Robin Barfield tackles a question that might be asked by a child of almost any age
How might a parent respond to the question, ”Why Did God Make the World?”
God did not need to make the world. It could be that he merely remained as the triune God with no creation. Very often it takes a child to notice what we, as adults, have taken for granted. Cherish these moments. More than that, notice them and the impact that they have on your own discipleship. These are not frustrating questions – although they might frustrate you – but are times when a smaller perspective helps you notice something in a new light.
Did God need to make the world?
I wonder why a child might ask this question? I always think it is worth asking them the question back – why do you think God made the world? The standard answers I often get are:
God was lonely
Perhaps God is a bit like us? He gets lonely when we are not around and so He decided to create us for some company. The problem with this is that God is trinity – there has always been the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I cannot imagine that they would ever be lonely.
God was bored
When I am bored I end up becoming creative, playing music or writing something. Perhaps God is similar and when He was bored He decided to create? The problem with this is that it suggests that God was lacking something, that He was less than perfect. A God who is less than perfect is not God.
Why Am I Here?
I think what the question is driving at is not so much about God, although that is part of it, but rather a question about the child’s own existence – Why am I here? Is there a purpose to my existence?
The good news is that God did not need to create but rather he chose to create. And this brings us to what I think this question is really driving at – is the world all about me? Children naturally think this way, partly due to their developmental stage but also partly due to sinful tendencies. I think we all tend to think in this way we just mask it better than children – my existence is about me!
The ancient Westminster catechism helps us here: He created it for his own pleasure, for His glory. It was a free act of God and he did not need the world, but rather he existed in complete self-sufficiency prior to its creation.
The first sentence is really clear – God created for his own pleasure and glory. This is amazing for a child to realise: God made us for himself, for his pleasure. That means that we can please God with our lives and the way we live, by trusting him. Life is not about me, as if God needed me to fulfil him or complete him.
There is a famous story of the Scottish Olympian and missionary Eric Liddell. He is thought to have said: ‘God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.’ These words are thought to have been put in his mouth in the movie and are not his own but they ring true nonetheless. Liddell’s Scottish upbringing would have meant he knew the catechisms and had an understanding that when he used the gifts God had given him then God’s pleasure would abound.
This is a really liberating but also important and challenging question for a child and if a parent can gently walk them through a response then it can massively change a child’s perspective on life and themselves and God. It can free them not to live for themselves but to live for God; not to have the burden that everything rests on them but to see the pleasure of God in their moments of faltering trust. If I am honest this is a question that we need to get right as parents and your children can help you here. This is a question that I need to get right everyday!