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For background, this is related to other questions about whether God may have changed in the past. It is often touted that God preceded all creation, and some even say that He is able to violate causality because in some ostensible sense He "is" causality itself and "created time". For those who believe that the Genesis account (or anything else) implies that God participated in essentially just one creation, and who use the nature of God as the Creator as proof that He always existed as an Omnipotent Being, does that not result in a contradiction? If not, why not?

If God suddenly decided to create one day (at the "beginning") but didn't before then, is that not proof that God changed? What was He doing for all eternity before He created anything? What caused Him to decide that, after an eternity of not creating anything, He would begin to be a Creator?

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9 Answers 9

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'After' an eternity is meaningless. Eternity is not the passage of time. There is no 'after' in eternity.

It is a state other than time.

This is incomprehensible to the natural man. It is realised only by faith.

It is also meaningless to suppose that the Eternal went through some kind of metamorphosis prior to the instant of creation. There is no 'prior to' in eternity.

The action of the Eternal, to create, began time.

That he who is the Eternal purposed, and chose, to create does not in any way suppose a 'change' in Him who is eternal.

The answer is No.

God did not 'change'.

Ever.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: [Ephesians 1 : 3,4]

Before the foundation of the world is how scripture describes the purpose of God in his own Son.

This is received by faith, by those who are in Christ.

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  • This brings up another very important, even key underpinning of theology. Does the reality of eternity necessitate suspension of causality? I asked this question here, but the discussions resort to handwavium of saying that God "is causality" or that the question somehow doesn't make sense. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/99262/… This question excellently points out why such arguments don't make sense: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/97026/…
    – pygosceles
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:08
  • @pygosceles Causality understood in the human sense requires time (before and after). Thus, it exists only when time exists. Eternity is outside time. Check Aquinas on the topic of causality. There you have some deep philosophical understanding. aquinas101.thomisticinstitute.org/what-is-efficient-causality
    – luchonacho
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:34
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    'The creation . . . . . occurred within eternity' ? ! ? If something 'occurs' then it is not eternity. If any matter exists, it cannot be eternity. Your statement is illogical, sir. The act of creation caused the beginning, and time began.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2023 at 7:01
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    @pygosceles There is no such thing as 'causality'. Persons purpose something and then they do it. You are trying to turn a concept into a motive force with independent ability. You are deifying the concept.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2023 at 7:50
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    @pygosceles Laws and concepts cannot exist of themselves. Much less be 'immutable'. Concepts come out of a mind. Laws are a matter of word - a mouth. Everything, everything, everything, comes from the One True Living God. In whom we live and move and have our being.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 27, 2023 at 18:03
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And what if eternal unchanging God had always purposed to create at just the moment and fashion in which He did; always having intended to cause time, matter, and space. No change in God whatsoever is necessary. Causality may not be as bound within time as time is within space, which cannot exist without one another.

There is measurable causality within how we perceive the natural world and here the cause always precedes the effect in time. But causality may not be as dependent upon time for existence as are we, who are made of dust in time. Thus God, willing to create prior to time, need not violate causality.

related reading: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/q/31258

In beginning God created the heavens and the earth. This is exactly what modern physics would expect. The Bible record shows time (beginning) erupting into existence simultaneously with space (heavens) and earth (matter). God, who changes not, changes everything.

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; - Isaiah 57:15

God inhabits (permanently resides in) eternity (continuous existence). As opposed to Psalm 90:2, which specifically assigns perpetuity equally to both past and future - see this question - as if to attempt expressing an infinity of time in both directions, the passage in Isaiah attempts to describe a state of being which doesn't incorporate time.

This makes sense. In the first instance the Psalmist, temporal and literally trapped within time, attempts to describe eternity using the only frame of reference available to him, unending past and future. In the second it is God Himself who speaks and, completely disregarding reference to time as we understand it, simply states that He inhabits perpetuity.

Whether His decision to create occurred outside of time or occurs at every moment of time is beyond our ken and neither necessitates change on His part.

