Apologetics · What Is The Cosmological Argument?


Cosmological Argument:

The cosmological argument has been a method used to prove the existence and necessity of God within reality. The attempt is usually founded on the principle of First Cause. This principle is similar to the old chicken and egg question but adapted to examine the cause of the universe and reality itself. In other words, if the universe began to exist, that what was the cause of its beginning to exist; the initial cause according to theologians must be something outside of the universe and therefore not bound to the universal laws, on the contrary, this cause must be the establishment or of said laws as well as the universe itself. This being would be understood as a God-like being if it was in fact the necessary causal creator. There are many theologians that have assisted in the formation, establishment, and stability of this like of argumentation. This is the reason that the cosmological argument has remained a popular method of reasoning among Christians to prove the existence of God. According to William Lane Craig, the cosmological argument is not one singular line of argumentation but rather three distinct groups that argue parallel points in order to obtain a similar result. The Kalam cosmological argument, the Thomist cosmological argument, and the Leibnizian cosmological argument.

Kalam Cosmological Argument:

The Kalam cosmological argument is an interesting line of argumentation that has risen to popularity in recent years. Its roots stem from an Islamic theologian during the medieval period as a way to prove the existence of God to those who would challenge the reality of his existence. This Islamic theologian was named Al-Ghazali and he lived during the twelfth century AD. His argument was made up of three steps. Premise one, that whatever begins to exist must have a cause for it beginning to exist. Premise two, that the universe began to exist. And premise three, that the universe must have had a cause for it beginning to exist. This challenges the presupposition that things either have simply existed forever and that things can come to exist without a cause.

Premise one must be true, because if it were not true then it would mean that the universe has existed for all time for no reason whatsoever. But, this fails the modern scientific notion that the universe truly had a cause for its existence, for example, “the big bang theory”.

Premise two must be true, according to Al-Ghazali must be true because if it were not then there would be an infinite number of past events prior to the beginning of the universe. This cannot be so because actual infinities cannot exist. William Lane Craig summarizes Al-Ghazali’s points this way, 

“1. An actual infinite cannot exist. 

2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite. 

3. Therefore an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.”

Premise three must be true, due to the fact that it is the logical conclusion of the first two points of Al-Ghazali’s argument. To disprove the conclusion you must be able to disprove one of the points that lead to such a conclusion.

The cry of the modern skeptic most often challenges the nature and being of God, “But what caused God to exist?”. This is due to a lack of understanding of the kind of God that Christians believe in. For there to be a beginning there needs to be time, and for things to begin to exist there needs to be matter, and for there to be matter there needs to be space to put the matter. The God of the Bible is called eternal (timeless), spirit (non-physical), and omnipresent. Therefore, if these statements about God are in fact true it would mean that God is not bound to time, therefore he must be outside of it. It would mean that God is not physical, because to be physical means to be made and exist materially in essence and being. And God is not bound to space, because he can exist in all places simultaneously, this would make sense if God is truly not bound to time and is not bound to the material realm.

Thomist Cosmological Argument:

The Thomist cosmological argument is three-fold and was developed by the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas in his work Summa Theologica. 

The first point that Aquinas’ of reasoning is similar to Al-Ghazali as it challenges the idea of temporal infinite regression. Thomas Aquinas states that in order for motion to exist there must have been a cause (an original mover), otherwise we find ourselves in an impossibly infinite cycle of the mover and the moved. 

The second argument that Thomas Aquinas established also stems from a similar vein, except in this case it deals with existence instead of motion. 

“Everything that comes into existence owes its existence to something else. There is nothing that brings itself into existence or causes itself. Thus, existence is an effect of a cause that is itself an effect of a cause, and so on. But once again, we cannot trace this lineage of causes back infinitely. There must be a first cause to explain why any cause exists. This first cause must be a self-existent being that does not rely on anything for existence. This self-existent, non-contingent being is called God.”

The third argument is one that I find the most philosophically based and complex. This argument is based on the possibility of existence. Meaning that in order for beings to possibly exist, there must also be a possibility that they would not exist; therefore this possibility of existence cannot step from another possible existence, rather it must stem from what necessarily exists. This necessary existence that makes the possible existence possible is, in fact, the biblical God according to Thomas Aquinas.

Leibnizian Cosmological Argument:

The Leibnizian cosmological argument is a further development of Aquinas’ third argument that I mentioned above, “the possibility of existence”. This was thought through thoroughly by a German man named Gottfried Leibniz who is the highly revered mathematician who invented calculus, as well as, a highly respected scientist, philosopher, and theologian. He chose to further expound on Aquinas’ third argument for the existence of God because he felt as if the Thomist argument fell short in some areas.

Gottfried Leibniz called his argument The Principle of Sufficient Reason which is basically that “any contingent fact about the world must have an explanation”. The argument follows five main points.1. There are contingent things2. Contingent things must have an explanation3. Some contingent things can be explained by contingent things4. Some contingent things cannot be sufficiently explained by contingent things5. Therefore, there must be a necessary being to sufficiently explain what cannot be explained by other contingent things.

Concluding Thoughts:

While these three versions of the Cosmological argument can often become jumbled together and confused for one another, I find them very effective in addressing the reality of the supreme and necessary God scientifically, logically, and philosophically. This is due to the fact that they do not avoid the necessary questions that many attempt to answer agnostically or erroneously. This is because they follow the law’s science logically in order to answer the deep questions of the existence of God. In order to come to the conclusion, one must address the concepts of cause and effect, the possibility of existence, and the necessary cause.

But one area where this line of argumentation falls short is its establishment of the biblical God of Christianity. While one could logically apply the truths found in these arguments and come to the conclusion that a god that has similar attributes to the God of the Bible may exist, it is not necessary for them to come to accept the God of Christianity by accepting these truths.

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