Why did God create us?


(Olivia Davis) #1

Hi all!

I have a personal question that I haven’t been able to make much headway on, so I’m hoping you all could help me!

I feel like I understand why Christianity makes sense from a human perspective. By that, I feel like I have a grasp of our need for God because of original sin, and thus the saving grace of the resurrection and atonement. (Obviously my understanding always needs to grow, and I’m still learning.)

However, if I look at Christianity from God’s perspective (not that any of us really can do that, but bear with me), I’m a little confused. We say that God is perfect — he doesn’t need anything to complete him; he’s the only one responsible for his existence; he is wholly good. My question is: Why did God create us?

I’ve heard the idea that God created us out of love — that he loved us before he created us, but that confuses me (rightly or wrongly) as an answer to my question. This is because if God loved us before our creation, there was something still separate from God that he loved (us, the idea of humanity). What about the time when there was only God — why might have the idea of creating humanity emerge? The idea that God created us for pleasure also confuses me because it’s like it suggests that God wanted more pleasure than he had before, which seems inconsistent to me with the idea that God is perfect. (Help me!!)

Also, I don’t mean this in a negative or nihilistic sense at all — I’m genuinely interested in thinking about our existence as it relates to theology, and what our creation says about God.

Anyway, to restate my long-winded question: Knowing that God, the only perfect being, is fully satisfied in himself, why might we think that he decided that the existence of human life was better than its nonexistence?

Please feel free to critique any of my thinking above as we think about this together!


(Jamie Hobbs) #2

Here’s my highly theological answer. I have no idea. This one’s all you, @SeanO. :smirk:


(SeanO) #3

@Olivia_Davis As @Jamie_Hobbs pointed out, none of us knows the answer to this question because we would need to fully understand God first. For example, does God have new thoughts - how does His mind work? If He is spirit, what does it even mean to have a mind? I have no idea - I do not even fully understand how body and soul/spirit work together in my own life.

But we can look at some of the reasons Scripture gives for God creating us and then try to challenge our own assumptions about what it means for God to be perfect.

  • to be stewards over creation
  • to be His chosen people and testimony to the nations
  • that we might bring Him glory and praise
  • that He might delight in us and we in Him
  • to know Him and be known by Him

Does God being perfect mean that He cannot delight in beings other than Himself?

Does God being perfect mean that He does not enjoy creating new things?

Does God being perfect mean that He does not delight in rescuing those who honor Him?

So, I cannot directly answer this question. But I can say that maybe we could continue this discussion by challenging our notion of what God’s perfection means in a theological sense???

Zepheniah 3:17 - The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

Romans 11:33-36 - Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Genesis 1:28 - God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

I Peter 2:9-12 - But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.


Is the immortal soul a Biblical concept and if so, where is it found?
(Olivia Davis) #4

Thanks for the response, @SeanO, and for your honesty @Jamie_Hobbs (right there with you…)!

I think, @SeanO, that your shifting the question from why did God make us to what does it mean for God to be perfect is really useful.

Your questions help to clarify what perfection doesn’t mean – I don’t think that God’s perfection precludes him from enjoyment in beings other than himself, creating things, or rescuing us.

Reading your response reminded me of a chapter on the self-sufficiency of God in A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy. A potentially useful quote: “God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself.” The voluntary aspect of this is what I’m honing in on now.

As I sort through God’s self-sufficiency and the fact that he did create us, I think I am seeing a distinction between perfection itself and, in a way, emotions. Jesus wept upon learning of Lazarus’ death (John 11:35). His weeping didn’t make him any less perfect, and it couldn’t have been indicative of Jesus having an unsatisfied need.

Also, the opening of Psalm 23 seems relevant. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” We, like God, also should not be wanting of anything, but satisfied totally in him, in the way that God himself is satisfied. But, like God, we also have desires to love, to have family, to create things or work at whatever God has made us for. We can’t stake our identity in these things – as our identity should be in God alone – but our desires for them aren’t wrong. Perhaps understanding how this works on a human level can give us insight into how God can be totally self-sufficient but also desire to create us. The desire is not the root of unsatisfaction or an unmet need.

So perhaps the idea of desires is what is throwing me off a bit. Someone can desire something and still not have their identity wrapped up in the attainment of that desire. It seems like God could have a desire to create us without there being some sort of compromise in terms of his perfection.

Ok – so to continue the discussion, perhaps we can narrow the question further to, can God be perfect while still having desires? Or, how do emotions interplay with the idea of desires and God’s perfection?


(SeanO) #5

@Olivia_Davis I think the quote from Tozer’s book is very helpful - thank you for sharing. In fact, I think it cuts to the heart of the issue quite succinctly. Simply because God loves us and wants to know us does not mean He needs us.

