An essential skill to develop—particularly if you intend to discuss the truth of your faith with others—is how to understand, evaluate, and present a logical argument. Though it might seem complex and rather intimidating, an argument in logic is really a very simple thing. To have an argument you must make a claim (called the conclusion, or the central point of the argument) and provide support (called premises, or evidence, facts, and reasons) for believing the claim to be true or correct. To have a good argument (logically sound or cogent), your premises must be (1) true, (2) pertinent to your central claim, and (3) sufficient to justify the conclusion.
This week brings us to the final video expressing an argument for the existence of God. This is the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument is a formulation of the Cosmological Argument that derives from Ilm al-Kalam “science of discourse”. Craig formulated this version of the argument from Arabic philosophers that argued against the existence of actual infinities. The Cosmological Argument, as a whole, goes back to the idea of causality and the First Cause, or prime-mover, introduced by Aristotle (or possibly further). The argument for a First Cause was passed down and developed through the ages leading it medieval Islamic theology, to medieval European philosophy, and on to modern philosophy. Therefore, it has a somewhat rich history encompassing different cultures.
The Cosmological Argument can be formulated as follows:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. (Reasonable Faith, 111)
We have good reason from experience to believe that things that begin to exist have a cause. We have factories that create our computers, phones, or tablets that we are using to read this sentence. These were created by engineers and inventors that came up with the ideas. In turn, those people came into existence by the meeting of their parents. This cannot go on ad infinitum, or for infinity, in the past. Therefore, there needs to be a First Cause to begin the string of events to bring us here.
Craig uses Hilbert’s Hotel to show the absurdity of actual infinite number of things were to exist. Hilbert’s Hotel is though experiment created by David Hilbert involving a hotel with an infinite number of rooms. Although, this is a good example, I tend to find it tedious and a bit confusing. Instead, I prefer Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the tortoise to show that the universe cannot exist ad infinitum in the past. The paradox was recounted by Aristotle as such:
In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. (Physics VI:9, 239b15)
In other words, Achilles will always have to reach where the tortoise was to be able to overcome him. Since the tortoise is always moving, Achilles will always have a new point to reach. Let’s simplify this by stating a runner has to cross the finish line from the starting point. Before he can cross the finish line, he must reach the halfway point. Before he reaches the halfway point, he must reach the quarter point ad infinitum. If we continue this line of reasoning, we see that the runner can never cross the finish line.
Now, we know from experience that this is not true. We’ve watched runners finish races before, and we know that no matter the head start a slow runner receives, the faster runner will eventually overtake him. Traversing physical space does not work like this. If we apply this to time, though, then we see that the present could never be reached if the past is infinite. Time is a series of events that we experience one after the other. We are not privy to redo’s or skips. If there is not beginning point in time, then the present cannot be reached. Craig states it as such:
1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by adding one member after another.
2. A collection formed by adding one member after another cannot be actually infinite.
3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite. (Reasonable Faith, 120)
The second law of thermodynamics helps to show that the universe had a beginning. For us less scientifically minded, Craig succinctly states that the second law of thermodynamics states “processes taking place in a closed system always tend to a state of equilibrium (Reasonable Faith, 140-141). In other words, unless energy is being fed into the system, then it will eventually run out. We see this when we take a bath. The heat evenly spreads throughout the tub and will eventually cool off if no further heat is added. This has grave implications on the universe. If the universe has existed forever, then why has it not reached a state of equilibrium and “heat death” yet?
We know that the universe is expanding due to Hubble’s discovery of the redshift of light from distant galaxies. This is a Doppler effect indicating that these light sources were receding in the line of sight. This implies that galaxies were once closer together before spreading apart. This also implies that there must have been a starting point for the expansion of the universe.
With the expansion of the universe and the second law of thermodynamics, we can conclude there was a beginning to the universe. Otherwise, if the universe existed infinitely, then it should have reached a point of equilibrium and died out by now.
