Apologetics; The Cosmological Argument for God

Again, this is a philosophical approach to the question of whether or not there is a God.  This argument is presented in philosophy in a general way; is there a God? Not, is there a specific being from any one religion.  The Cosmological Argument for God is the answer to the question; where did all of this (everything contained in our universe; space/time, energy, matter, etc…) come from?

The basic idea is this; nothing comes from nothing.  If there was ever absolutely nothing, nothing could ever come into being; therefore there had to be something.  This something must be transcendent.  It must not be bound by space/time, since space/time is the very thing that had a beginning, that had to come from something.

This is why the Cosmological Argument is sometimes referred to as the “First-Cause” Argument.  The first cause is God.  Also, a similar title for God; the Unmoved Mover comes up as well.  The universe is in motion…to have energy there needs to be “motion.”  Nothing can begin to move unless acted upon by a force…so, there has to be something to act to get everything moving.  You wind up, through a series of logical steps at God, Who is moved by no other (“unmoved”).  If you want to dig more into this from both a philosophical perspective, and a theological one, St. Thomas’ Five Ways are a good starting point.

These things point at the logical conclusion of the self-existence of God.  Many skeptics, at this point, ask; Well, who created God, and where did He come from?  This question shows a basic lack of understanding the philosophical arguments here.

One simplistic way to explain it is this; Every event (and effect) must have a cause and every created thing must have a creator.  God is neither an event (nor an effect), not a created thing; therefore has no need of a cause nor a creator.  God has no beginning, since that first “thing” would be transcendent, or outside of time.  If there is no time, there is no “beginning” only self existence.

Now, does the Bible back this idea up?  Absolutely.

First, you have God as the Creator of all; the originator of all things.  Secondly, we have His wonderfully descriptive title of Himself; I AM that I AM.

Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

God reveals truth in His names, and He is very clear here; He is I AM; eternally self-existent…He also clearly tells Who He is in relation to Moses, so that he can relate to God in a more human fashion; The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  God does not depend on anything or anyone else for existence unlike everything else.

This is yet another case where logic and reason points directly at the fact that a God does indeed exist and He is The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that makes Him the Christian God.  Christ Himself alluded to His divine title, and the Jewish listeners understood Him quite plainly:

John 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

What did the hearers do?  Picked up rocks to stone Him to death.  Jesus was indeed existent prior to Abraham, even as He was in their midst.  At that point in time, not only was He present with those people, He was also, at the same time, present before Abraham was.  He also was the Creator;

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Just further support for the Cosmological Argument pointing at the Christian God…and also support for the triune nature of God.

Again, as a remind, if you are taking a philosophy course this argument is presented for the general idea of a God.  But, you can see that the Bible not only backs this argument up, it also points directly at The One and only God; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

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16 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity, Names of God, Philosophy, Theology

16 responses to “Apologetics; The Cosmological Argument for God

  1. Chris Lawrence

    Hello again,

    Your mention of a ‘philosophical approach’ got me interested.

    I’m not sure it’s true that ‘Every event must have a cause’. It’s analytically true that ‘every effect must have a cause’, but events and effects are not the same thing.

    It’s also analytically true that ‘every created thing must have a creator’, but it’s not necessarily true that every thing is a created thing.

    So your statement ‘Every event must have a cause and every created thing must have a creator’ should perhaps have read ‘Every effect must have a cause and every created thing must have a creator’. But it’s difficult to see how from two self-evident statements like these it’s possible to deduce anything substantive about God.

    Thanks,
    Chris Lawrence
    thinking makes it so

  2. Kliska

    While it is true that every effect must have a cause, it is equally true to state the every event must have a cause. Again, put everything in the frame of space/time. The phrasing of “event” puts a slightly different perspective on the same truth.

    Many times in philosophy courses, like the one I teach, the big bang theory, and various theories on the beginning of the universe are mentioned. The “event” of the beginning, is often what is referred to (think of the title of the “Unmoved mover” as mentioned).

    I have to disagree; everything within space/time is indeed a created “thing.” Everything has to come from something; from nothing, nothing comes. Add in the fact that God did indeed create all things, and there you have it. If you like the idea of “created, then set in motion” better, then that would be fine too.

    It absolutely gives us information about God, even if you just want to look at it from a general philosophical POV; God, to be God cannot be created, nor can He be an event (nor an effect). That makes God, logically, self-existent. That does indeed inform us in a very real manner about God, and lets us seek out a religion whose God meets that criteria; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does just that.

  3. Chris Lawrence

    Thanks Kliska for taking the time to reply.

    But your reponse reads to me more like assertion than argument. The statement ‘every event must have a cause’ may or may not be true; and may or may not be believed.