In fact, let’s take a second and think about a god who only did what was necessary for its own pleasure / existence. That would be a utilitarian view of deity. Now, if a utilitarian deity created humanity, would that deity die for its own creation? I do not think so - that would not be something needful. So clearly there is something at the heart of the true God - love - that goes far beyond only doing what is necessary.

Exploring God’s Emotions

The below article from CARM addresses the basic question “Does God have emotions?” and points out that God’s emotions, whatever we mean by that word, are not tainted by sin. Sin distorts our emotions, but God’s emotions are always expressed at the proper time and in the proper way. Of course, since the Bible communicates God to us in a way that we can understand, it is difficult to say what exactly He experiences. After all, God does not have a body - He is spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and truth.

“But, the emotions that God has our perfect and without fault, without sin, and are always appropriate. Since we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), then we to have emotions. However, because we are affected by sin, our emotional expression is often accompanied by improper motives. Therefore, we very often misuse our emotional ability. For example, we could be unrighteously angry with someone. We could desire to have what someone else has and so covet. Emotions are good because they’re created by God. But our emotions are touched by sin, where God’s emotions are not.”

CARM Article

The Idea of Perfection

Definition of Perfection: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects

So, let’s explore this idea. How does having desires / emotions conflict with being perfect?

The only way this could be true is if emotions / desires are inherently wrong or flawed.

What do you think is a good Biblical argument that desires are not inherently flawed? A good philosophical argument?


(Jolene Laughlin) #6

Hi Olivia,

I don’t know if you took the core module through RZIM, but Michelle Tepper spoke on this issue in the lecture about the Trinity. What I took away from her lecture is that God has always been in relationship - as a triune God, he is the definition of relationship. He was never lonely, he never needed or lacked anything, so creation did not occur from loneliness or need, but out of the overflow of love that exists between the members of the trinity - specifically, the Father and Son. I found her talk a little confusing because it seems that she sees the Holy Spirit as the love that flows from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father…but either way, God created us because there was an overabundance of love and he desired to create humanity out of that love. I believe she compared it to parents deciding to have children - a desire to bring new people into the world; not because they need them in order to be complete, or because they are lonely without them, but because they want to create something out of the love that already exists between them. (It has been a long time, and I am totally paraphrasing this, but this thought always did stand out to me.)

Also, I have been going back and looking at Youtube lectures by Michael Ramsden because he addressed this issue and said something similar, but I’m not sure if it was in the God of Love, God of Judgment series, or in something else. It’s addressed in the video where he says someone sent a book for his newborn daughter that said God created us because he was lonely, and he threw the book immediately into the dust bin, if @CarsonWeitnauer or @SeanO remember which lecture this was in…

From my own perspective, I have often thought that perhaps he created us simply because creativity is one of the attributes of God. It does not indicate a need or a lack, but is a simple desire to create new and beautiful things. Humans are like that, and I think it is a reflection of God’s nature as well.

P.S. Michelle Tepper is answering questions in “Ask RZIM” this week, so that presents a good opportunity to ask her directly :-).


(Tim Behan) #7

Great answer @Jamie_Hobbs… thoroughly enjoyed it!! You’ve brightened my morning with a good laugh.


(Olivia Davis) #8

@Jolene_Laughlin, thanks so much for explaining the idea of God always existing in relationship. That definitely changes things, because it brings in the concept of love from the very beginning, and with the concept of love is always the idea that it can be multiplied. I’m very interested also in the consequences of always remembering that God is a trinity – and I think you’re absolutely right in reminding me of this as it relates to this question. Also interested in the Michael Ramsden lectures – I’m sure we’ll be able to figure out which one it is in!

I like the idea that creativity is an attribute of God also – then everything he creates is a manifestation of his divine nature.

@SeanO Thanks for sharing the CARM article – it’s very helpful.

I had a question that emerged from reading the article, and then I’ll take a look at some of the questions you have presented that are equally interesting.

So, the article says:

I totally get this in terms of human emotions. God created humans so that we can experience emotions, nothing he creates is bad, etc. However, the article also suggests that God experiences emotions. Does this mean that God created emotions, and then experienced them? That is a little tricky to me – could you explain it a little more?

Now on to your questions!

