Many people struggle to conceptualize the idea that God had no beginning. The concept of an eternal, infinite being can seem irrational to our way of thinking. This creates a barrier for some people to accept God’s existence. Although we may not be able to get our heads completely around these abstract concepts, I want to put it within a framework that may help you grasp this concept to some degree.
You will need to make extensive use of your imagination for this answer. Consider that Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. As such, your imagination will allow you to venture into realities that experiential knowledge cannot cross. So, put on your imagination cap and let’s get started.
First, consider that you were born into a causality-based reality (it began as a cause of something else). That is, everything in our reality had a beginning, even the universe itself had a starting point and will someday come to an end. We have never seen or touched anything that did not have a beginning. Yet, not all realities must be causality-based. Particularly, God dwells beyond the boundaries of space and time as we know it. God’s reality was not based on the cause of anyone or anything else.
Einstein helped us understand that we are always moving through spacetime at the speed of light. But God does not experience spacetime like us. He does not travel through space and time at the speed of light. He dwells outside our time horizon. He is omnipresent—everywhere all at the same time. This means He is able to experience all of time all at the same time. God is still present at the moment He spoke our universe into existence just as much as He is experiencing the moment our reality ceases to exist. In fact, He will forever be in this moment that you are now reading this article.
These concepts seem inconceivable to you and me because we are bound to the constraints of our physical universe and the laws that make it work. But, if you could let go of the mental framework you have constructed for how you perceive reality to work, you could begin to see things differently. Let’s take a mental exercise to help you let go of these perceptions of reality and take a step beyond it.
Imagine that you are a projectionist at a movie theater. Among your usual mix of new arrivals is a mysterious unlabeled reel. Sparking your curiosity, you begin loading the roll of 35mm film into the projector. As you do, you notice that most of the images are of an actor sitting in a room all alone with no other characters. He seems to be talking to the camera throughout most of the movie. Once the loading is complete you inquisitively switch it on. It seems that the film stars a lead character named Bob. The film opens with Bob sitting in a reading room deeply engaged in a thick hardback book.
A few minutes into the film something very bizarre happens. You sneeze and to your astonishment, Bob says ‘Bless you.’ Then, he looks up from his book and surveys his surroundings looking for the source of the sound. Seeing no one, he shrugs his shoulders and re-engages his reading. You are watching in amazement – not knowing what to make of whatever just happened.
You sit silently for a lengthy period of time and then whisper to yourself ‘That was an interesting coincidence.‘ Bob stops, looks up and replies, ‘What was a coincidence?‘ You quickly reach over to the projector and shut it off. You get up and quickly leave the room. You head out of the theatre doors on your way for a long walk.
As you pace off the nervous energy, you consider the thought that you just carried on a brief conversation with a movie character named Bob. You contemplate your sanity and wrestle with whether you want to return to find out whether you are losing your grip on reality or if it was simply some kind of prank. A couple of hours pass before you return and take your seat beside the projector. Hesitantly, you reach for the power switch and – after another brief pause – flip it on.
You find Bob still sitting there reading the same book. You inquire, ‘Bob . . . can you hear me?‘ Once again Bob stops – motionless for several seconds. He puts down the book and rises from his chair and begins looking about the room for the source of the voice. ‘Yes, who is this . . . where are you?‘ he inquires.
You answer, and after some period of dialogue, it becomes clear that Bob the movie character can hear you and respond to you. It seems that when you speak Bob hears you as a voice in his head. You can watch him respond to you on the large 50-foot movie screen. You both have difficulty understanding the meaning of it, but you curiously continue the dialogue. Bob asks your name and you share it.
At some point in the dialogue, Bob asks you a question that shapes his frame of reference and helps you understand that his concept of reality is not quite the same as your own. Bob says that he didn’t recall seeing your name appear on the opening credits of the movie. He concludes that you must be a minor character in the film to have not been listed at the beginning as his name had.
In response to Bob’s interesting question, you retort that the reason your name did not appear at the start of the movie was that you are not a part of it. This declaration leaves Bob in silent contemplation for some period of time. He breaks the silence with a confident pronouncement that you are the movie’s narrator. Again, you restate the fact that you are not involved in the movie in any way.
Next, Bob comes back with another attempt at explaining the mysterious voice in his head. He asks whether your character will be introduced later in the movie and if your voice is simply some theatrical premonition. You attempt to explain to Bob that you are neither a character, a narrator, nor in any way involved in the movie. This seems beyond his comprehension.