    Ditto creation. It is possible to believe that everything within space/time is a created thing, but also possible to believe only some things are – for example things created by humans.

    I’m not even sure it’s self-evidently universally true that ‘from nothing, nothing comes’. But this formula is generally true of knowledge and truth. From something which is not knowledge (but is instead a possibility and/or a belief and/or an assertion) it is not possible to derive knowledge.

    As you can probably see, I am trying to see it just from a ‘general philosophical’ perspective, otherwise it’s just one belief against another.

    Thanks again,
    Chris.

  4. Kliska

    It is a logical assertion in the form of a logical argument that is quite common amongst philosophers. Again, check out some of these arguments as formulated by some of the more famous philosophers, such as St. Thomas, Anselm, etc… in their own words. There are of course counter assertions presented in the form of logical arguments, but I do not find them to hold up to logical scrutiny in the case of the Cosmological argument.

    The statement “every event must have a cause” is either true or false…and that is why one must employ logic and reason to try to discover if it is accurate or not. Now, even science backs this idea, (as well as the phrase “every effect must have a cause) as does sheer logic…as well as the ideas of a First/Un-caused Cause, and an Unmoved Mover.

    You don’t seem to be really getting the philosophical argument for “from nothing, nothing comes.” As I said, if you reject the idea of things within our space/time, including matter, energy, motion, etc… as being created, you must provide a logical argument for their existence, and that argument will ultimately have to include something not bound by space/time…in philosophy we label that something “God.”

    What I’m presenting is true from a general philosophical perspective as well as from a specific religious belief, that is why I present both general and specific arguments. In a “secular” philosophy class at the college level, which is what I teach, I would never go specific, unless specific questions or discussion came up from the students. In my blog, on the other hand, it is my privilege to demonstrate how general philosophical ideas also point to the Christian God.

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  7. Carl Sachs

    It should also be pointed out, I think, that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise if both are only considered formally.

    Suppose we take the premise as “for each event, there exists a cause” and we take the conclusion as “there exists a cause for all events.” Taken in that way, the conclusion cannot be inferred from the premise without committing a fallacy of quantification. (I’m not sure of the correct term, but briefly described, the proof would require that one substitute “for all x” for “x”.)

    But perhaps this indicates a limitation on formal methods?

    I don’t see how the notion of “needing a cause” follows analytically from the concept of something’s being an event. From the concept of “being an event,” it does follow analytically that it takes place in Time (though perhaps not in Space).

    Now, it could be a priori that every event has a cause — but it needn’t be analytically true just by virtue of being a priori, unless one is already committed to the thesis that all and only analytic propositions have a priori truth-values. In the absence of that commitment, one could simply argue, a la Kant, that “every event has a cause” is a synthetic a priori truth, not an analytic one.

  8. Kliska

    Of course from Kant’s POV, the Moral Argument for God far surpasses the Cosmological, he was a bit biased, but aren’t we all?

    I would put forth that it is indeed analytically true…but beyond that, it has been supported by a posteriori knowledge as well.

    Using the word “event” instead of “effect” often throws people off, even in philosophical circles, but it becomes easier to grasp if thought of in terms of science as well as philosophy. Regardless, if an event requires time, then it is not transcendent, and cannot be the cause of itself…of course we could each come at the question from different POV’s, as philosophers have done for a very long time…

  9. Chris Lawrence

    Thanks again. Carl’s comment on the quantifier shift fallacy is interesting. But I think my concern is still with the statement ‘for each event, there exists a cause’, and not with any attempt to deduce from it that ‘there exists a cause for all events’ (ie that for all events there is one cause which in some shape or form is or was the cause of all of them). That would definitely be fallacious reasoning, regardless of whether the two statements themselves are true or false.

    And yes I’m aware of Kant’s claim that ‘for each event, there exists a cause’ (or something like it) is a synthetic a priori principle. He appears to present it as a precondition or presupposition of experience. I now need to understand his arguments better before making a fool of myself. For now I’ll just say that an attempt to deduce a substantive cosmological claim from a presupposition feels wrong. And I haven’t yet come across any other convincing proof of universal causality.

    Thanks,
    Chris Lawrence
    thinking makes it so

  10. Kliska

    You would still have to account for the laws of space/time, and events, by sheer definition all happening within space/time. Turn to the scientific ideas behind it to really grasp it.

    I had very interesting conversations with a scientific minded person, and presented a philosophical opinion on what they were saying…they rapidly got frustrated because they did not want to add philosophy into the conversation; but there needs to be a balance between how we think of things. A posteriori knowledge does indeed back up the position that can be arrived at through a priori reasoning; every event must have a cause, that’s the way the world works both logically and “in real life.”

