posted on Feb, 23 2016 @ 02:01 PM
The “Beyond God” questions are questions prompted by the Biblical understanding that God is the Creator of the world.
On this understanding, there’s a distinction between God and the created world; God is not the world and the world is not God.
So this is necessarily different from the understanding (the Monist approach) that God and the world are the same thing.
On the latter view, the statement that God created the world would have no meaning, so a Monist doesn’t need to examine the concept.
Apart from the bare statement that “God made the world”, we’ve developed other ways of referring to the relation between them.
People have described God as “above” or “beyond” the world, as existing “before the world began”, and so forth.
Then speculation looks at these descriptions and asks why they can’t be extended beyond God, and that’s how the “Beyond God” questions
Related in space
So, for example, people found it natural to describe God as “above” the world in which we live.
In the Middle Ages, this would have been understood in a naively literal way.
The location of God had a place in their astronomy beyond the spheres in which the sun, the moon, and the other planets were revolving.
If someone had asked “What is beyond God, in space?”, their answer would probably have been that the question was meaningless because God is
In modern times, we’ve abandoned the literal understanding of God being “above”, in terms of space.
In fact God has been taken out of space.
Space can be understood as one of the features of the created world.
Therefore the relation of “space” can’t be applied to the relation between God and the world, except in a metaphorical way, by analogy.
But the question “What lies beyond?” is the kind of question that belongs to a universe defined by the dimensions of space.
If God is not contained within a spatial universe, then the question “What lies beyond God?” has no meaning.
This is a different way of coming to the same conclusion.
Related in time
We often speak of God as preceding the world in time.
This kind of language can be found in the Bible, as in the declaration that Christians were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the
If the Bible writers were asked “What was before God, in time?”, their answer would have been that the question was meaningless because God is
But there’s also another way of dealing with the question.
This involves recognising (as taught by Einstein) that time is to be counted as one of the dimensions of the physical world.
In other words, “time”, like space, is one of the features of the created world.
Therefore the relation of “time” can’t be applied to the relation between God and the world.
But the question “What was there before?” is the kind of question that belongs to a universe defined by the dimensions of space and time.
So if God is not contained within a spatial universe, then the question “What was before God?” has no more meaning than the question “What’s
on the other side of God?”
The cause-and-effect relation
In the philosophy of Aquinas (for example), God is identified as the cause of the created world.
This gives rise to the question “Does God himself have a cause?”, commonly expressed in the form “Who made God?”
Aquinas would have answered that there must be a first cause in the series, making “First Cause” part of the definition of God.
But can a God who “has no cause” find a place in the chain of “cause-and-effect”?
Many philosophers would contest the claim.
You may be able to see where this is heading.
I’ll be putting forward a different way of dealing with this question.
I propose that the “cause-and-effect” relationship is another of the features of the physical world, like the dimensions of time and space.
If that is the case, then the “cause-and-effect” relation cannot strictly be applied to the relation between God and the world.
It would also mean that the question “What caused this?” should be understood, once again, as the kind of question that belongs to the physical
universe, defined by the dimensions of space and time.
So if God is not contained within this physical universe, then the question “What caused God?”, or “Who made God?”, has no more meaning than
the question “What is on the other side of God, in space or time?”
The problem is that we are creatures of the physical world ourselves.
Therefore we use the language of the physical world, talking in terms of “time” and “space” and “cause-and-effect”, because these are the
only concepts that we can frame and understand.
When it’s applied to the way that God relates to the world, and even more so when it’s applied to God himself, this language is inaccurate.
Its terms can’t entirely be taken at face value.
If we don’t remember those limitations, and allow for them, that’s when we’re tempted into framing the misleading “Beyond God” questions.