Sunday, January 13, 2013

Then Who Made God?

When I was around three years old I sat on my grandfather's lap. He would talk to me about many things, but one subject that persists in my memory is when he would talk about God. He would tell me how God created the universe and everything in it. He began by asking me “Do you see the trees outside? Do you know where they came from?” I would ask where they came from and he would say any number of things that a three-year-old could understand and then say “Do you know where all of that came from?” I would then ask where it came from. Finally he said that “God made everything.” I then asked, “But, grandpa, who made God?” He would respond that no one made God and that God was never made or created. I would persist, “But where did he come from?” He would respond “He was always there before everything else.”

Certainly I was confused—I had just gotten my head around contingency (for you adults here): that something comes from something else. Now I was told that there was something that always was. Despite my confusion and repeatedly asking the questions “But where? How?” my grandfather reinforced the answer. Whether I was tired of the answer or, more likely, I accepted the answer, I moved on.
Unless you become like a little child you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Some may take this moment to be the favorable or regrettable turning point where God was firmly placed in my mind. He was no longer just a name or some chimera, but something so great he defied common logic and experience—sometimes children understand this better than we adults.

Even if I did not believe in God, or if I had forsaken the faith my ancestors strove to protect, the answer I accepted puts me above the great number of adults who pose the question “Then who made God?”(as if it were triumph of secular reason). From the commonly educated to Oxford Professors of Physics, adults pose this question, and others like it, with confidence and a sort of smug satisfaction that could only make my three-year-old self ask “Why don't you just listen?” If one is to engage in a debate or discussion with anyone who has a reasonable (or for others, “considerate”) belief in God, they owe it to them to accept their definition at least as their [the “theist's”] starting point.

Many find this answer “God is uncaused” as a cop-out or a microcosm of faith—or rather the idiocy, apathy, irrationality, or indoctrination of that faith. These wise spectators are quick to taut physics and various explanations of the universe as the superior way. They treat those who believe as dreamers; they consider themselves pioneers and careful investigators. One can discover this disposition in many of them in some form, for once you press the issue that someone truly believes in God you may get a response such as “They can believe in what they want, but I'll stick to science and reason.”
They eat this stuff up. Then again, Mr. Russell believed that all "ideologies" were like a religion which served to make one dependent and fearful. Neither reason nor science have ever been used that way, reports claim.

Yet despite anthropic principles, multiverse theories, etc. which claim to answer the questions of “why are we here” and “why is the universe/earth/etc. so supportive of complex life,” these responses simply produce something else that demands explanation. Now that we've conceived of a multiverse where various constants (for each universe) are different we presently have a multiverse that is unexplained—on what grounds do the constants rise that allow for a multiverse that produces a universe like ours? However fascinating the discoveries are and however deeply we probe the mechanisms of the universe our answer has only answered “how” and not “why” in the fullest sense.

With science silent on the answer that some adherents claim it satisfies, many of these intellectuals give their intellectualism over to a sort of religious tagline (derogatory in their sense): “We'll figure it out eventually.”
I almost figured out this game. Didn't mean I understood it.

In ancient times those in the cult of Dionysus might become drunk on wine to achieve/feel greater unity with the god. Today, many in the cult of Science become drunk on progress in hopes that they will understand everything, perhaps some wish to control it too. They give it praise and protect it zealously should anyone slander its good and holy name.
The face of one who has made the breakthrough discovery that religion is stupid.

Many of these sober men of science become drunk on the prospect of what we can and may understand. No doubt that there is pleasure in understanding and there is something noble about the human spirit trying to understand the world he lives in. But then these men forget themselves and more often forget what others had said about God in all sobriety. Men of science treat the answer “God” as a “god of the gaps” with chilling efficiency and simply shake their heads at the notion, “Those who do not wish to understand respond with 'God', those who know better answer something else.” They rarely pause—they're in such a frenzy—to consider that the one who answers 'God' believes that He is the foundation for all other inquiry and not merely the answer for what we can not understand. The scientists of the 12th-17th centuries sat perfectly content with a crucifix on the wall and an experiment on their tables. Such convictions continue even today.
Big Bang theory, anyone? (Georges Lemaitre)

Many of those who put forth a scientific or secular idea of the whole, however, are often convinced in the notion that they are supported by evidence and facts—in some ways they hold that they rely on facts and evidence alone. While it is true that the make use of facts and data, some of them must be aware that facts, proofs, and likelihoods as they stand offer no reason for us to reflect on them, i.e., how they affect us as users of those facts. Many forget that “facts,” however one wishes to define them, has two aspects: 1) what they convey and state and 2) how they are used. Those who rely on facts alone have no ground in those same facts on how to make use of them. At the least, those who believe in God have ground to consider what he does with the discoveries of nature in our world.

Certainly those who do not believe have grounds upon which they decide how to use what they find, it's just not upon the fact that they discovered. It is usually some other “fact” or ideology that organizes what they find. Eventually we find that it isn't grounded in facts, as such, but rather some disposition that they hold as a matter-of-fact. At this point we may dispute who has better grounds to argue this or that, but it won't be found purely in science or empirical observation.

God is not the answer to how or why for me in a mundane sense, he is the reason and authority upon whom we may ask and answer how and why. One has only to read the end of Job and see the wisdom of the Jews: “Where were you when I founded the earth? … Who determined its size; do you know? … Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth” (Job 38:4, 5, 12). We are not in charge of the universe, we dwell in it—fragile, weak, dependent. Anyone who ridicules belief in God by bringing up scientific or naturalist explanations should reflect on the book of Job and what it says about a belief in God.

Those who believe that we stop with God have stopped themselves from thinking, or they have rather stopped themselves from listening. Creation comes from the creator. We cannot understand the creator fully, but Scripture relates to us what we may extract from creation about Him: creation was made out of love, creation was made as good, and creation was made to be both lived in and known.

God founded the earth so that we may live in it and appreciate it. We appreciate the earth through nourishment, beauty, and understanding. Though it is not the purpose of this piece to discuss evil, we may even learn about the creator in our reflection of evil, imperfection, and tragedy. We must confront ourselves about tragedy and loss, asking why it exists and asking ourselves if it is really unnecessary. Regardless of anyone's answer it is grounds for reflection “is suffering natural or unnatural?” The crucifix stands as an answer for you to interpret, but also stands as an answer that goes beyond a simple yes or no.
"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together ... In him all fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross, whether those on earth or those in heaven" (Colossians 1:17, 19-20)

When arguing about God it helps to listen rather than react. Here we can learn virtue from children who trust even when they do not understand. They are trusting but they are not forced to remain ignorant. Those who teach children not to believe also rely on them trusting you and what you believe is true. The trust of a child should never be taken for granted. But when we become adults we are confronted with adult understandings. As adults we should listen as well as a child (odd as it sounds) and learn to accept what the other is saying, rather than reduce one's belief in God to their own disbelief in God—that's being childish, ironically a common vice among adults.

Is belief in God a “god of the gaps” or a surrender of reason? For countless generations and myself it isn't. For me it is the beginning of wonder: someone who is outside the commonly observable, the foundation of all being, and ultimate simplicity. Must I account for where He came from? At that point we're no longer speaking about the same God.