I often wonder why God created the universe.
The question is difficult for two reasons. One is that, if God is perfect and all-sufficient in Himself, He didn't need creation at all, and in fact it would appear that creating anything would be a step down from perfection. Wouldn't creating something other than Himself introduce imperfection where there was perfection?
Another is that, in fact, there is evil in this world. Now the presence of evil can be explained in many ways that make it appear to be not God's fault. But nevertheless the act of creating the universe at least runs the risk of introducing evil, since in fact the universe that is contains evil. Why run the risk? This is similar to the first point, but more pointed. Even if there were no evil in the universe, the first point would stand; but the fact that there is evil makes the problem even worse.
Or if the universe is uncreated, why does it exist? That is an equally haunting question. For if the universe is uncreated, it has no inherent purpose. Its only purpose is what we (beings capable of defining purposes for things) give it. The world becomes a tool for the (sufficiently) powerful to gain some utilitarian benefit. And one must admit that most of human civilization tends to operate on the assumption that this is true. Yet deep down, don't we all know this is somehow unjust? Where does our sense of justice come from if not the idea that the universe is meant for harmony? And if it is meant for harmony, how can it be uncreated?
But then the question stands: why create anything?
If I were a strict unitarian theist and not a trinitarian Christian, I don't know if I'd have anywhere to start. I suppose one could invent stories about how creation is a spontaneous act of love from the Creator, but if so, that leads to all sorts of puzzling questions, such as how the Creator could have loved anything that did not exist. And anyway, it doesn't respond very well to my first question.
Since I'm a trinitarian, I find a hint of an answer in the very nature of God. God is love. What is love?
Although love is many things, I do find, somewhat to my distress, that love necessitates pain. What is love if not the desire to be wholly united to the other, while simultaneously affirming the other's separate identity? Love is a continual movement toward the other without ever destroying the other. It is an eternally unsatisfied desire, in the sense that the more it is satisfied the more it desires. There is, in my vocabulary, a certain kind of pain involved in the continual desire of love.
God is triune. He knows this desire, always wanting to be united and yet never wanting to erase the identity of the other. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and they are wholly one, yet they maintain separate identities. They each have such a relationship to the Spirit, as well. How can I not admit that there must be a certain kind of "pain" in this relationship? Or, as the Bible says, God is a jealous God.
But I would distinguish pain from suffering. The pain experienced by those who love one another is in fact the opposite of the suffering lived by those who end a relationship. It is as if refusing to experience the pain of love leads to the suffering of love's absence. By insisting on a unitarian existence, one only experiences loneliness, whether by separating from or destroying the other.
What does this have to do with creation? All of us creatures are made to experience the pain of life. Growth always involves pain. We move from immaturity to maturity, and in the process there is always an act of self-denial. We can either embrace this change, or we can reject it and therefore suffer from it, but we cannot escape it, because time and the existence of other creatures will impose its way on us.
We are called to more than just growth and maturity. God invites us to love Him and to become more like Him. It is an eternal adventure. We will never have the end in sight. There must be a certain kind of pain in this, but God is jealous for our love. We either embrace that love or experience the suffering of separation. Either way, we are always called toward Him.
Therefore, creation actually adds to God's perfection. This is paradoxical, but essentially creation is an outpouring of the very love that already exists within the Trinity. The relationship modeled by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit expands to include an indefinite number of new living creatures, whose experience of time, growth, and eternity is a reflection of that infinite love.
I don't say this fully answers my question, but it is a sort of beginning of something I've been working out. I hope I can come back to it later.