Why is there Something rather than Nothing?
The question contains two parts. The first part makes the statement that there is something. The word something is uncertain, it does not identify the ‘something’. Something is an ambiguous word and in this case seems to represent all of creation and more specifically reveals the awareness of existence present in beings capable of asking the question.
The second part of the question; rather than nothing, suggests that the questioner, the human being, seeks to understand both the origins of everything material and of their own personal awareness as a living being.
The connection of the human being’s life with the existent matter seems inseparable. The human being cannot exist without the cosmos, particularly the earth. Yet, the human being struggles with a sense of displacement, a feeling of ‘being’, of value, of an intrinsic sense of more.
This power to think in definitive terms, to articulate with the wonder of words, to speak with the breath necessary for life and experience our words being heard by others is expressive of the power to transcend and create reality. This power to speak, to define, to be heard challenges the restrictive reality of the cosmos and lays before the human being the potential to hold and explore the longing for transcendence imbedded in the human mind, heart, or soul.
The question outweighs the cosmos for without the question there would be nothing. Without the human being to speak and seek for origins, for meaning, all that is left is a wondrous display of stuff void of any one to testify to its grandeur.[i] God alone is without dependency upon the cosmos, unless God creates a need in connection to the cosmos; humanity fills that need.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 NRS)
The heavens testify to the glory of God and only human beings can affirm their testimony. This is so because human sentience seeks transcendence. Without the human tendency to question and seek answers for existential realities such as mortality, love, and faith, all that would be left is the mechanics of the natural world. The idea that the grandeur of the cosmos is a waste unless some life exists beyond the earth is not consistent with this statement from the Psalms. It seems the cosmic display is expressly for the human beings that are capable of observing, contemplating, writing and speaking on the heavenly theatre.
That there is something other than human beings, a cosmos, an earth, is God’s initial revelation of self and of God’s care for the creatures that inhabit his creative work. That there are human beings is (for us) both personal and phenomenal, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Further, the ancient writers of the Hebrew people discerned in the human capacity for transcendence a relatedness to their God named Yahweh. Yet, Yahweh is discerned and revealed to be holy; meaning that the nature of God is of a superior character, a wholeness that is good and free of evil.
For the monotheist; something exists because God created. God is other than the creation and the creation has a beginning whereas God does not. God’s declaration to Moses is, “I will be that which I will be”, meaning that God’s comprehensive revelation of self given to human beings is a process worked out on the stage of history. The creation or the cosmos is not God and is limited in revelatory power to communicate God in a comprehensive manner.
Theology is ontological, so working from a theological perspective, the search to understand why something exists begins with the acknowledgement of God as revelation in the cosmos, humanity and history. God is also revealed in humanity as image of God and particularly in Jesus Christ as incarnation of God.
Existentially, God speaks to humanity through the moral conscience. The moral conscience is an ontological connection with the creator. The moral conscience is the testimony of God, who is morally responsible for the creation of humanity.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8 NRS)
14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.
15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; (Rom 2:14-15 NRS)
Although human beings possess the image of God through ontological realities that make us like God, we lack relationship with God which is only achieved through faith. Faith is the search for God accomplished through human ascent that reaches beyond the world as it is and seeks the world as it should be. God responds to faith because faith is an existential reality, an ontological commonality between humanity and God. This is so because God has faith in God’s self. Faith is first found in God and is part of the image we share.
That God has faith requires both an object and an example. First, the object of God’s faith must be God’s self. Examples of God’s faith in God’s self include his covenants and the incarnation. In particular God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 is expressive of God’s faith in God’s self. The covenant ceremony requires Abraham to flay some animals down the middle and place them in a natural crevice where rain water drains downward. God then passes through the midst of the flayed animals, represented by a smoking pot and a flaming torch.
The meaning of the ceremony is that the agreeing party (God) seeks to be dismembered like the animals rather than fail to fulfill the covenant. This event is remarkable for God is communicating a desire to cease to exist rather than fail in his word. God’s faith in God’s self is expressed through the severity of the ceremony’s meaning in the event of failure.
In the incarnation, Jesus is subjected to the temptations common to humanity. The temptations are invalidated if the potential for Jesus to say yes is removed from possibility. God’s faith in God’s self is expressed in the life of Jesus. I think that God had faith in his ‘nature’ in his ‘holiness’, so that even when God incarnated God’s self as word and wisdom in flesh, void of omnific attributes and even memory, God had faith that the nature of his essence, so limited, would resist all that opposes life. God is the object of his own faith. We can say that the father had faith in the son.
I have proposed this line of thinking in order to make the claim that faith is an ontological reality. Whereas God is love, we can also say that God has faith. Faith then, exercised by human beings is expressive of the image of God. If you will, the use of an oxymoron can assist my effort; faith is a tangible reality. As human beings we have been created to believe, to have faith. Faith is God’s gift to us and enables us to connect with the invisible God. Faith is a relational term and not an abstract concept developed for the sake of escaping rational inquiry into reality, as some would contend. Faith leads us into reality and away from ‘nothing’.
Note on Creation out of Nothing
To say that God created ex-nihilo (out of nothing) is to acknowledge that God made room within God’s self for something other than God’s self. Because God is other than the creation, we do not have the language to communicate the creation as originating from God but be other than God; our only recourse is the word ‘nothing’. For the believer, it is apparent that God has the power to make that which God imagined - to become real. I am fond of saying that death insists life is real and not a dream.
[i] Although philosophers and scientist and theologians seek to define ‘nothing’ they seem to fail to be able to do so. I might follow the rejectionist on this point, since there is something. The rejectionist simply rejects the validity of the question. The idea of nothing is inconsistent with reality.