This essay aims to apply theoretical philosophy to examine this question with physical concepts in mind.
Where Was God Before the Beginning?
Many religions suggest that there is a creator of life and the universe. This article is not meant to argue with beliefs, but to discuss alternative views of physical concepts applied to philosophical theology.
If God is not a physical being, He is not limited to the laws of physics or restricted by time. But where was He before the beginning?
To make sense of this, I’ll discuss the following concepts:
- Studying the theory of time and how God might have used it to His advantage,
- Considering if the Big Bang was not indeed the start of the universe,
- Pondering if a more complex entity was needed to create God,
- And examining if gravity caused creation or if God created gravity to let everything fall into place.
Everything I’ll discuss can be disputed. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and belief. It’s not my point to change that. I'm just giving you something else to consider.
What Is the Origin of God?
According to Genesis 1.1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” But who created God? From where did He originate?
Various religions have different solutions, such as claiming that gods beget other gods. Christianity simply claims that God has always existed.
If God was always around, then I wonder, "What was God doing before the beginning?"
A better question is, "What was the beginning?"
If one describes the beginning as the period between the existence of nothing and everything, then where was God during the existence of nothing?
If He, Himself, was non-existent, then from where did He originate? More importantly, when did He come into being?
Before the beginning?
That's impossible because the definition of “beginning” implies that nothing existed before that time.
After the beginning?
That can't be correct either, because we're saying that He created the heavens and the Earth in the beginning. Therefore, He had to be there already.
What other option is there?
The only option left is to say that He came into being at the same instant that the universe began. That should satisfy our inquiring minds.
But wait a minute. God created the heavens and the Earth. Doesn’t that mean that He created the universe? So I’m having a problem conceiving of the instant of time that separates nothing from everything.
What happened at that moment? How long did that “moment” last? To answer that question, we need to consider the limitations of time. Time may have boundaries. Time is restricted to being between a beginning and an end. Or is it?
Did God Create Time?
St. Augustine, a theologian in the 4th century, gave a lot of thought to where God may have been before creating the universe. He considered the idea that if God did indeed exist, he created time.
But if that were so, without time, there was no “before” in the period before the Big Bang. So there would have been no place where God could have existed.
Even Albert Einstein came to a similar conclusion. According to his theory of relativity, time slows down with increased mass. If the mass of the entire universe existed in a space that is smaller than a subatomic particle, as scientists describe it before the Big Bang, then time would have effectively been at a standstill.1
Without the passage of time, God would have had an eternity to do His creative work! However, that still leaves me wondering where He was. It contradicts the reasoning I just described.
Repeated Attempts at Creation
God might have been busy creating numerous complex scenarios to observe and discover which works best.
Our state of “existence” might have many alternate realities that simultaneously occur. Each reality may be following different paths. There may even be an infinite number of realities.
Even if God created many versions of the universe, it remains questionable what is beyond all that. And if God created any universe, wouldn't it have required a more superior entity to have created God? Is there a Super-God out there?
Aristotle argued a cause-and-effect theory. There must be a reality that caused God to exist. For that matter, that implies an infinite number of causes, and a reality beyond our reckoning. So even a Super-God would have had to be created by some greater power to cause that existence.2
What's Beyond Our Universe?
So what's outside the universe? We tend to think of the universe as “everything.” As it keeps expanding, its boundaries separate it from everything that’s beyond.
Oops! Did you catch that? Isn't what I just said a contradiction in terms?
If I claim that there is something beyond the universe, then that which is within the universe cannot be everything. Can it?
As thinking human beings with our limited vision, we need to have a frame of reference. But that limits our ability to comprehend reality. Scientists once believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Then it was thought that the Milky Way represented the entire universe.
As technology provides a means to look farther into space, we acquire a better understanding of what's out there. But we will forever have a limited frame of reference, which is unfortunate.