As he wrestles with your statements, you offer an apology for having switched the movie off for a couple of hours before. To which Bob responds, ‘What do you mean switching the movie off, that simply doesn’t make any sense, how can you switch off the movie? Besides, there was no 2-hour pause in our conversation.‘ As Bob wrestles with your statements, his mental framework becomes clearer to you.’Movies don’t stop,‘ Bob forcefully states, ‘they start, they travel at 24 frames per second and then after perhaps a couple of hours – maybe three on the outside – they just end – you can’t just stop time and restart it.‘
After extensive dialogue, it becomes clear to you. All that Bob knows is life as a movie character – he understands a movie, but that is the extent of his awareness. His reality is a series of flat 2-dimensional images sitting on a roll of 35mm film that travels through the light projector at 24 frames per second. His universe is that roll of film. Just as your reality contains 24 hours in a day, his contains 24 frames in a second. His lifetime is the duration of the film. His law of physics states that time travels at a rate of 24 frames per second – never faster – never slower. The idea that a being could exist outside of the film seems impossible. The notion that time could be stopped by an outside force is obviously perplexing to him.
With this apocalyptic revelation of Bob’s concept of reality, you struggle with how to respond. How could Bob possibly comprehend the existence of a three-dimensional reality beyond his? How could he understand the workings of your time in relation to his own?
You are beginning to understand the limitations of his reality and how you do things that Bob cannot. You re-engage him with a challenge – ‘Bob, I want to prove to you that I exist beyond your film reality.‘ ‘Okay,‘ he responds, ‘go ahead and prove it.‘ You tell him, ‘I will count how many books are in that room in less than 1 second. Would that prove to you that I exist beyond your reality?‘ Bob suggests that it would be a good start. You tell him to say go when he is ready for you to begin. Bob quickly comes back with a ‘go.‘ You stand up, take a breath and reach for the projector switch and turn it off. The whole process takes about 10 seconds. Did you fail the challenge?
You pull out a section of the film and lay it on a lit table and take out a loupe (magnifying lens). Over the course of the next 10 minutes, you count the number of books in the room from this still image. Once you are certain of the number, you wind the film backward on the reels by a few hundred frames, reinsert it back into the projector and press the on the switch.
You have traveled back into Bob’s past several seconds. Just as Bob is about to say ‘go,‘ you blurt out ‘147 books Bob.‘ He asks how you could do such a thing. You attempt to explain to Bob that you are completely independent of his timeline. You have the ability to move all the way to the end of the film or go backward at will. You also have the ability to completely stop time as Bob knows it. You knew the number of books in the room because you stopped his time, counted the books, went backward in his timeline and restarted it.
This is only the beginning of the possibilities you have. You could predict Bob’s future simply by watching the movie to the end and then rewinding it and re-engaging Bob. You would not be determining what Bob did by going into his future and then moving backward, you dwell independently of his time experience. You could tell Bob to think of any word and before he could say it, you could tell him what he was going to say. No matter what word he came up with, you could listen to him say it and then rewind and say it before he does.
Bob may think that you are reading his mind. He might think that you are predetermining what you want him to say and controlling his mind. Yet, no matter what he thought, the reality is simply that you dwell apart and above from his limitations. That fact allows you to do things that are beyond his abilities and even his intellectual capacity.
Bob dwells frame by frame from beginning to end. You dwell apart from his beginning, middle, or ending. In any one of Bob’s moments, you could know everything that will ever happen to him in that movie. You could watch the same clip a hundred times and say something different each time at the same moment in the movie. Bob would hear all the hundred statements in the same instant and would be completely blown away by your capabilities.
If there were five characters in the room at the same time, you could watch the movie five times and say something different to each one at the same moment. They would each hear you say something to each of them personally at all the same time. The same would apply if there were five billion involved. Your brilliance might seem impossible to these people in their flat, thin reality. Yet, the impossibilities fade from mystery into logic when one is able to move outside of the boxes of one’s own limited constraints.
Bob thinks in frames and scenes just as we do in terms of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Frames give Bob some handles on measuring events and being able to relate with others about those events in a common language and reference system. Bob can recall an event that occurred 2,500 frames ago in much the same way that we can recall an event that happened five minutes ago. But the difference stops just about there.
Einstein showed us that time is much a slipperier thing than it appears. It isn’t absolute, but something that is experienced differently depending upon one’s speed through space in relation to another person’s speed. If two people are traveling at vastly different speeds to one another, one may experience time at a rate 1,000 times that of the other (or much more at higher speed deltas). If we know that two people dwelling within the same space dimensions can experience time so differently, it should come as no surprise that a being dwelling beyond our space dimensions has no relationship to what we know as time.
We struggle to imagine a being not having a beginning because we dwell in a reality where every being is forced to always travel through one dimension of time (it has been suggested that it is actually only a half dimension of time since we can only travel through it in one direction– (an excellent resource on this topic is Hugh Ross’s Beyond the Cosmos). Indeed, every being in our reality is always traveling at the speed of light. That speed is divided between space and time (always totaling a combined speed of the speed of light – never more, never less). If we are sitting motionless in space (in relation to another person), all of our speed is spent going through time (in relation to that other person). As our speed through space increases, our speed through time must slow down (because we can only travel at a maximum rate at the speed of light through both space and time).