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  • "Had always purposed to create" - this makes God sound like the master of all procrastinators, taking a literal eternity to get around to creating anything! The very idea necessarily lessens God in the estimation of man. What prevented Him from creating previously, then? Did He lack the materials? Or the know-how? What made this "moment" appropriate for creation, or how is a moment even defined outside of time? Could you explain how a concept of "prior to time" could exist or make sense without resorting to time in your definition of it? Did God stop creating?
    – pygosceles
    Dec 27, 2023 at 7:34
  • @pygosceles Of course 'moment' makes no sense in eternity. Neither does the idea of 'prior to time'. We, who are entirely temporal and cannot comprehend eternity certainly cannot express it and yet we try because eternity is where God lives. (Isaiah 57:15). Dec 27, 2023 at 13:56
  • if that is the answer then we should simply say, "You shouldn't ask such questions because we don't know and cannot comprehend an answer to them" or "the question is nonsense because we assume God doesn't make sense". But such dogmas fly in the face of John 17:3. If moment in eternity makes no sense, why is it used in the answer here? If the question is nonsensical or forbidden, then why are those exact same concepts part of an answer about them?
    – pygosceles
    Dec 27, 2023 at 15:57
  • @pygosceles I simply suggest that the notion of "taking a literal eternity" is a category mistake; as though eternity is an infinity of time. "Moment in eternity" is simply the best I can do in trying to isolate something within timelessness. differencebetween.com/…. See also: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternity Dec 28, 2023 at 14:27
  • Let's try to be rigorous. If a person does not know the differences and similarities between time and eternity, perhaps he should simply admit that he does not know, rather than resorting to distinctions without a difference, void of definition. The usual use of the word "timeless" implies that the value of a timeless thing is independent of time, or rather never worsens with age. In this other context it can mean "without team", but that is poorly defined. I believe a rigorous Scriptural definition of causality is in order.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 28, 2023 at 16:43
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Hebrew Narrative
A potentially confusing statement comes when Jacob leaves his family and goes to Haran:

Genesis 28:10

Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. (ERV)
ויּצא יעקב מבּאר שׁבע ויּלך חרנה

Most translations read went toward Haran since the next event places Jacob in Bethel. In his commentary, H.C. Leupold explains why to is correct: "a characteristic Hebrew way of summarizing the whole story before the details are given." 1

Not all narratives begin this way. In the case of Jacob's journey there was a purpose: to find a wife from Rebekah's family. Beginning with a summary statement, places emphasis on the journey's purpose. Undoubtedly Jacob made many stops in the month-long trip, but the summary statement means he never considered looking for a wife until he reached Haran.

[To find a wife from Rebekah's family] Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran.

Obviously, the purpose is given before the journey began. However, if these details were omitted, a summary statement would function to alert the reader there was a purpose and it would be found in Haran, not in Bethel or another place along the way. In this case, the purpose of the journey, finding a wife, would be found in details following the summary statement.

Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran [to find a wife from Rebekah's family].

In the Beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth
Like Jacob's going to Haran, this statement begins a narrative. Unlike Jacob's journey, there are no earlier events. The lack of prior information raises questions. "In the beginning of what?" "Why did God create the heavens and the earth?" Like Jacob's journey to Haran, the purpose of creation is found in the narrative which follows:

Genesis 1:26:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (ESV)

The purpose is found within the narrative. It is placed at a logical point in the details, immediately before creating man. Yet it is apparent this is the purpose of creation for three reasons:

  1. The purpose of creation was not an after thought.
  2. There is no other detail which could be understood as a purpose.
  3. Since God was going to create the earth and life over which man was have dominion, those would have to be created such that man would be able to have dominion.

It would not be unreasonable to begin the Bible with this purpose:

[God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (cf. 1:26)] In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (1:1)

Conclusion
In the beginning... is a summary statement of the creation narrative whose purpose is found in the details of the narrative.

It is also fair to consider the summary in terms of the entire Bible. In doing so, a more complete purpose is given:

Revelation 21:

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place [tabernacle] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

Eventually, God will dwell with man. Therefore, the complete reason God created man in the image and likeness of God, is so He may dwell with man.

So God may dwell with man, God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..." In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.


1. H.C. Leupold D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Baker Book House, 1960, Volume II, p. 770.

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The Holy Trinity existed before creation and they had glory and this can be attested to what Jesus said here

John 17:5

Now, glorify me, my Father, in union with yourself, in that glory which I had in union with you before the universe was.

