Q: Could God have existed forever? Is it actually feasibly possibly for some ‘being’ to have just existed, infinitely?

Physicist: Far be it for me to tell a god what it can do.

Without knowing more about the exact properties of gods, there’s not much to work with.  The best way to answer this is to get a few thousand gods, and see if they last forever. If most or all of them do, then there’s a good chance that any particular god/being could last forever.  This kind of eternity-based science requires some patience.

Some experiments seem to take forever, and some really do (or would).

Unfortunately, the two tricks at a scientist’s disposal are observation and experiment.  Even logic and inference have to step aside for experimental results (or more precisely, the assumptions that the logic is based on has to step aside).  And there have been times when our “obvious” base assumptions, like “absolute time” (time is the same for everything) or the “geocentric hypothesis” (we’re totally not being flung around space at thousands of miles per hour), have been beaten down by overwhelming evidence.  But gods (at least the god of the gaps) don’t seem to be observable.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that very few things seem to last forever (games of Risk, Iron Maiden, etc).  Those things that we know of that have lasted, intact, the 13 or so billions years since the universe began tend to be very simple, like individual protons.  As for things that existed “before the universe” (even assuming that makes any physical sense), nothing can be said at all.  If it’s not in the universe, then it can’t be observed or experimented with and, scientifically speaking, that means we’re s.o.l.

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14 Responses to Q: Could God have existed forever? Is it actually feasibly possibly for some ‘being’ to have just existed, infinitely?

  1. It also depends on what one understands by the “God” word, or even by the “exist” word. For instance, in Aristotelian thought, “existence” is a property of “things”, much like weight, color etc., and in the same way as those, things get it from something else. Given “God” isn’t “a thing” (what with things being finite, God infinite, things temporal, God atemporal, things mixes of other things, God not a mix of anything etc.), the word “exists” wouldn’t apply to him. Additionally, even if we ignore the matter of God “existing” to begin with, the questions would still be meaningless, as time, even if unbounded both in past and future, would still be finite, in the sense that it’s still just one thing (time), not other things, much less all things (if you entirely remove time, some timeless things remain, such as the laws of mathematics and logics, although, sure, no time-bound humans would be “there” to think about any of them). Thus, since an infinite cannot fit a finite, no.

    On the other hand, if you were to consider a, so to speak, “small-g” god, with a time-bound existence and all, well, it’d depend on the god. The Greek god Chronos is time itself, so, as much “forever” as that which he embodies. But then you could argue this one wouldn’t be valid, as he’d lack such a fundamental property as a mind. And another could counter-argue that, given “time” contains everything, Chronos himself would have no lack of mind(s), and who’s to say a god needs a single mind, rather than a few quadrillions, including all the human ones?

    If that doesn’t satisfy, you can try limiting some more the god you’re thinking about. By doing so, sure, at some point you’ll definitely reach a definition for which the (Physical) answer will be a resounding “no” (under current knowledge, at least). Anything made of atoms, for example: at some point, a “baryonic god” would tunnel into iron and/or be ripped/crunched during a BigEvent. As for a non-baryonic one… maybe?

  2. micha says:

    Well, presuming that spacetime itself is a creation…. God couldn’t have existed forever. The eternity of God wouldn’t be in terms of having an infinite duration, but that His age is itself a meaningless concept. Like asking about the physical mass of Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” or the location of “1+1=2″.

    This is a concept called “Negative Theology”. It was common among Scholasts and the Qalam, but being a rabbi, I am more familiar with its manifestations in the writings of Jewish medieval rationalists like Rabbi Saadia ben Yosef el-Fayyumi of Baghdad( and Maimonides.

    Anyway, negative theology is the notion that we really can’t know anything about God beyond ruling out things He can’t be. Therefore, when we speak of Omnipotence, we aren’t ascribing to God infinite power. Rather, we mean that He is never limited by not having enough power.

    Maimonides deals with what I think is the problem that is bothering the questioner. Reality has no completed infinities; Aristotle didn’t believe they were possible. Which is why we generally consider “parallel lines don’t meet” and “parallel lines meet at infinity” to be identical statements. A consequence of negative theology is that none of the claims about God which appear to ascribe infinities to Him don’t really.

    (Most negative theologians also include attibutes of how God appears to us. So, Merciful wouldn’t be a description of God, but shorthand for “the effects of God’s action are consistent with those a person would do out of mercy”. But that’s further off topic.)

    So, is God eternal? It may be more precise to say He is atemporal.

  3. Will says:

    Of course it’s also important to point out that it is utterly impossible to prove if something can exist eternally because in order to do that you need to observe it existing for an infinite length of time.

    It should be fairly obvious why that won’t work.

  4. Moritz says:

    Is there (probably) a way to qualify “existance” as convenient as we do it with size, mass, time, current, temperature or whatever SI-units, or deriving a “existance-unit” from them?

  5. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    That would be really cool!
    But unfortunately, there isn’t a convenient unit.

