Is It Even Possible for a God to Create the Universe?
In the previous posts we have been speculating about God’s character in two specific areas. These areas have to do with the longstanding biblical teachings that God’s actions are prompted by emotions that are similar to our own, and that God thinks and acts using many of the intellectual abilities (or deficiencies) that we possess. We are now going to look specifically into the creative power of God and ponder two important questions: Is it even possible for a God to create anything, and if it’s possible, why would He even bother?
In order to get at the answer to this question, we first have to understand what is involved with the creative process from the human perspective. Make sense? After all, the book of Genesis, while offering a sparse detailing of how God might have gone about creating the universe and every living being within it, nevertheless, suggests that in the act of building our world God’s creative juices began to flow. He even got His hands dirty—so to speak—in literally constructing Eve from one of Adams’ ribs. He was also emotionally involved, at several points declaring, what a “good” job He was doing.
From a human standpoint, the act of creating even a bowl of pottery from clay requires a phenomenal amount of intellectual and imaginative thinking skills. These are, of course, skills we presume God possesses, but the extent of God’s creative skills would have been stretched to the max in creating a universe filled with both animate and inanimate objects. As examples: He would have had to create all of the physical laws that govern the heavens, and the laws governing the quantum world of atomic particles. He would have built the most sophisticated organ known to mankind, the human mind. Naturally, the complexities of human emotions, mental and mind states, and all the nuances of human thought would have been thought through. In constructing the mind, consideration on how we think and what we can think about, would have had to been made. This means, a world needed to be created for us that would permit our minds to think and act within certain parameters. Since humans possess the ability to think and act freely, the world God created would have also had to allow us to freely express our grandest concepts and exercise our darkest deeds. Indeed, if God created everything, those dynamics of life that we even consider harmful, detrimental—or evil—must have been included in God’s overall plans.
Now, the question that normally surfaces when people are discussing whether the universe was created by a Supreme Being verses an event such as the big bang is, “How can something come from nothing?” To which, the idea that a god must have created everything is offered. In this topic, however, I want to propose that this question is dwarfed by a more fundamental question: “Given the powers and intellect God is presumed to possess, why would He even bother to lift a finger in the first place to create anything at all?”
So let’s explore the act of creating . . . You and I create under two specific conditions. In the first condition, we imagine a completed project regarding something we either need or want to see come to fruition. Then, in order to begin the project, we start gathering the materials and make plans for their use. This would also assume that we know exactly what materials are needed and that these materials actually exist. Under the second condition, we work backwards at creating the project by observing the materials we have at our command, which would then stimulate an idea of something we could create from these materials. For example, if I wanted to build a redwood deck in my backyard I would first off all want a deck, then I would need to have a conception of what a deck was, plus a full understanding of the materials needed, and then the intellectual and physical skills to arrange the materials together. I might start with the dream of building the deck and getting the materials, or I might see a stack of 2x6x12s and think, “Hmm, those would make a nice deck.” This explanation of how we create is straightforward, but without the desire to either want or need a deck, the spark of creating one doesn’t even happen. It’s pointless.
When God created the universe, did He operate under the same mental conditions that we operate under? Considering the first condition that we just talked about, are we to assume that one day out of the blue God suddenly had a new and brilliant idea to create a universe, including planet Earth and all its living life forms? While floating along within the confines of His mind, did He feel lonely and only then considered constructing a world and a race of beings that might pay Him homage seven days later? Was this the spark of motivation that got His mind turning and imagining all of the complex principles and powers and laws and materials that might be needed in building such a universe? Apparently, these are some of thoughts that transpired in the mind of God at a specific point in time, the details to which, are recorded in Genesis.
Let’s consider then, God’s creation of the earth from the biblical perspective. Biblical religions all have slightly varying theories of how God performed this act, but most teach that creation came in a specific sequential order. The book of Genesis tells us that God took a formless and dark earth that moved upon water and created another element, called “light.” He then separated the light from darkness (presumably day and night) before somehow separating the earth from the heavens. On the third day, He made dry land appear on the earth. Then God created vegetation, followed by the stars in the heavens and the moon, and eventually living creatures and mankind. (Incidentally, there are two creation stories in Genesis which detail a different sequential order in creation.) Most of us can conjecture that God probably wasn’t obligated to follow certain steps in creating the universe anyway. We want to imagine that creation took place in a specific sequential order, which agrees with our knowledge of physics. Yet, God would not have been required to follow a particular sequence. For example, God would not have needed to create Adam before creating the earth. He could have easily made Adam and suspended him in an oxygen bubble in proximity to the earth and let Adam enjoy the show of watching his future home come into existence!
Which brings us to our first conundrum: If God did create the universe as suggested in Genesis, then this meant He took the time to contemplate, reflect, evaluate, reevaluate, consider, reconsider (as well as use so many other intellectual necessities), which for an all-knowing and all-powerful God would have been unnecessary and demeaning.