We can't think outside the box as long as we are in it. We can only guess, and speculate, and dream up our thoughts and ideas. Even Einstein realized the limitations of our comprehension:
"I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."
— Albert Einstein3
The Universe Might Be Oscillating
I talked earlier about the idea that God created time after completing His work on the universe. I also discussed how He might have tried repeated attempts at creation until He got it right.
There is another way to consider this, however. That time might have always existed and merely repeats, causing the universe to oscillate between existence and non-existence. Therefore, the Big Bang would not have been the beginning but repeated until a working universe was created.
Big Bang > Expansion > Contraction > Black Hole > Then Big Bang Again
We know that the universe has been expanding ever since the last big bang. That expansion is measurable with present technology.
Eventually, the gravitational pull of all the galaxies will overpower the expansion (based on the law of diminishing returns), and the universe will start falling in on itself again. Finally, it contracts into a black hole, which ultimately will explode as another big bang.
Did God Create Gravity?
The force of gravitational attraction is proportional to the mass of the objects. However, if there are no objects before creation, gravity wouldn’t exist. So what came first?
We take the law of gravity for granted. We usually don't think about it, but the laws of physics are based on the natural laws of gravity—keeping our world and everything in it, in its place.
I tend to take things a step further in my thoughts. That brings me to imagine what went on in God's mind. Was gravity something that He realized was necessary to hold the universe together in a non-chaotic condition? Or was it just a fluke that occurred when He put all the pieces together?
Gravity Holds Everything in the Universe Together
Gravity is a force. We might say it's a force of nature—or a law of physics. Or did God decide it was required so all His creations would stay together in a precise universe?
After all, the law of gravity is precise. It can be measured and mathematically replicated in computer simulations.
Gravity is not the only force of attraction. Magnetism can also be a force that attracts objects.
How Is Magnetism and Gravity Different?
Magnetism can pull two objects together, just as gravity does, but it can also repel with the same amount of force.
- Magnetism is polarized. North and South poles will attract one another. But it will repel when the poles are the same (North to North or South to South).
- Gravity is not polarized. It will never repel. It just attracts. Any two objects in the universe will attract one another.
The Force of Gravity Works Both Ways
You may not realize it, but you are drawing the Earth up towards you just as the Earth is pulling you down. The force of gravitational attraction is proportional to the mass of the objects. So the gravitational force of the Earth on you is much stronger than the tiny gravity you are exerting on objects around you.
You know that the planets of our solar system remain in orbit because of the Sun’s gravity. The same is true with moons revolving around their parent planets, such as our Moon around the Earth.
The gravitational effect of the Earth keeps pulling at the Moon. For that matter, the Moon’s gravity is also affecting the Earth. That's what causes the tides, the Moon pulls the water, and we have high tides when the Moon is overhead at any location on the planet.
When the Sun and the Moon are on the same side of the Earth (as is the case during a New Moon), or on opposite sides (a Full Moon), then the combined gravitational force creates extra high tides, and we call that "Spring Tides."
That has nothing to do with the spring season. We call it spring tides because they are 20% higher than usual.
Imagine How Things Would Be If We Didn't Have Gravity!
- If there were no gravity, drinking a glass of water would be impossible. The water wouldn't stay in the glass. It would just float out into space.
- When you brush your teeth and gargle, the mouthwash will float out of your mouth. Messy!
- When you come home and drop your keys on the table, they float away. (Maybe that's why you can’t find your keys).
- You hang a picture on the wall, but it doesn't stay put. Without gravity, it just floats off the nail.
- You sit in a chair reading this article on your laptop or tablet, but you don't feel the pull of gravity holding you down, and you end up floating out of the chair. (Don’t you just hate it when that happens?)
Okay, enough of the examples. You get the idea.
The Earth Has Both a Magnetic Field and a Gravitational Field
In addition to gravity making our way of life possible, the Earth protects life with its magnetic field.
