The most profound question we might ask is, “Why does anything exist at all?” Why isn’t there just nothing? How did it all start—going from nothing to something?
Scientists seek to provide an answer with the Big Bang Theory. (As an aside, it makes an interesting statement about our culture that on Google one must wade through eight articles on the TV sitcom by that name to get to one related to origins.)
One website defines that theory as follows:
The Big Bang Theory is the leading explanation about how the universe began. At its simplest, it talks about the universe as we know it starting with a small singularity, then inflating over the next 13.8 billion years to the cosmos that we know today.
This explanation reminds us that even though scientists fill many chalk boards with mathematical equations, we are still left to figure out how that “small singularity” originated. How did it happen that at one moment nothing existed and then a moment later something existed? How did something come out of nothing? In other words, the Big Bang Theory does not resolve the foundational issue but, if it is true, only places it long ago and shrinks it in size. But making the original universe smaller does not resolve the foundational problem—explain how something came out of nothing.
Scripture provides us with an explanation. When Moses asked God to identify Himself so that he could tell the elders of Israel who had sent him, God responded, “I am that I am.” A legitimate and I believe superior translation would be, “I am because I am.” This self-description by God conveys that every other being in the universe, all else that exists, must give a different response—must confess, “I am because God created me.” Only He is self-existent, and consequently only He has always existed.
Some might respond that believing in a God who always existed makes no more sense than believing in a universe that always existed or that came out of nothing. It does, however, make more sense in this regard. The material world into which we are locked demands the existence of time. Atoms necessarily include motion, and motion necessarily requires time. However, because God is a spirit being, He is not locked into a time dimension and therefore is not restricted by its parameters. For that reason the Bible can start with, “In the beginning God…” connoting that at the inception of time God already was existing. Likewise with the assertion of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word….”
Some may not find this explanation satisfactory either, which brings us back to the starting point that something does exist, that is, the universe as we know it, and as explained above, seeing this universe having an origin rooted in a non-temporal, spiritual world makes more sense than any other explanation.
In addition, this is the answer given by the Bible, which shows itself to be valid in many other ways, for example, its prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah and the rebirth of Israel and the power of the gospel to transform individuals and bring sanity and success to societies. These evidences of the validity of Scripture provide us with good reason to believe its pronouncements regarding origins.
Some might also object that Scripture teaches that God made the universe out of nothing, and therefore Christians believe that something came out of nothing, so why not the universe? First, there is a difference between asserting that something just spontaneously came out of nothing and that the God of the universe made that occur. Another response is that the Bible never says that God created something out of nothing. The belief that God created the universe ex nihilo does not comprise a statement of Scripture but an invention of theologians. I believe a more reasonable explanation for creation is that God brought the universe into being through His own life and energy. Einstein gave us the equation, E=mc2, teaching us that energy can be transferred into matter and vice versa. Therefore, it seemed to make a lot of sense that the universe is a product of God’s energy. His person does not reside in that energy, which would result in pantheism, but the universe nonetheless is a product of His power.
One implication of God as a timeless spirit being who eternally existed in the past is found in the distinction between eternity past and eternity future. As explained above, eternity past was characterized by timeless. However, the risen Christ, who is now in heaven and will ultimately be there for all eternity future, made a special point of the fact that He has flesh and bones, that He is still a material being. Therefore, eternity future does not consist of timelessness but infinite time. That distinction has significance in that it separates a Christian approach to history, which is linear, from an Eastern approach which is cyclical. We are not trapped in an endless cycle but moving forward to a magnificent destination.
For me, a practical ramification of this realization that God has always existed is found in its capacity to move me to worship and obedience. Every time I think about a God who eternally existed I find my brain going into overload, and when I think harder about it in an attempt to get my mind around this concept my synapses begin to melt down. I just can’t comprehend a God who always existed, but when confronted with that reality I realize that the only rational response is to worship and obey Him.