A COGENT CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.

 

Introduction

To faith there is no substitute, unless one is speaking of blind faith. One is of the opinion that blind faith has limited growth potential. However, reasonable faith—which Anselmof Canterbury called “fides quaerens intellectum” (faith seeking understanding)—encourages growth, and provides greater evangelistic tools. It is the Lord himself who says, “Come now, let us reason together…” (Isaiah 1:18 ESV).[1] It is the Lord who calls his followers to walk by faith, but not blind faith. Based on this conviction, it is proper to make use of philosophical and scientific venues in support of one’s closely held Biblical revelation.

The most foundational belief of Christianity is the existence of one God. A being that chose to create all things, and has chosen to reveal himself to mankind in nature, and through special revelation such as the Bible. In light of this belief, it is expected that as redeemed-men reflect upon natural revelation, God becomes apparent. The Cosmological Arguments are an example of such a posteriori reflections. That is, knowledge gained from empirical evidence, or experience. While there are many versions of the cosmological argument, one will present the most commonly recognize versions; the Al-Ghazali Cosmological Argument and the Thomistic Cosmological Argument. One proposes that, from these arguments, inferences can be made that points to a personal mind behind the first cause, or as some would call it, an uncaused-cause.

 Al-Ghazali Cosmological argument

 Al-Ghazali’s Cosmological argument was a response to Aristotle’s philosophical conclusion that the universe always existed[2]. His argument is widely recognized as the Kalam argument. The basic structure of the Kalam argument aims to prove that the universe has a cause, and it is best summarized in three premises;

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.[3]

While the Kalam argument does not explicitly argue for the existence of God, it does argue for a first cause to the universe. The argument is made complete when one analyzes the required characteristics of this first cause, but first the premises of the argument have to be engaged.

The first premise states that whatever began to exist has a cause for its coming into being. This premise, for the most part, is intuitively true. That is, human faculties affirm it, and it is constantly confirmed in human experience. People and things just don’t pop into existence without a cause. However, there are those who appose this first premise such as the empiricists who demand physical evidence for everything before they believe it. In response, one has to reiterate that the common sense belief of “every effect has a cause” is constantly rewarded. In fact, the burden of proof lies in the hands of the empiricists.

A more serious objection to this premise is based on quantum indeterminacy, which suggests that subatomic events have no cause. However, it also has to be recognized that physicists disagree about quantum indeterminacy. For indeed, a quantum event is set to be indeterminate in relation to a set of possible events, and within certain specific conditions. Thus, causation still holds within that set of possible events. Moreover, the field of quantum physics is still full questions, and there is not enough knowledge to make any claims with certainty.

Another thoughtful objection to this premise asks of the apologists, “doesn’t God fit into whatever begins to exist category since he ‘began to exist in time’ when time began to exist?” This objection finds its response in a gloss developed by Dr. William Lane Craig. He, just as all the proponents of the Kalam argument, understand the phrase, “begin to exist” in the following manner (where ‘x’ ranges over any entity and ‘t’ ranges over times, whether instants or moments).

  1. x begins to exist at t if x comes into being at t.
  2. x comes into being at t if:
  • i. x exists at t, and the actual world includes no state of affairs in which x exists timelessly,
  • ii.         t is either the first time at which x exists or is separated from any t’ < t at which x existed by an interval during which x does not exist, and
  • iii.         x’s existing at t is tensed fact.[4]

In other words, Craig’s gloss highlights that God does not fit as a being who began to exist because he finds his existence logically-prior to time. He is basically saying the we can easily conceive of a timeless being who comes to exist in time, but it is the uncaused cause of time. There is no reason to believe that if x began to exist in time than x must begin to exist as such.

The second premise of the Kalam argument declares that the universe began to exist. The evidence from this premise will come from the field of philosophy and science. However, before engaging into the philosophical arguments in favor of this premise, some definitions of terms are required. In order to understand the Al-Ghazali’s Kalam argument, the distinction must be made between a potential infinite and an actual infinite. He was not against the idea that a potential infinite exists, but he was against the ideal that an actual infinite exists. A potential infinite is perhaps the most familiar, it represents an ideal limit, which does not actually exist, and can be endlessly approached. For example, a measurement of length can potentially be divided by half an infinite number of times. However, you will never arrive at the final possible division. This is considered a potential infinite. Serving only as an ideal limit, but one will never actually get there. One may add that this is simply a mathematical tool.