I agree that if perfection is indicative of flawlessness, then only desires that are inherently wrong or flawed could lead to imperfection. However, I think there’s another aspect to perfection when we’re considering it theologically, which is self-sufficiency (if we’re talking about God), or sufficiency in Christ alone. What desires can we have that do not contradict God’s sufficiency in himself? Perhaps desires that are ultimately directed outward, instead of inward. We can desire for more people to know Christ, not for ourselves, but for their sakes. In a way, righteous desires might be identified by their selflessness – because they’re not trying to fill up ourselves, which are already satisfied in God. The same might be said of God’s desires. I have a quibble with my own line of reasoning, though, which is that God would have had to create something to have a selfless desire in the first place – but then again @Jolene_Laughlin’s reminder that God exists in a trinity might help us here.

A good Biblical argument that desires are not inherently flawed or self-serving might be that Jesus himself healed a number of people when they came to him, sometimes praising them for their faith in God (the Centurion, the woman who was bleeding). Jesus wasn’t chastened for praying for the cup to be taken from him.

I’m having a bit of trouble philosophically because we don’t have a grounds for what is faultless (i.e. what would make a good desire). My mind immediately went to Epictetus’ Enchiridion, in which the main idea is that we achieve happiness by getting rid of all desires, kind of like the concept of nirvana in Buddhism. Ironically, of course, the idea is that they are controlled by the desire to get rid of all desires, in an effort to be happy (a rather reductive summary, but you get the point). So I’m not sure philosophically, mostly because I don’t know how to find a moral common ground without an absolute from which we could identify through good and bad desires.


(Tim Behan) #9

@Olivia_Davis That’s such a cracking question Olivia and as @SeanO mentioned from Romans 11, I know he’s already put it down, but I love that particular passage so I’m putting it down again:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Beautiful words.

But onto your question… I think the only thing I would want to differentiate is probably the use of the word “desire”. I think the word is (possibly) unhelpful in it’s connotations as it seems to give the impression that to desire (as we use the term) is to maybe want something that one doesn’t have. But as has been discussed, I don’t think this precludes the fact that God can find joy in his creation and also in seeing his creation find joy in him.

Both my children, but my son especially, find joy in spending time with me (humility is coming… wait for it). Now… I am a fallen human and so there is a part of me which revels in the adoration from a sinful perspective of gaining some sort of affirmation or self-esteem boost. But there is a part of me (hopefully a big part, but self-awareness is difficult) which really just loves to see him joyful for his sake. I really feel blessed (sometimes more than others) to see my children grow and enjoy their lives and I think that it is this side of it that is from God. Not a desire as we understand for wanting something that is missing from us… but a joy in seeing something wonderful and seeing something wonderful being joyful.

Praise be to our Father in Heaven who created us, even knowing that there would be suffering… that we might find joy in Him, through His Holy Spirit, made complete in heaven through the giving of His Son for us.

Thanks for your question Olivia… I pray we all seek to know him better so that we may all find our joy complete in Him.


(SeanO) #10

@Olivia_Davis Good thoughts. Let’s break those down a bit.

Emotions

No, God did not create emotions and experience them. Rather, we humans were created in God’s image. God had emotions all along - think of the love in the Trinity. So when God made us, He gave us the capacity for emotions.

God is spirit - so we may not fully understand how God experiences emotions. But certainly we see that He did before He created us and so gave us that same capacity.

Are desires bad?

So, I think that you may have a bit of a misunderstanding regarding desire. It is not wrong for us to desire things for ourselves - like food or shelter or a career or a family. What is wrong is when those desires come before God or others. In the Old Testament God promised the Israelites food, fertile land, children and safety from their enemies, but they were also commanded to take care of the poor, orphan and widow and to love God first (which they neglected to do). In the New Testament, we are to use our short time on earth even as Christ used His:

Philippians 2:3-4 - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

But Jesus also told us to pray for our daily bread and provided wine for a marriage ceremony. Here is a sermon by Tim Keller called “Lord of the Wine” that you may consider listening to before continuing the discussion on desire.


(Olivia Davis) #11

Thanks for explaining the context of the quote for me, that makes more sense! If God has emotions all along, then I think that a plausible answer to my question would be love. Not in the sense that I talked about in my initial question (that God loved us before he knew us), but in the idea that God wanted to love because he is love itself. Actually – this is becoming a lot clearer to me. It’s like he wanted to love more – not because he needed to for his own existence, but because love by nature wants to multiply.

Thank you for the sermon recommendation! As far as I can tell, I’m in complete agreement about how you describe desire for us (as humans). When I was talking about desires in my paragraph about perfection, I more meant from God’s perspective, as in, his desires are probably not inwardly-focused because he’s already fully satisfied in himself. I think that God works through the desires that he has given each of us to establish a relationship with him. And my last paragraph was more just me trying to think of anything philosophical I’d read about desire, but mostly intended to highlight the difficulty of differentiating a good and bad desire without having an absolute standard of morality (unlike the Biblical examples, when we can just look at Jesus). Rereading my answer reveals that I was unintentionally confusing about this idea – partially because I was also trying to figure out what I thought – so it’s absolutely my fault for any misunderstanding there. Believe me, I have plenty of desires I’m still asking God to meet!

