Who Created God!?!?

Too often in philosophical debates concerning the existence of God I hear atheists smugly ask, “yeah, well, who made God?” The “who made God” move is normally used to resist arguments for the existence of God. The complaint is that by inferring God as the creator of the cosmos we raise the issue of where God came from, and that therefore positing God solves nothing. Is the atheist correct? It seems to me that the atheist objector is incorrect on at least two fronts.

Firstly, we should note that Christians typically believe that God possesses the property of aseity – that is, self-existence. This means that God exists totally independently of anything else. He does not owe his existence to another being, nor does he rely on other beings for his continued existence. As such God did not come into existence. He has always existed. Some atheists think this is simply a case of special pleading – as if the theist is arbitrarily defining God as having some characteristic or other simply out of convenience. But this is not the case. Many theistic arguments make a rational conclusion to the existence of such a being, and thus the attribution of the characteristic of self-existence is far from being an arbitrary one: it’s the conclusion of an argument.

For example, the Kalam Cosmological Argument concludes to a being that is timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, and personal. Self-existence is implied by these characteristics. Alternatively, various species of the Ontological Argument conclude to a being that is “necessary” or “maximally excellent,” and again therefore self-existent. The same goes for other arguments – the argument from contingency also concludes to the existence of a necessary being. This is why the “who made God” question is so tiresome. The atheist simply hasn’t paid nearly enough attention to the kind of being inferred by such arguments. To respond to these arguments with the retort “who made God!?!” is to ask “who created this being that wasn’t created?” It’s simply an incoherent question.

But, secondly, even if this question did arise it still would not invalidate the initial inference to God. For example, if astronauts were to discover a bunch of weird technical equipment on a distant planet they would rightly conclude to the existence of some alien species even if this then raises all sorts of questions as to who they are and where they came from. The question “where did the aliens come from” does not invalidate the inference that some sort of alien species is responsible for all this technical equipment. In short, in order for some given explanation – E – to be valid, we don’t need to have an explanation of E itself. So resisting a theistic argument because you think it raises such a question is a patently flawed move.

I addressed above the atheist charge that attributing self-existence to God is arbitrary or a case of special pleading. It is noteworthy on this point that the atheist usually engages in some special pleading himself, which is smoked-out by asking the question: “who created the universe?” Unless the atheist holds the rationally indefensible position that the universe popped into existence uncaused and out of nothing for no particular reason, he must hold that the universe (or at least whatever pre-cursor he believes it sprang from) is self-existent, (Bertrand Russell once remarked that the universe just exists and that’s that. Carl Sagan once proclaimed that the universe is all there was, all there is, and all there ever will be). The point is that something must be self-existent – theists and atheists simply disagree as to what that is. Theists see a self-existent creator; atheists hold that the universe itself is self-existent. It seems to me that the weight of evidence leans heavily on the side of theism. Everything we know about the universe suggests that it is contingent, that it doesn’t exist by necessity, that it’s possible that it might not have existed. It certainly doesn’t appear to be the sort of thing that has the property of self-existence, and the atheist owes us an argument as to why we should consider it so. On the other hand theists have several streams of evidence all flowing together to show that – probably at least – the universe was created and that whatever created it must also be self-existent. To use the words of Thomas Aquinas: “and this we call God.”

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7 Comments

Filed under Aseity, Atheism, God, Theism

7 responses to “Who Created God!?!?

  1. The question of gods seem unanswerable, but it is very delightful to contemplate the possibilities.

  2. “This means that God exists totally independently of anything else.”

    You may chose to believe so, but that’s not more or less weird than, for example, something that comes out of nothing. Both things are potential answers to the question, but as long as we don’t know, saying “We don’t know” is the only honest option.

  3. An argument so reasonable as yours is wasted on atheists who believe deeply and dearly that everything happened all by itself and are thus strangers to reason.

    But your argument must be made for others who have not yet fallen into the atheist pit.

  4. The response in question is only a slightly misguided objection to the inconsistency of aseity and contingency. If an entity is complete in and of itself, it doesn’t participate in events at all, at least as we can understand. You can’t have God and moments later God-who-created-the-universe, if God is a thing in itself – God’s identity has then shown itself to be contingent as it has changed. This is true even if one makes the incoherent claim that God somehow acts “before the beginning”.Aseity isn’t eliminated as a possibility by this state of affairs, but we can’t understand it via cosmological arguments, if aseity is understandable by us at all.

  5. Pingback: Contra God | stephenjgraham

  6. I feel that your article requires a reply. Not wishing to clutter up your blog with a wordy response, I have posted it in my Blog. Would you be good enough to check it out, respond to it, please? Thank you very much.
    You will my find my response here:
    http://apologetits.com/aseity-and-evolution/

    • My response…I’ll post this on your blog too:

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for taking the trouble of engaging with my article. I want to briefly respond and make a few corrections.

      Firstly, you seem to keep referring to me as an “apologist,” which is incorrect. By “trade” I’m a philosophical theologian – my academic background being in both philosophy and theology. I write articles critical of aspects of Christian thought or atheist thought. Just because I write an article attacking some element of atheist thought doesn’t make me an apologist any more than, say, atheist philosopher Stephen Law’s attacking some element of theistic thought makes him an “atheistic apologist.” My allegiance lies with philosophy of religion, which concerns the pursuit of truth and the finding of rationally persuasive arguments regardless of where they take me. If they take me away from theism, so be it. I’m not out simply to justify and defend my theistic beliefs.

      Secondly, you posted this article with some triumph on Twitter, trying to be smart that you had pinned an “apologist” whose arguments unwittingly prove evolution. Quite how this is the case with respect to the article in question I really don’t know, but even if I did manage to prove evolution that’s fine by me since I accept the theory of evolution!

