In The Beginning, God… The Kalaam and Thomistic approaches to the Cosmological argument
by David Russell
Welcome back friends and family to “Stones from the stream”. Today I am going to look into the Kalaam and Thomistic approaches to the Cosmological argument. These are great tools for any apologist to have in his arsenal. First, let me lend credit to the development of this article to, William Lane Craig and Nick Peters. Dr. Craig has been the champion of the Kalaam Cosmological Argument (KCA) and, Nick Peters, through his articles on, Deeper Waters, has been my source for the Thomistic approach. These two men have been a great source of inspiration in my development as an apologist, even though I am still much an amateur. My hope is that this will, as my grandmother would say, “wet your whistle” and inspire you to learn all you can about the reality that surrounds you.
Through out time people have often looked into the vastness of the night sky and wondered, how did we all get here? How and when did all this begin? Philosophers of the past often postulated that the universe was eternal, stagnant. Creation stories arose with gods creating the world from within an already existing universe, all but one.
“Genesis 1:1 In the beginning GOD created the heaven and the earth.” (KJV)
Phenomenal piece, the author depicts a God outside of time and space creating all things. When this God spoke the universe leapt into existence and before this there was nothing; a true starting point to when it all began, and who began it. Through the ages this has been hotly contested. As the years went on a popular theory began to develop, “The Big Bang Theory”. Over time, evidence mounted and discoveries where made supporting the theory until it became almost inescapable to deny. The question that is still on the minds of people today seems to involve a how or who. How can something come from nothing? The (KCA) begins its argument by prompting you to think about causes. In “On Guard” By William Lane Craig, the argument begins like this:
“What ever begins to exist has a cause”.
Today, in modern physics they are trying to convince us that certain things can come into existence from nothing on a quantum level. This theory is supported highly by people like Stephen Hawking, but what they fail to cover is that these subatomic particles don’t arise from nothing; they exist in a vacuum governed by physical laws and physical structures (On guard, p.76). This seems obvious to me. If things can pop into existence from nothing on a quantum level (if the quantum level is considered to be nothing), then why can they not on every level? I remember early on being taught cause and effect through friction tests at school. One in particular was taking two objects and rubbing them together so fast it created heat. Simple experience, even one a child could understand confirms this truth. The second premise follows and is where some decide to debate.
“The universe began to exist”
To make my point and not drag this blog out into a book, let me say that all arguments in modern science fall back on the universe beginning to exist, most philosophical arguments as well. The logical conundrum you get with an infinite regress, the fact of an expanding universe, and the laws thermodynamics are just some of the arguments you will want to look into. The wide range of research into these topics will have you occupied for hours and I encourage everyone to take the time and look into them, it is absolutely fascinating. Thirdly the conclusion of the argument follows:
“Therefore, the universe has a cause”
What is the cause? Did the universe cause itself? Can something exist before it came into existence? I will let you try to work on that one. The argument is simple. I have seen people try to refute it on many different platforms. I have also seen it defended successfully. So, how does this make a case for Theism? It is really just a starting point. Cumulatively, we can talk about the intelligibility of the universe and how that intelligence existed outside time and space metaphysically. Intelligence implies a mind; a mind existing outside time and space with the ability to create a vast universe and intelligent moral agents leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the cause is God.
Some might ask: What caused God? This question is easily answered; nothing. God exists out of the necessity of His own nature.
I hope this simple summary of the KCA gives you a thirst to look more into it. Also, remember my goal was to lay out the argument with some simple pointers and not a full critique or in-depth study to justify it.
The Thomistic approach is a little different though we can find a similarity in a necessary being and the impossibility of infinite regress. The Thomistic approach was formulated by the medieval theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. In his famous “Summa Theologica” Aquinas offers the “Five Ways” which are five demonstrations, posterior proofs, of the existence of God. I will cover the first three since they focus the most on the cosmological aspect; to which this paper is intended. If you want to continue your studies on Aquinas, check out www.newadvent.org .
The First Way
This is commonly known as the argument from motion. Aquinas claims this proof is the most obvious of the five ways. We see that in the world things are put in motion. Anything in motion is put in motion by something else. Let’s highlight what motion is; motion is simply the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality; potentiality, which is the ability to change, and actuality, meaning that which is. Aquinas also tells us that something cannot be in potential and be actual at the same time in the same sense. On Potentiality, we see that there is passive potential which is based on receiving change from another and active potential which is about an agent performing an action that doesn’t necessarily affect that thing’s essential nature. With this in mind, considering motion, we can look past just mere material motion and apply this to change of any sort. (Nick Peters, deeperwaters.wordpress.com)
How does this work? Does the causal series go on forever? According to Aquinas there is an unmoved mover, a mover that is pure actuality, there can’t be an infinite regress of movers; there must be a first mover. This being said, we conclude that God is the Unmoved First Mover in relation to the motion of the universe. This is a condensed summation of the first way, lets move on to the second way.
The Second Way
The second way has to do with efficient causes. Thomas tells us, in the world there is an ordered series of efficient causes and that no thing can be its own efficient cause. To better explain, the universe couldn’t have created itself, for that would mean it existed prior to it being created, which we know would be impossible. How could something exist before its existence? Now one might ask; how is God excluded? Who created God? First, we have to distinguish existence/essence. For Aquinas, all things composed have a cause for their being. (Nick Peters, deeperwaters.wordpress.com) For God, his essence is existence, basically, he has the basis for his being in himself. For a more detailed explanation of this refer to the reference above. For efficient causes we have to continue by understanding there can’t be an infinite series of efficient causes, also we must distinguish that there is an order that follows: first, intermediate, and ultimate. In an infinite series there could be no first cause. From that, we can see that one can’t remove the first efficient cause because to do that would remove the effect. Therefore, a first efficient cause is necessary. What do we conclude? Only that without God, there is no basis for existence.
The Third Way
The third way goes into Necessary Being. This beautifully illustrates that God is the necessary being, and that his existence is based in the necessity of His own nature. First, Thomas tells us about contingent/possible things then, he tells us about necessary things, which are absolutely essential and couldn’t be anything else but what they are. From that I gather, Thomas is basically saying that there are things that are possible in this universe and things that aren’t, because of that, if everything were just possible things, than at one point nothing existed and from that nothing ever would. Therefore, we gather that something must exist necessarily. Aquinas claims, that necessary things owe their necessity to others or to themselves, because an infinite regress of necessary things owing there existence to others would be impossible. Basically, there must be a necessary thing whose necessity is itself; this necessary thing causes necessity in others. Again here is just a basic summary of the argument; I would suggest more study for a detailed understanding of all the five ways.
In conclusion I hope to have given you some good nuggets to chew on. I think both of these approaches have good merit and are worth looking into. Both these approaches establish a solid case for Theism. This is not where the arguments end; next we will explore the fine tuning argument for the existence of God. Until then God bless you all!
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