Atheists often resort to the question "who created God?"

 Atheists often resort to the question "who created God?" when theists ask the origin of the universe, the theist says "God doesn't need a cause he's eternal." The atheist then says "so is the universe so there's no difference." There is a vast difference.
But how to prove that? Failing proof we can at least understand why God and the universe are on a different par, that is what the tie breaker does. The issue was couched in terms of brute fact. The universe is a brute fact, if it is not created by  by God, but God cannot be a brute fact. The tie breaker is the basic difference. The essential difference is summed up in the old existentialist distinction of Jean-Paul Sartre between being-in-itself vs. being-for-itself. Within that framework we are looking at God as the origin of both being and love.

God is not the result of any  purpose higher than himself, but that doesn't mean he is bereft of purpose. Just as God is the final cause of all causes so God is the ground of  all purpose,will, and volition, There is a link between  love and being such that God's nature as the ground of being also makes him the ground of love. This means God has purpose thus is not a brute fact. Everything begins with God and thus God is the source of Love. Modern secular thinkers try to truncate reality and argue that love is just a nice little emotional feeling that is caused by brain chemistry. Love is much more, Love is an ontological reality that transcends any emotional feeling. Paul Tillich writes about the ontological basis of love and he finds that it is neither limited to nor can leave out the emotional aspect. He finds that there is a clear relationship between Being itself and love.[1] 

Tillich's version of ontology is very Heideggerian. Ontology is not  a description of things in the world but a reflection upon the nature of what it means to be. Primordial being is one thing that becomes diversified and forms qualities such as power and justice which are offshoots or aspects of love. Love is a reunification. Travis Pickell explains:

This means that he grounds his understanding of the relation between love and justice (and power) in an analysis of how each concept relates to “Being itself.” Love is basically a drive toward reunion of what has been separated from an original unity of being (25). Power is being “realizing itself with increasing intensity and extensity” (35). Justice is the “form” adequate to being in reunion, i.e. love (62). Given this method, which presupposes an original unity of everything in “Being itself,” it is not surprising that the basic relation between love and justice (and power) is a “unity.”[2]
Ontology seeks to reveal the texture of being,what it means to be, not detailed analysis of all beings. [3] In the reunion of being and love we can sense a passion of creativity that seeks to bestow being as an act of love. Thus God's creativeness is not a lack in God but an act of love itself. The question of what it means to be raises the question of human finitude in the face of the infinite, Hans Urs Von Balthasar asks these questions. The common human tendency is to think God created because he needed something. Balthasar is hinting, I think, that God creates because its his nature as being to foment more being.In other words, its creative and God is Creative. It is not for God’s need that he creates but for what will become our need once we are created. In other words, God created us so that we can enjoy being, not because he needed us because once a part of being we would need and would be fulfilled in the need by love.

No Philosophy could give a satisfactory response to that question [why did infinte create finite?] St Paul would say to philosophers that God created man so that he would seek the Divine, try to obtain the Divine. That is why all pre Christian philosophy is theological at its summit. But, in fact, the true response to philosophy could only be given by Being himself, revealing himself from himself. Will man be capable of understanding this revelation? The affirmative response will be given only by the God of the Bible. On the one hand this God, creator of the world and of man, knows his creature. “I who have created the eye do not see? I who have created the ear do not hear?” And we add who who have created language, could not speak and make myself heard?” This posits a counterpart: to be able to hear and understand the auto-revelation of God man must in himself be a search for God, a question posed to him. Thus there is Biblical theology without a religious philosophy. Human reason must be open to the infinite.[4]

Notice how he capitalizes “B” in being and refers to being as “himself.” He personifies being and clearly speaks of it as the creator.

Balthasar sees the understanding of the revelation of “being himself” (my phrase based upon his) to humanity as rooted in the most fundamental human relationship. He says, “the infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter the horizon of all unlimited opens unto him.”[5] What he means by that is it is only through being por soir, for itself, in other words, consciousness, that we are able to comprehend the infinite and that only in contrast to the finite. Before we can do that, however, we have to become aware of ourselves so we can know we are finite. I think he’s making an implication that love is a link to being itself, and that through our encounter with love, the mother, we encounter the father, so to speak—by way of encountering love. We can see this in four truths that Balthasar finds rooted in this encounter:
(1) realizing that he Is other to the mother, the only way the child realizes he loves the mother; (2) love is good, therefore, being is good; (3) love is true, therefore, being is true; (4) love evokes joy therefore being is beautiful.[6] Notice the link between being and love. He is one of the rare theologians to point out this crucial link.

