An argument for the existence of God.

The basis of the argument is that nothing can happen without a cause. There can also not be an endless string of causes. So at some point, there must be an uncaused cause. This cause is God.

Problems with the Cosmological Argument:

The first, and most obvious, problem is the fact that the argument refutes itself. That is, it states that everything has a cause. Then it states that God does not have a cause. Contradiction.

Second, it makes assumptions that may not be valid. Perhaps there are things that can happen without a cause. Perhaps it is possible that there can be a string of uncaused causes.

Note that I didn't create this argument. It's been used by Christian Apologists for years.

...schmargument! You don't find God by arguing. In whatever spiritual discipline you choose, the matter is, in the end, between you and God, not between debate teams. A relationship with God is not passed down to you by pious church-going parents or imparted by a touch from a guru's cosmic index finger. DIY. Just Do It. Skate Tough or Go Home. Take the Leap. Hot air only gets you hot air. Wisdom does not contain hot air; it contains work, sincerity, humility, and patience.

God, the I AM in the Judeo-Christian tradition - no "was" or "will be"; no hard linearity vis-à-vis His "origin" or activity - is outside of time and causes-and-effects. He is. Uncaused. Full stop. No contradiction - He is not a "thing". Why must we cut God down to our own size? Why do so many humans seem to think the mundane world is the all-that of life? Our minds and senses only scratch the tip of the iceberg of is. This is like an Intel chipset arguing over the existence of Andy Grove.

  1. The existence of an effect which requires the operation of a co-existent cause implies the co-existence of that cause.
  2. Whatever exists either does, or does not, need a cause of its existence at every moment of its existence.
  3. A contingent being is one that needs a cause of its continuing existence at every moment of its existence.
  4. No contingent being causes the existence of any other contingent being.
  5. Contingent beings exist in this world and endure in a temporal frame, with a beginning and an end.
The (faulty) conclusion is that there exists a cause of the existence of contingent beings, namely a supreme being, which might commonly be referred to as "God". Why is that faulty?
Premises 1, 2, and 5 are either self-evident, or true beyond a reasonable doubt. Premise 4 seems to accord well with common sense and empirical observation. The problem premise is 3, which asserts without basis that we contingent beings depend on a cause for our continued existence. In physics, we observe the principle of inertia: objects in motion tend to stay in motion, and objects at rest tend to remain at rest, until acted on by external forces. It's not hard to imagine a similar principle of "existential inertia", whereby an object in existence tends to stay in existence, until some outside force interferes with its existence.
The Cosmological Argument argues for the existence of an ultimate cause of our Universe, which in turn may be used to supplement an argument for the existence of a causer, or God. Here is what I have learned the Argument to be.

Some assumptions:

  1. The Universe has a beginning. (Big Bang, anyone?)
  2. Anything that has a beginning must have an independent cause.
Hence, the Universe has a cause. Next, does that cause need a cause? Does that cause need a cause (ad infinitum)? Eventually, there must be a cause which does not need a cause (probably another assumption), which can be accomplished by it not having a beginning. So, the Cosmological Argument not only says that there is an ultimate cause, but also that that ultimate cause is without a beginning. These are two key aspects of God (at least the Christian one). In addition, this helps clear up the issue of God needing a creator.

This IS confusing, and there is no way around it.
(Hey you try to prove/disprove the existence of God...)


Is there a God?

This question has puzzled philosophers since time began. Various "proofs" have been constructed both for and against the existence of God. The Cosmological Argument is one of the most widely accepted of these proofs of God's existence. Its basic premise is that the universe exists, and must have been caused by something outside of its existence. William Rowe, a professor of philosophy, built upon Samuel Clarke's proof of the existence of God using the Cosmological Argument.

Clarke attempts to prove specifically that, "There has existed from eternity some one unchangeable and independent being." While a very complex and often confusing argument, Rowe attempts to simplify it by breaking it down into pieces, and explaining it in more modern English. Here, in nine steps, is how Rowe explains this version of the Cosmological Argument:

  1. If there is no original creator or cause of the universe, then everything that is and ever has been is a dependent being relying on another dependent being for its existence stretching backwards into infinity.
  2. Since this collection of dependent beings makes up all things that are now and ever were, there must be an explanation for the existence of this infinite collection of beings.
  3. The explanation is either contained inside the infinite series, or outside the infinite series. In other words, something cannot come from nothing.
  4. It cannot be explained from a source outside the series, since everything that exists is supposed to be contained within the series.
  5. It cannot be explained from a source inside the series, since every being in the series is dependent and not self-existent or necessary.
  6. Therefore, a series of dependent beings, which has no initial cause, has no reason or explanation (#3) for its existence.
  7. Therefore, the infinite collection of dependent beings (#2) is false
  8. Therefore, all beings are not dependent (#1)
  9. Therefore, there must be an eternal, independent Being (hereby referred to as God)

