Every once in a while, someone will try to tell me that the idea of an eternal being, who has neither a beginning, nor an end, is absurd. How can something exist that has no beginning, let alone that cannot be destroyed or end? The logic to support this is something like: “Everything that exists must have some cause; so if God exists, God must have a cause.”
This is a simplification of an age old, standard, logical argument of the fallacy of “The First Cause.” The logic of theists (those who believe in a divine being) is that everything is the result of something that caused it–even people, life, animals, creation. If we trace that line back through time and space, we eventually end up at God, who is the First Cause that caused all of the other causes that have produced everything that ever was and is and will be. This is logical. Everything has a cause, so if we trace all the causes back, we find God.
The argument against this, however, is just as logical and just as simple. If everything does have a cause, and if we trace all the causes back to God, then why do we stop there? Certainly God must have a cause as well. So there can be no “First Cause” because the very structure of the argument denies there can be a first cause because EVERYTHING must have a cause, even God. The fact that we stop the process at God says more about who we are then it does about reality.
The problem, for me, with the denial of the First Cause, is Energy. The First Law of Thermodynamics states clearly that energy cannot be created or destroyed. This is another way of saying that Energy is eternal–it has no beginning and no end, but just is, and always was, and always will be.
I don’t think anyone will deny that energy exists; yet, energy has no cause–it cannot be created. So something CAN exist without being CAUSED because energy cannot be created.
This means that an eternal God is not merely some fanciful hope of “deluded” or “weak” or “backward” or “faithful” or any other qualification of people, but is a potential, scientific fact. (I have to use the term “potential” because even though God’s eternal existence meets the logical criterion of the First Law of Thermodynamics, God as God exists does not appear to be observable in an objective way, neither is God able to be tested or reproduced in any objective manner. Therefore, the “fact” of God is a potential fact and not an objective fact.)
God, as a potential fact, is a spiritual being. Most would conclude that “spirit” is energy; therefore, God is a spiritual being, so God is a being made of energy (technically so are we because matter, the way I understand it, is energy as well). Therefore, if God is spirit, and spirit is energy, and energy cannot be created, nor destroyed, then God exists, with no cause, and no end.
So the idea of an eternal God is neither unscientific, nor is it absurd. It is in keeping with a Law of physics–the First Law of Thermodynamics. So the question does not seem to be “Does God exist?” as much as the question should be “What can we know about this God that science points to?” Because science does point to the existence of a Creator–DNA is a code and linguistic science has proven that codes do not spontaneously exist, but must have an encoder; the world is teaming with life, and science has demonstrated that life does not spontaneously occur, but is the product of something else preceding that life which is also alive; Thermodynamics declares that energy is eternal, and everyone asserts that God is a spiritual being, which means that God is energy. So science points to the potential fact of God’s existence.
So we can know that God exists, and has always existed, and will always exist. We can know that God is Creator and the author of all life. We can know that God is the Encoder who programs all life with DNA. Science can teach us something about God–God exists. But neither science, nor observation, nor creation, nor DNA, can tell us who that God is, what that God is like, what character this God has, whether God is a “personal” being, or an “impersonal” force. Only God can make that part clear to us.
To me, the debate is not a matter of God’s existence, but a matter of God’s character. I don’t think the terms used in the debate should be atheist and theist, but more along the lines of “personalist” or “impersonalist.” Is the potential fact of God a personal, conscious, self-aware being who interacts with creation, or is the potential fact of God an impersonal, non-conscious, unaware, force of creation, that interacts with creation through the various processes of creation, but who has no will or interest?
The irony is that God is probably both at the same time. There is always a part of God that is unavailable and unknowable. A God who is transcendent is a God who is beyond–beyond creation, beyond understanding–and the only authentic way to talk about such a being is in metaphor and paradox.
So in my mind, the atheist is correct (because he is on one side of the paradox) and the theist is equally correct (because he is on the other side of the paradox). God is not a case of “either, or” but of “both, and.”