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Did God create time?

When preaching the Gospel to people of other religions, it is important to make clear that the God we worship is the ultimate being. God is the sole source of all things, He is uniquely worthy of worship, and the fundamental sin of humanity is that we put other things before God. If we don’t make this clear, there is a danger that people of other religions will add God to their pantheon, as today’s feedback illustrates.

Emily H. from the United States wrote:

OK, I have a question on how to deal with one of my friends. He believes something that doesn't even make sense. He is from India and says his religion is Jainism, but he believes in all gods from all over the world, and that there is a super power that we humans just don't know the real name of that created everything in the universe and believes that we just came up with different names for him (remember, he is from India and they have a multitude of false gods). He also believes that time is a god and that it created God. I tried to tell him that God created everything, and quoted several verses saying how God created all things, but he said that because it didn't specifically say God created time, he can't believe it. I have also tried to tell him that God always was. There was no beginning for God. He came back with “if God always was, then why couldn't time be there?” I don't know what to tell him. Do you have any pointers or verses that I can give him?

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

It looks like your Jain friend doesn't want to accept the biblical idea of God as transcendent. You were absolutely right to point your friend to passages that say that God made everything (e.g. Genesis 1:1; Exodus 20:8–11; Ecclesiastes 11:5; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17). But there is more to the story. For instance, the Bible also teaches that God needs nothing outside of himself (see e.g. 1 Chronicles 29:14–16, Acts 17:24–28, and Romans 11:33–36), that God is eternal (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 1:10–12, 9:14), and that God is unique in these ways (Deuteronomy 4:32–40; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Chronicles 16:26). These verses are of course only a small selection; these ideas are found all throughout the Bible. When we put all this together, it should be clear that your friend can’t assert that the Bible makes God a creation of time; He is supreme over all things, which includes time.

Nonetheless, there are even verses that may explicitly say that God created time (Hebrews 1:2, 11:3), which literally say that “the ages” were made through Christ. However, some commentators say that these uses may just be a roundabout way of saying that everything was made through Christ. However, the author’s use of the same word in Hebrews 6:5, 9:26 to refer to periods of time suggests that while Hebrews 1:2 and 11:3 are referring to the creation of all things, they place emphasis on the temporal nature of all things.

Now, this doesn't mean that your friend will accept that what the Bible teaches is true. The first step is just to get him to see that the Bible does not agree with his philosophy. This is extremely important to establish with any adherent of Indian religions like Jainism because they will tend to subsume any new ‘god’ into their polytheistic/pantheistic system, which is what he seems to be doing by saying that God was created by time. As such, we need to defend the idea that God alone is the ultimate reality and the sole originator of everything else. In other words, they need to see that they can’t simply subsume the Living God into their system because He claims to transcend everything else that exists (or could exist!) so that worshipping anything else but Him is the fundamental sin—the greatest commandment (Deuteronomy 6:4–5) and first two commandments of the Ten (Exodus 20:2–6) are incredibly important for adherents of Indian religions to grasp.

What of his response, "if God always was, then why couldn't time be there"? Well, where’s his evidence that such notions are even possible, let alone likely? And what he means is not even clear! How can ‘time’ create something? What does he think time is? And what evidence does he have to suggest that his conception of time and God are accurate? At the moment, he’s making claims, and you’re on the defensive. You need to make sure that this dialogue is not a one way street of him asking questions and you giving answers. He has claims that he needs to make a case for. So press him on his claims; make him substantiate the value of his objections, and make him provide a case for his views. Remember that you have positive reasons to believe the biblical description of God is accurate; Jesus endorsed the Bible, and His teaching was vindicated when He was raised from the dead. You won’t find such solid evidential grounding in Jainism, or any ideology other than Christianity.

Published: 9 January 2016

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Christianity for Skeptics
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