The Existence of God – Let’s Argue About It!

Is there any evidence that God exists?  Pastor Henry Brehm addressed formal arguments related to the existence of God including the Cosmological Argument, Teleological Argument, Axiological Argument, and Ontological argument.

In this posting, we will review the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God and add some supportive considerations.

A discussion on the use of logic to make a valid argument was first offered.  The word argument refers to a process where a series of facts are presented to arrive at a logical conclusion.

As an example, Pastor Brehm presented a valid argument form.

  1. All men are mortal (major premise)
  2. Plato is a man (minor premise)
  3. Plato is mortal (conclusion)

When properly constructed it cannot be refuted because the argument based upon observation is easily verified by all.  This is called a syllogism (syn [together] and logos [word]). A conclusion comes about from two valid premises.

Cosmological Argument

After securing a primer on syllogisms, Pastor Brehm moved to the first major argument for the existence of God.  The word cosmos means world or universe.  The Cosmological Argument is an argument from observable reality to a first cause, which is “uncaused”.  The first cause must have been caused from something uncaused, according to the argument.

Argument

1)      Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence (Major premise)

2)      The universe began to exist (Minor premise)

3)      The universe has a cause of its existence and that cause is God (Conclusion)

To understand the argument, each premise was inspected.

Firstly, when we say anything about God, we must fix our definition to make clear what is meant.

What Do We Mean by “God”?

God is by definition an uncaused being because if God is caused he is not the greatest being.  It should be clear that if something is needed to cause God, then God is not greater than the cause.  Within the scope of the argument posed, it is vital to grasp this first point to which the rest are secured.  God is not God if he is not the greatest uncaused being.

A logical argument that God is not caused follows.  This argument could be considered minor in the sense that it is subsumed under the major Cosmological argument.

1)      God is by definition the greatest being.

2)      If God is the greatest being there can be none greater.

3)      For God to have a cause, a greater being than God is required.

4)      Therefore God is not caused.

The argument locks down the meaning of God and a primary attribute of his nature; namely that he is uncaused.  Yet it is fair to ask; what do we mean by uncaused?

What is the principle of causality?

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

As illustrated by the silly Rube Goldberg machine, action of a part is preceded by a cause but something had to begin the chain of events.  The concept can be extended to the existence of things.   Common experience teaches that an egg does not “pop into existence” but comes from a chicken.  Bridges and buildings are the work of much planning and construction.  Babies have two parents.  The objects (eggs, bridges, buildings, and people) are preceded by cause (chickens, architects, parents) respectively.  It could be concluded that the former (objects) are contingent (or dependent) upon the latter (cause).  In a word, objects are the product of some cause or process.

God and Causality

If causality of God is evicted from the argument, then God must have been uncaused.  The notion is difficult to accept since common experience dictates that everything is caused.  However, accepting less than this conclusion contradicts the definition of God and positions an insoluble chain of never ending causes.

A Never Ending Story

If God has a cause, what caused the cause of God?  An infinite regression of cause-effect results-potentially- that may not be a necessary line of inquisition.  Why? While the question of the cause of a cause (etc.) is interesting, it necessarily applies to our own universe and may not necessarily be applied outside of it.  Is “causality” a property of all realities, presumably outside of it where the greatest being exists? It is simply not necessary to “force” causality into every universe and presently the one in which God exists.  The Bible teaches that “God is Spirit” and his abode is “heaven” suggesting “otherness” in nature, form and location. Where ever God might be it does not follow that causality is a necessary attribute of that place or his being.

“Uncaused God?” Science Perspectives

Does science offer some support for the idea that God could be uncaused?  To accept that something might be “uncaused” demands an explanation.  In fact, it appears that the notion of an alternative physical law or principle (“uncausedness”) has some suggestive support since the development and discovery of quantum physics-at least in an indirect way.  Startlingly, scientists confirmed that normal (Newtonian Physics) break down or don’t apply in the subatomic realm.  Scientists have confirmed that there are different laws or principles operating at other “levels” of the observable universe.  The implication is that reality itself may be non-uniform opening up the possibility that still other laws are operative.  “Uncausality” may be operative “elsewhere”.  This observation does not prove that a law of “uncausality” exists but it is highly suggestive of the possibility of other strange laws or principles elsewhere.

A second example is also helpful.  The special theory of relativity by Albert Einstein offers a very interesting thought experiment: the famous “problem of twins”.   According to the special relativity, time runs slower in a fast moving space ship than on Earth.  Imagine a situation where a set of twins are separated perhaps at birth.  One of the twins travels through space on a fast space ship and finally returns to Earth after five years’ time.  He meets his twin but something odd has happened. His identical twin, who stayed on Earth, is older than he is.   Odd admittedly, but such are the outcomes of the theory. Experiments with high precision clocks taken aboard fast planes have confirmed this thought experiment.  The lesson is that various laws or perhaps even principles have location dependent absoluteness. Time seems “fixed” to the observer but as this example demonstrates, time is relative to the situation of the observer.  The traveler in our thought experiment really does return to earth younger than his twin.  His time ran more slowly relative to the time of the earth bound twin.

