Kalam Cosmological Argument

by Calum Miller

This is a particular form of the cosmological argument developed in a modern form primarily by William Lane Craig. Though cosmological arguments in general have been one of the traditional groups of arguments for theism, the kalam cosmological argument has not enjoyed as much attention until Craig’s more recent exposition. It has now become an extremely popular argument both in apologetics as well as Philosophy of Religion. As Quentin Smith puts it, “[m]ore articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the kalam argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence”. Though it has roots in ancient (Aristotle) and medieval (Aquinas, al-Ghazali) philosophy, modern interpretation and proposition of the argument has seen Craig’s work as formative, and we will primarily consider his line of argument here.

The argument begins with the syllogism:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

A criticism typically advanced is that this doesn’t show that God exists – only that the universe has a cause. This is an unfortunate consequence of the fact that most debates involving the argument tend to spend most time discussing this part of the overall argument, and this sub-argument is often seen as constituting the kalam argument in its entirety. The reality is that most proponents of kalam recognise that this part of the argument has relatively limited conclusions, and give further arguments for why the cause might have further attributes of God.

Another objection to cosmological arguments is that they do not explain why, if the universe needs a cause, God does not also need a cause. Putting the argument this way will make it clear why this is so, but yet the objection is occasionally still made. God, on this argument, would not need a cause because only things that begin to exist have a cause – this does not include God. “So how do you know the universe began to exist?” We will answer this question imminently.

Everything that begins to exist has a cause

Craig holds this to be evidently true, and more plausibly true than its negation. Indeed, its negation would be, in the words of philosopher of science Bernulf Kanitscheider, in “head-on collision with the most successful ontological commitment” in the history of science, namely, the metaphysical principle that, out of nothing, nothing comes. This principle of ex nihilo nihil fit is the primary reason Craig gives for accepting premise 1: “To suggest that things could just pop into being uncaused out of nothing is to quite doing serious metaphysics and to resort to magic. Nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just pop into being without a cause. But if we make the universe an exception to [this principle], we have got to think that the whole universe just appeared at some point in the past for no reason whatsoever.” With an abundance of evidence vindicating this metaphysical axiom, then, and no known evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to accept this premise as being probably true…

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