The magnetic field is due to the fact that we have a solid metal core inside a liquid outer core.4
The dynamics of our metallic inner core creates a magnetic field as the Earth rotates, which produces a protective magnetic flux around the entire planet that diverts cosmic particles toward the poles, away from inhabited locations. That is what causes the Aurora Borealis.
If it weren’t for this protective attribute, the Earth would not be able to support life because the cosmic radiation from the Sun would kill any living organism.
What if Gravity Were Polarized?
Imagine if God had created the gravitational fields to function similarly to an electromagnetic energizer that was polarized.
Imagine that all He had to do were to throw the switch and reverse the polarity. Then everything in the universe, everything as we know it, everything in the heavens and the Earth, would immediately repel and quickly separate.
Everything we know and love would move away from us as quickly as we can blink an eye.
But that can't happen. Gravity can't be reversed. Gravity is not a polarized entity. It has a powerful disposition that is part of our lives and is inherent in the very soul of our existence.
Is Creation the Result of Gravity?
Did gravity cause creation, or did God create gravity and let everything else fall into place?
Gravity pulls everything together. The force of gravitational attraction is proportional to the mass of the objects. However, if there were no objects before creation, gravity wouldn’t have existed.
What Did Stephen Hawking Think About Gravity?
Stephen Hawking lived from Jan 08, 1942, until Mar 14, 2018, and as a theoretical physicist, he wondered how gravity came to exist. He wrote about it in his book “The Grand Design,” co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, an American physicist.5
Here is a quote from his book:
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
— Stephen Hawking
Note that Hawking did not deny the existence of God. The way I see it, he merely was saying that gravity is responsible for the creation of the universe. When considering everything discussed, that makes the most sense.
There is a lot to be considered to understand our existence. Studying the physical laws of the universe only helps us begin to visualize obscure details of the unknown.
We humans have the intelligence to analyze our world and learn a lot about the laws of physics and how the universe works. However, the balance of our understanding is solely based on theory and interpretation.
We feel a need to know where we came from, as well as how and why we got here. But unfortunately, this knowledge is one that we may never acquire.
- Robert Lamb, (May 12 2010). "What existed before the big bang?" HowStuffWorks
- Kenneth Samples. (October 1, 2007). “If God Created All Things, Then Who Created God?” - reasons.org
- Walter Isaacson (May 13, 2008). "Einstein: His Life and Universe." Simon and Schuster Reprint Edition. ISBN: 978-0743264747
- News Staff. (December 17th 2010). "First Measurement Of Magnetic Field Inside Earth's Core." Science20.com
- Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. (January 1, 2012). “The Grand Design.” Publisher: Bantam; Illustrated edition. ISBN: 978-0553384666
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Glenn Stok
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 03, 2020:
Daniel Johnson - I see you put a lot of thought into this. As for your question, did God create time?, I discussed that very topic under that subtitle. If you missed it, scroll back up and look for it in this article.
I wrote another essay where I made reference to your thought about animals being aware of time. Looks like you and I think alike. The title is, "Does Time Exist or Is It an Illusion in Our Minds?" You can find it here: https://owlcation.com/stem/is-time-an-illusion
Daniel Johnson on July 03, 2020:
I love it! I find it to be far more powerful to ask the questions than to answer them. Facts and certainties do little to expand the mind, and spark the imagination. Thank you very much for your article, and these comments are wonderful. I agree that we can only attempt to understand God from a human perspective, and therefore barely scratch the surface. Always it seems, the moment I begin to discuss God, that’s the moment God leaves the conversation, lol.
I guess I have another question to ponder....
Did God create time, or is time simply a human construct? Do other living beings on this rock have a concept of time? When I run to the store to grab some dinner and return 10 minutes later, does my dog know I was only gone 10 minutes? What if time is simply OUR way of attempting to understand and give structure to the mystery of birth, life and death?
“...the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” -Albert Einstein-
Perhaps God exists in a realm that is beyond time, simultaneously before the beginning and after the end, where past present and future are one, and time is fluid.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on February 07, 2020:
Richard Parr - I agree that it’s impossible to attempt to unravel the mysteries of a realm beyond our comprehension. You made a good point there.
