What was God doing before creation?

Question
What was God doing before creation?
Answer
God is eternal. He is self-existent. There was never a time when God was not. He has always been and always will be (cf. Heb. 13:8). As the Psalmist writes, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (cf. Exod. 3:14; Isa. 43:10; John 1:1; 5:26; 8:58; Rom. 1:20; Rev. 1:8).

Although God is from everlasting, the Bible doesn't explicitly tell us what God was doing before creation. However, he wasn't inactive because by implication we can rightly assume that the three persons of the Trinity were lovingly communing and communicating with one another. We observe this in such texts as:

John 17:24: Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Eph. 1:4, 5: [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption…

1 John 4:8: Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This said, there was no time before the creation (cf. Tit. 1:2). It was at creation (Gen. 1:1) that time came into existence. Time is not coeternal with God, rather it was his creation. And this is a very important point that assists us in answering the question, what was God doing before creation?

Augustine had an interest in this very same question. His belief was that since time had a beginning, the question of what God was doing before he made heaven and earth is meaningless. [1] It’s meaningless because there was no time. Augustine wrote, "But if before heaven and earth there was no time, why is it asked, What did You then? For there was no ‘then’ when time was not." [2] Notice that the question itself contains a category mistake. The terms “before” and “after” imply relations between occurrences in time; however, if there is no time, then "before" and "after" don't exist. Thus, we may only properly speak about "before" and "after" once time has begun.

At this point, I would also refer you to Deuteronomy 29:29: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God … "

References

[1] Augustine. The Confessions (2006). Ed. Michael P. Foley. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, pp. 241-242).

[2] Augustine. St. Augustine: Confessions (1867). Chap. XIII. – Before the Times Created By God, Times Were Not. Trans. J. G. Pilkington, originally published in The Early Church Fathers and Other Works. (Edinburgh: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

Related Topics

What are the Attributes of God?
What is the Trinity?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).