That’s a rather bold statement to start out with, but I figure there’s no sense pretending that’s not where this argument is going. But, for the sake of intellectual honesty, I am going to go with a much humbler goal, which is to show that God is a much better explanation for the existence of the universe than naturalistic explanations (that is, things that are found in the natural world, like in physics, chemistry, etc). Before we jump into the argument, I’m going to explain what I mean by some of the terms I’m using.
Universe: any and all of physical reality, including all things that occupy the known space-time continuum.
The reason I’m bringing this up will become readily apparent once we get started, but asking, “Where did it all come from?” makes a lot more sense when we’re clear on what “it” is. I’m going to be real clear: if it’s physical, it is part of the physical universe. Which brings us to our next term.
Beginning: the start of some object or some event.
I know. You probably didn’t need that term cleared up. But we need to remember something about things that have a beginning. If something had a beginning, it did not exist earlier. Something else might exist, but it wouldn’t be that thing. For example, even if there is a lot of debate about when human life should be protected, there’s not a lot of debate about when it begins. At conception, there is a thing that did not exist prior to it, which is a human embryo. Prior to conception, there were two separate things, an egg and a sperm, but at conception, those two things cease to exist separately and a new human life begins.
Similarly, if the universe had a beginning, the universe did not exist before it began. I know how obvious that sounds, but when we get to some of the objections, you’ll see why I’m bringing that up.
God: a non-physical, necessary being which created the universe.
I’m defining God this way for a reason. As mentioned above, we’re going to be talking about what caused the physical universe. God MUST exist outside of that physical universe in order to create it. God’s existence is necessary in the sense that God has always existed, God’s existence was not caused by something else, and God’s non-existence results in logical impossibilities. We can talk about this in detail later if anyone wants to, but I think a lot of this will become evident when I cover the nature of the universe and how it doesn’t have any of those characteristics.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, here’s a version of the kalam argument. Keep in mind, the only goal of this argument is to show that whatever caused the universe to exist cannot be something physical, and therefore would have to be something outside the physical universe.
Premise: Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
Premise: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: The universe had a cause
It’s a pretty simple argument. I can’t think of too many people who don’t get it, but I know a lot that reject it because of what it indicates. However, that’s a terrible reason to reject a valid argument. But is it a valid argument? There are only two premises (#1 and #2). The conclusion necessarily follows from those premises (by modus ponens, for those technical types out there). So, the argument is valid. That doesn’t mean the argument is correct (sound, again for the philosophical sophisticates), it just means that if premises #1 and #2 are correct, the conclusion is undeniable. So are the premises correct?
#1. Anything that begins to exist has a cause.
This premise seems so obvious that it is actually hard to defend. (If someone doesn’t accept that up is not down, how do you prove it to them?) The idea that anything that begins to exist has a cause is so obvious that it often leads to the most common objection to this argument: “If everything needs a cause, who or what caused God?” Notice two things. First, this objection isn’t against premise #1, but actually relies upon it. This objection actually admits that the premise is correct, but overreaches and assumes that everything needs a cause, but that would lead to an inescapable infinite regress (there would be no “starting point”). However, the premise does not say that everything needs a cause. Only things that began to exist need a cause. Things that have always existed don’t need a cause. Which category does God fall into?
This is where the atheists start complaining. “Why is God so special that he doesn’t need a cause? Why can’t the universe be the thing that doesn’t need a cause?” I’m going to try and keep this as short as I can because it can get complicated. First, let’s remember that this is a deductive argument – we’re going from stated principles and proposing a thing that can satisfy the given criteria. Scientists do that all the time (i.e. black holes, dark matter, Higgs boson, etc.) and philosophers can do it too. In this case, whatever can fill the requirements of a creator of the universe, we’re going to call it God. Let’s not get hung up on all the baggage that typically comes with the word. Ultimately, whatever created the universe must transcend space and time to prevent the universe getting lost in infinity and asking who created God is like asking who is the bachelor’s wife.
