It never fails. Offer an argument for God’s existence and almost invariably you will hear, “Well, who created God?” With some arguments this may be a legitimate objection. I have argued elsewhere that philosophical proofs for God’s existence are more powerful than scientific ones. This objection is one instance where I think one can see the advantage of the philosophical arguments. For example, the usual intelligent design arguments do not necessitate that the designer be an infinite, uncreated being. Thus, the objection considered here would be relevant. But it is not relevant for certain philosophical proofs.These proofs argue either from logic or metaphysics that a being exists that is not caused and has no beginning. Arguments like the 5 Ways of Thomas Aquinas and the ontological argument from Anselm are such arguments. Consider the first of the 5 Ways:
The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God. (Summa Theologiae, I. q.2 a3)
The point I am trying to make is not whether the argument is sound, but rather to show that the argument does not allow the objection, “Who created God?” The conclusion of the argument is that there exists a being that is not put into motion (caused) by anything else. So the objection “Who created God” is asking “What caused the uncaused cause?” It’s a nonsensical objection that betrays the objector as either not paying attention to the argument or not understanding it. (For the rest of the 5 Ways, click here.)
The objection is usually offered to the kalam argument which says “Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause.” The objection is often phrased, “If everything has a cause then why doesn’t God?” The attentive reader will note that the argument does not say everything has a cause, but that all things that have a beginning have a cause. In fact, no argument that I have ever heard says that everything needs a cause. Gottfried Leibniz’s argument from the principle of sufficient reason says that everything has to have a sufficient reason for its existence, but a necessary being is its own sufficient reason since a necessary being does not have a cause. In fact, a necessary being cannot have a cause, or it wouldn’t be a necessary being!
God as the uncaused cause does not require a cause and the “Who created God” objection does nothing except betray the objector’s ignorance of the logic of the (philosophical) argument. The next time someone asks you who created God, all that is needed is to ask the question, “Based on the argument I gave, the conclusion is that a being exists that is uncaused and is the cause of all other being. Why would an uncaused cause need a cause? One can argue that the argument is unsound for some reason, but if the argument is sound the objection is irrelevant.”
That is, of course, if you are using the philosophical type of arguments that are not susceptible to the objection. Since the scientific arguments are susceptible to this objection and at least some of the philosophical ones are not, the latter are more powerful and provide a fuller picture of God.
Dr. Brian Huffling’s research interests include: Philosophy of Religion, Philosophical Theology, Philosophical Hermeneutics, and general issues in Apologetics and Biblical studies. See his personal blog here.
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