I used the same analogy in another article, of a two-dimensional being, failing to be aware of anything in a three-dimensional world. It’s not only beyond comprehension, but it’s unobservable.
I found that the video you posted quite interesting. The crucial thing the speaker mentioned is that we can’t trust our own reasoning process. I always question everything, including my own philosophical ideas.
The truth is that we know very little about the existence of the universe and of life. That’s why it’s enlightening to examine the various hypothesis—entertaining at the least.
Richard Parr from Australia on February 07, 2020:
Good questions. From my understanding, when the bible speaks in Genesis of a beginning, it is referring to the beginning of the material universe, not the beginning of everything. As you alluded to in the introduction of your article, the rules, concepts and laws that govern the created universe do not apply to the non-created realm; a realm as incomprehensible to us as a third dimension would be to two-dimensional beings. Therefore I wonder if any attempt to unravel the mysteries of a realm beyond our comprehension, that follows none of the rules of the material universe (including rules relating to space, time, energy, cause and effect etc), is to take on the impossible. Isn't it beyond both science and philosophy?
I understand God to have created not only everything in our universe but also the rules that govern its every contingency. Rules that do not apply to him, only to us (including time, gravity etc)
I like the answer given in this brief video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6AHcv19NIc
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on May 14, 2019:
Donny - I like your version of saying "before anything else” instead of "In the beginning". It fits better with the idea of time having no beginning or end.
Donny5 on May 14, 2019:
Okay! Interesting article, I spend a LOT of time considering these things as well. I have a few relevant comments and I hope to hear your perspective on them!
1. I feel like you could cite one verse to clear up a lot of the hanging questions you are exploring.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 - He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
2. For a long time I struggled with "In the beginning" and where God came from, and what he was doing before, and why he started doing anything. My solution to this problem was to define the word "In the beginning" a little differently to mean "before anything else." For some reason this settles my curiosity.
3. About time in Gods perspective. King David said that a day of Gods time is like 1000 years of ours. We could suggest that this is absolutely literal, since God states to Adam that "In the day you eat of [the fruit] you shall surely die" and he lives nearly 1000 years after
4. Regarding 6 days of creation. If we consider the fact above we already have a seriously resonable timeframe for God to go about the natural, Evolutionary Creation process (especially if he evolved several different species of animals at the same time from different "dust seeds" as I call them (single-celled organisms). Now if you also consider the Time Dialation that you already mentioned, we could have millions of years of "Observable History" which could have taken place in just moments over the course of 6 millennia.
Thanks for the awesome article!
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on March 22, 2019:
Tim Truzy - That's Schrödinger's Cat that you had referred to, And yes, that demonstrates how two opposing states can exist at the same time. You explained that well.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on March 22, 2019:
I read your article and thought of several things. We are linear beings, God is not. Remember that cat from quantum mechanics which was theorized to be dead and alive simultaneously? And the Holographic Universe?
Scientists are beginning to think that we will experience a Big Rip, the universe will not collapse, but because of Dark energy, will speed up until we rip apart. In this scinario, we may have multiple Big Bangs occurring. Since God is nonlinear, He is able to be at all of these "beginnings."
Such is probably how our universe popped into existence. Likewise, God is there and even a part of the "nothingness" because quantum mechanics has demonstrated two opposing states can exist at the same time for one entity (it's been proven with photons.).
Yet, I enjoyed your interesting and thought provoking article.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on November 05, 2017:
GG - Time will always remain a mystery. You’re right about that.
As for God's measurement of time, I came up with an amusing concept. He had all eternity to create the Universe, not just six days and rest on the seventh.
My reasoning is that time didn’t exist. He created time as the last step of creation. That’s just my amusing take on it.
