The Cosmological Argument is perhaps the strongest of the arguments for God’s existence. Its premises enjoy both philosophical and scientific backing, and its conclusion is certain. If this argument works, then it is logically impossible that God doesn’t exist. This is very strong language, and it is meant to be.
As an example, it is logically impossible that a square circle exists. What is meant by “square” and “circle” are mutually exclusive things, and so there is no sense in which a “square circle” can exist. If this argument works, then the non-existence of God is as impossible as the existence of a square circle.
So let’s look at the argument:
- Premise One: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- Premise Two: The universe began to exist.
- Premise Three: Therefore the universe has a cause.
Premise One: Everything that begins to exist has a cause. This premise is hard to argue with. It is common sense that something can’t come from nothing. If something could come from nothing, then why not anything? Why can’t just anything pop into existence for no reason? Why not a python in your pantry or a bobcat in your bedroom? Sometimes people will appeal to quantum mechanics, but this is a mistake in understanding. Quantum mechanics might say that subatomic particles pop into existence out of a vacuum of energy over time, but this isn’t the same as saying out of nothing and without cause. The fact that it is only subatomic particles and not submarines or subway sandwiches shows that there is some sort of a cause and effect process going on. Also, the starting point isn’t nothing. You’ve got space, energy, and time as your starting materials. It doesn’t seem rational to believe that something can come from nothing.
Premise Two: The universe began to exist. There is quite a lot of evidence for this. First, the beginning of the universe is predicted by general relativity. Scientists call it the “Big Bang”. There are other evidences as well in the form of cosmic background radiation, the red shift discovered by Hubble, and the second law of thermodynamics. Second, we can see logically that time had to have had a beginning. If time had no beginning, then it would stretch backwards for infinity. This would mean that there would be points in time infinitely far in the past from which an infinite amount of time would need to be crossed for it to become now. Since you’d never run out of this infinite time, it could never become now. But it is now! For that reason time had to have had a beginning. Let me sketch out the train of thought:
- Premise One: If time stretched backward for infinity, then there would be points in time infinitely far in the past.
- Premise Two: If there are points in time infinitely far in the past, then time could never progress from those points to now.
- Premise Three: If time could never progress from a point in the past to now, then it cannot be now.
- Premise Four: It is now!
- Premise Five: Therefore time can progress from every point in the past to now.
- Premise Six: Therefore there are no points infinitely far in the past.
- Premise Seven: Therefore time does not stretch backward for infinity.
For these reasons, the reasonable person should conclude that the universe began to exist.
Premise Three: Therefore the universe has a cause. You might ask, wait a tick, what does any of this have to do with God? We can conclude a few things about this first cause from the things that were created. Since this first cause created time, matter, space, and energy then it cannot be made up of matter or energy, it cannot occupy space, and it cannot be bound within time. It must be timeless and immaterial.
We also have reason to think that it is personal. If the first cause was impersonal, then it would be something like a rock or a star. Some group of particles that churns out universes whenever the sufficient conditions are met. Much like gasoline will catch fire whenever you have a flame and oxygen near it. It doesn’t decide to burst into flame because it doesn’t decide to do anything, it is impersonal. If the sufficient conditions (gas + flame + oxygen) are present, then the flame happens automatically.
Now remember that the cause of the universe had to create time. This means that apart from creating time it existed in a timeless state, nothing changing. If nothing was changing, however, then the sufficient conditions for universe creation couldn’t come about over time. It couldn’t have gradually gotten to the point that a universe would be created because there was no such thing as “gradually” in this state of affairs. Everything that existed had existed timelessly for eternity. If the sufficient conditions existed from eternity past and the cause is impersonal, then it would have created the universe from eternity past. This means we would encounter a universe that was eternally old. We don’t experience a universe that is eternally old, however, which gives us good reason to believe that the cause is personal. Let me sketch out the train of thought again:
- Premise One: If the first cause was impersonal, then it would create the universe whenever the right conditions were met.
- Premise Two: If time was created with the big bang, then the right conditions would have been met timelessly apart from the big bang.
- Premise Three: If the right conditions existed timelessly apart from the big bang, then the right conditions would have been met from eternity past.
- Premise Four: Therefore if the first cause was impersonal, then it would have created the universe from eternity past.
- Premise Five: The universe was not created from eternity past.
- Premise Six: Therefore the first cause is not impersonal.
(“Eternity Past” may be a confusing term here, I just mean to say that it’s effect would exist eternally. The point of the argument is that the universe would be eternal if the cause is impersonal, not that it would be a specific age, the age of “eternity past”)
Taken together, this line of reasoning shows that a timeless, immaterial, personal creator of the universe exists. If it is logically impossible that something comes from nothing then it is logically impossible that the creator doesn’t exist.