Or, using more logic symbols and less English:

  1. (every being is dependent) --> (infinite collection of dependent beings)
  2. (infinite collection of dependent beings) --> (there is an explanation for its existence)
  3. (there is an explanation) --> ( (explanation is outside collection) OR (explanation is inside collection) )
  4. ~(explaination outside)
  5. ~(explaination inside)
  6. ~(there is an explanation for its existence)
  7. ~(infinite collection of dependent beings)
  8. ~(every being is dependent)
  9. God exists

The argument is structured such that it will lead to an absurd or incorrect conclusion. This type of logical proof is called reductio ad absurdum or in other fields, proof by contradiction. In the case of Rowe's argument, the contradictions in steps four and five (their order is not important) lead to the conclusion that statements one, two and three are false. Since they are false, the converse is true. Because the question of God is not easily proved by a direct method, it is much easier to prove what is false, and lead up to the truth.

As a whole, this argument is deductively valid, and while this does not necessarily make the conclusion true, it is a step toward determining whether or not it is true. If each premise is true in a deductively valid argument, then the conclusion is true. By looking at The Principle of Sufficient Reason, we know that there must be an explanation of the existence of any being, and also of any positive fact. This in itself equates with step one in the argument above. Some may argue with step two. Going from part (each dependent being) to whole (the collection of dependent beings) may cause an error in logic.

Does this seeming inconsistency mean the logic is flawed? Possibly not. While an infinite series of dependent objects might not have a single first cause, one may ask what caused the series to come into being. The Principle of Sufficient Reason states that all things have a reason. If the PSR is to be believed, one could just as easily say that the series itself must have a cause that is independent of the individual parts. Perhaps this is the step that both Clarke and Rowe are taking. If this is the case, then these two philosophers make a respectable case for the existence of God.

Of course there is another opposing view related to step two. One might say that since all the objects in the series have a cause, (i.e. another dependent object) the only explanation needed for the series is the objects themselves. In other words, if you know the cause of each object, then this entire group of causes is the cause of the whole, and no other explanation is necessary (See also: It's turtles all the way down). In addition, nothing in the nine step proof above takes into account that there may be or may have been multiple gods who created the universe. There is also the possibility that the universe as we know it is actually just a small part of a larger whole. These two points only make things much more difficult to prove, but nonetheless should be considered.

Lastly, it could be questioned that if all things have a cause, then what is the cause of God? Simply stated, the meaning or definition of God implies that He is a self-sufficient necessary Being whose only explanation is Himself. In fact, if the Bible is to be believed, when Moses sees the burning bush on top of Mount Horeb (the mountain of God) and hears God speaking through it, he asks, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you', and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" To this God replies, "I Am Who I Am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I Am has sent me to you.' " Notice God does not say, "I am God", just an all encompassing "I Am".

Who is correct in these arguments for and against God's existence? That, unfortunately, may never be known. Scholars have debated this for centuries. What it comes down to is personal belief. If you want to believe in God, yet need some rational behind your beliefs, Clarke and Rowe may provide all that you need. If you don't want to believe, then nothing short of concrete proof that you can touch, taste, smell, see, or hear will sway your own (dis)belief. It might be that proving God on paper is an impossibility. Perhaps it can only be confirmed through personal experiences, understanding, and faith.

See also: Ontological argument


This paper was written by me for an undergraduate religious studies class. Node your homework.

For a start, it should be noted that the unmoved mover, for which Aristotle argues, is not a personal God, like that of Christianity, it has no religious significance, it is simply seen as the ultimate cause of the Cosmos. The concept of a personal God, perhaps, only becomes apparent when Leibniz takes the argument further with his ‘Principle of Sufficient Reason’. This states that everything, including the universe itself must have a reason for its existence, and that this must mean that there is an ultimate, uncaused cause – God.

There is a compelling logic in both of these arguments. In fact, they serve to heighten the believer’s understanding of God’s omnipotence and transcendence. However, the unbeliever may find them less convincing. David Hume said that it was wrong to go from saying that all events in the universe have a cause to saying that the universe itself must have a cause, in the same way that it is wrong to say that every human being has a mother so that therefore the human race must have a mother! Bertrand Russell was equally cynical, believing the universe to be just ‘a brute fact’. However, one could argue that they both miss the point. Leibniz and Aquinas did not argue that because every event in the world had a causal explanation, the series of events that made the world also required a causal explanation. Leibniz simply believed that a sufficient reason, or cause, was needed to bridge the gap between something and nothing. Similarly, Aquinas believed that you could not have a series of events, each explained by something prior to it, without wondering how the entire chain started in the first place. Frederick Copleston believed that it was difficult to respond to Hume and Russell when they both refused to stick their necks out, ‘If one refuses to even sit down at the chess board and make a move, one cannot, of course, be checkmated.’