The one, the true, the good, the Beautiful, these are what we call the transcendental attributes of being, because they surpass all the limits of essence, and are coextensive with Being. If there is an insurmountable distance between God and his creature, but if there is also an analogy between them which cannot be resolved in any form of identity, there must also exist an analogy between the transcendentals—between those of the creature and those in God.[7]

In this quotation he as much as equates being and God, since he speaks of the attributes of being then connects the understanding of these to the link between God and the creature. There is more to be said about Balthasar based upon this observation and it will figure importantly in two more chapters, including the last one, and the over all conclusion.

John Macquarrie, another major Theologian who asserts that God is Being itself, calls God "primordial being.' He speaks of Being as "letting be." God's creative nature and his creative acts are summed up in this phrase. God's act of creation is an expressionism of his loving nature.[8] Macquarrie understands the Trinity, not as a modality, but as diversified functionality within primordial being (creator=father = primordial, Son = revelatory, Spirit= Unifying).[9]

Tillich discusses a historical tradition in philosophy in which an ontological aspect to love has played a role. "...from Empedocles and Plato, to Augustine and pico, to Hegel and Schelling to existentialism and depth psychology Love has placed a central ontological role."[10] That brings us to Sartre's concept of being por soir (being -for-itself).  That's not about love but it's a framework in which God's purpose might be be understood (to the extent that we can understand anything about
God). God as being itself means God is the basis of all that is, God is the ground or the foundation of all being. We might understand it this way: to be is either to be God or to be a creature of God; all being is bound up with God. Being has two aspects, in itself which  is inanimate, and or itself which is conscious. Human beings are part of being-for-itself,

About these two aspects Flynn says:

Being-in-itself and being-for-itself have mutually exclusive characteristics and yet we (human reality) are entities that combine both, which is the ontological root of our ambiguity. The in-itself is solid, self-identical, passive and inert. It simply “is.” The for-itself is fluid, nonself-identical, and dynamic. It is the internal negation or “nihilation” of the in-itself, on which it depends. Viewed more concretely, this duality is cast as “facticity” and “transcendence.” The “givens” of our situation such as our language, our environment, our previous choices and our very selves in their function as in-itself constitute our facticity. As conscious individuals, we transcend (surpass) this facticity in what constitutes our “situation.” In other words, we are always beings “in situation,” but the precise mixture of transcendence and facticity that forms any situation remains indeterminable, at least while we are engaged in it. Hence Sartre concludes that we are always “more” than our situation and that this is the ontological foundation of our freedom. We are “condemned” to be free, in his hyperbolic phrase.[11]

That in itself is the tie breaker, the universe by itself apart from God is merely being-in-itself, God is being-for-itself. That entails purpose which is creative love. The eternal necessary foundation of all being has a volition and a purpose which to create beings to love. Thus God and a hypothetical accidental universe are on different ontological levels.

That is the Answer to The Question  Who created God? Being-for-itself did. There has to be av stopping point to causes. With God as that stopping point there is purpose and with the universe there is not.


[1] Paul Tillich, Love, Power. and Justice: Ontological Analysis and Ethical Applications. London. Oxford, NewYork: Oxford university Press, 1954, 18-21.

[2] Travis Pickell, "Love and Justice 4: Tillich's Love, Power and Justice," What is More, blog published 09/28/2012, URL:
accessed 7/26/16

[3] Tillich, Op Cit, 20

[4] Hans Urs Von Balthasar, “A Resume of my Thought,” in David L. Schindler, Hans Urs Von Balthasar: His Life and Work. San Francisco:Ignatious Press, 1991, on like version p1-2 URL:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Macquarrie, John. Principles of Christian Theology. New York: SCM Press, (1987)

[9] Ibid.

[10] Tillich, op cit, 4

[11] Flynn, Thomas, "Jean-Paul Sartre", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .  access 7/27/16


Don McIntosh said…
Great post, Joe. That's some weighty philosophical theology.

I like the way you frame the issue in terms of purposeful, loving being versus brute fact, which are "on different ontological levels." (I'm not nearly as familiar with Tillich, but Augustine made similar observations in the Confessions.) Love and purpose cannot, it seems, derive from the accidental universe of naturalism. Nor do the very properties of the universe (temporality, contingency and entropy) permit it to be self-existent anyway.
Joe Hinman said…
but Augustine made similar observations in the Confessions.)

yes hedid Tillich and i like Augie.

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