The point is that we need not think that “causality” is a fixed property beyond the limits of our universe. Indeed, where the “greatest of all beings” might exist could well be a place where “cause” does not operate as we understand it.  Once causality becomes unnecessary as an attribute affixed to God or his location, “uncausedness” becomes plausible.

What Caused the Cause of God? Illogical!

The question is itself problematic because the definition of God does not allow it.  Why?  Because if God is the greatest of all beings (and things), God cannot be contingent.  If God was contingent or his existence depended upon another cause, God would not be the greatest of all beings.  Let’s substitute definitions and formulate a question for clarity.  What process led to the origin of the greatest of all beings? Do you now see that if some process led to the formation of the greatest of all beings, than the greatest of all beings is not so great?  The question is interesting but once parsed it becomes absurd or at least contradictory.

God and the Universe

Let’s return to the minor argument.  Premise 3 (For God to have a cause, a greater being than God is required) becomes clear if it is grasped that God cannot be caused.  The final conclusion in the minor argument then becomes unavoidable.  God is uncaused.

Once the idea of an uncaused Creator (God) is accepted, the conclusion of the major argument becomes logically inevitable, as we shall see.  Let’s first take a slight detour.

The same week of our lecture another shot was fired in the direction of the claim that the universe is self-created.  The noted author and cosmologist Stephan Hawking, with the release of his new book The Grand Design, denied that God was needed for creation.  The universe “can and will create itself from nothing” (reported in The Week, Sept. 17th).  The claim set up further discussion of premise 2 of the major argument.

“The universe began to exist”

The notion that the universe has always been here is not without problems.  In science, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is operative in the universe.  All material systems and objects run down.

Trucks rust, people get old, and our homes fall into rubble in accord with the Second Law.  Orderly arrangements of things can always be expected to become disorderly over time.  The concept is known as entropy, which is a significant theory in all fields of science but the point is the universe will run down.  The implication is quite far reaching.  If the universe was infinitely old, as some try to hold, the universe should have run down by now because all things have finite existence.

Other evidence has been discovered that supports the idea that the universe had an actual beginning. Background radiation seems to be a remnant of the initial expansion of a smaller universe. It seems relatively well established that the universe had a beginning.   Never-the-less some cosmologists believe that the universe is infinitely old.  Who is correct?  Is the universe infinitely old?

A Very Strange Hotel

A number of philosophers have explored the concept of an infinitely old universe.  For example, the great mathematician David Hilbert dreamed up a hotel-of a very special kind.  This particular hotel was an infinite hotel.  That is it could accommodate an infinite number of guests!  Now imagine another guest comes along and she asks if a room is available.  The manager replies “we are filled to capacity but we have a room available.”  How did the manager do that?  Each occupant moves to the next room; mathematically represented R + 1, where R is the current room.  The guest in any particular room is given the formula; R+1.  They “plug-in” their room number and add one.  The result is their new room assignment to which they move.  The guest in room #1 goes to room #2 and the guest in #2 goes to #3 and so forth. The situation is odd but because of the unlimited size of the hotel it can always accommodate more guests.  According to Craig, a student once remarked that the hotel manager could post a sign that says “No vacancy (Guests Welcome).”  We can add that the hotel manager would never have to take the sign down!

Infinite Time is Infinitely Never Here

Another illustration is helpful as it relates to infinite time.  If infinite past time actually existed, the problem is we would never get to where we are.  Think about it.  Suppose time stretched backwards forever, how does a present moment ever arrive?  Suppose we think of an infinite set of dominoes set up one by one next to each other.  Tipping one results in all eventually falling.  The picture is clear enough.  Now picture an infinite number of dominos.  Let’s arbitrarily define D’ or domino prime.  Now, let’s sit in our seats and wait for it to fall over from infinity.  We can wait a very long time-like forever!  Why?  However far back we might go before domino prime (D’) that is merely a finite number.  That is not far back enough!  We must go back to an unending “beginning” that is never found because it is by definition always further away.  The same lesson applies to the claim of infinite time.  Whatever point in time you wish to pick it is infinitely distant from infinity and therefore cannot be “crossed”.  Waiting for domino prime to fall would require a very comfortable chair and an infinitely large barrel of popcorn!  It would seem that the claim that the universe is infinite, while perhaps having mathematical merit, lacks practical or even physical sense.  The conclusion is that the universe had to have a beginning.

Cosmological Argument Conclusions

Argument

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence (Major premise)
  2. The universe began to exist (Minor premise)
  3. The universe has a cause of its existence and that cause is God (Conclusion)

Given that premise 1 and 2 are true, the conclusion is quite reasonable especially if the only qualifying agent that could have caused the finite universe is the uncaused God.  Craig has a very good discussion on the argument (Craig, Chapter 4.)

What do you think?  Is the Cosmological Argument flawed?  Please post your comments.  NEST wants to know what you think!

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