Is God effectively energy?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Is it possible that God created the universe (and heaven) with his own energy — and I mean out of the energy of his own person? There is a statement from physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and I think that fits perfectly into what God could possibly be. The Bible tells us that the universe is held together by God, so could it be held together by his own personal physical energy?

Doesn’t physics say that matter is just compressed energy? Well, energy is invisible… and so is God… so why couldn’t they be the same thing — only on a godly and universal scale?

I’ve also heard the phrase ex nihilo — meaning that God created everything out of nothing. But if everything was actually created by God's own personal (and always existing) energy, wouldn’t ex nihilo still apply? This would affect the structure of things in a way that supports eternal life. If energy and matter can go back and forth, then our personal destruction could just be a change into energy… and that energy could just transfer to God.

Answer: Let me make sure I understand your question. You are trying to explain our eternal state in terms of the physical universe… that it will be reasonable to say that we will persist eternally because matter can change into energy and energy is invisible… and because this initial energy was part of God, it is, therefore, possible that we could exist as energy units through eternity — giving the Bible’s take on eternity some physicalist chops.

Now, I agree with you. The Bible does indeed say that God holds all things together.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17, ESV)

But there are three reasons why your postulation would never work out.

First, God is definitively a spiritual being (John 4:24). Therefore, he could never be a part of (or the whole of) the universe. Second, he also definitively transcends all things — both physical and metaphysical (2 Chronicles 2:6) — and this transcendence precludes his being a part of (or the whole of) the universe. Third, God is the Creator (Nehemiah 9:6), and no entity can be both the creator of and a member of the same creation.

Here’s the thing: God has no personal energy of the physical type that might have been the initial constituent essence of the universe… if that’s what you were going for. He controls that energy… that’s for sure… and he sent his Son into it (in a physical and energetic form) to redeem us from our sin.  But when it comes to the physical universe, he is its Creator and not its essence. That’s how pantheists see God… and pantheism is anathema to Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

The idea that God created everything ex nihilo (from nothing) is more an idea from natural theology than it is from the Bible. Genesis 1:1 does not say this specifically, and Hebrews 11:3 calls it an article of faith, and therefore, only implies it.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3, ESV)

But I find creation ex nihilo a reasonable assumption given the constraints we see in the universe. Only God can create something from nothing… and if “stuff” were around when God created the universe, either someone else made it or that stuff would have itself been eternal.

When we humans “create,” we are actually synthesizing, not creating because we make our “creations” out of existing materials — and even stars are formed that way! But someone had to create the initial stuff. That was God. There was nothing until he formed everything.

Now, I agree with you that in the physical universe energy will never be destroyed and that matter and energy are merely different forms of the same thing. But they will become useless because the universe is expanding (and therefore cooling) while its relatively local entities exchange energy (the hotter entities losing heat to the cooler ones), but the total “stuff” of the universe remains constant because nothing is coming into or leaving the system (the universe).

This is what we mean when we say that the universe is entropic; it is winding down as far as useful energy goes… and this alone tells us that it could never “contain” God as you propose. A transcendent God cannot be contained, and an omnipotent God does not lose energy when he supplies it.

That being said, we live in a dynamic universe — one that has more energy than we can handle! But what we know about it tells us that God will be finished with it soon. If left to its own devices, our universe will die from heat-death — a point of equilibrium (or nearly infinite expansion) where there is no useful energy left. But we need a lot of energy to reach God’s objectives for this age — and we have it… but this won’t always be so.

A new heaven and new earth are coming (Revelation 21:1) … so we don’t have to worry about the physical limits of this old one forever. In the meantime, this one houses us, it teaches us — and it keeps us from sinning too much!

But note this well: nothing will carry over from our current creation into the new one except our immortal souls… and these need no physical support system. Therefore, we should not worry about justifying God’s far-future promises in terms of the old creation (which seems to be your project). A new creation is coming… and God will probably use new physics in the new heaven and the new earth. 

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