A Defense for the Tenability of the Kalam Cosmological Argument
by Brian Chilton
Apologetics has assumed an enormous role in the ministry of evangelism in the twenty-first century. However, many still assess apologetics as an invalid enterprise. Some reject any attempt to prove God’s existence. Such would consider apologetic theories to be untenable or invalid. Such a one may be unaware as to the accurate data denoted in the data accessed by philosophers and apologists alike.
Among the more popular apologetics arguments today is the Kalam cosmological argument, an argument that has been theorized and popularized by philosopher William Lane Craig. The argument holds three premises that are as follows: “1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.” The Kalam argument is succinct and pertinent to building a defensible case for the existence of God. But, is the Kalam argument tenable? If the Kalam cosmological argument can be shown to be a valid and tenable argument, then one could also suggest that apologetics in general is a valid enterprise for use in modern-day evangelism and discipleship.
The intention of this paper will be to demonstrate that the Kalam cosmological argument is a beneficial tool to utilize in order to explicitly defend the existence of God. This paper will accomplish this by evaluating the history of the argument. In addition, the paper will analyze each premise of the argument evaluating recent scientific data and theological understandings from Scripture. If each premise of the so-called argument is sound, then it can be acknowledged that the Kalam cosmological argument is tenable, and is viable for use by the philosopher and apologist. Finally, the paper will investigate and assess the implications of the theory to the modern church.
History of the Kalam Argument
The Kalam argument possesses roots in the greater realm of apologetic argumentation termed cosmological arguments. Cosmological theories seek to defend the existence of God by arguing for the necessity of a first cause contributing to the universe’s existence. Geisler demonstrates that there are
two forms of cosmological theories: “the horizontal or kalam cosmological argument and the vertical. The horizontal cosmological argument reasons back to a Cause of the beginning of the universe. The vertical cosmological argument reasons from the being of the universe as it now exists.” Cosmological theories are rooted in the works of Plato and Aristotle. It was Aristotle that argued for a first cause. In fact, Aristotle wrote that “We should always look for the most basic cause in every case…What I mean is that a man builds because he is a builder, and a builder builds in virtue of the fact that he possesses skill at building.”
Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas would then adapt Aristotle’s first cause argument to form his five ways, which be began to argue that the “first and more manifest way is the argument from motion…nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality…Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.”Slightly before the time of Aquinas, Islamic theologian Al-Ghazali first assembled the initial form of the Kalam cosmological argument. Al-Ghazali’s form of the argument is as follows: “Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning.”
Unfortunately, cosmological theories would come under attack in later centuries. Romero and Perez document that “The Cosmological Argument came under serious assault in the eighteenth century, first by David Hume and then by Immanuel Kant. In the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell, John Mackie, Michael Martin, Adolf Grünbaum, and many others have criticized different aspects of the argument.” In recent years, Christian apologetics has undergone a revival of sorts. Gary Habermas, Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, and many others have led the way in demonstrating that Christianity is both reasonable and rational. William Lane Craig is one such philosopher who modified and popularized the Kalam argument for the modern culture. The validity and tenability of any such apologetic argumentation must be evaluated for the argument to hold validity; such will be the intent of this paper as it evaluates Craig’s adaptation of the Kalam argument…
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