It was a union and they were joined together, God created us out of his good will not because he needed more glory. God had glory even before the world and the heavens and their hosts existed. Scripture itself says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever more.

Hebrews 13:8-16

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.

This applies to Jesus Christ alone and not the entire Godhead. If you mean change by position, how? when He is every where at all times. Why would a being who is omnipresent need to move?

You should so know that Jesus Christ is also omnipresent and knows everything happening in the universe and this can be seen from this verse in Revelation

Revelation 5:6

And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

In my opinion God does not change because The Holy Spirit and Jesus also share omnipresence with God so even if the Holy Spirit was sent to us on the day of the Pentecost, He was already here right from the first day of creation

Genesis 1:2

and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters

Others might argue that Jesus was sent to us from the Father, Jesus was already here and he told the Pharisses and the Saducees this, he was the one working with Moses and all the prophets of the old testament as the Word of God

John 8:57

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

I think you apply literal understanding to the change statement where you even see God opening his mouth to say let their be light to be a change, God is a living being like you and me but higher, there is no living being that does not change, how will you know it's alive?

The change implied by the Bible is a change in his ways, his ways do not change.

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Having been married to an artist for 48 years, I observed some facts that have a bearing on your question. Artists are creative. It is part of who they are to create something (whether the chosen means is a camera, paint, written words, spoken words, music and so on.) Artists are observant, gathering inspiration for their subjects from what they see or sense or feel within themselves. Artists are deep thinkers (well, the good ones are). It can take years or even a couple of decades for an artist to contemplate an idea before getting to work on producing it.

An artist simply has to produce works of art. A musician simply has to produce music. A poet simply has to produce poetry, and so forth.

Now, the massive difference between human artists and God as Artist par excellence, is that humans were produced by God, whereas nothing and no-one produced the one true Creator God. At this point, it needs to be said that any human thinking the God in question was created by an older God, will never understand the orthodoxly Christian theology of God.

This means that I'm not going to go on pursuing this illustration, merely to add that my husband artist did not change when he began producing paintings. He allowed others to learn about himself by observing his artworks. Those who understood could then grasp this answer he gave to people asking how long a particular painting took to produce - "A lifetime." Do not suppose that God the Creator was "doing nothing" prior to creating a material universe. That incredible work of art shows such depths of thinking, planning, and execution, we should fall off our seats in astonishment if we learned the extent of all of that.

Those who are created by the Creator can never grasp the immensity of this one Being of God. Questions will continue because created humans cannot grasp the uncreatedness of their Creator. Anyway, the illustration of God, by nature being the most artistic, creative Being there is, might serve as a spring-board to launch into the deep of such philosophical questions as have been asked here. Just don't expect a satisfying answer if your God had a starting point in time, because that is not the God I (or other answerers here) are talking about.

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  • I like the analogy and I agree that God is the Artist par excellence. What I don't follow is that lack of parental lineage of our God is a necessary holding of Christian orthodoxy. The Jews for example had a hard enough time understanding that God has a Son. Is it therefore to be taken for granted that the mainstream Christian view of God today as parentless is necessarily correct? I believe this would be elucidated by a better understanding of what it means to "create", and by contemplating the pattern of God's creations. I agree that what God did to plan and execute creation is fathomless.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 26, 2023 at 17:49
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    @pygosceles You need to ask a fresh question about whether "the view of God today as parentless is necessarily correct?" I would suggest. No way am I going to delve into such a big topic in comments!
    – Anne
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:57
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You are probably familiar with the graphic symbol for eternity: enter image description here I have found the symbol to be a helpful analogy that sheds some light on the eternally immutable God whom Christians worship, on the one hand, and the finite, mutable, and material creation of God and his image bearers, on the other hand.

They key to this analogy is the intersection of the two ovals in the symbol. That is where eternity and time intersect. Time, of course, is an invention of God, and the intersection of eternity and time began with God's creation of angelic beings who comprised the first audience to the events of Genesis Chapter 1.

Notice there are no breaks in the symbol. Where they intersect, however, the eternal God continues to exist. Moreover, he also surrounds and encapsulates what he created and thereafter sustains for the benefit and blessing of his image bearers.