      Thirdly, your article accuses me of misusing logic and abusing language, and yet you barely make any case to support this assertion. On the contrary it seems to me that you have largely misunderstood the point of the article and the concept of aseity.

      So let me begin my response in earnest by taking the phrase the “aseity of God.”

      You claim this is a pleonasm, (you incorrectly define it as ‘the godness of God’), but that’s hardly the case, and in fact it’s quite possible for someone to be a theist and yet not ascribe aseity to God. It’s therefore not remotely like talking about the “batchelorhood of unmarried men.” It might be useful to be clear on exactly what aseity refers to, since I’m not convinced you grasp it properly. Aseity means “self-existence.” In other words, if a being possesses the property of aseity – self-existence – then it does not owe its existence to anything outside of itself. There is no thing that brought it into being or which upholds it in being. It’s a “brute fact” to use Russell’s charming phrase. It didn’t come into existence (and, probably, it won’t go out of existence). For an example of a brand of theism which does not consider aseity as a divine attribute consider the ancient Greek pantheon – Zeus did not, in Greek philosophy, possess the property of aseity, and yet he was regarded as a god.

      Anyhow, at this point in your critique you fly off on a tangent about evolution, which I must confess truely baffles me. I honestly cannot see the connection between your musings here and what I wrote in the article. The only vaguely relevant sentence in this series of paragraphs is: “There is no evidence for the existence of mind apart from a physical brain.” Whilst this has zero relevance to the concept of aseity, it clearly is relevant to the existence of God because, if true, then God does not exist. But of course, this is exactly what theists dispute! Every argument for the existence of God is an argument which, if correct, shows that there IS evidence of at least one mind which exists apart from a physical brain. You would need to demonstrate that minds are dependent on physical brains, and there are philosophers of mind who would dispute that claim even with respect to humans. What is your reason for supposing that minds ARE dependent on physical brains? Even worse for you: you would have to prove more than this – you would need to demonstrate that minds are NECESSARILY dependent on physical brains, and I’m not aware of a single philosopher who has made such a case. So, good luck with that. In any event we have now moved away from the topic of my article.

      Anyhow, next you offer: “Apologists seem to start with words, and then attempt to work back to the existence of…something.” Can you provide an example of this? I don’t think it’s something I typically see apologists do. Nor can I see how it sticks in my case with respect to my article which is not concerned with demonstrating the existence of anything at all. I haven’t attempted to begin with words and then somehow work back to the existence of God. To be honest I think you’ve lost the run of yourself here and misunderstood what my article is attempting to do. Remember I’m responding to those atheists who think that by inferring God as the creator of the cosmos we raise the issue of where God came from, and that therefore positing God solves nothing. And my article is concerned not with showing God exists or with defining God into existence, but rather in showing how this one riposte fails, often betraying a misunderstanding of certain theistic arguments. The example I explicitly provided was the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Now, it doesn’t matter if you accept or reject that argument, the point is simply this: trying to refute the KCA by asking “Who created God?” fails to wrestle with the fact that the argument has just concluded to a being that is self-existent – that is, possesses the property of aseity. Asking that question therefore shows you’ve misunderstood that argument. The same goes for other theistic arguments – the ontological or Leibnizian arguments, for instance. And thus the atheist who thinks he’s scored a point with this kind of objection simply hasn’t paid nearly enough attention to the kind of being inferred by such arguments. To respond to these arguments with the retort “who made God!?!” is to ask “who created this being that wasn’t created?” It’s simply an incoherent question.

      I went on in the article to show that even if that question did arise it still would not invalidate the initial inference to God that such arguments make; arguing that in order for some given explanation – E – to be valid, we don’t need to have an explanation of E itself. So resisting a theistic argument because you think it raises such a question is a patently flawed move.

      The point of my article was not therefore an attempt to “define God into existence,” and I’m not aware of many serious theistic philosophers who would make such an attempt. Perhaps you think I was doing just that in my article? I think you need to re-read it, I wasn’t presenting evidence for God at all, I was merely writing a rebuttal of a common atheist criticism of theistic arguments. Of course, there may be lots of other criticisms to be made of such theistic arguments. In fact, I have elsewhere made critical comments of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. But that’s by the by – this one atheistic argument I was responding to is not a good objection and I think you’ve offered little to demonstrate that it is.

      Anyhow, you further attempt to criticize my article when I say “It is noteworthy on this point that the atheist usually engages in some special pleading himself, which is smoked-out by asking the question: “who created the universe?” Unless the atheist holds the rationally indefensible position that the universe popped into existence uncaused and out of nothing for no particular reason, he must hold that the universe (or at least whatever pre-cursor he believes it sprang from) is self-existent.”

      You have a problem with this and yet you offer no other suggestion! What other alternative is there? That the universe is self-existent is something which I suspect a sizeable number of atheist philosophers believe – in fact I gave examples in my article. Bertrand Russell, for instance, refers to it as a “brute fact.” The point, which you haven’t refuted, is that unless we accept the metaphysically absurd suggestion that something came from nothing, then there must be at least one thing which is self-existent. Or perhaps you can suggest a third alternative? What this means is that theists are not special pleading for God.

      Some of your parting shots at the end of your article are barely worth responding to, to be frank. You accuse me of “using as a premise an unevidenced, imaginary concept – God. This is not sound logic.” I did nothing of the sort. On the contrary, as I’ve already said, I strongly suspect you are misunderstanding not only my article but the concept of aseity/self-existence. As for aspersions on my character as being “dishonest” I’d really rather not respond to a slur like that, and I can’t see that anything constructive can come from such rather classless mud-slinging.

      Thanks for the comments anyhow.

      Stephen J Graham

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