The Cosmological Argument
‘Is there really a God, and can we know him?’
Talk about loaded questions. ‘Is there really a God, and can we know him?’ Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring these two questions. People talk about having blind faith, and that we don’t need to examine why what we believe is true, we just need to trust God. Unfortunately, I was never too good at that; I always needed to see the man behind the curtain. To put it frankly, if evidence for God weren’t compelling, we wouldn’t have blind faith, but empty faith; we would be believing in something because we think it’s right. Please don’t misunderstand, I have always believed in God, and when I was ready to ask questions, the answers were there for me. Just as the answers are here for you. But again, that’s not blind faith, believing when you don’t know the questions is not the same as believing in evidence to the contrary.
So the question that you need to ask yourself is what do I believe and why? Do you believe because your parents do? Are you an atheist or an agnostic? Are you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu? Do you believe in the New Age, Christian Science, some other faith, or are you a postmodern thinker? What you believe and why you believe it defines your worldview. Whatever your worldview, I would ask that for the purpose of this posting you put it to rest, or on the shelf as it were. I am not asking that you change your beliefs or your worldview (at least not yet), just that you look at the evidence with an open mind and heart.
There are many arguments used to demonstrate the existence of God. You may have heard many of these before; if so the next few postings will be a reminder how strong the evidence is. If you have not heard them, I welcome you to think and make your decision. For both parties, I recommend that you check the information used for the arguments that we will cover. Don’t just believe me, confirm the evidence for yourself. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul admonishes the church in Philippi, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, ESV)
As you can see faith is not abstract, nor is it blind, but it requires we think and then act on what we learn. If you’re still wondering whether it’s worth your time, let us turn to Jude, our Lord’s brother. “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3, ESV)
So whether you’re working out your salvation, or earnestly contending for the faith, there is biblical warrant for you to do so. The Bible tells us, “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV)
So again I ask that you keep an open mind and heart and go where the evidence takes you.
As I stated before, many arguments affirm the existence of God. For the purpose of this discussion and over the next two postings, we will address the following:
- The cosmological or first clause argument (this posting),
- The teleological or argument from design (the next posting),
- The moral argument, the problem of good and evil (the third posting)
So let’s dive in and see what we can learn.
The Cosmological Argument
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV)
That is a bold statement and one that speaks volumes to us. From those ten words, we learn that the heavens and the earth were created, and who created them. It would be thousands of years before scientists would catch up.
Webster’s dictionary (2003), defined Cosmology as, “a branch of astronomy that deals with the origin, structure, and space-time relationships of the universe also: a theory dealing with these matters.” So, then, the Cosmological Argument, also known as First Cause Argument is not new; it has been around for hundreds of years. The First Cause uses the existence of the cosmos and the fact it had a starting point, to show that God is behind its existence. Albert Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible” (Einstein quoted in Broocks. “God’s Not Dead.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/U6wjK.l)
In Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, we read, “The cosmological argument is a family of arguments that seek to demonstrate the existence of a Sufficient Reason or First Cause of the existence of the cosmos. The rol[e] of the defenders of this argument reads like a Who’s Who of western philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, ibn Sina, al-Ghazali, Maimonides, Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Locke, to name but some.” (J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, ed., Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003), 465.)
The Cosmological Argument Premise by Premise
Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause
Premise #2: The universe began to exist
Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause
This argument, originally introduced by Muhammad al-Ghazali in the twelfth century, has been given new life by the renowned apologist William Lane Craig. What is remarkable about this argument is that while it is centuries-old, is its simplicity and how directly it leads to Truth. Centuries before Darwin, naturalists, and Einstein, Ghazali knew that the universe must have a beginning and that the if it has a beginning, it must have a beginner.
Premise #1: Whatever Begins to Exist has a Cause
As previously stated, it is William Lane Craig who championed this argument in recent times. Craig explains in On Guard, “I think that the first premise, that whatever begins to exist has a cause, is virtually undeniable for any sincere seeker after truth. For something to come into being without any cause whatsoever would be to come into being from nothing.” (Excerpt From William Lane Craig. “On Guard.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/v4ttE.l) That seems logical and easily defended. I will provide two points here.