@tsbehan, I think you make a good and necessary point about the word desire – it does have a sort of negative connotation. Also, your point about spending time with your children is such a good demonstration. God finds joy in seeing us enjoy him – this seems also like another effect of love.

So perhaps the answer is love – in a far greater way than I’ve ever realized.

We’re making progress, y’all!!


(Anthony Costello ) #12

@Olivia_Davis

Whew! What a question. And what a great litany of responses already. I think when it comes to trying to know God’s motivations, sometimes language and rationality are simply insufficient tools to grasp what probably God would have to reveal in some other, non-propositional way. But, if there is a comprehensible answer, perhaps it is something that God Himself is refraining from showing us at this time.

One thing, one might meditate on, however, is whether or not God freely choosing to create a world in which He knew free beings would reject His love, causing Him to have to suffer separation within own nature (i.e. the separation of the Father and the Son at the moment of atonement on the cross) is not an essential property of God being the maximally great Being that He is. In other words, by not having to create anything, yet in doing so freely, God actualizes His own perfection.

Again, there may be an apophatic turn we need to take here at some point though. Not everything can be understood logically about God.

in Christ,
Anthony


(Olivia Davis) #13

You bring such a powerful point to the discussion: God knew that we would reject him before he created any of us…and he created us anyway. That’s such a humbling point to me, reminding me that I did absolutely nothing to deserve God’s love.

I’ve never heard the term apophatic before! Thank you for teaching it to me. I think you’re correct, Anthony – at some point we do have to rest in the fact that God is good, and let that be satisfying.

Something that I am trying to understand concerning the question is how far we can get logically, and I think we all did progress some as we shared different ideas. If a questioner were to pose this inquiry to me, I’d want to be able to lead them as far as we have gone, but then clearly state where my knowledge crosses from logic to faith (good, reasoned faith, but still faith).


(SeanO) #14

@Olivia_Davis Good thoughts. I am wrestling with how to word the idea of going from ‘logic to faith’. I think I know what you mean, but I believe we need to be careful with our use of the word faith because to the skeptic ‘faith’ means believing something without any evidence. But in the Bible God is clear that we do have evidence - in creation, in revelation and at the spiritual level for our faith.

Hank Hanegraaff says this about faith - “Thus, in biblical vernacular, faith is a channel of living trust —an assurance—that stretches from man to God.”

Every worldview - atheism, pantheism, naturalism and all the other isms - have unanswered questions. No one can answer all every single question that can be posed against their worldview. But as Christians we trust God because of His work in our lives, the truth of His teaching and the historical evidence for the resurrection / Scriptures.

So, in stead of saying we move from ‘logic to faith’, we could say that we trust God even though we do not have all of the answers because of the historical evidence for, the teaching of and our personal experience of Christ.

Can you think of a better way of wording the idea you are trying to convey? I may have misunderstood the exact gist of it. I expect your idea is correct, but I think it’s important to be careful about how we use words in conversation with those who are skeptical and that we make it clear that every worldview has unanswered questions - everyone has ‘faith’ in the unBiblical sense that they accept things they have no evidence for…


(Olivia Davis) #15

This is a thought-provoking point – thank you for bringing it up.

I haven’t come up with a better wording that’s also succinct, so perhaps I’ll lay out my thinking and we can see where we end up :slight_smile:

I want to keep the overarching question (why did God create us?) in mind here. Talking about faith, I meant the idea that we cannot conclude with certainty philosophically or logically why God decided to create us. However, if we look at the character of God, then we can see that he is loving. Thus, we may assume that while a perfect/whole understanding of why we were created eludes us, God’s reason for creation was loving. Because we are not able to ground this idea in certainty, I called it faith in this context. I don’t think that if I gave this reasoning to someone with questions that they’d find my faith nonevidential, but instead see a belief that I choose to have based on the character of God as revealed in the Bible. However, it would be important to lay out the thought process behind faith, instead of just saying I have faith that…

Does this help explain more where I’m coming from? Please tell me how I can think about this better – I want to learn from you!


(SeanO) #16

@Olivia_Davis Well said. “Thus, we may assume that while a perfect/whole understanding of why we were created eludes us, God’s reason for creation was loving.” I think this is a good statement. It avoids implying that faith is not logical while also pointing out that we can have faith in God because we have experienced His love and goodness through Jesus.