And while eternity encapsulate time, the concept or idea of time was in the mind of God, who alone inhabits eternity. I think of eternity as a realm of existence that belongs only to God. The privilege the true children of God have to live eternally begins with regeneration, which is a gift of God's grace that is appropriated by faith.

What was God doing before "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"? Being a Triune God, God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were engaged in what I call a love fest, in which the Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Spirit of God loves the Father and the Son, and the Father and Son love the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, within the God-Head, there was always a plan to rescue fallen humankind. I imagine that within the eternal counsels of God there was a Plan A, and that plan included the salvation of sinners through the death of the Son, who was and forever will be "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).

That plan originated in the eternal counsels of God. From Psalm 33:11 and Proverbs 19:21:

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.]2

In conclusion, God did not "suddenly decide to create one day (at the "beginning") but didn't before then" (your words). Rather, his plan for humankind was already in his mind from eternity. Sticking with my analogy of the symbol of eternity, that plan was inherent in the very being and purposes of God throughout both eternity and throughout the intersection of eternity and time. Sin and salvation do not constitute Plan B. There never was a Plan B, only Plan A.

In the mind of God, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" was a fait accompli. No power on earth, and not even the "prince of the power of the air," Satan, could prevent Jesus from giving his life as a "ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45). That "love fest" I referred to earlier was ongoing through every stage of God's enactment of his plan within time and space, the very things of his creation "in the beginning."

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Christianity generally denies that God changes, but there are exceptions. For example in Process Theology, change is a fundamental aspect of God's nature:

[Process Theology is]... A contemporary non-evangelical theology with a conception of God rooted in the natural world around us. A view of God that claims it is more accurate to reality and to Scripture than the Classical View of God, because its God, though not omnipotent, is said to be changeable and interactive with humanity, unlike the Classical God.

However, this idea is not based on God's deciding one day to create. Rather it sees change as one of God's basic attributes. But in creating, God is indeed changing.

Congruent with this, one may understand God as changing though his relationship with human beings. Although in Christian thought, God is the eternal Father, one might consider that God's parenthood went through a qualitive change when human beings were finally created. This is evidenced in his response to the creation of humans in Gen. 1, proclaiming the creation "very good" for the first time. This version fits somewhat with the idea of the OP. Not only does God change with us and because of us, God also suffers with us and grows through his relationship with us.

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  • While Process Theology does seem to attempt an argument that God changes, as you said it doesn't seem to address directly the question of whether, ontologically or Biblically, a purported beginning of all creation would imply not only that God changed in any of His more ephemeral or natural manifestations, but that the nature of God fundamentally changed. "one might consider that God's parenthood went through a qualitive change when human beings were finally created." - I think this does touch on the answer more directly. Did God therefore become a Parent? Does that imply His nature changed?
    – pygosceles
    Dec 26, 2023 at 17:36
  • I don't know if this is addressed by process theologians. Chalcedonian trinitarians believe that God was always a parent. However, I do know of some non-trinitarians think otherwise. Arius seemed to think that the Son was created in time, which would imply that God became a parent when he created the Son. Beyond that, if God's absolute omniscience is questioned, then God can be surprised (both happily and tragically) but human choices and creativity. Dec 26, 2023 at 19:05
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“In the beginning” is a phrase that establishes the start of things from the perspective of those for whom the Bible was written,(humans).

God created his only begotten son untold eons before that. Then through this son created all the myriad of angels in heaven.

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  • I like this answer because it admits that the Bible is told from a particular frame of reference, namely the creation of this Earth. It would be a more interesting answer with the inclusion of some Bible references (for example, the claim that God created His Only Begotten Son long before the Creation of this Earth), and accompanying definitions of terms as needed to make the conclusions generally satisfying.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 26, 2023 at 17:42
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    @Mr.Bond you well know that russel later changed his understanding about Michael it is disingenuous to keep bringing the old picture of the old teaching from russel up. And the worship of Jesus was clarified long ago too. Yiu are stuck in some old obsolete teachings.
    – Kris
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:31
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    @Mr.Bond Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Archangel Michael, "the Word" of John 1:1, and wisdom personified in Proverbs 8 refer to Jesus in his pre-human existence and that he resumed these identities after his ascension to heaven following his death and resurrection.
    – Kris
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:37
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    @pygosceles every new user here goes through the same issues. I certainly did. But the rules of the site are in place for a reason and if you want to participate it will be within those set of rules. You can ask for an overview of Christian beliefs on a topic but this requires an answer that covers multiple denominations. Most folks here prefer to answer from the one perspective they are most familiar with, Currently there are 4 close votes on your q. One more and it will be closed.
    – Kris
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:55
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    @pygosceles the rules are here for a reason. Feel free to take it up on meta.
    – Kris
    Dec 26, 2023 at 19:23
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Yes, God has changed.

