Jains reject the idea of an eternal God, but accept the idea of an eternal universe. Objections to a Creator God were written by 8th century Acharya Jinasena. I will respond to the key points of his argument, which will help us get to a better understanding of the philosophy behind an eternal God and why the universe demands a Creator.
Jinasena’s first argument:
If God created the world, where was he before the creation? If you say he was transcendent then and needed no support, where is he now?
Jinasena was correct in stating that the answer to “where was he before creation” is simply that God is transcendent, meaning that He is outside the realm of time itself. He created time for humans, in the way that we are held by the laws of time, but God is not.
The definition of eternal means always existing. What does it mean to always exist? Existence is quantified by time, therefore that which is outside of time is eternal. In this way, there was never a time that God did not exist.
This may be quite difficult for the Jain to understand as he or she believes that time always existed. But science supports the complete opposite, that time, space, and matter had a beginning.
The Standard Cosmological model, as it’s called, explains the beginning of time and space, but fails to explain the cause of such a beginning. This first cause can not exist within the universe, but must instead exist outside of the universe. In addition, the first cause must be powerful enough to set the universe into motion.
That first cause is God.
Just as Jain philosophers sought to come up with a cosmological model to explain the existence of the universe without a Creator God, scientists, recognizing that the Standard Cosmological model demands a creator, have done the same.
One of which, the Oscillating Universe Model, mirrors the Jain idea of cyclical time. The model describes the universe eternally expanding and contracting. This is a self-sustaining cycle which apparently does not require a first cause.
The Oscillating model is based on the idea that if the internal gravitational pull of the mass of the universe were able to overcome the force of its expansion, the result would be a contraction or a reversal causing a “Big Crunch.”
Such a model has three key problems:
#1 – A collapsing universe is postulated, but how would that collapsing universe bounce back and expand?
#2 – Observational evidence shows us that the mean mass density of the universe is insufficient to generate enough gravitational attraction to cause a contraction.
#3 – The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system always increases over time. The universe being such an isolated system, the conclusion is that the total amount of energy will diminish over time. In short, the energy used to create an initial Big Bang can not be reused for a second, or a third, or fourth Big Bang.
Consider a bouncy ball. When you drop it on the floor, it is attracted to the ground by the earth’s gravitational force. Despite the lightweight of the ball, the ball never bounces back to it’s original height. As the ball continues to bounce, the height steadily decreases.
So even an oscillating model signals a point of obsolete destruction.
As usual, theologians beat scientists to the punch when coming up with this cyclical model. Around the 15th to 12th century B.C. the Rig Veda records a Cosmic Egg theory to the universe. This theory simply states that the entire universe expands out from the single point, called a Bindu, before collapsing back.
Nearly all religions based off of Hinduism base their cosmology off of Cosmic Egg. Jainism is no different.
We see there is enough observational evidence against the idea of a cyclical universe. The first verse of Psalm 19 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The evidence for God is clearly observational.
Even if you took issue with this observational evidence, an argument against such a cycle can be found in Jainism itself. According to Karma Theory, there are certain universal natural laws which govern our world. We are not judged by a Creator, but instead by Karmic particles which are attracted to the soul by the actions of that soul.
Where did these Karmic particles come from? Jainism’s answer is that they exist along with time and matter. Karma particles are eternal.
To that I ask this: how are these Karmic particles so smart? How do they know that one has done good, and one has done bad? It seems as though these microscopic particles have a mind of there own, or are at least equipped by some mechanism where they are attracted to good or bad deeds.
Jain philosophers may have believed that they have sidestepped the need for a Creator God, but in reality all they have done is built more complexity. It is much more logical to believe that there is a mind behind creation, then to believe that there is some brainless matter which behaves based on your deeds.
Either this matter must be able to judge good from bad, or it must pre-programmed by a judge to differentiate between good from bad. Either way you need a judge, a Creator.
In addition, if Karma acts as a scorecard, then who is there to keep the score? If we posit a simple linear process where when you are born, you start with 0, with the number accumulating up until your death, perhaps keeping score would be somewhat of an easy task. You may be able to keep some sort of diary of your own rights and wrongs, seeking towards more rights then wrongs.
Things become complex when we are told that these Karma points/particles are inherited from life to life, moving with your soul from birth, death, and rebirth. There is no indication of how many Karma points you are born with, and how many Karma points you will die with.
There is also no quantifiable measure of how many Karma points you will need to move to a more suitable position in your next life.
Regarding Jinasena’s question as to where God is now, He is where He always was, existing outside of time and the universe.
What I find strange about this question is that the purpose of Jainism is for the soul to escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. Once the soul escapes, it resides in a place known as Siddhashila, located at the highest point of the Universe.
If the Universe itself is subject to cyclical birth and rebirth, then shouldn’t the focus of souls be to escape the Universe itself? The eternal resting place should exist outside of time and space.
Siddhashila, even though it exists at the highest point of the Universe, still exists within the Universe, and thus subject to all the laws of that Universe. Therefore the salvation that Jains are seeking through their philosophy is at best a temporary sort of salvation.