In the previous three posts in the Conversations About God series we’ve been speculating about whether the biblical God shares the same emotions and mental states we do, and whether or not he is subject to the same intellectual abilities (or deficiencies) we possess. We are now going to look specifically into the creative power of God by looking at the creation story in Genesis in a completely new way by asking: Is it even possible for a God to create anything, and if it is possible, why would he even bother? (See Publications)
To get at the answer to these questions, we first have to understand what is involved with the creative process from the human perspective. Make sense? After all, the book of Genesis, while offering a sparse detailing of how God created the universe and every living creature within it, nevertheless suggests that in the act of building our world God’s creative juices began to flow. He even got his hands dirty — so to speak — especially in constructing Eve by performing surgery on Adam and removing one of his ribs.
The two conditions of creating
You and I create when we are motivated by a couple of general reasons or conditions. In the first condition, we think about something we need or want, then set to work in making it happen. We use our imagination to visualize what we are going to create, perhaps make a detailed plan, and then we start gathering the materials to construct what we have envisioned. This is a creative process a builder or designer might use. The key imperative to this condition is that we need or want some “thing” before we create it.
In the second condition, we have little or no idea what the end result of our creation will become. Like a musician writing a song or a filmmaker crafting a movie, we create for the sheer joy of creating. The key imperative under this condition is that the finished product remains a mystery until it is completed. Experiencing the thrills and hardships of the creative process – with all the emotional highs and anguishes we go through — is the desired goal.
Question: When God created the universe, did he operate under either of these two conditions and experience the same mental processes we go through?
Are we to assume, for example, that on a particular day God suddenly felt bored enough to build some “thing,” or lonely enough that he needed to create a race of beings to keep him company and pay him homage? Or, was it the creative process itself that intrigued him? In other words, he really didn’t have a clue what the universe he set out to make would look like or whether or not his “universe” experiment might even work. He just wanted to be mentally stimulated and build something which might pass the time and perk him up.
We could ask dozens of more rhetorical questions, but what we are concerned about is finding out if there is any justification or logical reason why God would even bother to create our world in the first place.
What does the Bible say about creation?
The book of Genesis tells us that God took a formless and dark earth that moved upon water and created another element, called “light.” He then separated the light from darkness before somehow separating the earth from the heavens. On the third day, he made dry land appear on the earth. Then God created vegetation, followed by the stars in the heavens and the moon, then eventually living creatures and mankind. (Incidentally, there are two creation stories in Genesis. Each details a different sequential order in creation.)
Fortunately, the writer of Genesis (or later editors) knew enough about science to list the elements of the creation account we are most familiar with in reasonable order. But we can conjecture that God probably wasn’t obligated to follow certain steps in creating the universe anyway. For example, God would not have needed to create Adam after creating grass for him to stand on. He could have easily made Adam first, suspended him in an oxygen bubble at about 25,000 feet, and let Adam enjoy the show of watching his future home come into existence!
Which brings us to our first conundrum: If God created the universe as suggested in Genesis, this means he took the time to contemplate, reflect, evaluate, reevaluate, and consider every step along the way. In addition, like any artist, he would have experienced pain, frustration, anxiety, insecurity, and any number of negative mental states involved in the creative process. Trouble is, an all-knowing and all-powerful God would not be subject to experiencing these human conditions; they would be both unnecessary and demeaning.
The wonders of being an artist!
Consider again the reasons why we create. We create for the sheer enjoyment that comes from using our intelligence and physical skills to create. Painter’s create because they enjoy using brushes and color to portray their vision of nature on canvas. Sculptor’s create because they delight in manipulating elements, such as clay or steel to create three-dimensional works of art. Writer’s create by combining words into sentences and paragraphs that inspire or entertain people. Musician’s create through melodies that have the power to invoke emotions in those who hear the notes they’ve strung together.
Nearly everyone creates, from construction workers to plumbers, teachers to children, professional athletes to seamstresses. Creating is exciting! It fuels our passions, awakens our individualism, and inspires pride and self-confidence. Creating allows us to escape the boredom of life and reinvent ourselves as we recreate our surroundings.
Creating does, however, have a downside. Oftentimes, what we set out to create doesn’t represent what we envisioned. Sometimes what we create comes out better than we expected or tragically worse than anticipated. This is the reason why creating can also make us feel defeated, frustrated, and worthless, especially if we anticipate other people will not value what we created. Creating also requires particular skills like physically manipulating objects, great hand to eye coordination, and using aesthetic reasoning in which we build upon each previous step. So, are we to presume that God encountered all of these mental experiences and processes? No.
The concept of perfection
Which serves up our second conundrum: Of the many things we presume about God, the idea that he can make no mistakes and can only perform to the highest levels of perfection, is a key premise. Regarding creation, there is only one possible way God could have built the universe and everything in it: perfectly. And while it might be possible for him to build thousands of different types universes comprised of all manner of strange looking life forms operating under completely different laws of physics, we would still expect these universes to be built perfectly, so that every living being, physical component, and law or principle which governed these universes worked seamlessly together in perfect harmony.
Given that God would not incur any “guesswork” in building any of these universes, and that each could be created perfectly and in an instant of time with a snap of his fingers, also suggests that no creative process as you and I understand creativity would be necessary.
Why a Creator God cannot exist
The best rationale I can offer as to why a Creator God could not possibly exist, is that we also presume God to be omni-everything, and in particular: all-knowing. For a God with such powers, thinking about a universe and creating the universe would be one in the same. Because if you really think about it, a perfectly conceived mental universe, one which is already magnificently developed and pictured in his mind, negates the necessity of him needing to actually build a real universe. What would be the point? For an all-knowing God, the universe you and I dwell in must have always existed as a perfect construct in his mind, so building a real, scaled “model” version of this universe outside of his mind would be completely pointless.
Perhaps what you and I understand life to be in this fantastical universe we enjoy, is merely a kind of simulated thought experiment running its course in one of the empty rooms of God’s mind. For it would make no difference to God whether he created a real physical universe or whether such a universe remained merely in his thoughts. Nor would this matter to us, since we wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
As for that testy metaphysical theory known as “freedom of choice,” that’s easy to reason away. If we are created beings, God could have easily programmed this illusory dynamic of thought into our minds. He could have also, just as easily, authenticated this illusion by offering us lots of things to think about and do, including the possibly that two supernatural powers (good and evil) operated in our world, and that we needed to choose to serve one or the other.