Conversely, an actual infinite is not growing toward an infinite potential limit, but rather it is an infinite in itself. In other words, the actual infinite claims that a complete set or collection can be infinite. Al-Ghazali was against it because it creates a vast amount of absurdities. In his perspective, it is impossible to have an infinite number of table, an infinite number of books, and for that matter an infinite number of events.

Philosophical Evidence

Impossibility Of An Actual Infinite Set

The first philosophical evidence relies on the impossibility of an actual infinite set. The argument is set up as a reductio ad absurdum. The best example was developed by David Hilbert was one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century. He posed that one will imagine a hotel with a finite-number of rooms, which are all occupied. In the event a new guest arrives, the hotel manager simply says that there is no vacancy and turns-away the customer. He continues, suppose now that there is another hotel with an infinite-number of rooms, all which are occupied. In the event that the same guest presents himself to the manager of say hotel the response would be, “there is no vacancy, welcome to our hotel.” The manager will simply move guest in room one to room two and the guest in room two to room three, and so forth. Thus making room for the new guest. Furthermore, suppose that the guest is so happy that he comes back with hundreds of his friends while the hotel with an infinite number of rooms is still full. The hotel manager simply moves guest in room number one to room number two, the guest in room number two to room number four, the guest in room number three to room number six, and so forth until all the odd number rooms are empty. Now the manager simply allows his new guests to occupy any of the odd number rooms. A hotel like this will always maintain a sign that says, “no vacancy, guests are welcome.” It seems to me that Hilbert’s Hotel is absurd. Since nothing hangs on the illustration’s involving a hotel, you could substitute any sort of physical reality for it. In light of this absurdity of a hotel, David Hilbert was able to prove that an actual infinite set is impossible, and thus a universe, which is suppose to be a set of an infinite number of events, is impossible.

Impossibility of Traversing an Actual Infinite

The second philosophical argument in support to the second premise “the universe began to exist” is an argument on the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite in the spacio-temporal world. There are several examples of reductio ad absurdum has been brought forth. Imagine that it takes an infinite number of tasks to build a house; the house would never be completed. That is because there are an infinite number of steps in every task, even between a hammer and a nail. In other words, if one were to freeze-frame the hammer striking a nail, there would normally be a set number of frames. However, if there were an infinite number of frames, the hammer would never reach the nail.

Kreeft and Taccelli posed the argument in light of the theory of an infinite universe. If the universe never began then it is infinitely old, and if it is infinitely old and an infinite amount of time has elapsed before today. However, if it took an infinite sequence of history to reach the present day, then one must conclude that the present day would have never been reached. Nonetheless, the present day has been reached, and thus one is led to the deduction that the process of reaching it was not infinite and the universe had a beginning.[5]

Scientific Evidence

Big Bang Theory

 The first scientific evidence is based on Edwin Hubble’s observation of an expanding universe. He theorized that, at some point in the finite past, the universe was contracted down to an infinitesimal point, which marks its beginning. This theory is popularly recognized as the big bang theory. The theory is perhaps one of the strongest evidence against a self-existing infinite universe.

Recognizing the implications of the big bang theory, scientists have suggested alternative theories. In 1948 Hermann Bondi, Fred Hoyle, and Tom Gold proposed the continuous creation/steady state model.[6] The model suggests that as galaxies move away from each other, matter in the form of hydrogen is always being created from nothing, creating new galaxies. Dr. Robert Jastrow founder of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies explains that the opposite is true. The moment a star is born, it begins to consume some of the hydrogen in the universe, and there is a continual dilution of both hydrogen and the heavier metals in the universe today. He concludes that the theory of an eternal universe is untenable.[7]

The second explanation proposed by scientists is the oscillating model. This theory states that the universe is like a spring expanding and collapsing, and proposes that we are in the expanding stage and in the future will go into a collapsing stage. This phenomena, is suggested, has always occurred since the infinite past. The theory is based on the idea that the universe is closed with not energy being added to it. However, all evidence is pointing to the universe losing density with no evidence that it has ever repaired or will ever reverse this persistent expansion.[8] These alternative theories do not seem to fit the facts of observable cosmology, and hence the big bang theory stands as the best candidate.