Second, the cause of the universe, whatever it is, must be non-physical and eternal since physical reality as far as we know did not exist “prior” to the creation of the universe. It would have to be outside of the physical and temporal universe because that’s the very universe we’re trying to explain. How could the creator of the universe create the universe in which it resides? The creator would have to exist within the universe that doesn’t. It is worse than that, but that’s the only option that atheists offer, and they have to answer this problem too. Keep in mind the definition of the universe – any and all of physical reality. If it’s physical, then it’s the universe or part of it. If the creator of the universe is physical, then it would have to exist before it was created, and that’s just crazy talk.
Third, if God is the creator of the universe and essentially non-physical and eternal on top of that, should we really be surprised if He is a lot different from the stuff we come into contact with every day? We experience physical stuff all the time. If God is essentially not physical, why would we expect Him to have the same characteristics and function in a physical way? That’s what’s called a categorical error. It’s like asking what the color blue smells like.
Of course, atheists are free to challenge the premise. I encourage them to offer some examples of things that begin to exist without a cause. I would caution them before they get too satisfied with themselves. There is a difference between us not knowing the cause and there being no cause at all. Just because we don’t know why something happens, that doesn’t mean nothing causes it. In fact, science progresses specifically because we assume that events are caused rather than happening without any cause whatsoever. Denying this premise actually would be a science stopper.
#2. The universe began to exist.
This is the sort of thing that almost goes without saying. Granted, for a long time, many believed that the universe could have been eternal itself. However, the Big Bang theory seems pretty well established and many admit the Big Bang looks like the beginning of the universe. The idea that the universe could have always existed is not widely held anymore in light of both the scientific evidence and the logical impossibilities involved.
Scientifically, there’s no reason to doubt that the Big Bang marks the beginning of the universe. Literally every theory that has been offered for any mechanism or process has been pure conjecture (a fancy way of saying “we’re just making stuff up here”) with absolutely NO testable or empirical data to support it. Considering that it’s scientists offering these ideas, I’m honestly a little surprised that they’ve abandoned science to do so and yet claim the intellectual high ground. What they’re doing is metaphysics, which is philosophy, and they’re at least as bad at philosophy as I am at science, and maybe a little worse.
“No, I mean REALLY infinite”
Philosophically, the possibility of the universe existing eternally is precisely zero. There is literally no chance at all that physical reality could be eternal. Eternal existence would be the same as being around for an infinite amount of time. However, infinite time is impossible to pass through. The reason why is because time passes sequentially, one moment after the next. No matter how many moments you have, you have a finite number of them. You can count and no matter how long you count, there will always be another moment. You can’t count to eternity any more than you can get to the bottom of a bottomless pit. Getting to this moment from the infinite past would be like trying to leap out of bottomless pit. Give it some thought and you can appreciate not just that an eternal universe is unlikely, but impossible.
#3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.
The conclusion is unavoidable if the premises are true and I don’t know of anyone who rejects them unless they are trying to avoid this conclusion. The very same people who reject the premises in this argument only seem to do so when they are talking about this argument. The rest of the time, they seem to accept them as a matter of fact. This suggests that there is something to this argument that they don’t want to admit. But we’re just beginning. All this argument does is make it clear that whatever created the universe must be non-physical and eternal. That’s a rather sparse description. It certainly isn’t God in the way we normally understand God and certainly isn’t equivalent to the God of Christianity. Be patient – we’ll get there. This is just the first step. Our next step is to show that whatever created the universe is not just non-physical and eternal, but is also a person. That brings us closer to a description of the traditional God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Who Created God? – Cold Case Christianity
Who Created God? – One Minute Apologist
Who Made God? – Cross Examined
The Ultimate Question About Origin – Reasonable Faith
What We Mean When we Say that God Created Everything From Nothing – Cold Case Christianity
The Cosmological Argument – Philosophy of Religion
Big Bang Evidence for God – Cross Examined