The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

25 May

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In my last post, I gave a sort of introduction to the arguments I am about to make in this and future posts. If you have any objections to the approach I am about to take, I discussed such issues there. If, however, you still are not satisfied, feel free to make a comment.

The cosmological argument for the existence of God is a philosophical argument which attempts to show that, since everything in the universe (which is within time) could not have created itself, it had to have a beginning. Because of this, the only possibility is that a Being outside of time created the universe (note: some would contend that God is within time, but this is problematic for the obvious reason that if God were within the constraints of time, it would mean that 1) time is greater than God, and 2) God would have had to be begin to exist at a certain point in time, which, as will be seen shortly, is both heretical and impossible; the fact that he is described as being “eternal” in the Bible should bring to the mind of the reader the idea of “timelessness”, something we cannot fathom with human brains. Perhaps more on this later).

Though there are surely many sophisticated versions of this argument, I will attempt to boil it all down into one concise argument. I want to first make it clear that I did not come up with these brilliant thoughts. As far as I know the analogies are mine, but the entire structure of the argument was labored into existence by others with greater minds.

The Argument
Here is the argument layed out in its logical form:

A. Everything that began to exist or was “caused” had a causer.

B. The universe began to exist.

Therefore, the universe had a “causer”, and the only logical possibility is that this causer was God.

The argument seems simple at first glance, but it gets sticky very quickly. Atheists will not argue about premise A; generally they would agree with this. They would, however, question whether the universe was actually “created”, and so they would question premise B. Atheists are not willing to admit that the universe was created, because that almost automatically necessitates that God exists (for who else could create a universe?). Therefore, the argument centers around premise B.

When talking to an atheist about the cosmological argument, they will propose three alternatives to the idea that the universe was created by God: 1) the universe is eternal, 2) the universe created itself, or 3) we just don’t know how things came about. We shall deal with each.

1) The Universe is Eternal
Is it possible that the universe is eternal? Some think so. But it’s not as hard as one might think to show why this is problematic. Take the following scenario as an example of what I mean.

Suppose you decide that you need to be saving more money. You therefore start putting the change you get each day into a bank account. But you also want to reward yourself at some point, otherwise, what’s the point of saving? You thus decide that as soon as you save up an infinite amount of money, you’ll buy yourself a nice car as a reward. You’re so excited you can’t wait ’till you have the money!

Needless to say, the excitement is going to be matched by great disappointment, for you will never save up an infinite amount of money in order to buy the car.

Now, compare this to the idea of an eternal universe. What does an eternal universe actually look like? It is a universe where day after day has been going by since eternity past. But there is a problem with this. If day after day has been passing by for all eternity past, then how could today have ever arrived? Surely it could not have. It is as if you, somehow, made the decision in eternity past to buy the car and, just like you would never earn enough money to reach infinity, so you also could not (even if you lived forever) live through an infinite number of days and finally arrive at the day we are at today. If today requires yesterday to have occurred before today could have occurred, and if yesterday requires the day before yesterday to have occurred, and so on, this creates a serious problem. It is the same as saying that, when we as believers go to heaven, we will be able at some point to say that we have been in heaven for an infinite amount of time. This is absurd.

Because of this, there cannot be anything or anyone that existed from eternity past within time. Only God, who in some way which we cannot comprehend (since we are within time) can because he is outside of time.

Some may object: “But Jesus entered into time when he came to the earth, so God did exist within time for all eternity past!” But this fails to even notice what was stated, that God did indeed enter time at a certain point in time, and not from eternity past. It was around 3 BC that this happened. If one wishes to again argue that God has been in heaven for all eternity, and therefore heaven has existed for all eternity past, one would need to prove that 1) heaven is within time and 2) that God has indeed been in heaven for all eternity past, which seems more likely false than true from the scriptures.

This, I believe, is a fairly tight argument. An atheist wishing to contend with this must prove that infinity can be crossed, which is known to be a vain attempt.

2) The Universe Created Itself
Believe it or not, this is an option for some people. Obviously, there are problems with this option. I believe it was William Lane Craig who stated that if anything could simply create itself, why do we not see pink unicorns or all sorts of bizarre creatures floating around in the air? Why are there not incredibly odd creations popping into existence all the time? It seems that we must always cause things (like toys, computers and cars) to come into existence. It simply is not possible for something to create itself, because it needed to have already existed if it were to create itself, and if it already existed there would be no need to create itself in the first place! If you go out into the garden tomorrow morning and there is a mango tree in full bloom thriving there, and you are certain no one has planted it, be worried. Be even more worried if there are pink unicorns licking the mangoes.

3) We Just Don’t Know
This response seems to me – though I do not wish to sound harsh – to be intellectual cowardice. I say this because those who respond this way are being faced with three options (that the universe either was created, created itself, or is eternal), and, since only the first of these three options is logically possible, they are unwilling to admit this, appealing instead to ignorance.

To continue the earlier theme, it is like a car-shopper choosing between two cars (and for the sake of the argument, these are the only possible cars in all the world which he can buy). One has a broken radiator and the other needs a timing belt. Unable to make up his mind, he decides to flip a coin. His down-to-earth friend tells him, “You do know that no matter what side the coin lands on, you’re still going to wind up with a broken hunk of metal, right?” The man still flips the coin, replying “But I may get something else. We just don’t know.”

There are no hidden answers regarding the cause for the existence of the universe. Appealing to ignorance only reveals the hardness of a heart that is unwilling to accept the truth.

Hopefully this somewhat tricky argument has made sense. It can be difficult to follow at some points, but there is no logical fallacy throughout. Since premise A and premise B have been shown to be true and the structure of the argument is valid, the logical conclusion is that God must exist.

I used this argument in a discussion with an agnostic via email over the course of several weeks. Eventually, when I felt like all opposing arguments had been shot down, I suggested that we move on to my next argument for the existence of God. I never heard from that person again. Though I regret that, as far as I can remember, I did not incorporate scripture into my defenses (though the opportunity never really came that would fit the context), I do feel confident that the reason the discussion ended was that the argument had hit its mark, and that the other person was unwilling to hear any more in the fear that it would be even more convicting. I do hope and pray that that person will be moved by those convictions to turn to God, but that is not up to me.

All I have done is given that person a logical reason in his mind to believe that God exists, so that when he is questioning Christianity, he will not be able to default to, “Oh, well, the universe is eternal, so why listen to this stuff?” Though answers like that are often the result of hardness of the heart, there are many people who do actually believe they have logical reasons to doubt that God exists. When these barriers are removed, only repentance remains.


Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Philosophy


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3 responses to “The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Justin

    May 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Some atheists I have talked to do not get held up on “Why” or “How” the universe exists, because they can reflect the questions back at christians “Why does God exist?”, and if we do not provide a suitable answer they do not feel compelled to answer suitably either. And in their minds the point becomes moot.

    • Sam

      May 25, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I see what you are saying. The point here was mainly to provide an answer for how the universe could even exist, and to use that answer as a proof for the existence of God. But do you think I should consider looking into arguments for why God exists? I suppose I could research that and maybe do some posts on it, but I’m not sure I’d be the one to do it. Asking “Why does God exist?” is like asking “Why does 2 + 2 = 4?” I don’t think I have the brains to answer that one!

  2. Rachel

    May 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    All Dad and I can say is, . . . .”Wow!”


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