Countless philosophies throughout history have tried to explain and describe God in many different ways. One increasingly popular notion is to suggest that everything—and everyone—is part of a god that encompasses the entire universe. Some modern takes on this philosophy even attempt to incorporate Jesus into their model.
How should Christians respond to these ideas? Is God the universe, or is He distinct from the universe? Does the Bible give us a clear answer?
God is not the universe. God created the universe and exists outside of its time and space constraints.
Not a New Philosophy
The notion that God is the universe has been around since ancient times, though it has taken different forms over the millennia.
The ancient Babylonians believed that the universe was created when Tiamat, the god of the seas and the underworld, was slain by Marduk and became all of the matter and energy that we observe in our natural universe. Similar origins are recounted in Norse and Chinese mythologies.
Hinduism teaches that god is a ‘universal spirit’ and that we are all a small part of god. The thousands of Hindu deities are all manifestations of portions of this universal spirit. If you read our previous article about karma, then you know that the goal of the Hindu is to achieve enlightenment, which can be described as self-realization and actualization of one’s divine nature.
Some more recent philosophies have taken these ancient ideas and dressed them in modern garb.
The loosely defined “New Age Movement” that became popular in the late 20th century blended the Hindu idea of god with Buddhist, pagan, and Native American philosophies to arrive at the conclusion that everyone—and everything—is God.
The New Age attempts to appeal to Christians by teaching that Jesus spent time in the east and, through mystical teachings, became an “ascended master.” The rest of us, the movement adds, may look to Jesus as a model while we rely on the karmic process of reincarnation to achieve oneness with God.
Perhaps the most direct attempt to intertwine Christian teaching with universal deity is found in the Christians Science movement, which was established by Mary Baker Eddy in the late 19th century.
According to Christian Science, God is all that exists and that matter is an illusion. Christian Science relies on Baker Eddy’s writings to “interpret” scripture as a coded guide to freeing ourselves from the illusion of matter and attaining harmony with God, as modeled by Jesus. In this way, Christian Science is closely related to the gnostic heresies that gained traction in the first two centuries of Christianity.
Most recently, a new presentation of a universal god was put forth by Scott Adams in his 2001 book God’s Debris, which Adams describes as a “thought experiment.” In his book, Adams suggests that god willfully destroyed himself, thus triggering the Big Bang. Accordingly, he says, all matter and energy are “god’s debris,” leftover from this act of self-destruction, and slowly working to recombine itself.
Throughout history, there has been no shortage of ideas that suggest that the universe—and all that it contains—is in some way divine. But how do these ideas hold up under Biblical scrutiny?
God and the Universe: The Biblical Truth
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools …
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.Romans 1:20-22, 25
Scripture describes the deification of created things as foolishness that only carries the appearance of wisdom. The purpose of creation, Paul writes to the Romans, is to testify to the power and divine nature of our Creator. To worship the created things as God, then, is to exchange the truth for a lie.
To debunk the lie, let’s examine the specific aspects of God’s relationship to the universe.
God Created the Universe
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1
Scripture begins by informing us that God is the creator of all things. Every word, verse, chapter, and book that follows is built on this fundamental truth.
The remainder of the creation chapter reveals that God created the cosmos, the earth, and all living things. These truths are highlighted elsewhere in scripture, too:
- Let us make man in our image. (Genesis 1:26)
- The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)
- The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. (Psalm 24:1-2)
Jesus is Co-equal with God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.John 1:1-3
John testifies that Jesus was present at creation and active in creation. Jesus himself, as the creator of all things, could not, therefore, be a created being.
Paul echoes and expounds on this truth:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.Colossians 1:15-17
Again, scripture confirms that the heavens, the earth, and living creatures were created by Jesus. Going a step further, Paul affirms that through Jesus, the universe is sustained and held together.
In these verses, we determine that New Age—and other—attempts to fit Jesus into a God-is-everything philosophy are not compatible with Christian teaching. Jesus had no need to attain divinity since he has been divine from before the beginning. And contrary to the God’s Debris philosophy, the universe remains held together by a God who exists outside of its boundaries.
And speaking of boundaries…
God is Infinite, the Universe is Not
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.Mark 13:31
We already examined the beginning of the universe. Jesus tells us that it will have an end, too. The end of the universe is uniquely in the hands of the God who brought it into being in the first place:
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.Isaiah 46:9-10a
God could not profess to know an end unless there is an end. If God and the universe were one-and-the-same, then either God would be time-bound (and unable to know the end) or the universe would be eternal (and without end). From scripture, we know that neither of these statements can be true.
In the closing chapters of the Bible, the end of the universe is revealed as heaven, earth, and time, will be brought to their end while only God and His people—who are made eternal in His image—remain with Him in eternity.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.Revelation 22:13