Q. My four-year-old son has asked me “who made God?” How do I answer him?
A: Thanks for your son’s excellent question which reminds me that 2,200 years ago the Chinese philosopher Mencius said: “The great man is he who does not lose his child-like heart.”
The direct answer is to your child’s question is: No one made God. However, I would not necessarily respond to my child that way. I might say–and I am just finger painting here, not working on the elaborate oil canvas that such a universal discussion really deserves–the same thing that made us, made God.
This may seem like circular reasoning, but remember to whom we are talking. If lovingly and attentively offered, this answer will be understood far more by the child than by either you or me! Let’s not underestimate the natural spirituality and wisdom of children.
But the question–Who created the Creator?–is intriguing and one of the principle questions the Buddha asked before he became enlightened. Buddhism continues to explore and debate it today. In Buddhist thought, everything has a cause. Karmic causation–the Law of Cause and Effect–creates all. Buddhism takes an agnostic stance on the existence of any creator or ultimate deity. (However, Buddha was an agnostic, not an atheist, as the Pope mistakenly writes in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” That’s an important difference.)
Judeo-Christian scripture tells us that God created everything, and that nothing comes before God. That is all well and good. But let us reflect for a moment on the nature of God, and what scripture actually says, and see if we can’t get closer to what it might mean for us today.
The first line of the Gospel according to John in the New Testament says, “In the beginning was the Word.” In the original Greek language, it was: “In the beginning was the logos.” It doesn’t say God. So what does this passage refer to? In the beginning was WHAT? Logos can mean word, verb, law, fundamental principle, energy, and so forth.
Contemporary rabbis such as David Cooper tell me that God is a verb: “God is not what we think It is. God is not a thing, a being, a noun. It does not exist, as existence is defined, for It takes up no space and is not bound by time.” God is seen by mystical Kabbalists, like my friend David, as a process, an endlessly radiating and interactive manifesting, rather than an entity that once upon a time begat all things. This is not contradictory to Buddhist thought, although I must say that Buddhist philosophy makes a subtle distinction between the kind of monism that such mystical theists profess and the radical nondualism that the Buddhist Middle Way represents. So, perhaps we should ask ourselves: What is the most fundamental, primordial, and underlying substratum of our existence right here and now–the very bedrock of reality? Let’s try to inquire so deeply, honestly and persistently, and with an intense passion for truth that we contact and connect with THAT. For if it is everywhere and eternal, as Western Scriptures say, it must be also here, now. In this way we are drawn closer to the mystery of creation.