STUDY TWO: IN THE BEGINNING GOD … THE ETERNAL GOD
© Rosemary Bardsley 2013
The Bible gives a confident and clear affirmation and definition of God that directly challenges and confronts all other definitions. Rather than ‘god’ being a human ideological construct, the bible affirms that humans, and all else that exists, are the creation of an eternal, personal God. We did not create the idea of ‘god’, nor is the god concept a passing phase in any assumed evolutionary process; rather, God created us.
A. BEFORE THE BEGINNING – THE ETERNAL EXISTENCE OF GOD
The Bible begins with the words ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ [Genesis 1:1].
The words ‘in the beginning’ are a reference to the beginning of matter, space and time, the beginning of existence separate from the existence of God. The questions ‘Where did God come from?’ and ‘Who made God?’ are questions that arise from our existence within space and time, and are asked from the perspective of people who know nothing of an existence unlimited and undetermined by matter, space and time. The Bible never addresses these questions. They are fundamentally non-questions, for they are seeking to explain the immeasurable existence of the eternal and infinite God in limited categories of time and finitude. They are seeking to explain the absolute in terms of the relative. They are seeking to explain the totally uncaused and independent from the perspective of the caused and dependent.
That God existed before the beginning of the time-space world is obvious from the Bible. In Genesis 21:33 Abraham calls upon God as El Olam – the eternal (everlasting) God. This eternality of God can be found throughout the Scripture.
Task #1: What do these references teach or infer about the existence and activity of God before the beginning of time and space?
2 Timothy 1:9
1 Peter 1:19-20
Do we really believe this testimony to God’s existence and activity before the beginning? Or, have we succumbed to the pressure of the mentality of our age that dares not look at reality in anything more than a superficial, non-confrontational way? If we don’t believe this – that God was there before the beginning, and that everything else that exists exists because of his decision and his action – then we need to honestly consider the alternatives.
B. WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Francis Schaeffer, in Genesis in space and time, lists what he believes are the only four possibilities for describing the beginning:
‘ Once there was absolutely nothing and now there is something,
 Everything began with an impersonal something,
 Everything began with a personal something, and
 There is and always has been a dualism.’ [p19, Genesis in space and time].
About these four possibilities he concludes:
That no one has ever seriously believed ‘that all that now is has come out of such absolute nothing.’
That the ‘notion of an eternal dualism … has never stood under close analysis’.
That the ‘notion that everything began with an impersonal something, is the consensus of the Western world … it is also the consensus of almost all Eastern thinking.’ Schaeffer points to two fundamental difficulties with the concept of impersonal beginning: the fact that everything that exists has specific form, and the problem of how to explain the personality of man from an impersonal beginning. [Note: the current interest in intelligent design focuses on this aspect of form to which Schaeffer referred several decades earlier.]
That the Judeo-Christian tradition, affirming that everything began with a personal something, the Trinity, is the only option that explains the existence and meaning of love and communication.
Before the beginning of time and space this personal God – eternal and infinite, unlimited by time and space, and indefinable by time and space categories – existed.
J. Sidlow Baxter writes:
‘The most baffling mystery is the eternality of God. It seems impossible for these finite minds of ours to imagine a being who never began, but always was, or rather, eternally is – absolutely unbeginning and never-ending. Yet if we do not believe that, what is the alternative? If God had a beginning, then what or who was before Him? He could not have come from nothing. Yet if someone created Him, where did that earlier creator come from? – and who created him? – and his predecessor? And so we might go further and further back ad infinitum, never solving but only compounding the difficulty.
‘However hard it is to grasp that God never began, it is even more so to believe that He ever did begin. Least credible of all is atheism; for if God is not, where did all other beings come from? Where did the whole stupendous, organized universe of mind and matter come from? The alternative offered by atheism is absurd.
‘Involved in the eternality of God is the infinity of God, and that again is a staggering mystery beyond our comprehension. … [p40, Majesty, the God You Should Know, Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernardino, 1984]
AW Pink [1886-1952] introduced his studies on The Godhood of God with this statement:
'‘The Godhood of God! What is meant by this expression? Ah, sad it is that such a question needs to be asked and answered. And yet it does: for a generation has arisen that is well nigh universally ignorant of the important truth which this term connotes. That which is popular today in the colleges, in the pulpits, and in the press, is the dignity, the power, and the attainments of man. But this is only the corrupt fruit that has issued from the Evolutionary teachings of fifty years ago. When Christian theologians (?) accepted the Darwinian hypothesis, which excluded God from the realm of Creation, it was only to be expected that more and more God would be banished from the realm of human affairs. Thus it has proven. To the twentieth-century mind God is little more than an abstraction, an impersonal “First Cause,” or if a Being at all, One far removed from this world and having little or nothing to do with mundane affairs. Man, forsooth, is a “god” unto himself. He is a “free agent” and therefore the regulator of his own life and the determiner of his own destiny. Such was the Devil’s lie at the beginning—“Ye shall be as God” (Gen. 3:5)’ [From: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/pink/godhood.ii.html ]
C. EXODUS 3:12-15 – ‘I AM’
This eternality and infinity of God is expressed in the name ‘I AM’ by which God identified himself in response to Moses’ question in Exodus 3:12-15.
Moses, an Israelite by birth, and doubtless taught about God by his mother, was also educated and brought up as an Egyptian prince, and doubtless schooled in the polytheistic religion of Egypt. Here at the burning bush he is confronted by the God who had spoken to the ancestors of Israel – Abraham [who called God ‘the eternal God’ – Genesis 21:33], Isaac and Jacob, and had covenanted with them, promising to them a nation and a land, and through them blessing to all the nations of the earth. But this God of their fathers, this covenant God, had been, or so it seemed, silent and inactive for four hundred and thirty years, years during which the plight of the Israelites deteriorated from being honoured in the land of Egypt because of Joseph to a despairing degradation and bondage.
It is not without reason that Moses anticipated the scepticism of the Israelites: ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’
God, in response, said to Moses: ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”’ [Exodus 3:14].
Later, when Moses had returned to Egypt, God said: ‘I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known’ [Exodus 6:3].
[This name is the second most common word used to refer to God in Genesis.]
[Note that in some English translations ‘LORD’ is used to translate ‘Jehovah’ (‘Yahweh’) – ‘I AM’.]
D. GOD – ETERNAL AND EVERLASTING
Most of what we have considered so far in this study has focused on the existence of God before the beginning of time. The eternality and infinity of God transcends time and space not only prior to the existence of time and space but also during and beyond the existence of time and space. It means that God is present at all times and all places. It also includes the constancy and consistency of his character, his Word, his attitude and his actions. What he was yesterday, he is today, and he will still be tomorrow. Because he is eternal and everlasting – outside of and beyond time and space – we can depend on him totally.
Task #2: What actions, attributes or attitudes of God are related to the fact he is eternal or everlasting?