- Something cannot come from nothing. This statement is so elementary it screams of logic and Truth. Think about it for a moment; if I went to a junkyard and gathered a few bags of garbage; metallic, plastic, etc., and left them in my garage, would it be logical to expect after some amount of time a new BMW? Believing the universe came from nothing is the same as waiting for the new BMW; it cannot happen (and, with the BMW, there is at least junk to start with). Arguments exist that try to get around this premise. Unfortunately for those making the arguments, they eventually end up back to a beginning point – like BMW’s, universes cannot just pop into existence without something, or someone, starting the process.
- Why is there something instead of nothing? “The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz posed the question in the seventeenth century, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This question seems to capture the essence of the quandary the skeptical position is in.” (Excerpt From Rice Broocks. “God’s Not Dead.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/U6wjK.l) Leibniz’s inquiry may seem philosophical but is vital when looking at the beginning of the universe, whether it’s the cosmos, animals, plants, or humankind. Why would a universe just pop into existence? And why is it the way that it is? All the evidence points to transcendent Creator. The universe and extreme levels of fine tuning scream of a personal and knowable God; we believe it to be the God of the Bible.
So again, Premise #1 is virtually undeniable.
Premise #2: The Universe Began to Exist
Before we get too deep into this, we need to recognize it was Ghazali who posited the truth of this premise. At first blush, this may sound confusing, but what we’re going to look at is quite simple and straightforward. The terminology may seem technical (which makes it sound cool), but when we break it down it’s not.
William Lane Craig tells us, “Ghazali argued that if the universe never began to exist [was eternal], then there have been an infinite number of past events prior to today. But, he argued, an infinite number of things cannot exist [you cannot have an infinite amount of money or apples, etc.]. This claim needs to be carefully nuanced. Ghazali recognized that a potentially infinite number of things could exist, but he denied that an actually infinite number of things could exist. ” (Excerpt From William Lane Craig. “On Guard.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/v4ttE.l) [emphasis mine]
Continuing this thought process, if the universe were eternal, it would take an infinite amount of time, that is, actual time to get to today. But to get yesterday, or tomorrow, or 10 years ago, the universe would still have had to cover an infinite number of days, which, technically speaking, is the same amount of time (infinity + 1 = infinity, etc.). As you can see, the universe could not have existed an infinite number of days ago and still reach today; it is the same as counting down from infinity to zero. This is called “the impossibility of traversing the infinite” (I told you it would sound cool), or the ‘You can’t get there from here argument‘ as I like to call it. ” Like I said it might sound confusing, but it is straightforward.
So we can see that the universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Universe Has a Cause
Muhammed al-Ghazali understood that the universe and everything in it has a beginning and that the beginning has a cause that transcends the universe itself. Recall that in Ghazali’s time up through the twentieth century, scientists and philosophers believed that the universe was infinitely old – it did not have a starting event. Greek philosophers held the position that matter was necessary and therefore uncreated, and thus eternal. As you know, this philosophy was at odds with the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim ideologies. All three of these faiths held the position that God (or Allah) created the universe. The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV) It appears that the three monotheistic faiths had it right from the start, while many scientists believed in a steady-state universe.
So if we go by the evidence:
This argument demonstrates it is logical, and therefore reasonable, to believe in the existence of a transcendental being, God. He would need to be omnipotent, or all powerful; omniscient, or all knowing; and omnipresent, everywhere at once. These are the attributes of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Deity.
Now as we look at God, it is important that we understand that the first cause must be uncreated and eternal. I know that you’re screaming foul and that I’m trying to have it both ways – I’m not. If God, like us, were a being existing in, and part of the universe, and came into existence at the start of the universe, then He would also have to be created by something. But, as we have shown, it is realistic and logical to look at God and understand that He transcends all of us, He is an uncaused and eternal Being; for that is the only explanation that doesn’t require blind faith.
I suggest that you get a copy of William Lane Craig’s book On Guard, and God’s Not Dead, by Rice Broocks for more information.
I look forward to meeting up at the next posting. In interim, may “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24–26, ESV)