[ I've decided to make this a new category, as the questions are pretty fascinating, and are sometimes deep enough that I need to spend time myself grappling with them before I give Riley an answer! ]
Recently, out of the blue:
“Did God make Himself?”
I kind of hate to admit it, but that was about the end of it at the time. It was a non sequitur as we weren’t talking of God or anything theological at all, and she didn’t really push it at the time. But I “flagged” it (by sending myself an email on my Blackberry) to follow up on.
I was amazed that a 5 year old would ask this question, but after digging around online, I did find at least one other 5 year old has asked a similar question here. I am not crazy about the answer the poster gives to the child, but it really is a hard one to answer at any level that someone that young will comprehend.
I consulted my Systematic Theology book, but found nothing relevant under the nature of God. Maybe I’m not looking up the right words. So I turned to the Internet and used searches like “did God make Himself” and “Where did God come from.”
I found answers like the following from this page:
The question is tricky because it sneaks in the false assumption that God came from somewhere and then asks where that might be. The answer is that the question does not even make sense. It is like asking, “What does blue smell like?” Blue is not in the category of things that have odor, so the question itself is flawed. In the same way, God is not in the category of things that are created, or come into existence, or are caused. God is uncaused and uncreated – He simply exists.
How do we know this? Well, we know that from nothing, nothing comes. So if there was ever a time when there was absolutely nothing in existence then nothing would have ever come to exist. But things do exist. Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had to have always been existing. That ever-existing thing is what we call God.
I’m not exactly crazy about that answer, though, which is just a variation of the cosmological argument, and in my mind leaves something to be desired.
The simple answer for a 5 year old is that “God has always existed,” and that seems to be the sentiment of most Christian Theologins as well. The following answer from this page is the best answer I found:
We can only partially comprehend the notion of God’s existence. To do so, we must use human concepts to speak of God: “without beginning or end”; “eternal”; “infinite”, etc. The Bible says that He has always existed: ” . . . even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). And, “Your throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting” (Psalm 93:2). Quite simply, God has no beginning and no end. So, where did God come from? He didn’t. He always was.
To us, the notion of time is linear. One second follows the next, one minute is after another. We get older, not younger and we cannot repeat the minutes that have passed us by. We have all seen the time lines on charts: early time is on the left and later time is on the right. We see nations, people’s lives, and plans mapped out on straight lines from left to right. We see a beginning and an end. But God is “beyond the chart.” He has no beginning or end. He simply has always been.
Also, physics has shown that time is a property that is the result of the existence of matter. Time exists when matter exists. Time has even been called the fourth dimension. But God is not matter. In fact, God created matter. He created the universe. So, time began when God created the universe. Before that, God was simply existing and time had no meaning (except conceptually), no relation to Him. Therefore, to ask where God came from is to ask a question that cannot really be applied to God in the first place. Because time has no meaning with God in relation to who He is, eternity is also not something that can be absolutely related to God. God is even beyond eternity.
Eternity is a term that we finite creatures use to express the concept of something that has no end — and/or no beginning. Since God has no beginning or end, He has no beginning. This is because He is outside of time.
And I don’t have a problem with that. It is the same feeling I have towards the Trinity (and other deep issues)… There are certain things that we can not understand with our limited human minds. If I could box up God and put him on a shelf and fully understand him, where would I need faith, or where would the dependence come from? I want a God that is bigger than me and my understanding.
Now, try explaining that to a 5 year old!