Can God and the universe be the same thing?

by Matt Slick
8/22/15

Some people argue that God and the universe are one and the same. This is pantheism. If they are the same thing, then they cannot be distinguished from each other.  But, it is not true that God and the universe are the same thing and I will show you why.

First, from the Christian perspective God and the universe cannot be the same because God is the one who created the universe (Genesis 1:1-19).  But, for those who do not accept the word of God, let me offer a series of statements beginning with the proposition that "God and the universe are one and the same" and work with them to show that God and the universe are different.

Within the argument we have two possibilities dealing with God. One, that God is eternal and has no beginning. The other possibility is that God is not eternal and had a beginning. Let's deal with one at a the time.

God is eternal

  1. Proposition:  God and the universe are one and the same.
    1. This would mean that there can be no distinguishing between God and the universe since both are the same thing.
    2. This would mean that to live in the universe would mean to live inside of God.
    3. Yet this would also mean that since we are part of the universe, then we are part of God.
    4. If we are part of God, then what is God if he is not distinguished from us?
  2. God is eternal. Non-contingent
    1. God is eternal means that he never had a beginning, that he has always existed.
    2. To be non-contingent means that God does not depend upon anything for his existence. He exists independently of all things.
    3. If it is said that God and the universe are both eternal and that each, which are really the same, do not depend upon anything for their existence, then it must be the case that the universe is eternal.
  3. However, the universe is not eternal.
    1. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that the amount of usable energy in the universe is decreasing. If the universe were without a beginning and was therefore eternal, then it would be infinitely old and there would be no usable energy in the universe. But since there is usable energy in the universe, the universe is not infinitely old.
    2. If the universe were infinitely old, then an infinite amount of time must have occurred in order to get to "now". But it is not possible to traverse an infinite amount of time in order to get to now. Therefore, the universe is not infinitely old. It had a beginning.
  4. Therefore, it cannot be true that the non-eternal universe is the same as the eternal God.
    1. If it is said that God is eternal but it is also necessarily true that the universe is not eternal, then it cannot be the case that God and the universe are one and the same.

God is not eternal

  1. Proposition:  God and the universe are one and the same.
    1. This would mean that there can be no distinguishing between God and the universe since both are the same thing.
    2. This would mean that to live in the universe would mean to live inside of God.
    3. This would mean that since we are part of the universe, we are part of God.
    4. If we are part of God, then what is God if he is not distinguished from us?
  2. God is not eternal.
  3. If God is not eternal then he had a beginning, a cause.
  4. The cause of God is either personal or not personal.
  5. If the cause of God was personal, then there is a God beyond God which is separate from God and separate from the universe.  Therefore, the proposition that God and the universe are one of the same would be false.
  6. However, if it was a non-personal cause that brought God into existence then that non-personal cause would have had to have the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about God's creation.
    1. Explanation:  The necessary and sufficient conditions mean that in order for something to occur, the cause has to have both the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about that cause. An example would be a boulder on the ground, with a small rock next to it, a lever wedged under the boulder and on top of the small rock, with a weight on the end of the lever. In this example there are necessary conditions to move the boulder:  a the ground as a platform, a fulcrum (the small rock), a lever, and a weight.  But, if the weight is not heavy enough to move the boulder, then the necessary conditions are not sufficient and the bolder does not move. However, when both the necessary and sufficient conditions are met (the weight is heavy enough), the result is automatic and the boulder moves.
  7. But if that which existed before God had the necessary and sufficient conditions, it would have had to have them by nature, eternally.
    1. If one were to say that something brought that cause into existence, then we would ask what brought that cause into existence as well and we would regress examining a cause of a cause of a cause, etc. But, an infinite regression of causes is not possible. This is because an infinite sequence of causes means there is no first cause. Without a first cause or can be no second, or third, etc. and we can never have an effective cause.
  8. But if that which caused God to exist possessed the necessary and sufficient conditions to bring about God's existence, and it had them eternally (since they would be part of its nature), then God would of been created (along with the universe) an infinitely long time ago, automatically.
  9. But if God and the universe were brought into existence an infinitely long time ago, then the universe would be in a state of heat death according to the second law of thermodynamics. The universe is not in a state of heat death. Therefore, the universe is not infinitely old. 
    1. See also point 3.2 above in the first outline about traversing infinite time.
  10. Therefore, it cannot be true that an impersonal cause brought God into existence.
  11. We would then be back at point 6 which would mean that a personal being brought God into existence. That personal being would be God which would therefore be separate from the universe.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.