First Something

by Brian Hearn

shell-gameA good friend of mine told me about a question his teenage son raised the other day. This particular question has been asked many times throughout history and it is one I frequently hear and read about: If the universe was created, who or what created God? Often theists dismiss the issue by saying: God is eternal and uncreated – as if this will resolve the problem for adults or even middle school kids. It is true, contingent entities require an antecedent cause and necessary entities do not. But for many of us, merely placing God in the necessary category and everything else in the contingent category seems like an intellectual shell game.

Given arguments for God’s existence based on contemporary cosmology, a more refined question along the same line emerges: If God doesn’t need a reason or cause for His existence, then why does the universe? In other words, if we are willing to accept something could be necessary and uncaused, then why not the universe? Of course if the universe had a beginning, the question is moot. If you want to delve into whether or not the universe began to exist; William Lane Craig presents an excellent case in this technical article. Since theories past, present and probably future come and go leaving us with something like the standard Big Bang model and an ultimate beginning, perhaps the question is put to bed – or is it?

Nontheistic cosmologists have been working for decades to get around the uncomfortable implication of the universe beginning to exist. They have hypothesized all sorts of alternatives. Stephen Hawking has recently posited a necessary First-Law (Physics with a capital ‘P’) where the observable universe or universes necessarily obtain out of nothing. There are multiverses, pocket universes, bubble universes; the list goes on. Regardless of the specifics of these theories, they all attempt to do one thing; posit a natural and necessary first-something from which our observable universe is part of or emerges from. By doing so, they avoid an ultimate beginning falling outside a naturalistic framework of understanding. More to the point, these theories attempt to skirt a supernatural explanation. I will refer to their first-something as the Universe (capital ‘U’).

The Christian apologist might simply direct the honest seeker towards Craig and others and say: The evidence strongly suggests an ultimate beginning of the Universe; things that begin to exist have a cause; therefore, the Universe has a cause. This cause transcended space and time and had immense creative power. This may be credible to some (myself included), but not everyone. The problem with this approach is the speculative theories offered by nontheists to deny an ultimate beginning have created a lot of noise and obfuscation. In the current climate, it is difficult to persuade the casual seeker by discussing cosmology. It’s an uphill battle when you hear sound-bites from the major media claiming the universe sprang into existence out of nothing but Physics alone. One really has to delve into a lot of data and theory to form an intellectually responsible position. What I want to present here is a basic apologetic for general consumption and one you can share in a few minutes.

The idea starts out with an unarguable truth: The fact anything exists at all, rather than nothing, entails a first-something. This is a basic metaphysical principle very few would disagree with (theists and nontheists alike.) One can begin to see this truth in the context of causation or sufficient reason.


The Poached Egg