Children's Questions About God
Our ace-reporter Hanna asked her rabbi three questions about God, to which she did not feel she got a satisfactory answer. So she wrote to The Valley Patriot's resident theologian, Paul Murano.
#1) Who Created God? #2) Why do People Die? and #3) How could Sarah Have a baby at the age of 90?
Hanna exemplifies what it means to be a human person. Being truly human includes seeking to understand causes, meaning, the purpose of our existence, and the answer to our eternal destiny. Unfortunately, too many adults stop asking the important questions after acquiring a cynicism that all too often accompanies adolescence and adulthood in modern times.
The first two questions asked by Hanna are challenges to the basic axiom of human reason, the law of non-contradiction. These relate to Gods being (in Ques. 1) and Gods nature (in Ques. 2) - the what and why of ultimate reality, respectively.
Who Created God?
Good question, Hanna. Its probably the number one question children ask relating to religion. It usually takes on this form: If God created everything, who created God?
The trick to understanding this lies in the name God gives Himself in the third chapter of Exodus: I Am. When encountering God in the burning bush Moses humbly asks God for His name so he can tell his people whom he encountered. God responds with, Tell them I Am sent you.
This self-descriptive divine name, Yahweh in Hebrew, makes clear that God is both personal (I) and eternal (Am). God is not I Was nor is he I Will Be. The divine name denotes that God has no past or future, no change. He simply Is.
Another way of saying this is that God lives in the eternal now. How can this be, since everything has a past, present and future? Everything created does. But God is Creator. All things in the created universe are in space and travel through time; and the measurement of the motion of matter in space is time.
Heres what we have to ponder: the book of Genesis states that God created the entire universe out of nothing; He created all matter, space and time. So how can the One who created time be subjected to it?
And if God is outside of time, if He is greater than time, how can He have a beginning or end? Being pure eternal Spirit, God does not grow or change, and because He transcends the universe He created, including its constituent element of time, He has no beginning and no end. He simply always Is.
Why Do People Die?
Another very good and important question. Perhaps the most asked question in the history of humanity, it often takes this form: If God is all good and all powerful, why is there suffering and death in the world?
While science continues to struggle with defining death as either heart/respiratory cessation, whole brain death or partial brain death, theology defines it as the separation of soul from body.
Precisely when this occurs is for the realm of science, but that it occurs is the realm of theology. As the bible attests, human beings are ensouled bodies that are not meant to die. With Gods supernatural life (grace) offered to man in the garden, soul and body were not meant to separate. Although mans physiological component on its own is subject to death like the other animals, the special gift of eternal life offered to original humanity symbolized in the tree of life was to enable the spirit to continuously renew the body, creating immortality.
Genesis tells us that God created mankind to be perfectly happy in Paradise with neither suffering nor death. Many religious traditions call this Original Justice, which was all tainted by Original Sin.
God gave the first humans everything they needed for perfect happiness, and if you read the Adam & Eve story carefully, you will see that within the garden paradise only two trees were explicitly named: the tree of Life (which offered man immortality) and the tree of the knowledge of good & evil (which had with it the penalty of death).
As it would be made more explicitly clear later in the bible, God offered man the op-tions of life and death, and commanded them to choose life.One thing the Eden story illus-trates is that union with God is the source of happiness and wholeness, and sin breaks that union. Without sin the mind would know the truth, the will would choose the good, and hence the human person would always act according to the true and the good creating a continuous paradise on earth.
Eden was meant for everyone. Without sin there would have been no ignorance or weakness, and no suffering or death. Sound like a good deal?
Only perfection would make sense coming from the creative hand of the all-good God. However, theres a caveat. God didnt make us robots or brute animals, but in His own image as persons. This comes with the freedom to choose either good or evil and consequently life or death.
The book of Wisdom states, The wages of sin is death, and St. Paul in Romans states, Through one person (Adam) sin entered the world, and through sin, death (Rom 5:12). In making the choice to eat the forbidden fruit, a direct violation of Gods command, Adam & Eve fell from Gods friendship and grace.
By breaking this primordial relationship with God, the entire chain of truth and life became broken in each link: man and God become separated as man hides from His presence (Gn 3:10), man and woman no longer have a relationship of full trust and respect, but one of domination and lust (Gn 3:7, 12, 13, 16), man in himself becomes broken (3:16, 19; 4:8), and the relationship between man and creation becomes strained (Gn 3:17-19).
Not only is the world no longer a paradise, but with this original breakage came the ultimate penalty God had warned against: You are free to eat from any of the trees in the garden except the tree of knowledge of good & evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die (Gn 2:16-17).
Because the first parents failed the ultimate test of love, human nature became tainted, imbalanced, and subjected to death, spiritual and physical. We all share in this tainted human nature by inheriting it, for the human nature of all humanity was literally in our first parents as our representatives on earth.
All the genetic material that was to be used to populate the earth has its genesis in these two. In this sense we are all in Adam & Eve as they fall. Even science seems to confirm the point that we all descended from an original human pair, whether God created them immediately or through a slow evolutionary process. According to Scripture, death wasnt in Gods original plan for man, but through mans free will and choice to reject Gods law, we now all suffer and die.
The bottom line is: God did not create death but permits it as a consequence and penalty for our sin. But death does not have the final word in this great saga of life. God in His infinite mercy promised a Savior to rescue mankind from its self-imposed mortal condition. Jews are still waiting for him while Christians believe Him to be Jesus.
How could Sarah have a baby at 90 years old?
You are referring here to Genesis 17:17, where God provides the miracle of conception and childbirth to Abrahams wife Sarah who is clearly too old to have children.
This one well just have to chalk up to Gods divine intervention. Christians will see this as a precursor and foreshadowing of a greater miracle that would happen to the Virgin Mary. In the bible, Gods covenant was transferred from Abraham to his son, Isaac, to whom Sarah gave birth, as the new covenant was transferred from God to His Son, Jesus, to whom Mary gave birth.
This typological parallel between Isaac and Jesus continues with father Abraham being called to sacrifice His beloved son Isaac.
Murano teaches theology and philosophy at Assumption
College and Northshore Community College. You can
E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com
*Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com