This may be confusing to those who have never studied general relativity. If so, that’s okay – it takes most of us a considerable amount of time, study, and imagination to begin understanding how the world functions based on relativity. I highly recommend Brian Greene’s excellent book ‘The Elegance Universe’ for a good overview of relativity (and string theory).
It seems that time is an agent that protects us from infinity. Without it, we would be infinite. Since our existence in this reality needed to be temporary, God had to give us time (so that we could experience decay). Time makes our visit to this reality temporary.
Time also prevents us from knowing the future and returning to the past (so as not to eliminate the impact of cause and effect). Without time (or if we could travel both directions through the time dimension), we could travel into the future and see the ramifications of our decisions. We could also travel backward in time to make changes to our decisions. This would invalidate the purpose of our existence in this temporary reality. I imagine time like a conveyor belt upon which we travel through our reality. The only way off is through death’s door (the transition from the temporary into the permanent reality).
So, time is essential to our existence here. Yet, this does not mean that time is a dimension beyond this reality. If God created our dimensions of space and time with our reality, He must have the ability to freely create dimensions of space and time (if He could create these dimensions, it seems reasonable that He could have created an unlimited number of both – infinite space and time dimensions). This means that the higher reality that existed before this one did not necessarily contain one dimension of time. Naturally, we do not know what reality is like beyond this temporary one. God may have created a much larger number of dimensions of space and time outside of this one. Or, perhaps that higher reality has dimensions made of something other than space or time (or none at all).
So, the activities of anyone dwelling in this reality are limited to the dimensions of space and time available to us. Yet, just as you are capable of much more powerful existence and activities than Bob in his flat, thin, linear world, so are beings beyond this reality capable of things we cannot fathom – including not having an ending – and in the case of one – not having a beginning (the uncaused cause).
Now try to understand that we are Bob. Just as Bob knew that all movies have an ending, so we know that all beings experience death (or cease to exist in this reality). Yet, beings beyond our reality are no more limited by our space and time dimensions than we are confined to Bob’s. Adding dimensions or dwelling beyond dimensions removes the boundaries that restrict our abilities. Just as you exist before, during, and after Bob’s movie (and can look at the whole roll of film in a single glance), so can beings that dwell beyond our space-time dimensions experience reality beyond our chain of moments steadily moving us through time at the speed of light.
Just as Bob could not comprehend someone having the ability to fast-forward, stop, and rewind a movie, neither can we comprehend the capabilities of a being who is not confined to one dimension of time. The inability to make that mental leap is not an indication of the impossibility of that activity, but of our lack of exposure to the characteristics enabled by dimensions of reality beyond our three of space and one of time (or half of the time).
So, although we struggle to comprehend an infinite being, we can get some handles on it by putting ourselves in the shoes of Bob and then extrapolating from that mental image what must be possible beyond the limitations of this temporary reality.
Perhaps I should clarify a possible misunderstanding. Am I suggesting that God is constantly rewinding and re-watching our move of life? Not really. Just as we are far more complex than Bob, so is God infinitely more intricate than we. To illustrate, let’s take some baby steps closer to God’s capabilities.
Instead of God having to use machinery to view a movie, suppose that He could hold up an entire movie in His hands and then visually scan it back and forth – moving to any frame instantly. Now, let’s take another baby step forward. Suppose that instead of His having to use film, He could look into our reality and scan back and forth through time with just as much ease and clarity as Bob watching a movie. Now for a slightly bigger step…
Although it is a stretch, imagine that God doesn’t need to move back and forth in this reality. Instead, He can experience every moment at the same time. He doesn’t travel with time, He encompasses all of time. He is greater than time (infinitely transcending this little dimension in which we are temporarily trapped) and is able to enjoy all of it at the time. He doesn’t watch the movie in linear pieces but experiences the totality of it at all times. His thoughts do not need to be singular and linear as He is not stuck in only one time dimension (perhaps He dwells within an infinite number of time dimensions or completely free from any of them together).
Now, let’s take yet another step forward. Suppose that God does not need to look at our reality from afar through a single pair of eyes. Rather, imagine that He is everywhere in this reality all at the same time. He can see any moment not only through His own eyes but through any of ours as well. He might enjoy experiencing a single moment from several perspectives all at the same time. He watches a sunset through your eyes and then through the eyes of another and another and another – altogether. He enjoys seeing the differences in perspectives and breathing the emotions each of us experienced at that moment. He knows our thoughts more intimately than we have ever experienced any ourselves. He can know an infinite number of perspectives at the same time.
