The Cosmological Argument
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.Hebrews 11:3
The cosmological argument is one of the oldest and most debated arguments used to defend the existence of God. It originated with the mutakallimūm, an order of Islamic philosophers around 1058 A.D, and has come roaring into Christian apologetics within the last few decades. There are several different types of Cosmological arguments that can be used, but I would like to focus on a more popular version known as the Kalam argument. The premises of the Kalam argument are laid out below.
- Everything that begins to exist must have a cause of its existence.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
As you can see, the argument itself is deceptively simple. It's only when we observe its deeper meaning, however, that the conclusion becomes useful to us. Now before I go further I want to point out that this argument is not intended to prove the existence of the Christian God, or even a good God for that matter, rather it's just meant to reveal the logical necessity of a non-contingent Creator of the universe. Now, let's break down each premise in the argument and see how it all works together.
The first premise is simply saying that everything in this universe has a reason as to why it is here, that it is contingent upon some external force. This premise is widely accepted by all rational people simply because it is constantly reaffirmed in our experiences with reality. It would be absurd, for instance, to hear a loud thump in the upstairs of your house and simply assume it was nothing; rather you would be startled and seek to find the cause of that thump. Likewise, it would be irrational to see a tiger just pop into your living room from nothingness. In both cases, we would immediately ask ourselves “what caused that?”...we instinctively look for the reason. In order to nullify this premise, the opponent must first provide evidence of something coming from nothing and without cause.1
The second premise is continually reaffirmed as more and more discoveries in cosmology are made. Since this is really nothing more than the Big Bang theory2, the opponent of this argument must show that the universe has existed eternally (a position that was abandoned a long time ago).3
The third premise follows logically from the first two and therefore requires no explanation.
Ultimately, this argument entails an absolute first Cause for the universe, as the universe itself cannot break the metaphysical law of cause and effect nor have an infinite regress of causes. "But wait one second!" says the skeptic,"if the law of cause and effect is absolute, then who created God?" The simple answer is that God, by definition, never began to exist and is therefore not subject to the first premise.
So, the universe has a cause, but how does that help us? Well, it turns out that when you unpack what it means to be a cause of the universe you end up with something sounding a lot like a God. For example, since time began at the Big Bang, the cause must be able to transcend time. Likewise, space itself was created at the Big Bang as well, so the cause would have to also be spaceless. Also, we have to keep in mind that according to atheism, the universe cannot have a metaphysical cause. It must exist as a necessity of its own nature. Due to this, the conclusion of the argument must be avoided in order for atheism to be true.
And there you have it; an extremely simplified explanation of the Kalam cosmological argument. I sincerely hope that I gave you a good basic understanding of how it works.
The image to the right is the geometrical representation of the Standard Model of the universe, also known as the Big Bang. It is important to note that the point from which everything arises represents nothing.
1 - It is common for detractors of the argument to cite “virtual particles” as proof of something happening without a cause. The truth is that virtual particles, if they exist, are being created from flucuations within a rich "sea" of energy, or vacuum. They create the illusion that they are just popping into and out of existence.
2 - Please note, I take the Big Bang to be an objective fact concerning the beginning of our universe. If you are a Christian and are uncomfortable with the idea of the big bang, I invite you to read up on just what exactly the big bang states and how it actually supports the idea of Creation “ex nihilo” (from nothing).
3 - To supplement the second premise you can use the argument for the impossibility of an actual infinite as shown below:
- An actually infinite number of things cannot exist.
- A beginningless series of events in time entails an actually infinite number of things.
- Therefore, a beginningless series of events in time cannot exist.