More seriously, I wrote another article that gives another viewpoint of this, that time is cyclical. There is no beginning or end. Check it out at https://owlcation.com/stem/recurrence-of-the-unive...
GG on November 04, 2017:
My simple answer to your question is that our concept of "time" as we know it, is not measured the same way by God. Therefore, what came first as related to"time" will remain part of the "mystery" of life, until the "time" that we meet God face to face.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 26, 2017:
Kathleen Cochran - Sounds like you really got what I was talking about here. You also express yourself very well. Thanks for that comment. It's interesting that you mention the afterlife because I am working on another article to be published soon: "A Hypothetical Observation of Life After Death" - It has an interesting twist that I never found anyone else considering.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on April 26, 2017:
"I’m not a religious person, but that doesn’t stop me from having an open mind."
It may just mean you have more of an open mind than those of us who are believers. :)
OK. This kind of thinking can really keep you up at nights. One of the reasons I am looking forward to an afterlife in God's presence is finding out about all these kinds of things. Right now, there are a couple of things I believe (and some don't) that help me ask these questions without giving myself a massive headache.
1. God is spirit. Jesus is his physical manifestation, as we will be in Heaven. It makes it easier to conceive of a spirit who has always been than to conceive of a physical presence somewhere.
2. Human beings think in finite terms. God (as you described him here) is infinite - no beginning no end. Our minds can't actually grasp that concept because we live in a finite world. We only have three dimensions. We are limited by things like the law of gravity. God isn't. This is where faith comes in. Without it, you give yourself a massive headache!
This is an amazing question and it is fascinating how you have wrestled with it. Can't wait to see what you come up with next.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on April 26, 2017:
Wow, Thanks Buildreps. That is an extremely nice comment you wrote about my way of thinking and my background. And to compare me to Einstein – you just made my day. He also had trouble with the scientific community not accepting his ideas at first.
I understand what you said about the higher dimensions. It's easy for us to look into a two-dimensional world, such as a drawing on a piece of paper. But a cartoon character drawn on paper can't look outside it's two-dimensions and therefore can't see the existence of us. We might seem like Gods to that cartoon character, who's sensing that something is there but can't see it. Same goes for us. We have trouble looking outside our three dimensions, which is why we have difficulty understanding the concept of time – the fourth dimension.
The things you said about me are much appreciated, and especially coming from you, one who is well-educated and well-versed in science and philosophy as is evident with your articles. Thank you.
Buildreps from Europe on April 26, 2017:
That's it, Glenn, you've said it, we live in an oscillating universe. Your Hub is a great reader, and you're spot on. Our universe is all about zero and infinity, which is hard to grasp for the human mind.
But I do believe there are entities in this universe, in the higher dimensions undetectable to the humans senses, that we Humans would call Gods, there are also entities in this universe that we Humans would call Devils. They haven't created anything, but interfere with our worlds, especially the dark forces. There is much to read about this topic in the Nag Hammadi Codices, the secret books on which the bibles are based on, they are hard to read, nevertheless are they very interesting when you want to expand your consciousness. Note that it's my believe because it is unprovable and untestable.
You've a great philosophical mind with a rational background, it's the best combination one can get - it's a very rare combination like Einstein had. You'll surely find some of the answers you're looking for, in fact, you've found some, although science might not agree with you. Don't be afraid for that, follow the path of logic and math and the rest will follow.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on December 13, 2015:
Andy Lee Lawson - That was indeed my intention, to give my readers food for thought so they come up with questions. You picked up on that very well. As for answers, I'd be the first to admit that I have none. I don't think the answers will ever be known. Not within our lifetime anyway. Questions are good. As you said, it "drives the effort of humanity." Thank you for your enlightened comment.
