Previously, I gave a general overview of the correlation of truth and reality, how we can understand our known world, and that I am convinced that the Christian worldview best represents the correlation of existence with intellect and reality. You can find the first article here.
The unity of existence with the intellect and reality is the basis for two vital apologetic goals; demonstrating the existence of God, and showing the historical truth that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. Correspondingly, these are the next two pillars that support my trust in God as revealed by the Bible. This article will observe one specific argument that demonstrates the existence of God, and the final article will delve into the historical truth of the Resurrection.
2. Demonstrating the Existence of God
There are different lines of arguments for giving positive support for the existence of God. One can argue, as the renowned J.P. Moreland, for the existence of God based on human consciousness. Another argument for God’s existence is based on the idea of “necessary existence”; the Ontological Argument. These arguments all serve a purpose and each can be used to its own end. However, in arguing for the existence of God, the argument that I have found to be the most persuasive is the Kalam-Cosmological Argument.
I became aware of this argument when studying Christian apologetics and listening to different debates on the existence of God. William Lane Craig, a highly esteemed debater and professional philosopher, is responsible for the resurrection and popularization of this argument. While studying at the University of Birmingham, his doctoral thesis on the cosmological argument deepened and advanced the analysis of the argument. Because of the historic roots of this argument concerning a medieval Islamic philosopher (al-Ghazali) and Islamic theology, Craig dubbed the argument “the kalam cosmological argument” (kalam is Arabic for ‘medieval theology’). The crux of this argument is that the universe must have a beginning, and since nothing begins to exist without a cause, there must be a transcendent First Cause of the universe. Here is the argument in syllogism form:
- If the universe began to exist then the universe has a cause for its beginning.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.
When assessing whether an argument is valid, an argument must meet two qualifications: (1) Does the conclusion logically follow the premises, and (2) Are the premises true. By looking at the syllogism above, we can affirm that, yes, the conclusion logically follows from the premises. To support the premises, we will have to show why they are valid.
Support for P1
Something cannot come from nothing. This can be observed in the natural world and our daily lives. I do not expect that when I sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning at my kitchen table, an African elephant will pop into existence in my living room. If that did occur, we would be discussing more than one elephant in the room.
If something can come into being from nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything doesn’t come into being from nothing. If that African elephant popped into existence in my living room from nothing, why was it an elephant rather than Mozart, or a bicycle? Why not the universe in my living room? What made the nothingness discriminatory to favor an elephant over anything else? There can’t be anything about nothingness that favors something over another thing. Nothingness has no properties! Nor can anything constrain nothingness, because there is nothing to constrain.
Common experience and scientific evidence confirm the truth of Premise 1. The branch of science that is concerned with the beginning of the universe (cosmogony) is based on the fact that there are causal conditions for the origin of the universe. A person who was committed to modern science would find it difficult to deny that Premise 1 is more true than false.
Support for P2
Philosophical: The support for this premise is not as obvious as some would claim it to be. However, there are good philosophical and scientific arguments that lead us to conclude the truth in Premise 2. Briefly, I will show two philosophical arguments in syllogism form that support Premise 2, explain the support for them, and hyperlink good sources to show support for the scientific arguments of Premise 2.
In one of Dr. Craig’s lectures, he explains the first argument is concluding that a series of past events must be finite,
“Al-Ghazali demonstrated during the original formation of the cosmological argument that a number of past events must be finite. Ghazali argued that if the universe never began to exist, then there has been an infinite number of past events prior to today. But, he argued, an infinite number of things cannot exist. Ghazali recognized that a potentially infinite number of things could exist, but he denied that an actually infinite number of things could exist.
When we say that something is potentially infinite, infinity serves merely as an ideal limit which is never reached. For example, you could divide any finite distance in half, and then into fourths, and then into eighths, and then into sixteenths, and so on to infinity. The number of divisions is potentially infinite, in the sense that you could go on dividing endlessly. But you would never arrive at an “infinitieth” division. You would never have an actually infinite number of parts or divisions.
Now Ghazali has no problem with the existence of merely potential infinites, for these are just ideal limits. But he argued that if an actually infinite number of things could exist, then various absurdities would result. If we’re to avoid these absurdities, then we must deny that an actually infinite number of things exist. That implies that the number of past events cannot be actually infinite. Therefore, the universe cannot be beginningless; rather the universe began to exist.”
Ghazali’s first argument in philosophical support for premise two is a good one. We can define the argument into two premises and a conclusion.
- An actual infinite cannot exist.
- An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
- Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
There is a second argument for the beginning of the universe. A series of past events is formed by adding one event after another. Think of a line of dominoes falling until it reaches the last one. The last domino represents today and the preceding dominos are preceding days. The dominoes falling is a series of events, and no series of dominos can be formed by infinitely adding one domino after another. If the past series of dominos were infinite, there would be an infinite number of dominoes falling and the final one would never be reached.
Just as the final domino would never fall if an infinite number of dominoes had to fall first, there cannot be an infinite number of days before today. Today would never be reached, yet here we are! To conclude the second philosophical argument in support of premise two, here is a syllogism of the argument.
- A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
- The temporal series of events is a collection formed by successive addition.
- Therefore, the temporal series of events cannot be an actual infinite.
Scientific: One aspect of modern science that Ghazali would not have anticipated is that we have a strong case for the beginning of the universe. Brian Cox, a British physicist, has said in a podcast interview that a simple observation in a telescope can show that we can see the beginning of the universe and that it is rapidly expanding. Einstein’s equations discovered this expansion with his equations of general relativity. Observation of the “red shift” of light from distant galaxies confirmed this in reality. For further explanation of this aspect check this video out. Audrey Mithani and Alexander Vilenkin both discuss, “Did the universe have a beginning?” Vilenkin concludes, “there are no models at this time that provide a satisfactory model for a universe without a beginning.”
The Second Law of Thermodynamics also confirms the beginning of the universe. Briefly stated, if a system is not constantly being fed energy then that system will become increasingly disorderly. During the 19th-century scientists came to realize that the Second Law gave a grim prediction of our future. They realized that given enough time the universe will reach a complete state of equilibrium through a “heat death.” All of the energy in the universe will be used and no longer be able to support life. If the universe had an infinite beginning, why has it not already reached that state of equilibrium? Aron C. Wall’s paper takes a deep dive into how the Second Law supports the beginning of the universe.
From these philosophical and scientific arguments, we can conclude the truth of Premise 2.
Based on the philosophical and scientific support that the universe began to exist, we have substantial support that the universe has a beginning. Necessarily, it follows that because the universe has a beginning, it has a cause for its beginning.
What properties should this cause possess? This cause must itself be uncaused because an infinite series of causes is impossible. We can label this the Uncaused First Cause. Because this Cause created space and time, it must transcend space and time. It also must be immensely powerful because it created matter and energy. It also must be personal, because it is the only way to explain how a cause can create an effect with a beginning like the universe. It also must have freedom of the will, because the creation of the universe is an independent act without any prior determining conditions.
We can conclude that the kalam cosmological argument gives powerful grounds for believing in the existence of a beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal, Creator of the universe.