If the universe had a beginning, then what was this first cause that began the expansion of the universe and “wound up” the universe’s energy? The best explanation of this is something that transcends all of space-time matter, i.e., God.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument can be further formulated as:
- The universe has a cause.
- If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
- Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument argues for the existence of God based off of the contingency of the universe’s existence. In other words, since the universe exists and everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, then God must exist.
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument, or Contingency Argument can be formulated as follows:
1. Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence.
5. Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (Reasonable Faith, 106)
Premise 3 is not controversial at all. I mean, if the universe didn’t exist, then we wouldn’t be here discussing it. What is debated is whether the universe has an explanation for its existence whether that explanation is God.
Everything has an explanation if its existence whether it exists necessarily or contingently. Things that exist contingently exist because something caused their existence. You and I exist because our parents met. A watch exists because it was made by a watchmaker. Things that exist necessarily necessarily exist because of their nature (e.g., God).
Some will question why the universe doesn’t exist necessarily just like God. The universe is physical like you and I. Why would it exist necessarily? We can imagine a time when objects we observe did not exist. When the universe was very dense and hot, nothing we observe existed. Craig brings up the example of the fundamental particles or building blocks of matter, such as quarks.
Well, it’s easy to conceive of a world in which all of the fundamental particles composing some macroscopic object were replaced by other quarks. A universe consisting of a totally different collection of quarks, say, seems quite possible. But if that’s the case, then the universe does not exist by a necessity of its own nature. For a universe composed of a wholly different collection of quarks is not the same universe as ours. … If it were composed of a different collection of quarks, then it would be a different universe, not the same universe (Reasonable Faith, 109).
We know from experience and observation that everything has a cause for its existence. We can extrapolate this to the universe, a physical object bound by the same natural laws that everything else is. The size of it does not change anything. Therefore, the universe exists contingently and has a cause.
Others will inquire what caused God. If God created the universe, all of space-time matter, then he must exist outside and differently than that of space-time matter. He is not bound by the same laws of nature.
The universe exists contingently. Therefore, it has an explanation for its existence, and that explanation is God, a necessarily existing being.
Continuing this short series on arguments for the existence of God brings us to the Ontological Argument. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Therefore, the Ontological Argument deals with the nature of God.
This argument was formulated by Anselm (1033-1109 CE) who wanted to find a single argument to prove God’s existence. He not only wanted to prove that God existed but also that he has all the superlative attributes (i.e., omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent) that Christian doctrine ascribes to him (Reasonable Faith, 95). This argument attempts to prove God’s existence from the very concept of God. If God is conceivable, then he must actually exist.
Just as the video provides a summary, the argument can be formulated as such:
1. It’s possible that a maximally great being exists.
2. A maximally great being exists in some possible world.
3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
5. A maximally great being exists in the actual world.
6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
God is the greatest being conceivable. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. If there was anything greater than him in any way, then he would no longer be God and this better thing would be God. This is not subject to subjective thinking such as pizza or a unicorn. Just because we can think of a unicorn or the greatest pizza does not mean they actually exist. A unicorn may be fun to think of, but it is not a maximally great being. We all have different preferences on a great pizza. My wife loves a good Chicago pizza, friends of mine enjoy thin crust, and I enjoy an amazing pan crust pizza from Pizza Hut. Even if we struggle with comprehending a maximally great being it does not necessarily mean that it does not exist. We can begin to have an idea of what an objectively maximally great being would be like, especially when it comes to goodness.
One thing we need to remember about a maximally great being is that it necessarily exists. Isn’t existence better than non-existence? Craig states Anselm’s example of a painter this way, “Which is greater: the artist’s idea of the painting or the painting itself as it really exists?” (Reasonable Faith, 95). We would answer the painting itself. It would not only exist in the painter’s mind but also in reality then. If it is better to exist in reality, then wouldn’t a conceivable maximally great being exist in reality? Yes, because a maximally great being would not be so if it only existed in the mind.
God is a maximally great being because he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent. If we can conceive a maximally great being, then even the skeptic must admit that it’s possible that God exists.