Think for a moment of the reasons why we create. We create for the sheer enjoyment that comes from using our intelligence and physical skills to create. Painter's create because they enjoy using brushes and color to portray their vision of life on canvas. Sculptor's create because they delight in manipulating elements, such as clay or steel to create three-dimensional works of art. Writer's create by combining words into sentences and paragraphs that inspire the lives of other people. Musician's create through melodies that have the power to evoke emotions in those who hear the notes they’ve strung together. Nearly everyone creates, from construction workers to plumbers, teachers to children, professional athletes to seamstresses. Creating is exciting! It fuels our passions, awakens our individualism, and inspires pride and self-confidence. Creating allows us to escape the boredom of life and reinvent ourselves as we recreate our surroundings. Creating does, however, have a downside. Oftentimes, what we set out to create doesn’t represent what we had envisioned. Sometimes what we create comes out better than we expected or tragically worse than anticipated. Creating can also make us feel defeated, frustrated, and worthless, especially if we assume another person will not value what we have created. Creating also requires particular skills like manipulating objects with aesthetic reasoning in which we build upon or reconstruct the previous step, because we are clueless really as to what the final product will look like until it’s completed. Are we to presume that God encountered all of these emotions and stimulating experiences? Or do we just assume He snapped His fingers?
Which serves up our second conundrum: If everything that God does is perfect, then He could not have enjoyed any of the satisfactions and joys that we experience in creating, nor could He experience the emotional anguish and mental torment of creating a work of art that fell far short of His expectations. The concept of perfection, implies that there is only one possible way that God could have created the universe—perfect. This means, there would have been nothing creative at all about building the universe. God would have had but one choice in constructing any dynamic of the universe, and no degree of thoughtfulness, (such as imagining and thinking through the delicate nuances of how to construct each component of the universe) would be needed, because—frankly—these skills represent a lower level of creative intelligence that you and I might use, but they are skills an all-powerful God would not be subjected to using. In other words, we wouldn’t expect a god to stoop to our level, and if we want to continue thinking that a god did create the universe, then we should begin imagining how this might have been accomplished using more grandiose concepts about this god.
And what about His expectations? The third rationale I would offer in suggesting that a God could not create the universe—certainly in the manner described in Genesis—is that God is presumed to be all-knowing. For God, thinking about a universe and creating the universe would be one in the same. Because if you think about it, a perfectly conceived mental universe, one which is magnificently developed and pictured in His mind, negates the necessity of Him building an actual universe. What would be the point? Because what we have to presume is that the idea of the universe must have always existed as a perfect construct in God’s mind, and so building a real, physical universe outside of His mind would have been necessary.
(Perhaps what you and I understand reality to be, is really just a small universe that we dwell in, somewhere in the infinite mind of God. For it would make no difference to God whether He created a universe of physical properties or whether such a universe remained merely in His thoughts. Nor would it matter to us, since we would be merely constructs of His mind in the first place, and we could have easily been programed to accept a dreamed reality as the real reality. This is not my position; but it is entirely feasible, and we would be none the wiser of this were the case.)
To sum it all up, there is no way a God could have created the world the way that you and I understand the creative process. An all-powerful and all-knowing God could not go through the same emotional highs and lows that we do when creating. Nor would He wrestle through all of the intellectual challenges we face in manipulating and building things to bring them into existence. Indeed, as sure as God is perfect, no creative energy would be required of Him, since He could only create the universe one way—flawless. And even if we concede that God does have an imagination, and He creates like you and I, the perfectly imagined mental “picture” He conceived in His mind would have been exquisitely formed to such finite detail that lifting a finger to build a real universe would be pointless.
I recognize that there is an argument I have left out on the table that God created the world for us—specifically for you and I to enjoy, and that a part of that joy should come from serving a loving Creator. If this is the case, then we must concede that if we were made, we were built and programmed to function with the specific parameters of this universe. Freewill then, is merely an illusion . . . (We could have easily been programmed to think we have freewill.) But whether or not we dwell in a real world or as an imagined being in the mind of God, it makes no difference. We would still amount to being only His mental constructs; built to live and function according to His whims. Again, what would be the point of either option? The bottom line, is that we have been taught that creation serves two purposes: that the universe was created for us to enjoy, and that our function is to serve and worship the God that created us. The first option is pointless, the later is ridiculous. Because, while we might presume that we are magnificent beings that were created to “enjoy” our world, the capacity to have pleasure is merely something that we were built to experience. (This logic holds true for better understanding the concept of freewill. For if we are created, then we are merely highly-sophisticated robots implanted with the allusion that we have the ability to think freely.) My final point: Is there any reason to think that a God would either create or imagine a universe, which included the construction of a race of highly-sophisticated human robots, to appease His insecurity and need to be worshipped?