Holman QuickSource Guide to Apologetics Chapter 2:
Does God Exist? The Cosmological Argument
by David Stoecker*
The word cosmos is a Greek word that refers to everything that exists. Not just the universe, but all its constituents. This argument for God says that because everything exists, there must be a God who brought it into existence. The proposition of this argument is that nothing could or would exist without God. God’s existence is possible without the universe, but the reverse is not true. God is a necessary being. The universe cannot exist without God, for the universe in not a necessary being and therefore cannot account for its own existence.
There are 3 different philosophical arguments and a scientific example that are used to support the cosmological argument. We will first look at the philosophical arguments; Kalam, Thomist and Leibnizian.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Kalam argument attempts to show that the universe had to have a beginning and is therefore not eternal. In order to comprehend this argument we must first understand the two types of infinities, which are concrete (actual) infinities and abstract (potential) infinities.
Potential infinites are numbers that increase by adding another number, such as seconds on a stopwatch. Once the time starts, it will add numbers until it is stopped. If never stopped, it could potentially go forever. That said, it can’t be infinite. A potential infinite is always a finite set to which another increment can be added. Therefore, it is not infinite.
Actual infinites are sets of numbers to which nothing can be added because by their very nature they are infinite. They already contain all numbers do nothing can be added. If that is difficult to grasp it is for a good reason. Actual infinites do not and cannot exist in a physical world. If they did it would create absurdities.
So we know that time cannot be infinite. If time were infinite than now would not exist. Imagine now is a destination and you are at that destination. If you are awaiting a train at your destination and the train tracks are infinitely long, how long would it take for the train to get to you. Obviously, never since the train cannot reach the end of its track. Infinite time/numbers can never become finite and finite numbers/time can never be infinite.
So if time is finite it had to have a beginning. If it had a beginning than something had to initiate it. An effect MUST have a cause. The Kalam argument lets us know that the universe had a beginning and the beginning was caused by an uncaused cause. The question is, “Is the cause personal or impersonal?” The cause must be able to create. It cannot rely on anything for its own existence. It must be transcendent, or exist apart from creation. It also requires an intention or will to create. Could an impersonal being have these attributes? Of course not, and if that is the case then the universe was caused by a powerful, transcendent and personal being. That being is God.
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The Thomist Cosmological Argument
Thomas Aquinas utilized 3 forms to prove his cosmological argument in Summa Theologica. The first way was from motion. He noted that since motion is an effect and needs a cause, than you could not have a infinite chain of one thing moving another. Without an agent to open the music box, although it the box may be wound it would remain closed, silent and motionless. Further, to say it needs no one to open the box would in turn lead us to believe the music box used wood and metal to create itself. Because a builder is needed, the builder would be God.
The second form was called “efficient cause.” Nothing in existence does not owe its existence to nothing. Everything owes its existence to something. Nothing creates or causes itself. Existence is then an effect of some cause that was an effect of a cause, etc. But that cannot be an infinite loop. There must be a first cause that was self-existent (not relying on anything for existence) to explain any cause existing. That first cause is God.
Third was the possibility of existence. Nothing we see has to exist. All we know could have just as well not existed. That leads all we see to be possible but not necessary. But for everything to exist, there must be one thing that is necessary. A necessary being must exist to account for all the possible beings in existence. That necessary being is called God.
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
The famous philosopher G.W.F. von Leibniz asked, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” His answer was found a bit differently than the others we have talked about. Cause was not the basis of his argument. Instead he argued that there must be a sufficient reason for the universe or it would not exist. Caused things only happen with a reason. He said that all caused things, before they existed and outside of their existence, had a prior reason. As his contemporaries saw that there could be no infinite chain of causes, he said that there could no infinite chain of reasons. The universe couldn’t explain its existence. Instead, the reason must be found in a being outside of the universe who is both logically necessary and self-explanatory. That being is God.
Science: The Big Bang
Edwin Hubble discovered light from galaxies distant from ours appeared differently than expected. He found the light was shifted to the red side of the spectrum. The Doppler effect was then applied, which explained the red shift in the light spectrum occurring because the stars are all moving away from each other. If the wavelengths are shorter, which would represent an object moving towards you, there is a blue shift in light. If they are moving away from you, this causes the wavelengths to lengthen which causes the red shift.
So if the universe is expanding as the red shift represents, then surely it has a point of origin. And other discoveries were made that pointed to the expansion occurring slower now than it did at its inception which could have happened due to an explosion. That explosion is how the universe was began, and it all started with a big bang according to this theory. There are a couple of challenges to this theory.
Steady state theory says that the universe will and has always existed. This runs into several problems. For starters the observations supporting the big bang theory argue against steady state. Secondly, this would require actual infinites. is the fact there is a now, which makes an infinite number of preceding moments an impossibility as described earlier.
The oscillating theory supposes the universe will stop expanding and recede back to a singularity which will explode and begin the cycle again. It says that the cycle has and will repeat forever. This theory also requires a series that has always been and always will be, or actual infinites. It is also limited by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that a closed system always decrease in energy and be less than it was at its beginning. So, the universe must have had a beginning and the energy it began with cannot be recreated unless acted upon by an outside force.
So the big bang appears to be the best theory we have. But if it was an explosion (or expansion), what caused it to explode? What exploded and where did that come from? An explosion is an effect and effects need a cause. They cannot cause themselves. So the matter that exploded needs a creator and the bang needs a banger. The cause must be found outside of the universe because the universe didn’t cause itself. What does the cause need?
It needs to be transcendent in order to be outside of the universe. It must be powerful to cause all that exists to come into being out of nothing. The cause has to be uncaused, for if it is an effect we then have a chain of infinite regress which is nonsensical. Finally, it must be non-contingent, or relying on nothing for its existence.
Even if we have an entity that has all of the above requirements, we are still missing one ingredient. Just because it exists doesn’t mean the universe has to exist. It still has to have a will to make the universe happen, an intentionality. A car that is in perfect operating order, good battery, working engine, full of gas and properly connected electrical system has all of the conditions to run but yet will sit silent forever. It has one more need, a driver.
A driver is not part of the car, does not rely on the car to exist, has the will to start and direct the car, power to start the car and may have even create the car. But the driver is separate. So too does our universe need a driver, an agent who was capable of either creating or not creating our universe. That is what we call God. The Cosmological Theory does not identify what or who God is, only that He exists. In the Cosmological Theory we see that God is necessary!
Join me next time as we look at the Design Argument from the Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics.
READ THE FIRST POST IN THIS SERIES: Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics: Chapter 1 – What is Apologetics?
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*Written for TPE by David Stoecker of Spiritual Spackle.