God, the reasonable, and the possible

by Paul Gould

In my philosophy of religion class we are working through the excellent book Debating Christian Theism, edited by Moreland, Meister, and Sweis. The strength of this book is that it places leading defenders of opposing views on the nature and existence of God in dialogue. The book highlights the current state of play in the God debate as well as the strength (and firm ground) of the arguments for God in the face of atheism. It also highlights what I think is a kind of double standard that is sometimes applied to theistic arguments by its detractors.

To wit, this week, we covered the Kalam Cosmological Argument, defended by William Lane Craig, and criticized by the philosopher Wes Morriston. The argument is simplicity itself:

(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

(2) The universe began to exist.

(3) Therefore, the universe had a cause.

With respect to premise (1), Morriston offers the following “substantive worry:”[1]

I quite agree that tigers couldn’t spring into existence uncaused. But we have been given no reason to think that what’s true of a tiger applies to physical reality as a whole. . .  . as far as I can see, there is no comparable context for the origin of physical reality as a whole, and no analogous reason for thinking that it could not have begun to exist uncaused.

I’m tempted to respond with a stare of incredulity. Really? Why is it that universes might pop into existence out of nothing and without a cause but not tigers? No reasons are offered for thinking that physical reality as a whole is different in this case that its parts…

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God, the reasonable, and the possible | Paul Gould