Laws of Thermodynamics

The second scientific evidence for the premise “the universe began to exist” is based on the laws of thermodynamics, more specifically the second law of thermodynamics. The law states that processes taking place in a closed system always tends to a state of equilibrium. As an illustration one can imagine a hot cup of tea in a room. The cup will eventually cool down to room temperature. It will not get hotter, for no energy is being added to it. The second law of thermodynamics declares that, in the same manner, the universe is heading to a maximum state of disorder; and uniform energy distribution. An infinite universe would have already reached such a state.

At this point of the argument, some might suggest that if the universe cannot possibly be infinite, how can it be said that God is infinite. This objection would hold true if the statement, “God is infinite” means that he is a collection of actual infinite number of infinite things. However, when theologians refer to God as infinite, it is not a mathematical concept for God himself is not a collection of events. The use of the word infinite in this case is not a quantitative concept, but rather a qualitative concept. The infinity of Gods means that he is eternal, necessary, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. Indeed, he as all these incomparable attributes, but they are not a reference to a quantitative/mathematical infinity. So it does not fall under the category of an actual infinite number of things.

In light of this evidence, it can be concluded that the second premise, the universe began to exist, is valid. Being that the two premises are valid the conclusion is also valid, the universe has a cause. This conclusion leads to make inference in regards to this initial cause. The Kalam argument sets the stage for a transcendent, personal, timeless, powerful, and intelligent being as the first cause of the universe. One will make the argument that this first cause is indeed God. However, before going into the attributes and personhood of this cause, one must first develop the cosmological argument as developed by Thomas Aquinas.

 Thomas Aquinas Cosmological Argument

 The cosmological argument as presented by Thomas Aquinas is commonly known as the argument from contingency. His argument is based on the observations he made of the world. It focuses on individuals as contingent beings in a concurrent sequence of contingencies. His argument has three basic premises with a final conclusion.

  1. What we observe in the universe is contingent (dependent).
  2. A sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite.
  3. The sequence of causally dependent contingent things must be finite.
  4. Thus, there must be a first cause in the sequence of contingent causes.

Each one of these premises must be briefly analyzed and explained. Keeping in mind that the distinguishing factor between the Thomistic cosmological argument and the Kalam cosmological argument is that Thomas focuses on the individual and his or her dependency to another individual for his or her existence.

The first premise states that what we observe in the universe is contingent. Things and people owe their existence to something or someone else. This premise is self attested by experience and common knowledge. Furthermore, it is observed that these causal relations are transferable, not initiating, that is A is caused by B, but only as B itself is caused by C. There has not been any observable data to the contrary, and thus there is nothing in this universe that by itself spontaneously initiates causal activity.

The second and third premise of this argument must be taken together, for the third follows logically from premise two. The second premise states that a sequence of causally related contingent things cannot be infinite. The premise proposes that regardless of the complexity of this sequence of casually related things, it can never be infinite. Dr. W. David Beck suggests the following illustration. If one were to imagine a train passing by, seeing that the one prior to it moves each boxcar, one would immediately assume that the motion of the boxcars could not be explained apart from the engine that initiates that motion. Furthermore, an infinite number of boxcars fail to explain the motion of the boxcars. Therefore, the number of boxcars has to be finite ending at a point of initiation. Some of the objections to this premise come in the form of modification of the aforementioned illustration.

This is the most hotly debated premise, and some of the objections ought to be mentioned. There are those who propose that the cosmos is a great circle of being, and suggest that the boxcars are simply connected into a circle. However, this still doesn’t account for the motion of the boxcars. Without an initiator, the boxcars will simply stand still in a circle. A second objection proposes that the cosmos evolved into an intricate ecosystem in which everything is casually related to everything else. Proponents of this view modify the illustration stating that the boxcars are part of an intricate network of railroads. Moreover, the network allow for every car to be in some way connected to, and at the same time pulling the first car. The problem with this view is the same as the first one; it does not explain the motion. Moreover, in light of existence of living beings a cosmos operating under this principal will open the question of why anything exists at all.