God who sits in yonder heavens is a man like yourselves. That GOD if you were to see him to day that holds the worlds you would see him like a man in form, like yourselves. ...

We suppose that God was God from eternity, I will refute that Idea, or I will do away or take away the veil so you may see. It is the first principle to know that we may convers with him and that he once was man like us and the Father was once on an earth like us; And I wish I was in a suitable place to tell it! The scriptures inform us--mark it-- that Jesus Christ said As the Father hath power in himself so hath the son power in himself to do what the father did--even to lay down my body & take it up again. Do you believe it? if not, [you] dont believe the bible; I defy all Hell and earth to refute it.

Joseph Smith Jr.

In the New Testament, the Lord said:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise... For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;... I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. John 5:19,26,30

Per the Savior's own words, He could not raise Himself up from the dead if He had not first seen His Father do it.

This theology uniquely affirms that man is indeed created in the image of God, that we are His literal offspring, that He intends, as Paul wrote to the Romans, that we be His living heirs, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:16-17), His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. Otherwise we could not sensibly "be like Him" as John attests (1 John 3:2), nor could anyone receive "all that the Father hath" (John 16:15).

The only way that an Omnipotent, Benevolent, Omniscient God would require eternity to elapse before suddenly beginning to create is if He first had to arrive at the station of a God having all of those attributes. If He already had them to begin with, there would have been no beginning to creation; God's creations would be as infinite and boundless as His existence into the past. Therefore it is necessarily true that God acquired His status as Creator and also His status of Parenthood at some point. This is necessarily true even from the creeds that state He was the first thing that existed; they leave the problem of eternity elapsing before creation without any logical, sensible resolution, except to admit that God must have changed, or else disallow the application of any logic or truthful answer to the question.

Source: Accounts of the “King Follett Sermon”

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    I appreciate that you have now presented the view of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Which Scriptures is Joseph Smith Jr. paraphrasing? Can you direct me to the Book of Mormon where it says "As the Father hath power in himself so hath the son power in himself to do what the father did--even to lay down my body & take it up again." It is similar to, but not the same as John 10:15-18.
    – Lesley
    Dec 27, 2023 at 17:43
  • I believe you are looking for this: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise... For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;... I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." John 5:19,26,30 Could the Son of God raise Himself up from the dead if He had not seen His Father do it first? From His own mouth, No.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 27, 2023 at 17:52
  • Which God "who sits in yonder heavens" and who "is a man like yourselves" do you speak of? This Father - who is he? The difficulty in understanding your question and your answer appears to be the ambiguity of the God (or gods) in LDS theology. I don't believe you mean the eternal, almighty, uncreated God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as described in the Holy Bible. Please name this god you speak of.
    – Lesley
    Dec 28, 2023 at 8:46
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    The confusion arises because of LDS theology. I know the God I worship - in Hebrew he is identified as YHWH. He was never created and he was never a man. The Scripture I believe in is the Holy Bible and is not the Book of Mormon. Why are you unable, or unwilling, to identify the god you speak of?
    – Lesley
    Dec 28, 2023 at 16:52
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    I repeat, WHICH God do you worship and what is His name? The Book of Mormon does not put an end to confusion, but contradicts the Bible in many places. For example, 2 Nephi 29 says the Bible does not contain all of God's words (verse 10) and God will speak to the Nephites and the other tribes of the house of Israel, which God led away (verse 12). 1 Nephi 13:28 claims "the great and abominable church" has "taken away from the book of the Lamb of God". My last comment on this matter is to refer you to Galatians 1:18.
    – Lesley
    Dec 29, 2023 at 9:22

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