However, the argument is flawed in other ways. The argument from motion does not work with the scientific knowledge that we now hold today. We have presumed that actual x can only be brought about by x, but we now know that two cold objects can be rubbed together to produce heat. However, one could ask what this proves – it might prove that heat does not need to be caused by heat itself, but it does still have a cause, and it still requires energy. Equally, it has also been argued that the Big Bang could be the uncaused causer, as the explanation works in exactly the same way as if we are talking about God. This goes hand-in-hand with John Hick’s question, ‘Why should the argument stop with God? Why should God not in turn need to be explained?’ Therefore, perhaps the Cosmological Argument need not look beyond the Big Bang. One could even argue that such a view is what Aristotle was proposing from the start. However, Leibniz took the argument further when he spoke of a ‘Sufficient Reason’ and the Big Bang does not appear to provide this.

In conclusion, the strengths of the original Cosmological Argument, as argued by Aristotle, appear to be immune to criticism. However, one might wonder what exactly it proves, in this guise, – besides the fact that the universe must have had some kind of origin greater than itself. The argument only supports the view of a personal, even Christian God, when one examines Leibniz’s development of it. This is open to greater criticism, as we might ask what evidence there is to suggest that anything in the universe has a purpose – Natural Law struggles, on greater inspection, to tie any one thing down to a particular purpose. However, cosmologists have tried to take the argument beyond an impersonal ‘God’, a mere cause of the cosmos, when the philosophy is twinned with the teleological argument. At that point, one could argue, we not only have an omnipotent God, but a benevolent one, also.

The essence of this whole argument (named "Cosmological argument" but also termed "Kalam cosmological argument"), and why it leads to illogical conclusions, has to do with the concept of infinity, and the contradictions that arise out of them.

The premise of this argument is that the world/universe must have had a final cause (which then supposedly is "God"), because if not there would have been an eternal chain of events leading up to now. Such would seem impossible, since an eternal chain of events which have already happened (since "now" is an event in this eternal chain, which now happens), is nothing but a contradiction. Equally contradictionary however is the assumption that the chain of events would have had a first/final event (sometimes coined "first cause"). This is however an impossibility, since the first cause itself can not have a cause itself, and would thus be ruled out as a possible event (assuming that no event can exist, unless caused by some other event).

So, our preliminary inquiry about this results in either two possibilities, either there is an eternal chain of events, or the chain of events started with a first cause, and both are a logic impossibility, or so it seems.

However, the argument itself, which rules out the possibility of an eternal chain of events on the grounds that an eternal chain of events which have already elapsed, is a logical contradiction.

As we are about to explain, this argument is not a valid argument.
Let us consider for a moment a line in space, which does not end in either end. On this line we then place two points, which do not coincide. No matter where we put these points, the distance between them is definitely a finite measure. At the same time however, our line itself is still never ending in both directions.
Just by placing two points on the line, measuring their distance, and concluding that this yields a finite measure, we have in no way concluded that the line extending in both ways without end, is somehow impossible.
And in fact our proof that the line is infinite can be explained by the fact that wherever we placed our initial two points, we can always place two points farther away and yield a greater distance as the distance between the two original points. So whatever we measure as a distance on a line extending without end in both directions, this measure can always be increased by placing the two points further away, and shows that there is no limit to the distance between any two points placed on such a line, and is therefore without limit. Since there is no end to the line, we cannot place our point there.

Likewise and in analogy to the "chain of events" or the time line, we can only measure a finite result when placing any two points on the time line. We will never succeed in placing two points on this line such that the distance between them (the amount of time) becomes infinite.
Wherever we place a point on this time line in the distant paste, the time that has elapsed since that point in time will always yield a finite measure.

The argument however as described in the Cosmological argument (aka Kalam cosmological argument) now asks us to place a point at the beginning of the infinite time line, and count from there the time which has elapsed. In that fashion supposedly is "proved" that the chain of events must have had a final cause, since an infinite amount of time can not be counted. The only thing that is proved with this is that the time line does not have a starting point, as on an infinite time line, we can not place a point at the start, and any point on the line is just as arbitrary as the other. A line which is infinite in both directions and which has a "starting" point, from which one can start to count the time that has elapsed since then, is of course a contradiction.

As explained, this does not lead to the conclusion that an infinite time line itself is impossible and/or that time (the causal chain) must have had a begin, but only shows that a line extending in both ways without ending, does not have a starting or ending point. Which was already clear from the definition of the unending line itself. Hence, the contradiction that supposedly arrives from assuming the time line to have no starting point, never occurs, and hence the conclusion that "therefore" time must have had a beginning, is simply false.

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