From Supernovas to Snails: The Lack of Superfluousness in God

Why did God create?  What is the purpose of breathing out the stars (Psalm 33:6) or shaping the form of man with His hands (Gen. 2:7)?  When one considers the variety of species, people groups, cultures, languages, astronomical phenomena, and the breadth of the universe, it would seem as if God went a little overboard in creation.

If God wanted to create man, or water, or plants, or animals, or supernovas, or snails, why did He not stop creating after the six days of creation were completed?  Why wasn’t one droplet of water sufficient to quell His desire to create water?  Or one ocean for that matter?  Why not stop at one man and one woman?  Were they not together the complementary representation of God’s image?  Why bother with more people?  Why, to this day, does He continue to create stars in the universe?  Or planets?  Or orbiting moons?  Or black holes?  Is not all of this continuing creating superfluous? In other words, isn’t creation a superfluous act for an all-sufficient, all-satisfying, perfectly content God?

The answer is no.

First “superfluous,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “exceeding what is sufficient or necessary.”  And Dictionary.com says it is “more than is sufficient or required; excessive.” Thus we start with the need, meet it, and anything beyond what is needed is superfluous.  For example, if I need one cup of water to make pancake batter, but I add five cups of water, the extra four cups of water are superfluous to the recipe.  By definition, then, superfluousness is dependent upon need.  It begins with need and measures itself by the amount of need required.

But God does not act superfluously because, unlike us, His actions do not originate from need.  In the first four words of the Bible (“In the beginning God…”) He is shown to be preexistent in all things and the source of all things. He is the First Cause. Before a single word is spoken, a single star is born, or a single human breath is drawn, God is.   This is why Acts 17:24-25 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth … And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” And Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  Like a master storyteller He exists before the story is ever penned.  It is His idea to write the story.  It is even His idea to create the idea of time so that the story may be structured into a coherent framework.  Thus, before there was a finite beginning, there was infinite God.

This is a side point that we must understand before continuing to explore the lack of superfluousness in God. God’s infinite nature defines God’s perfection in all things. Or, He cannot be perfect if He is not also infinite.  For example, imagine God’s wisdom expanding across time, space, situations, conundrums, and mysteries far exceeding any human understanding until one day He discovered a problem He could not solve.  He stood, scratched His head, and paced back and forth.  He had not seen this one coming and regardless of what He tried, He could not fathom the depths of its mystery.  What would happen at such a moment?  The boundary that limited God’s wisdom would create incompleteness in that particular characteristic of God, and the very fabric of His godhood would unravel as all of His other characteristics would be called into question.  He would no longer be sovereign.  Nor perfect.  Nor all-sufficient.  Something greater than Himself would now reign over Him, setting a standard for Him to achieve, and continually pointing out His need and imperfection.  Like us, His finiteness would trap him into vain attempts of self-improvement, always trying, but ultimately failing, to create perfection out of an imperfect self. And in that struggle, God (of all beings) would need grace (to receive what He did not deserve), and mercy (to NOT receive what He did deserve), and love (to guide Him into the paths of perfection), and sacrifice (to achieve what He would never be able to do on His own). As the First Cause, then, God must be complete in every conceivable way.

But this completeness does not suggest that He is limited, or finite, in His characteristics, as if He has a full cup of perfection and can hold no more. Rather, His completeness is ever expanding, or infinite, and it is that infinite nature that defines His perfection in all of the subsequent revelations of His divine power and attributes. From supernovas to snails the continuing act of creating, especially in variety, is not superfluous. It must continue, because His infinite nature will not limit the revelation of God’s self (Romans 1:20) so that a holistic definition of God can be satisfied. In fact, the closest definition one could possibly come up with for a God who infinitely reveals Himself in various and expanding ways is: God is. Or, to put it in first person language: “I AM.”

Consider this for a moment. The name that God revealed to Moses, the name that shaped the relationship between God and Israel and, later, Christians as well, is a name that encompasses all time, all variety, all situations, and all questions. It speaks to His infinite qualities while at the same time defining His individuality and uniqueness among all competing gods. He alone is. There is none other. He may be revealed in both ants and atoms, in the Exodus and the Cross, in men and in women, in life and in death, but in whatever manner God chooses to reveal Himself only Yahweh is revealed. Allah is not God. Krishna is not God. Buddha is not God. The Lord will not share His glory with another. There may be many things that point to God, but there is only one God.

Additionally, the lack of superfluousness in God means that it does not apply only to creation. It also applies to His sovereignty, i.e. His supreme authority and power and how He chooses to exercise that power. Charles Ryrie said it best, I believe, when he said:

“How He exercises that power is revealed in the Scriptures. A sovereign God could be a dictator (God is not). Or a sovereign could abdicate the use of his powers (God has not). Ultimately God is in control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws which He has ordained.”

(Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology,43)

Such statements about God’s sovereign, perfect, and exclusive nature are offensive to many people today, including some Christians who have imbibed a type of Christianity that appeals to emotionalism, psychologized theology, and worldly tolerance instead of biblical doctrine about the person of God.  Most of them seem to misunderstand even the simplest concepts about God.  They like to repeat, for example, that God is loving, but fail to comprehend that their idea begins with a cultural definition of love and then examines God’s choices and actions within that definition.  This is not the same thing as saying that God is love.  The biblical view begins with God and then defines love with the unchanging character of His holiness. The problem with this perspective is that it doesn’t usually give us what we want.

We want a god we can control.   Someone we can define.  Not someone who defines us.  We want someone who cannot ultimately tell us what to do, either through His commands or the use of our free will.  Someone whom we choose to follow, not someone who chooses us.  We want a god we can limit.  Someone whose actions and choices never seem to contradict.  Whose ethereal mysteries are confined to the boundaries of our brains.  A god who can intervene and interfere, but not without our request and not in a way we don’t desire.  We want a god who creates light, not darkness.  A god who creates prosperity, not suffering.  A god of love, not judgment.  A god whose plans are ultimately for us, not Himself.

But the one thing most people do not want is a God who has everything planned out.  A God who is unfathomably intelligent and wise, and a God who, from creation to the end of time, lacks superfluousness in His sovereignty; for contrary to how His nature lacks superfluousness because it is ever expanding/revealing itself, God’s sovereignty lacks superfluousness because it relies only on God’s power and choices to accomplish His will.  Such a god is often too much for most people to handle, much less comprehend.  Yet this is precisely the God the Bible describes and offers a relationship with.

There is no insufficiency in God, no time He cannot cross, no situation He does not understand, no puzzle He cannot decipher.  Like the bush that burned but was not consumed, God’s attributes have always burned without beginning and without end.  He requires no external source to teach Him how to love or how to be just, for example, because He is love and justice. He is complete in every conceivable way.  To be perfectly blunt about it, He does not need you to be God.

But because He is love, and justice, and creator, He lovingly creates a just way for you to exchange those things that make you feel guilty and ashamed for an unimpeachable, perfect soul. That was the whole point of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. To substitute Himself in your place so that you would not have to receive the just reward for your imperfect actions and choices. To give you, if you are willing to accept it, a gift which you could never give yourself: the ever-expanding, all-sufficient holiness of God living in you. You can get off the hamster wheel of futility and shame, if you desire. Only confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead on the third day and you will be saved. You need nothing else in addition to Him. To do so would be superfluous. And, as we have seen, God is anything but that.

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