One of my favorite things to do is peruse a bookstore. I often pick up books and scan the contents, read the summaries on the back, and read things that sound interesting. I did this once with the book Atheism for Dummies. One of the sections I read concerned arguments for God’s existence. One argument in particular is the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which says:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
There’s a lot to this argument and it has a lot of applications, but Atheism for Dummies claimed that Christians shouldn’t use this argument because Christians would have to give a cause for God’s existence. However, Christians obviously don’t want to say that something caused God, for that would mean that God is not “that than which a greater cannot be thought,” as Christians believe He is.
That’s a bit abstract, so think about it like this: if God depended upon something else for His existence, the thing on which He depended would actually be greater than Him. For example, we don’t worship the moon, because we know that God created the moon. Why worship the moon when you could instead worship God who is greater than the moon? The point is that God is by definition the greatest being you can think of; however, being created means that the thing that created you is better than you are. Thus, if God had a creator, He wouldn’t really be the greatest being. Perhaps there’s a principle here: If something is created, it cannot be God.
Atheism for Dummies commits what’s known as a straw-man fallacy in responding to the argument, but it does raise some interesting questions: Who made God? Did God create himself? How was God born? Where did God come from? If God created man, who created God? Why is He the way He is instead of another way? Could it have been possible that He could have been different? For example, could God have said that rape, murder, and torture were good things instead of evil things? What if God had been more like Hitler and less like Jesus? Is that possible?
Though these questions are very difficult and complex, here’s the simplest answer: God didn’t come from anywhere, He wasn’t created, nothing and nobody made Him, and He couldn’t have been different. The reason is that God exists as He exists by necessity of His own nature. The theological term for this is divine aseity.
To understand this, you’ll need to get a good grasp on this idea: There are two different versions of existence. The first version of existence is contingent existence. Everything that has been created exists contingently. This class includes the stars, animals, food, trees, mosquitoes, me, your parents, etc. This class depends on other things to exist. The other version of existence is necessary existence. God is the best example of something that exists by necessity; indeed, he may be the only thing that exists by necessity. This kind of existence doesn’t depend on other things to exist.
You and I might not have existed, or we might have been different. If my parents hadn’t met, for example, it seems probable that I wouldn’t have existed. Or, more controversially, it seems at least possible that I could have been different in some ways, yet have been the same person in important ways. I might, for example, have born in Asia, looked different, liked different foods, spoke a different language, etc., yet had the same soul or consciousness. I could have been the same person with different accidental features.
God, however, is not like this. Whereas I could have been different, God could not have been different. I am a contingent being who is affected and changed by other things. I will continue to change as a person, because I am a contingent being. I am based upon and derive my existence from other things. If oxygen disappears, I die. If I stop eating, I die. If a loved one passes away, I would change, perhaps drastically. If time were somehow reset to 1992, I would not exist.
God, however, is not a contingent being. There is nothing that could happen that would cause a fundamental change in His personality or character. He is not affected in those ways. Nothing could ever happen which would cause Him to cease to exist. The reason is that He created everything; therefore, He is not dependent on anything. He doesn’t derive His existence from anything other than Himself.
Jesus hinted at this in John 8.58, where He makes a reference to Exodus 3.14. Here, Jesus tells His interlocutors that in contrast to Abraham who began to exist, He just is. Not only is this an explicit claim to deity on Jesus’s part, which explains why the Jews were ready to stone Him in verse 59, this is a claim about God’s mode of existence.
We begin to exist. I began to exist in late 1993 and was born in the summer of 1994. A lot of things could have messed that up or stopped it all together. God, however, has no beginning. He just is by virtue of His own nature. Nothing could mess up His existence or stop it. The implication of John 8.58 is that whereas we have a starting point on the timeline, God explains the timeline. It thus makes no sense to ask where God starts on the timeline just as it makes no sense to ask at what point He began to exist. Without Him, there is no timeline, and there is no existence.
So, who created God? Well, nobody did. God is not the sort of being that depends on anything else. Why do I exist? Because God made me. Why is there a sun? Because God made it. Why does God exist? Because of who He is.
Notes & Sources
 Anselm, Proslogion, trans. Thomas Williams (Indianapolis, IN: Hacket Publishing Company, 2001), 9.
 The fallacy is that the argument doesn’t say that everything has a cause, it says that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Christians would say that God didn’t begin to exist; therefore, He doesn’t need a cause. So, Atheism for Dummies doesn’t actually respond to what Christians believe.