the infinite creator.And so I marvel at the unfolding creation, and bow before its creator.  I stand amazed at the complexity, the enormity and the power of all that he has made.  I acknowledge that God is beyond my understanding or judgement.  I thank him for who he is, what he has done, and what he has in store for me.  And I join with the heavens in offering up praise to him.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Psalm 19:1-4

 

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God – Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. 

          Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

As I prepare for an extended trip out into the creation, this passage seems most appropriate.  For me there is no better place to encounter my creator than out in his creation.  A creation that proclaims his glory in everything I see.  The sun, moon and stars, the mountains and valleys, the rivers and streams, the trees and the meadows, the flowers, the animals, and even the bugs.  I travel through it all in amazement.

While I am thankful for science and its unveiling of how the creation works, I am even more thankful for the creator who made it in the first place.  And that in a creation as vast as this universe, he knows me and cares for me.  I feel sorry for those who are unable, or unwilling, to see beyond the creation itself; who have to settle for worship of that creation instead of the one who made it all.

Father, Lord, thank you for the opportunity to spend the next month alone with you in your creation, free from the distractions and concerns of everyday life.  As I walk the trail through your garden, help me to walk with you, to know your presence every step of the way and to rejoice in it.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:10).

image_print