Andrew Lawson from Knoxville, TN on December 13, 2015:
I believe it was Carl Sagan who offered as his opinion that enough is understood about the universe to no longer need a "God of the gaps". I think that you, however, are presenting God as a catalyst to the beginning of a process that is understood by modern cosmology. Of course, it raises as many, perhaps more, questions than it answers. But, generating useful questions is the whole point of science and drives the effort of humanity. Excellent presentation of ideas. I aspire to be as articulate and thoughtful as you.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on July 23, 2015:
It leads to the question, "who is God," or better yet, "what is God?" Is there one God or are there many gods? Maybe our universe was made by a committee. I can go along with your thinking, but then my mind starts blanking out, like when I had too much to drink. Come to think of it, it makes me want a drink, and I don't drink anymore!
Seriously, "they" say that time only exists in dense matter (like my head), so does time exist only in our dimensional plane? Are there many dense universes out there where time exists? One question leads to another and I'm starting to get a headache. Congratulations on a fine brain-tickling article. Next time pick a deeper subject, will you? Voted up++
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 22, 2015:
Jodah - That's kind of what I was talking about with existence in an alternate reality. It is a plausable explanation of where He is now. But where do you suppose He was before the beginning? That's the unanswered question in my hub.
John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on July 22, 2015:
Much food for thought here Glenn. Good article. Here's a thought, what if there is something outside the universe? The universe itself is so immense that we can't even comprehend anything outside it or larger. Perhaps God exists in that place.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 21, 2015:
Asa2141 - You are so right that it's impossible to answer these questions with our limited knowledge. As for your disagreement about the big bang, I agree that it's only a theory. But I can explain how the universe can fit in the size of a pinhead.
It is known that all matter is mostly space. Matter is made up of atoms. Atoms have a nucleus with electrons revolving around the nucleus, similar to planets revolving around the sun. There is mostly empty space between the nucleus and the electrons. Just as there is mostly empty space between our sun and the planets of our solar system. So if you take all that into consideration, it's easier to comprehend how the entire universe can be squashed into a pinhead or black hole as we know it. But the energy remains, and eventually causes a Big Bang all over again. Hence the cyclic nature I discussed in the hub. We more or less have proof of this already since we can see how everything is moving away from everything else.
As for your second disagreement, I'm not arguing the point that if He exists he is eternal. But that makes the question even more meaningful. The Bible leaves the question unanswered by saying He is eternal. Eternal means He was always in existence. So where was He before the beginning? I couldn't answer it either.
Thanks for your thoughtful and intelligent comment. It really makes one think things through.
Asa Schneidermann from Boise on July 21, 2015:
Interesting article Mr. Glenn!
When I was little, I sometimes wondered: 'what was God doing before He created everything?' Then I would think, 'Man! He must have been boooored! Maybe he created me just because he wanted something to do.'
In my opinion, all of these questions - what was God doing before He created the universe and so on - are ultimately unanswerable because we are humans with limited understanding.
I will disagree with you on two points, however. First, I don't believe in the Big Bang, I believe in a Big Creation you could say, but not a Big Bang. Now, I'm not a scientist, but, to me, the idea of this entire, beautiful universe exploding into existence from a dot the size of a pinhead takes more faith than I can muster. Beside, where did the pinhead of matter come from?
Second, to me, the idea that God cannot be created seems perfectly logical. God is eternal as it says throughout the Bible. If God had to be created, he would - by very definition - cease to be....well....God!
I can honestly say, I've never read a more gracious article questioning the idea of God. Thanks for the read.
Glenn Stok (author) from Long Island, NY on July 21, 2015:
Larry Fields - You sure took it one step further. I'm curious now to examine that question.
Larry Fields from Northern California on July 20, 2015:
Hi Glenn. I take it that this is the place for unbridled speculation.
I am not areligious scholar. That said, my understanding is that Genesis does not talk about God as THE creator. Instead, we have the Elohim, who are plural. By the way, Elohim is a very beautiful word.
If you want to believe that God is a general contractor, then the Elohim could be his subcontractors.
Or it could be that some Elohim committee created God, the universe, and everything. And yes, that includes, "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
Then the question becomes: Who created the Elohim?