A final objection states that an infinite series is indeed possible, and thus the cosmological argument fails. The proponents of this objection highlight that the sequence of cardinal numbers is infinite, and thus and infinite series is possible. However, these critics overlook four characteristics of the sequence of cause in the cosmological argument. First it is a sequence of causes to effects. Second, each cause is itself contingent and needs a cause. Third, the cosmological argument discussed is concurrent not chronological, and it depends upon concurrent dependency relations of cause and effect. Fourth, the specific relation to which the generic cosmological argument refers is the causing of existence itself.[9] As mentioned before, the third premise follows logically from the evaluation of the second premise. If the series of contingent beings is not infinite, then it must be finite.

 The Biblical God as First Cause

 Given that the cosmological argument establishes a first cause to the universe and to all contingents, an analysis of this first cause ought to be considered. What are some of the necessary features of a fist cause, is a first cause in itself necessary being, or could it have ceased to exist? What evidence does one have, to draw the conclusion of a personal God? After all, even Christians have suggested that the cosmological argument only takes us as far as deism. Nonetheless, one would argue that a first efficient cause must be Personal, Unique, Simple, and Necessary being.

Personal

The only explanation to a first cause is either scientific or personal. Scientific justifications explain the phenomena in terms of natural laws, observable and measurable data, and/or specific initial conditions to create the phenomena. Conversely, a personal justification explains the phenomena by means of an agent with free will and volition. Case in point, If one where to walked into a certain lady’s kitchen, and find a pot of boiling water on the stove; one may ask Why is the water boiling? The lady may reply, the kinetic energy produced by the coils is transferred to the pot which in turn causes the water molecules to vibrate faster until it is thrown from the pot in the form of steam. This would be a scientific explanation to the phenomena. Equally, she could have answered, I put it there to make some pasta. This is a personal explanation for the same phenomena.

In light of these possible explanations, the scientific explanations are eliminated. As J. P. Moreland states it “Science cannot start explaining things without objects, space, and time already existing. The laws of nature govern changes in things that exist in space and time. Thus, science cannot explain the existence of the thing that exists before objects, space, and time.”[10] To this statement one will add that since the universe contains beings who are rationale, moral, social, and free the first cause has to have the same characteristics. In other words, it cannot be less than a person.

Some recognizing their dilemma concede that, although the universe is finite, the first cause is infinite scientific conditions from which the universe came about. However, this creates another set of problems. A finite effect cannot logically proceed from infinite conditions; that is, conditions that have always been there. Case in point, as it is well known water freezes at zero degree centigrade. Suppose that the infinite condition of the universe is below zero degrees, any water existing would immediately freeze. Thus, the effect would also be in the infinite past, for it would be impossible for the water to begin to freeze a finite time ago. In this scenario, the cause and the effect would both have to be infinite. In the same manner, a finite universe cannot proceed from infinite conditions. As William L. Craig stated in his interview with Lee Strobel, “So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from eternity past. The effect would be co-eternal with the cause.”[11]

At this junction one is left with only one explanation for the first cause, for only a personal explanation is capable of producing an effect without prescribed conditions. Furthermore, in light of the magnitude of the universe this personal cause must be fully transcendent from time, space, and matter. It must also be powerful enough to create. It is not far fetched to recognize that the characteristics of this first creating cause are the same as the ones described in scripture as God. They both point to an all powerful, volitional, rational, all-transcendent, creative being. R. Douglas Geivett adds, “The production of a physical universe out of nothing implies un-imaginable intelligence and power. It’s difficult to say whether a being that is not quite omnipotent and/or not quite omniscient could do such a thing.”[12]

Once established that a personal being known as God is the first cause of the universe, critics often post the question, “who caused God?” However, this question is simply an example of a category fallacy. First cause must be uncaused and self-existing. It is not necessary to make the assumption that God exists in order to recognize the fallacy, but simply and understanding of the category “God.” By way of example, suppose that someone asks, “What size are the unicorn scales?” One understands that a unicorn does not exist, but regardless of its existence the question is still a pointless categorical fallacy because one understands that a unicorn is a one-horn horse that (even if it existed) it is not the sort of animal that has scales. Fish have scale unicorns do not. The question, “who caused God?” is ascribing the wrong feature to the wrong category.

