This article appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Bridge Magazine and was the first in a new series called Big Questions.

 

Let me say straight-away that this question isn’t so much a critique of Christianity, as a great way for to critique any notion of God.

So who made God? Well one possible answer might be “Super-God” (because surely you’d need something even greater than God to create Him.) But that doesn’t really solve the problem because the next question we’d have to ask is “Who created Super God?” (Super Super God anyone?) And we could carry on that way forever.

So how do we answer the question? Well as with any question we need to define our terms – so when I’m asked this question, I want to know,

What do you mean by “god”?

And the reason I want to know this is because this question cannot be answered without first defining who God is. So let’s play around with some different definitions of the word “god” to show you what I mean.

Suppose by “god” we mean someone like Zeus, the greatest of the gods of Greek mythology. And who made Zeus? Answer: His father, Cronos! Zeus is a god who was created by some other entity. That’s how the gods of the Greek mythology worked. They were created from the Titans, who were created from the Primordial gods. Who emerged from Chaos. (You’ll have to ask a Greek philosopher how that one works…)

Now let’s define “god” differently – and we’ll use the definition that Christians (and Jews and Muslims) have used down through the ages:  that God is “the uncreated creator of all things.” So with this definition, who made God? Answer – “No one!” Because God is the uncreated creator of all things.

By now you’re probably thinking “Hang on a minute Barry, haven’t you just assumed your answer in the question?” Yes I have! But to be fair – everyone who asks this question assumes their answer in the question.

The atheist using the question to critique a Christian, Muslim or Jew asks the question because they assume god is like Zeus – a being created by some other entity. To put it in technical terms, they’re assuming that god is subject to the principle of causality  (that “Everything that has a beginning has a sufficient cause”).

The Christian responding to the question also makes an assumption: that God is the uncreated creator, and therefore not subject to the principle of causality (indeed I’d argue he invented it).

So where does this leave us? Well mainly it shows us that “Who made god?” isn’t a very good question. And hopefully it challenges us all – whatever we believe – to think in greater depth about the assumptions we bring to the big questions we have about life the universe and everything!

If you’d like to explore the question “Who made God?” more than I’d recommend Professor Edgar Andrews book, Who Made God: Searching for a Theory of Everything“, (EP Books, Darlington, 2009) Professor Andrews is Emeritus Professor of Materials at Queen Mary, University of London and writes in a lively and accessible style.

Christmas is coming...