Saturday Sermon: God existed before time, space began
Recently, a series aired on cable about the structure and origins of the universe - the Big Bang and all that. The episodes featured were largely the work of Stephen Hawking.
One segment questioned whether God exists. Most of the show seemed angled to denying him. What struck me was how limited and shallow the viewpoint of the show was. It seemed to argue only against a god who existed within the universe, who was himself bound by space and time, who was just another being like us only bigger and more powerful.
The final argument presented at the end of the show, apparently intended to be the knock-out punch for God's supposed existence, was that time did not exist before the Big Bang, therefore God couldn't exist because there was no time for him to exist in. The conclusion is that it is more "rational" to think that the Big Bang and the universe simply came from nothing. There was nothing, and then there was everything.
The program's mistake is assuming that Christians believe in a being who exists within the universe and its constraints. The God that Christians (and Jews, as well) worship is not one limited by the physics of this universe. As creator, he is outside and beyond space and time. He is beyond any concepts that we can conceive in our limited brains.
Some 1,400 years ago St. John of Damascus wrote, "God does not belong to the class of existing things: not that he has no existence, but that he is above all existing things, nay even above existence itself." St. Gregory Palamas, writing eight centuries ago, said, "For if God be nature, then all else is not nature, and likewise he is not being if that which is not God is being."
If "god" is confined by matter or space or time, then he is not God. If space and time limited him, then they, too, would be gods. The God of Christians has always been the transcendent one, the one beyond everything.
We cannot analyze and define the creator as we do things in his creation. We cannot wrap our simple human minds around God. We cannot understand him; we know him only because he reveals himself to us. We can only experience him: as love beyond anything we call love, as righteousness beyond anything we can define as good, as peace "which surpasses all understanding."
We humans are bound by space and time and the capacity of our intelligence to understand and deal with these things. God is not bound in the physical world, but reveals himself in and through it. As creator, he reveals himself in the majesty and beauty of the world he created and in the love and joy of the redeemed human heart. God transcends his creation, and certainly lived before time and space began. And indeed, since he is the creator of time and space, in him all things "live and move and have their being."
The Rev. Dimitri Cozby is the pastor of All Saints Orthodox Church, Victoria.