    Yes, Kant’s ideas of synthetic a priori knowledge is one of those things in my philosophy class that is a “sticking” point for my students…though mainly, because they are freshmen, they just won’t take the time to really dig into it. It’s much better, and easier to learn if you have an outside interest in philosophy and aren’t being forced to try to learn it for a grade.

    Also, for the record, I do see the argument backed up quite clearly in scripture, which is all I really need to know.

  11. Carl B. Sachs

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to stick to my guns here. I don’t see why there’s anything analytic (in the sense of conceptually necessary) about events having causes. Analytically speaking, why couldn’t events be causeless? We do not, of course, experience causeless events, but that’s a matter of experience rather than conceptual necessity.

    If it were analytic that every event has a cause, then it would the concept of a causeless event would be like the concept of a square circle. But I don’t see the similarity between the two concepts. Some help here, maybe?

    Kant’s solution — or “solution” — is that we cannot help but assume that every event has a cause, and that this is a fundamental feature of our cognitive structure. I’m enough of a pragmatist to find this an adequate response to Hume, but I can see why others won’t find it satisfying.

  12. Kliska

    You get to a point where if someone does not “get” an analytical take on something like “every event must have a cause,” it is kind of pointless to keep beating a dead horse…the discussion tends to go in circles. To say that an event in space/time doesn’t need a cause makes no logical sense, but I wouldn’t ever dream of misplacing the burden of proof.

    Events, by definition, logical and/or scientifically speaking, require causes, as events are effects of some sort or another. An event as “something that happens” does indeed require a cause…it is hard to go into detail explaining something that is basically inherent in a definition….

    Yes, I’m not a Hume fan, as I don’t find his logic supported, either through sheer reason, nor experience. We’ll just have to disagree at this point, and leave it at that.

  13. Chris Lawrence

    I’m with Carl on this. And in philosophical arguments there may be some contexts where it’s fair to agree to disagree, but it’s hard to see why this should be one of those. The test for whether or not a statement is analytic is straightforward: is its negation contradictory? I cannot see why ‘not every event has a cause’ should be a contradiction.

    I can see that Kliska completely rejects this (‘Events, by definition, … require causes’) but I am baffled as to why. Some statements are obviously analytic (eg ‘all bachelors are unmarried’). Others may take a little more thinking, eg ‘a circle cannot be square’ or ‘an object cannot be red and green all over’. But eventually it clicks, that there is something about one of the concepts which is a necessary part of its meaning and which conflicts with a necessary part of the meaning of another concept.

    But I cannot see anything in the concept of ‘event’ which makes ‘an uncaused event’ a contradiction in terms. And it’s not as if this, if true, would have trivial consequences. The cosmological implications alone would be fairly massive – another clue that suggests it isn’t a contradiction.

    I’m happy that an ‘event’ is by definition something that happens in time. So is it that there is something about the concept of time which is necessarily linked to causation? The reverse could be true, ie that causality is by definition something that happens in time. But to jump from there to ‘therefore all things that happen in time must have causes’ would be the classic ‘all ravens are black therefore all black things are ravens’ fallacy.

    I’m no cosmologist, but it does seem to me that if there was a big bang and if space and time began with that big bang and if a cause is something that by definition happens in time and precedes its effect in time, then the big bang itself cannot have had a cause. But the big bang itself could be described as an event, even if time only started with the big bang. It would have been the first event. So that would be an example of an event which did not have a cause. Of course some or all of those ifs could be false, but they don’t seem to be self-evidently false. So there could be an uncaused event, and therefore it cannot be a contradiction.

  14. Kliska

    Again, this will be my last response to you in this blog; if you cannot see the analytic necessity of every event having a cause, I can’t force your eyes open. Sufficient to say; I’m not the one that came up with the argument in the first place many many philosophers support the idea and provide plenty of “proofs” for this fact.

    Anything that happens in space/time is the result of a cause; anything and everything, and even science backs that up. If something is bound by time, as you already admit an event is, it cannot have been the cause of itself. Remember, time had a beginning. Again, by sheer definition, an event must have a cause, just as an effect; talking about an “uncaused event” is like talking about a four sided triangle. There’s no way around it and further, a priori, a posteriori, synthetic and analytic knowledge all backs up the idea.

    Your statements about the big bang are completely illogical, and read like a fairy tale; from nothing, nothing comes. You cannot have energy, nor matter, nor time, nor even movement, coming from nothing. Whatever the ultimate cause, it must be transcendent, not bound by space or time; it must be un-caused, it must be self-existent. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fits the bill, I hope you know Him through His son, and if not, I hope you come to.

    Now, no more beatings of dead horses.

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