This means that although you are sitting there in your chair reading this text on your computer screen, God may be – and I believe is – experiencing it with you – not just once at this moment – but perhaps for the trillionth time (times infinity). As you take your next breath, imagine that it is billions of years in the future and you have been dwelling in God’s eternal presence longer than you can remember. Even then, God is enjoying knowing you in this moment of time and is revisiting it (or knowing it in His infinite now).
He is the ever I Am – always knowing every moment as now (never having to use His memory and never having to forecast the future (He has no use for either) – because He is always in every single moment at all times – infinitely). It may be difficult for you to journey this far mentally (in part due to losing the skill of using your imagination and in part because you have never known the freedom of life experienced beyond the chains of our space and time). But, we are moving toward the door of freedom from those chains (death’s door) at the speed of light. The number of choices in your hands while amidst the realm of freedom of choice is rapidly slipping through your fingers. Each one that you miss can never be reclaimed and God will miss the infinite enjoyment of those lost opportunities with you.
Use your imagination to take a deeper breath than you’ve ever taken before – in many ways. Go through this first part of this exercise just once…
Take a breath as deeply as you can and then let it out as slowly as you comfortably can…
It is done!
Let’s contemplate that moment for a bit.
You enjoyed that moment (or reluctantly did so) and will never be able to change it – no one can – ever. It was a profound choice that you permanently etched onto the fabric of eternity. That moment will ripple throughout eternity without end with more ramifications than you ever knew possible.
Imagine that God was there with you at that moment. As you took that breath, God was enjoying it – not from afar; rather, He was enjoying your thoughts more personally and profoundly than you have ever known anything in your life. As you were taking that breath, God is enjoying that moment throughout eternity.
At that moment, God is searching every part of your being in order to share that moment as intimately as possible. It was not simply some abstract biologic process. God can see into dimensions of our being far beyond the visual spectrum. He can smell the aroma of the pleasure you had in it (or the lack thereof). He can see the colors, shapes, and textures of your emotions at that moment and caress them for eternity.
Consider this possibility. Suppose that God’s enjoyment of that moment is somehow linked to your enjoyment of it. That is, the more you enjoyed the glorious freedom and power you exercised at that moment, the more enjoyable it is to God. This possibility carries many implications. God intimately saw the unconscious accusations you held in your being against His goodness. And those accusations robbed you of the full measure of enjoyment God wanted you to have – and this lessened God’s ability to enjoy your enjoyment of that moment forever.
Suppose that God created you to enjoy life – much more deeply than any of us have found thus far. Let’s try taking another breath. Before doing so, however, let’s do some preparation work. Imagine that God is looking at this computer screen through your eyes at this moment with you. He is reading it with you. He is looking to see how you will respond to this revelation of His nearness to you. Every moment throughout eternity, God is experiencing this moment here now with you. Although it is fleeting to you, God enjoys it for all eternity.
You will enjoy this next breath much more deeply if you understand that God is there with you experiencing that breath and the thoughts and emotions that accompany it. If you commune with God at this moment, its enjoyment will escalate. Imagine that God will take this next moment and cherish it forever – like a trophy sitting on a racer’s shelf.
Let God in this time (how? – by inviting Him to join you more closely). As you prepare to take this next deep breath, tell God that you want Him to enjoy it fully. In order for that to happen, His enjoyment will be enhanced by your enjoyment of it and your enjoyment of God’s enjoyment of it. Realize that the moment is not yours alone but intimately shared with God. He is that invisible presence that you occasionally recognize is with you (although He is always there – we are usually too distracted to notice). As you realize God’s enjoyment of you at this moment, it will enhance your enjoyment. It can start you on an upward spiral of enjoyment (you enjoying God’s enjoyment and God enjoying your enjoyment and so on).
As you prepare to take this next breath, picture God taking it with you. As you are breathing it in, imagine God closing His eyes in sync with you and breathing deeply of you. He created you to know Him and to enjoy Him. Also, He created you so that He could know you and enjoy you.
Pick one of the following statements to meditate on and speak to God as you take your next breath…
- God enjoy this moment with me.
- Enjoy me as I enjoy You.
- Let me breathe deeply of Your enjoyment of me.
- Let me see You breathing with me.
- God take this moment of enjoyment I choose to give You and savor it for all of eternity.
- Wash over me with awareness of Your nearness God.
- Pick a phrase you want to meditate on.
- Take a deep breath as you meditate on it, and then breathe out slowly as you continue to meditate on it.
- Repeat as needed…
This is a baby step on a journey of enjoying God and allowing Him to enjoy you. But, don’t stop here. There is much more life to be found in the pages ahead.
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