“From Everlasting to Everlasting”
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
Where did God come from? Atheists often ask this question of Christians who argue that God created the universe out of nothing (Gen. 1:1; Jn. 1:1-3; Heb. 11:1-3). If everything that exists requires a causal explanation outside of itself, then how do we explain the existence of God? Bertrand Russell, in his essay Why I Am Not a Christian, wrote, “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot by any validity in the argument.” So who created the Creator? Though this question is meant to silence and utterly refute God as an explanation for the universe, it is actually a classic straw man fallacy.
The cosmological argument (arguing for the existence of God as the cause of the cosmos) does not claim that everything that exists must have a cause. Rather, it claims that the universe—due to its contingency, its need for an explanation and finitude—requires a cause beyond itself, a non-contingent, self-existent, uncaused first cause. This non-contingent being who explains the existence of the contingent universe is the God of Scripture, who depends on nothing outside of himself and upon whom everything else depends.
This is not an ad hoc explanation given by Christians to dodge the the question. Rather, this is what the Scriptures themselves teach.
Jesus said that “the Father has life in himself” (Jn. 5:26). If life itself originates with God then he depends on nothing outside of himself to exist, making him a non-contingent entity. He exists in a category of one metaphysically: “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours.” (Psa. 86:8; see also Ex. 15:11; Mic. 7:18) Paul, in arguing for the existence of a Creator who exists apart from and above creation, said that he is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25)
God is not finite, temporal or contingent. He is “from everlasting to everlasting.” Before the creation of the universe and the existence of time as we know it, God existed (Jn. 17:5). He says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8) Unlike the creation, the Creator has no beginning and no end and requires no explanation outside of himself. Therefore, we cannot apply the same principles we use to explain the origin of the universe (a finite, temporal and contingent entity) to God (an infinite, eternal and non-contingent entity).
The argument for the origin of the cosmos is deductive, meaning if the premises are true, then the conclusion is unavoidable:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause — Things don’t come into being from nothing: ex nihilo, nihilo fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”). Notice that this is a subset of things that exist in which God, because he has no beginning, does not belong.
- The universe began to exist — In addition to insurmountable philosophical problems with an eternal universe, there is solid scientific evidence that the universe had a beginning and will end; its expansion, abundance of helium, residual radiation and the second law of thermodynamics point to a finite cosmos.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause — There must be a first event in time which requires a sufficient explanation.
- The cause of the universe is God — There must be an uncaused first cause, a being who is “from everlasting to everlasting” who brought forth the universe.