Welcome to Theological Thursday. I don’t want these articles to be longer than necessary so I’ll bypass the unnecessary introduction and jump right into some theology. The topic for this theological Thursday is as follows: Why did God create the universe?
I think this is a fitting and unique question for a Christian to ask. I say that because it focuses on a perspective that is often omitted in debates or discussions dealing with the Bible’s creation account among Christians. That’s because often the question begins with ‘how’ or ‘when’ did God create the universe. I’m not suggesting those questions lack value. They are important questions that need to be explored with great diligence. However, today I’m going to take the road less traveled and hope that it makes a difference in the end. So, here we go. Why did God create the universe?
Let me attempt to answer that by taking a few necessary steps for clarity. First, let’s consider who created the universe. Yes, I know that every individual reading this blog instantly knows the answer to that question. However, let’s briefly explore how the Bible answers. Genesis 1:1, the opening words of the Bible declare this, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’ I bring this up because I think sometimes Christians can get so wrapped up in trying to figure out the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ questions that we forget to marvel at the tremendous truth that is declared from the very opening words of the Bible. This truth is that, without reservation or hesitation, the Bible boldly, loudly, and emphatically declares that ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.’
I realize you more than likely have read that verse many times during your life. Don’t let your familiarity keep you from marveling. I say that because there are some implied truths here that, if you contemplate them enough, simply baffle the human mind. Consider for example what this very short introductory sentence to the Bible declares about God. It explicitly confesses that He is the Creator of every atom that exists, and it also reveals to us the truth of God’s eternal nature. How so? We need to observe that Genesis 1:1 reveals that ‘In the beginning’ to refer us back to that very starting point of time as our finite human minds are able to understand it. However the following words, ‘God created’ teach us that prior to this beginning of time, God existed. This leads to an inescapable truth: God is an uncreated being who has forever existed. That probably isn’t a novel idea for you. I remember as a small child being taught this implied truth in Sunday school. God is an uncreated being. He is eternal. Before the beginning, He was. But don’t let familiarity shield you from glory. This is a mind-blowing truth regardless of our age. The God whom the Bible introduces us to in its opening verse declares that He is an Uncreated God who began the beginning by creating all things in existence.
Now the second step I want to take in giving an answer to this theological Thursday topic is to take that mind-baffling truth one step further and ask the question that has often been considered ‘taboo.’ What was God doing before He created the Universe?
I think this is actually a foundational question worth asking because how we understand the answer will help us to understand why God decided to create. Consider the following as an example. If we assume that God was sitting in a space of nothing longing for fellowship with other beings that would lead us to conclude that God created the universe out of having a need, which in this example would be a need for human beings so that He could have fellowship. Now let me stop using that example because it’s a really bad example and hopefully you were not taught that. It’s a bad example because it’s simply the wrong answer. The Bible is quite clear when speaking from the narrative in Acts 17:24-25 that God has no need outside of Himself.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.”
The theological term often used to communicate this idea is the phrase that ‘God is self-existent’ or the term God’s Aseity. I felt I should point these things out because it’s okay to ask questions, but I believe it’s important to ask the right questions. So, let’s ask the same question using the ideas that the Bible uses to describe God. What was the Uncreated God, who has no needs outside of Himself, doing before He created the Universe?
That is a deep question that causes my mind to hurt. Thankfully Jesus gives us, what I believe, to be the answer to that difficult question in John 17:24…
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Here’s what I understand that verse to mean. Before the creation of the heavens and earth God was loving Jesus. This brings a crucial doctrine of Scripture to the forefront of our minds, or at least it should. That is the doctrine of The Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. What I am suggesting is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have for all eternity been enjoying infinitely perfect love and joyful fellowship among each other. Here’s a quote from the well-known C. S. Lewis that I think will help here…
“All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that ‘God is love’. But they seem not to notice that the words ‘God is love’ have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love. Of course, what these people mean when they say that God is love is often something quite different: they really mean ‘Love is God’. They really mean that our feelings of love, however, and wherever they arise, and whatever results they produce, are to be treated with great respect. Perhaps they are: but that is something quite different from what Christians mean by the statement ‘God is love’. They believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else. And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.” (Lewis, 21-22)
Okay, here’s what we have thus far. The Uncreated God who has no need, and who has been delighting for all eternity in Himself in the perfect fellowship enjoyed among The Holy Trinity, made an independent free decision to create the heavens and the earth. Now here’s the really big question we are wrestling with today. Why?
I think a solid answer based upon what we have discussed in the previous paragraphs is what follows. God, apart from any obligation, freely decided to create so that He could share the infinite goodness of Himself with beings whom He created. Which is equal to saying that God created the universe for His glory. Wayne Grudem explains it this way when speaking on the purpose of humanity…
“Our purpose must be to fulfill the reason that God has created us: to glorify Him. When we are speaking with respect to God Himself, that is a good summary of our purpose. But when we think of our own interests, we make the happy discovery that we are to enjoy God and take delight in Him and in our relationship to Him.” (Grudem, 440-441)
Here’s my best attempt at giving an answer to the question, “Why did God create the Universe?” God freely decided to share the infinite goodness and joy that He has enjoyed within Himself (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) forever with beings He created in order to glorify Himself. What that means is that when we realize fellowship with Triune God of the Bible is our greatest delight in this world, and also our greatest need, we suddenly realize that the purpose of our existence is also the reason for our existence to glorify, enjoy, and delight in our infinitely good God forever.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rdEdition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013.
Fuller, Daniel P., The Unity of the Bible: Unfolding God’s Plan for Humanity. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992.