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Who made God? or how long is a piece of string?

December 2007 | by Edgar Andrews

Who made God? or how long is a piece of string?

A question that is asked repeatedly by both Richard Dawkins and your average five-year-old probably deserves a reply. But whether asked gleefully by an atheist intellectual or innocently by a child, the only possible answer is, ‘nobody’.

There is more to the question than meets the eye, of course. It arises from the Bible’s claim that ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1). Mankind has been trying to escape the implications of that statement ever since it was written.

Why? Because if we do have a creator who ‘created man in his own image’ and gave him ‘dominion over … all the earth’, then there’s a pretty good chance that we are accountable to him for the way we exercise that stewardship – both as a race and as individual human beings (Genesis 1:26-27). And that makes people most uncomfortable.

So they tell us there is no creator because we have simply evolved from primeval matter by natural process and the laws of chance. Bingo! God is dead – or at best pensioned off. No God means no responsibility, so we can live as we like. It’s the greatest escape route ever devised.

The problem

But God refuses to go quietly. So atheists have gone on the attack in recent months and their favourite question is, ‘If God made everything, who made God?’ Because it is essentially unanswerable, they claim, it puts an end to all argument.

They don’t seem to realise that it’s not always clever to ask an unanswerable question! The question may have no answer because it is itself nonsensical. ‘How long is a piece of string?’ is a question without an answer but the fault lies not with the one questioned but with the question itself.

So it is with the question, ‘Who made God?’ If by definition God is (as the Bible claims) the maker of all things and is self-existent – having neither beginning nor end – then to ask who made him is a nonsense question. We can forgive a five-year-old for the lapse in logic but an Oxford don should know better!

However, that doesn’t mean there are no legitimate questions about God. For example, ‘Does God exist?’ is not a nonsense question, so we’ll take a look at it.

The aim of science

Many, like myself, know that God exists because they have a personal relationship with him through faith in Jesus Christ. But I want to address those who have no such certainty. Are there any logical or rational pointers to the existence of God?

To answer this question, let us do what science often does – put forward a hypothesis and see if it helps make sense of the world around us. Incidentally, the word ‘hypothesis’ means ‘foundation’ – a basic concept on which to build. It is not something flimsy but the very opposite.

Let us begin with science. One of the basic aims of science is to unify our understanding of the physical world – to reduce a multitude of different and even conflicting observations to a few basic principles.

String theory

In recent years, physicists have become almost obsessive about unifying the various forces observed in nature. There are four basic kinds of force – gravity; electromagnetic force; the strong force (which holds atomic nuclei together); and the weak force (which causes radioactivity). For decades these four fundamental forces have defied all attempts to bring them together in a single theory.

But that is changing. The current focus of interest is something called ‘string theory’ which is exciting enormous interest among scientists. Now string theory is still unproven – it is still a hypothesis – but it may offer physicists the holy grail of ‘a theory of everything’, uniting the forces of nature and describing exactly how the universe works.

According to string theory, all the fundamental particles that make up our universe – atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons etc., and even ‘gravitons’ that are supposed to carry the force of gravity – are actually minute ‘strings’.

Just as a violin string can vibrate in different modes to produce different musical pitches, so the minute strings vibrate in different ways to manifest themselves as different fundamental particles. On this assumption, the theory claims, we can explain all the fundamental particles of nature and the way they interact.

So, how long is a piece of string?

Fine, but there are some snags. Firstly, the hypothetical strings are so short that they are billions of times smaller than an atom. Secondly, for the theory to work, these itsy-bitsy strings must exist not in three dimensions of space but in nine or ten dimensions (take your pick). Where are all these extra space dimensions? Curled up like tiny balls of wool, far too small for anyone to notice!

Remember this is Christmas, not April 1st. String theory is not a practical joke. Hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists worldwide are even now researching this hypothesis at the cost of millions of dollars annually. Why?

Because, incredible as the theory may seem, it could turn out to be a ‘theory of everything’ – unifying the behaviour of sub-atomic particles and immense galaxies. To gain such a breathtaking perspective, brilliant scientists are willing to suspend judgement and believe in impossibly tiny strings vibrating in invisibly crumpled dimensions.

The believability of God

What, then, if we advance ‘the hypothesis of God’? Let us assume that God exists and see where it leads – following exactly the example of the string theorists.

Like them, we have to take on board certain things that run counter to ‘common sense’. We have to suppose that God is so great that he controls every detail of the entire universe. We have to accept that there are unseen spiritual dimensions, outside of time and space, that are nevertheless real and powerfully influential.

Furthermore, just as the unseeable things of string theory impact directly on the ‘real world’ of sense, so the unseen spiritual realm which God inhabits controls the world of sense and human experience.

But having taken these things on board, what a gloriously unified vista opens up before us! The incredible beauty and design of the natural world is explained – it is the design of an all-wise creator. The biological uniqueness of man is explained – we are made in the image of God.

The laws of nature are explained – these rational, comprehensible, and mathematically elegant laws that govern the physical universe are the utterances of one who ‘upholds all things by the word of his power’ (Hebrews 1:3).

Religion, morality and conscience are explained – they reflect the existence of this unseen God, together with his nature as a righteous and holy being who requires man’s moral obedience.
The existence of sin and suffering are explained – men have rebelled against their Maker and brought his righteous judgement on their world and on themselves.

The Son of God

Above all, the amazing person, work and teaching of Jesus Christ is explained – he really is the Son of God who came into the world to save rebel sinners from the consequences of their sin.

We could continue. But does this not suffice to demonstrate the power of ‘the hypothesis of God’ to unify our understanding of the world and of our own place in it? Is it any less rational than string theory? Is it not just as ‘scientific’ in its method of approach?

And does it not make sense of our experience as frail human beings who nevertheless hope for heaven? And should it not encourage us to ‘seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near’ (Isaiah 55:6)?