What does the cosmological argument have to say about the existence and nature of God?
I wonder how many Christians know what the cosmological argument is. It is a very useful tool in Christian apologetics. If it is shared accurately it is very difficult to refute. In fact I don’t think I’ve heard a single good refutation of the cosmological argument. That might seem a little bold and provoke some fiery comments, but that’s okay, bring them on.
What is the cosmological argument? It is an argument that blends science and logic to prove the existence of God. A God consistent with Christianity. It’s derived from the term cosmology, the study of the universe. The cosmological argument looks at the underlying reason for the universe. I will put it in the form of a syllogism. A syllogism is 2 or more premises with a conclusion. There will be 2 claims that, if true, will prove the conclusion. To deny the validity of the argument, then, one of the premises will have to be rejected. Someone that does not agree with the cosmological argument will have to provide proof that 1 of the premises is not true. Here is a common and basic way to put the cosmological argument in syllogistic form :
1. Whatever begins to exist needs a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe needs a cause.
Okay, that’s simple enough. There are other ways you can formulate this argument too. Thomas Aquinas and even Aristotle had ways of formulating a cosmological type of argument. Aristotle reasoned to an unmoved mover. Based on the existence of movement, he reasoned that all movement must have had a beginning point. Thomas Aquinas reasoned from change, causation, and contingency versus necessity. He traced back the sequence of changes and reasoned that it must arrive at a changeless original state. This state (or being) would be the first cause. He reasoned that every effect has a previous cause and that we wouldn’t come to our current state without a first cause. He reasoned that everything that is contingent needs a previous cause. These things all owe their existence to something else. The only thing that doesn’t owe it’s existence to something else would be the necessary being- AKA God. The first cause argument is probably my favorite helper to the cosmological argument.
Now to focus in more on the premises of the argument. Whatever begins to exist needs a cause. How do we know this? It is known generally through experience. We live day by day acting as though the things that happen happen because of a prior cause. If a building catches on fire the fire marshall wants to know what the cause of the fire was. You could not get away with telling him that it was uncaused. We act and react because causes have effects. This operates as a law in science as well as in logic and philosophy. If challenged on this premise ask the challenger to provide you with an example of something that happened without a cause. They may use subatomic particles as an example, but we don’t have a way to test for sure whether they come in and out of existence spontaneously. This would require a true vacuum which we are not able to experiment with.
When applying this argument to the beginning of the universe we are trying to explain the beginning of the existence of quarks and subatomic particles. This is where science trips up. They want to explain the beginning by postulating colliding particles, but the colliding particles are the things that we’re trying to explain in the first place. This is where Lawrence Krauss has been making his mistake too.*
Second premise- the universe began to exist. By “began to exist” we mean that it was not in an unstable state the fluctuating particles for an infinite amount of time before spontaneously exploding into the universe. Fluctuating particles would be a part of an existing universe not an explanation of it. The big bang theory demonstrates that all the galaxies are expanding outward, the universe is in a state of expansion from the beginning. Cosmologist are able to trace back the expansion to a single point. A point is a concept and not something that physically exists. The scientific data shows that the universe is of a certain age, that had a beginning. The law of entropy would also demonstrate this. When we look out in the universe we see places that are burning hot. But according to entropy , after a certain amount of time, everything will be the same temperature- equilibrium. In the same way, a cup of coffee in a cool room is not going to stay blazing hot.
Logic also demonstrates that this universe of time, space, and matter had to have a beginning point. It is mathematically impossible to traverse an infinite number of events in order to reach now. Just as it is impossible to countdown to zero from infinity. It is impossible both mathematically and logically that the universe is infinitely old. It is also evident scientifically, which is the very thing that skeptics want to use against the existence of God.
A lot of people that don’t accept a Christian God will accept premise 1 and premise 2 in the argument, but deny the conclusion. This is simply a step of illogic. If 1 and 2 are true, then 3, the conclusion, necessarily follows. The other response you might get from the skeptic is that the argument only proves that you need a cause, it doesn’t prove the nature of that cause. It doesn’t prove that cause was a god, much less the Christian God. You actually got them at a good place at this point.
Let’s talk about the nature of that cause. If we are going to talk about the beginning of the universe what specify what the universe is. The universe is time, space, and matter. The 3 coexist in a unity and must come into existence at the same point. If these 3 are the things that we are trying to explain the beginning of, the beginner of those things cannot be held by those characteristics. Therefore, the cause must be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. This being would have to have capabilities sufficient to create and cause in the physical realm. The cause also must be imminent and with a will in order to decide to bring about the universe at specified time. This being has, or is, a mind.
Since this being is the first cause, or the uncaused cause, it is impossible that this being not exist. If this being is spaceless, it would exists irrespective of space. Combine that with necessary existence and you have omnipresence. This personal being exists everywhere and all times. If this being is everywhere and at all times, it is impossible that another being be like it. For this being would have to lack power or existence in an area in order to be able to make a distinction from, and have room for, another similar being. There cannot be 2 ever-presents of the same nature, because then you would not be able to differentiate between the 2. The 2 would share the same space in the same nature and the same necessary existence, therefore “they” would make up the same being.
What we have so far is a single, unchanging, spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal, transcendent and imminent, incomparable, necessary type of intentional mind that is incredibly powerful. It wouldn’t be much of a leap to say that the cause cares deeply about its creation, otherwise the being would not have made it. Science and logic certainly don’t favor atheism. This argument clearly leads us to monotheism, which is the foundation for Christian theism!
* Laurence Krauss is an influential scientist and author that is an atheist. He tries to explain away the cosmological argument by redefining the term “nothing”. By “nothing” he actually means “something”, namely subatomic particles. Clearly, “subatomic particles” is not the same thing as “nothing”. He should actually use the word the way the definition requires him to. But since he is the scientist I guess he can get away with such nonsense.