Does God Exist? The Kalam Cosmological Argument

No BeginningWhile the Kalam Cosmological Argument has been around for centuries, it is primarily through the work and efforts of Dr. William Lane Craig that it has become one of the most powerful arguments for the existence of God in recent years. The argument does not prove the Christian God of the Bible, but is often used in a cumulative case for the existence of God by starting with the idea of showing the existence of a First Cause.

This argument gives us a good deal of insight into the nature and attributes of this First Cause. Today, I will cover the basic syllogism of the argument, discuss the premises individually and finally talk about how this argument can give us information about what sort of First Cause the argument shows to exist.

Let's go through the syllogism:

  1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.

  3. The universe had a cause.

First, a quick housekeeping items to ensure that we're on the same page. By "universe" in this argument, we are actually referring to all of the space, time and matter that make up our universe. This is a very significant point as we will see shortly.

With regards to the first premise, this is often one that comes up in debates, atheist blogs and books such as Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. People will often respond with something akin to "If God caused the universe, then what caused God?" This is a misunderstanding of the first premise, however. This would be a valid challenge if the first premise was "Everything which exists has a cause." But that is not the premise. The premise is that everything which begins to exist has a cause.

When something begins to exist, it goes from a state of non-being to a state of being. To believe that this could happen without any cause at all is, to quote Dr. Craig, "worse than magic." Ironic, since atheists often accuse theists of believing in a "magic man in the sky." But we know based on observation and intuition that if something changes state (from being still to being in motion or from non-being to being) there is a reason (cause) for that change of state.

Further, to challenge the first premise by asking what caused God is getting ahead of the argument. At this point in the argument, there is no God involved. We are merely talking about a state of affairs in which the change of state from non-being to being is something requiring some sort of cause that is external to the thing which is created. For example, a carpenter could be the cause of a table coming into existence, but the carpenter is not part of the table.

Next, when we look at the second premise, there are multiple lines of evidence to show that this is true. From both a scientific and philosophical standpoint, the beginning of the universe seems to be about as certain as anything we might know.

To begin with, there is the philosophical idea that it is impossible to traverse an infinite series. In other words, if the universe extended eternally into the past with no beginning, that would mean that the universe would have to have existed through an infinite number of moments to get to the present moment. This is an absurd idea, however. If there had to be an infinite number of moments to get to the present moment, we would never arrive at the present moment. Any moment we experience would be infinitely in the future of some moment in the infinite past and therefore would never get to the present.

Scientifically speaking, there is a great deal of evidence that the universe began at a finite moment in the past. For example, when Edwin Hubble discovered the "red shift" when observing distant starts as well as measuring the apparent brightness of a class of variable stars in order to determine their relative distances and correlating these two pieces of data, this provided evidence of the expanding universe.

With this discovery coupled with the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem in 2003, we see that there is powerful scientific evidence that the universe began to exist. Add to this the Second Law of Thermodynamics (a.k.a. the Law of Entropy) and we realize that if the universe has existed forever, there would no longer be any usable heat (energy) in the universe as this law of physics shows that the universe is constantly cooling off, or losing it's usable energy. After an infinite amount of time, this energy would be used up and the universe would have suffered "heat death" an infinitely long time ago.

This leads us to the conclusion of the argument which simply states that the universe had a cause. At first glance, this certainly seems to be a rather impotent conclusion. It says nothing about God or the least not explicitly. However, when we examine the implications of this conclusion, we find that it is very powerful, indeed.

To begin with, we know that whatever caused the universe would have to have existed outside of the universe. Remember we showed earlier that by "universe" we are referring to all space, time and matter. That means that this first cause would have to be spaceless, timeless and immaterial since those three things came into being as attributes of the universe.

We can also conclude that anything capable of creating the vast universe that we observe must be unimaginably powerful. With the intricacies and delicate balance of various constants (such as the gravitational force, the Strong Force, the Weak Force, the speed of light and many others) we also can see that this cause would have to be immensely intelligent.

With that, we seque into another, perhaps one of the most important, attributes of this first cause. That is that this cause is personal. That is to say, this cause has both an intellect and a will, both properties of minds! It would have been possible for this first cause to not have created the universe (as evidenced by the very fact that it had to come into being to begin with). Whatever this cause was/is, it chose to create the universe.

If it were otherwise, then the only way the first cause would have caused the universe to come into being was in response to some sort of occurrence which would have to have caused the first cause to do so. This is obviously absurd because the first cause is, by definition, that which was not caused by any prior cause.

Imagine you're looking at a group of billiard balls. Another ball rockets into the cluster of balls, smashing into them and causing them to careen off in many different directions. The ball coming into the cluster caused the motion of the other balls. But what caused it to move? If we zoom back on our mental image, we see a person with a pool queue, striking the first ball, sending it into the other balls on the table. That person is an agent. His striking of the first ball was not caused merely by molecules colliding in just such a way as to put the mass of his body into a position and his arms to move in just such a way. He chose to hit the ball.

It is this same concept that explains why the first cause of the universe is an example of agent causation. The agent chose to create the universe. So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a first cause of the universe which has the following characteristics:

  • Spaceless
  • Timeless
  • Immaterial
  • Powerful
  • Intelligent
  • Personal
Is this necessarily the Christian God? No. Does the Christian God meet these criteria? Yes. As I mentioned earlier, this is part of a cumulative case. We don't get from no God to the Christian God (including His moral perfection, the Trinity, Jesus, the Bible, etc.) from this argument alone.

All this argument is designed to do is arrive at the conclusion that some sort of supernatural (or, if you prefer, extra-natural) being exists and created the universe a finite time in the past. If anyone attempts to use this argument to go further than this, they are not thinking well.

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