  6. Joseph Hyde says:

    I have not read the comments but it’s the ‘tone’ and ‘content’ of the answer that I like very much. It’s one of the first ‘reasonable answers’ that I’ve heard from the ‘mainstream’ concerning a, what some people would consider’ a ‘non-scientific’ question, to a ‘religious question’, if you will… From the standpoint of ‘Science’ it’s a question that I believe is outside of ‘Science’s’ reach by some definitions of Science. But in my opinion a very good answer, that doesn’t ‘over reach’ the practices of science into meta-physics or philosophy. Now I’ll go read the comments and get ‘corrected’…

  7. Joseph Hyde says:

    Ask A Mathematician Ask A Physicist

    I just discovered the web site and I read the question ‘Could God Have Existed Forever…?’ and the answer, which is the reason that I am writing…I thought
    that the answer was very good, even better then any answer that would have been received from Richard Dawkins if asked the same question I think.

    So I don’t really have a Question but I am looking for some criticism…not of me but of an acquaintance of mine on the web…! :-)

    I am certainly ‘biased’ in his favor, and ignorant to boot! but I have bought his explanations ‘hook line and sinker’ because of his style of writing and what he has said,
    especially of the first five papers on his web site, which tell ‘where he is coming from’!

    http://milesmathis.com/

    The rest of the papers depend on these and two other papers which are here and here:

    http://milesmathis.com/uft.html

    http://milesmathis.com/are.html

    A little ‘discussion’ is in order I think…

    Being Wrong is not a sin…it’s just ‘how wrong’ one is I think.

    If one carefully reads (doesn’t dismiss ‘out of hand’ that is) these two papers especially, and their contentions, then I would have no problem with an explanation of why and how they are Wrong…that is ‘really wrong’, a ‘Wrong’ that matters.

    Because of the previous answer to that previously mentioned question I think that it’s possible that an answer, not one that is ‘out of hand’ might be able to be forthcoming. Tks!

    If not I understand!

    Some ‘contentions’ may be seen as metaphysical or philosophical but this quaintness doesn’t see it that way, he thinks that they are solid physical reasons and would ‘sweep’ many problems away, in science and mathematics, if the concepts are adhered to in practice.

    I would suspect that not every ‘bleeding contention’ that he makes on his web site are wrong even if many of them are or few or none… but I hope that he get’s a decent hearing, and he well may from what I have read here so far, even if he is Wrong.

    Thanks Much!

    Joe Hyde

  8. sharafali.a says:

    before answering to this questian i have to say something about bigbang theory……

    According to bingbang theory ,all the world is started from a single point by an explosion or by an expantion ……can you say that what is the state or nature of this universe before that expantion…. is it a space or somthing elsev…or anything which we dont know…. . Then is it possible to exist somthig from nothing?…no.. i does not believe that ican get 1,2,3,……………. etc. from zero itself. so the conclussion is that there is something which caused the development of this univers…. in other words there will be a creater… who is called as god.
    The answer of the questian “could god have existed forever? ” is that “YES”. “then is it possible to somthing that to exist infinitly..? “YES”. by physics or by theory of relativity , All the things sorroundig by a system is relative to each other. if your wathing someone who is dead , with respect to others whoare living heis dead…or with respect to our world of frame he is dead…. but relative to some other frame of reference(other world) he is still alive. our frame of reference(world) considering theexternal body and its movement …etc as “alive” the other world may consider some other things to represent “alive”. so he is still alive w.r.t the other worid frame but not with us.
    it just like as lengthe cvontraction or time dylation.. all the thing relative to the frame of reference which you are selecting. then what about god? he is alive forever for every frame of refference. according to theory of relativity.., the velocity of light is always constent in every frames. so why god who is the creater, sesteiner,he has the power of all,can exist infinitly without depending on any frame of refference(worlds)?

    the answer is not still complete .. for more information if you want you can ask .

  9. Rei says:

    one of the basic building block of life is amino acid – - – amino acid is composed of so much quantity of atoms . . . everything is made out of the so numerous tiny atoms …atoms are industructible . . .its splits . . it conbines . . it splits .. . it conbines . . its eternal . . atoms are everywhere . . . down here and up there . . . God is the maker of atom . . . Atom represents God!

  10. JESSICA says:

    man!!! ofcourse god exists are you gies crazy? ( i guess so) and who bought you to this world if it wasnt god huh? your parents no its not !!!! duuuhhh!! so stupid :/

  11. Shepherd Moon says:

    Q: Could God have existed forever?
    A: Not yet.

  12. Well in order to answer this one, the entity supplying the answer would have to exist before eternity began … and exist forever in the future. Now since Eternity obviously has no beginning nor a finite end … it can never be observed. To observe it would be to move beyond the confines of Eternity and of course, that negates the concept of Eternity entirely.

    Now let me my light my bong and try to think this out further. Right now I’m eternal and the Universe is eternal and all that void which comprises some .999999999% of matter is probably energy. And energy is probably God and me and my cat. Ahhhhh now it all seems simple …..

  13. Alex says:

    If god has existed forever then how could anything be created by him? if time kept being pushed back as it would do if god lived forever there is no concievable way that God could have gotton to the point of deciding, i’m going to create the Universe today!. Consider this, on a time scale of say 100 years (a human life) it is possible to have a set date for a project say after 30 years, because you have a year of reference (30 years after the birth of the individual) this project is completed and life goes on as normal. However if you live Forever it is a total different outcome, since you have never had a ‘beginning’ then how could you ever possible get to the point of starting a project? hence why earth or the Universe on that matter could not have been created by God who has lived ‘forever’ and will continue on ‘forever’ so there must be some other theory on how the Universe was created and I fear that this single point may overturn any Idea of a higher being (God) existing. Any thoughts?

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