Unique

The cosmological argument leads to the understanding that there can only be one first cause to the universe. In other words, there cannot be two gods fulfilling the characteristic of a first cause. In order to understand this conclusion, a sub-argument must be brought to light. This argument runs based on the logical principal that two things that do not differ in any way must be the same thing. With this in mind, suppose that there are two first causes (FC1 and FC2). The only way that FC1 could differ from FC2, or vice versa, is for one of them to have some characteristic that the other does not posses. However, this causes a limitation on one of them, for they do not have what is already available (since the other one has it). If it is limited then something caused it to become limited, but a first cause cannot be caused in any way; hence a logical contradiction. There are only two solutions to this contradiction:

a) recognizing that one of them (the one with limitations) is not a first cause, and that in fact, there is only one first cause or

b) accepting that FC1 and FC2 do not differ in any way and are identical in the strict sense of the word, and thus are the same.

Either solution leaves a unique singular first cause.

Simple

An understanding of the immaterial simplicity of God is crucial in both the Christian understanding of the biblical God and the philosophical understanding of God as the first cause. When Theologians refer to God as simple they are saying that, first God has no parts, and is therefore, not material in his essence. Second God does not change and therefore does not add or subtracts parts to his being. Third God is all one being (there are no parts of him distinguishable from other parts of him). These elements of simplicity of God serve as further evidence that only God fits the requirements for a first cause. All material things are part of the universe, so the first cause must be immaterial. Furthermore, first cause must be a singular being without parts to itself for a being with multiple parts will imply that these parts can be differentiated and distinguished from each other. The difference between these parts will imply a lack of something in some of these parts. As was developed in the uniqueness argument, a lack would be a limit due to some cause, but this is impossible on a first cause. Therefore, there is only one first cause without internal parts; which points to the biblical God.

Necessary

Jordan Howard Sobel concluded his chapter against the cosmological argument that the number one objection to the cosmological argument is “the apparent possibility that first generating and moving causes should no longer exist.”[13] A challenging inference, after all it is plausible that such being does not longer exist; that God ceased to exist after he created the universe. One truth atheist and theist can agree on is that humanity has no use for a dead God. However, before mourning the demise of the almighty consider that the Kalam argument requires a personal being who transcends (physical) time and space, and is the cause of all the mass-energy in the universe. One is puzzled on how any created thing could bring about his untimely death, or how a timelessly self-existing being should—all of the sudden—expire of its own. At most Sobel’s concern should motivate believers to seek for evidence of the personal Creator’s further revelation of himself in the affairs of human history.

Finally, for those who accept that God only existed as a first cause, and maintain that now He is dead, theirs is the burden of proof. The Cosmological argument does not answer all questions that may arise in regards to the nature and existence of God; for two reasons. First, it is only a part of a cumulative case alongside the ontological, moral, teleological, and the information-theoretic design argument. Second, only special supernatural revelation can move the heart of the unbeliever, and only the experience of God’s grace can leave a human free of doubts in regards to his existence. A believer knows God intimately, not merely academically.

 

[1] All scripture verses are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

[2]William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth And Apologetics. 3rd ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 80.

 

[3]. Douglas Geivett, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” In To everyone an answer: a case for the Christian worldview, 61-76 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 62.

[4]William L. Craig, “J. Howard Sobel on the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36, no. 4 (2006): 582.

[5]Peter Kreeft, and Ronald K Tacelli, Handbook Of Christian Apologetics : Hundreds Of Answers To Crucial Questions, (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 59.

 

[6]Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 29.

 

[7] Rober Jastrow, God and the Astronomers (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978), 12-14, 116.

 

[8]Paul E. Little, Know Why You Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 30.

[9]W. David Beck, “A Thomistic Cosmological Argument,” In To Everyone An Answer: A Case For The Christian Worldview, 95-107, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 105.

[10]J. P. Moreland, The God Question, (Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 64.

[11]Lee Strobel, The case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2004), 136.

 

[12]R. Douglas Geivett, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument,” In To Everyone An Answer: A Case For The Christian Worldview, 61-76 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 75.

[13]Jordan Howard Sobel, Logic And Theism Arguments For And Against Beliefs In God (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 200.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

May 5, 2014 · 2:21 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s