If you’re like most citizens of the internet you have no doubt seen memes and whatnot attempting to show that belief in God is silly. Here’s an example of what I mean: Many atheists think they have come up with a clever defeater for the creation of the universe by God by asking WHEN God created the universe if Time is a part of the universe. On the surface, this question presents quite a pickle.
If God made time, WHEN did he make it? But if there was no time yet, then there was no WHEN when it could have been made… thus the whole sweater starts to unravel.
Or does it?
To answer this question I shall appeal to a brilliant American Philosopher and two very popular British stories.
JP Moorland is a brilliant philosopher who sums up the Kalaam argument for the existence of God like this:
One- the universe exists
Two- it was either caused or uncaused
Three- the cause is either personal or impersonal
And then he argues that the universe is caused, and that the cause is personal. I won’t go into all of those details there, but he goes into them here and I highly recommend it: The Kalam Cosmological Argument – JP Moreland, PhD
I bring up Mooreland primarily because it is in this discussion that he explains the relationship of God to his creation.
The personal cause stands in ontological relationship to the creation of the universe- not temporal relationship to the beginning of the universe. In other words, the one owes its existence to the other even if there is no moment when the one caused the other. This sounds like self contradictory gobbledygook, but allow me to explain.
Shakespeare stands in ontological cause to Hamlet. He is the reason Hamlet exists, even though Hamlet was not written in the timeline of the story of Hamlet. If Guildenstern and Rosencrantz were to ask Hamlet when Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet,” there can be no answer. Hamlet cannot say Shakespeare began when Hamlet was born, or a hundred years before, or anything else which would make sense in his own story. Shakespeare did write Hamlet, but not at a point in time inside Hamlet’s universe.
If I step into my Tardis and fly through all of time and space with the Doctor, will we ever find the moment when the first episode of Dr Who was written? To you it was 1962, but to the Doctor himself, it never happened. That story- the story of his origins- happened outside of his own story, and so he can never travel through space and time to see it for himself.
Similarly, God made the universe outside of the time of our own universe, the act of which caused the first moment of our time. God stands in relationship to our universe like an author to a story.
Let me skip 500 years of British literature. Step into the Tardis and hold on for a moment until we land at Hogwarts…
Imagine that Prof. Albus Dumbledore waved his wand and instantly an elephant on a couch appeared in the great hall. POOF! The elephant looks around somewhat perplexed, because he finds himself in a school for wizards, and the children begin to scream because they are children.
The couch has a considerable dent made by the elephant. It exists because the elephant is on the couch. Thus, the dent in the couch owes its existence to the elephant. We would say of this relationship of elephant causing the dent, the elephant stands in ontological causation to the dent- in other words the dent exists because the elephant is causing it.
However, the elephant did not create the dent at any particular time. The elephant did not SIT on the couch, but rather the couch and the elephant were magically created at the same moment. Thus we would say of the relationship between elephant and dent in the couch that the elephant does not stand in temporal causation to the dent. It didn’t create it at some point in time, but rather is causes the dent to be without having caused the dent to come into being at a particular time by sitting.
When did the elephant sit? He didn’t. But the fact that he is sitting is what is causing the dent.
So, when did God create the universe? WHEN did God create TIME? It’s an unanswerable question, but not because the idea of God creating the universe is self contradictory. It’s unanswerable because the author is not inside our story until he writes himself into it. God makes the elephant of our universe at the same moment as the couch of time. This is no problem for God, as he stands outside of our time in what we call Eternity. God can cause time to exist without there being a time when he made the effect.
But for the atheist, when did the Big Bang happen? THAT, my friends, is an unanswerable question because it is literally asking, When did the cause of the universe make time? And this time, there is no Shakespeare outside of the story to write the first line. Where atheists fail to understand the distinction is when they try to think of God as a physical part of this universe which we are claiming also made the universe. They think we mean by God “Prof. Albus Dumbledore,” when we actually mean something more like “JK Rowling.” He’s not just the greatest character in the story- he’s the author.
Both the creation by God and the self-creation via big bang present deep questions of science and philosophy, but of the two, only creation by God is reasonable. And that’s being said by a mad man in a Tardis traveling around inside of British stories.