The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God
The famous philosopher from the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas, is generally given credit for articulating what is known as the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God, although the Bible described the essence of the argument hundreds of years before he was on the scene (e.g., Hebrews 3:4). The argument essentially says that the cosmos is here and had to come from somewhere. It could not have created itself. Nothing comes from nothing in nature, as verified by the First Law of Thermodynamics (Miller, 2013).
The rational person will only draw conclusions that are supported by the evidence (Ruby, 1960, pp. 130-131). The evidence from the natural realm indicates that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent (or simultaneous—Miller, 2012a) cause. The mass of a paper clip is not going to provide sufficient gravitational pull to cause a tidal wave. There must be an adequate cause for the tidal wave, like a massive, offshore, underwater earthquake (“Tsunamis,” 2000, pp. 1064, 2000). Leaning against a mountain will certainly not cause it to topple over. Jumping up and down on the ground will not cause an earthquake. If a chair is not placed in an empty room, the room will remain chairless. If matter was not made and placed in the Universe, we would not exist. There must be an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause for every material effect. If this Law of Cause and Effect seems intuitive to you, then you understand why the Cosmological Argument is powerful, logical evidence for the existence of God.
Causality and History
The Law of Cause and Effect, or Law/Principle of Causality, has been investigated and recognized for millennia. From at least the time of Plato (1966, 1:96a-b) and Aristotle (2009, 1) in the fourth century B.C., philosophers have pondered causality. In 1781, the renowned German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote concerning the Principle of Causality in his Critique of Pure Reason that “everything that happens presupposes a previous condition, which it follows with absolute certainty, in conformity with a rule…. All changes take place according to the law of the connection of Cause and Effect” (Kant, 1781, emp. added). In the nineteenth century, German medical scientist and Father of Cellular Pathology, Rudolf Virchow, affirmed that “[e]verywhere there is mechanistic process only, with the unbreakable necessity of cause and effect” (1858, p. 115, emp. added). Fast forwarding another century, our increased understanding of the world still did not cause the law to be discredited. In 1934, W.T. Stace, professor of philosophy at Princeton University, in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy, wrote:
Every student of logic knows that this is the ultimate canon of the sciences, the foundation of them all. If we did not believe the truth of causation, namely, everything which has a beginning has a cause, and that in the same circumstances the same things invariably happen, all the sciences would at once crumble to dust. In every scientific investigation this truth is assumed (p. 6, emp. added).
The truth of causality is so substantiated that it is taken for granted in scientific investigation. It is “assumed.”
This principle is not some idea that can simply be brushed aside without consideration. If the Law of Causality were not in effect, science could not proceed—it would “crumble to dust” since, by its very nature, it involves gathering evidence and testing hypotheses in order to find regularities in nature. The goal of scientific experimentation is to determine what will happen (i.e., what will be the effect) if one does certain things (i.e., initiates certain causes). If there were no relationship between cause and effect, then nothing could be taken for granted. One day gravity may be in effect, and the next day it may not, and there would be no point in studying it, since it might be different tomorrow. There would be no such thing as a “scientific law,” since there would be no such thing as a “regularity,” which is fundamental to the definition of a law of science (McGraw-Hill Dictionary…, 2003, p. 1182).
Moving farther into the 20th century, the Law of Cause and Effect still had not been repealed. In 1949, Albert Einstein, in The World as I See It, under the heading “The Religiousness of Science,” wrote, “But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation” (2007, p. 35, emp. added). In The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, renowned American philosopher and professor Richard Taylor wrote, “Nevertheless, it is hardly disputable that the idea of causation is not only indispensable in the common affairs of life but in all applied sciences as well” (1967, p. 57, emp. added).
Even today, when scientific exploration has brought us to unprecedented heights of knowledge, the age old Law of Causality cannot be denied. Today’s dictionaries define “causality” as:
“the principle that nothing can happen without being caused” (“Causality,” 2009).
“the principle that everything has a cause” (“Causality,” 2008).
The National Academy of Science’s guidebook, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, says, “One goal of science is to understand nature. ‘Understanding’ in science means relating one natural phenomenon to another and recognizing the causes and effects of phenomena…. Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena” (1998, p. 42. emp. added). Notice that, according to the National Academy of Science (NAS), there can be no progress in science without causality. The NAS, though entirely naturalistic in its approach to science, recognizes causality to be fundamental to the nature of science. It is not, and cannot rationally be, denied—except when necessary in order to prop up a deficient worldview. Its ramifications have been argued for years, but after the dust settles, the Law of Cause and Effect still stands unscathed, having weathered the trials thrust upon it for thousands of years.
The Law of Causality—A Problem for Atheism
The Law of Causality is fundamental to science, and yet it stands in the way of the bulk of today’s scientific community due to their flawed definition of “science.” In an interview in 1994, the late, famous evolutionary astronomer Robert Jastrow, founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, said:
As Einstein said, scientists live by their faith in causation, and the chain of cause and effect. Every effect has a cause that can be discovered by rational arguments. And this has been a very successful program, if you will, for unraveling the history of the universe. But it just fails at the beginning…. So time, really, going backward, comes to a halt at that point. Beyond that, that curtain can never be lifted…. And that is really a blow at the very fundamental premise that motivates all scientists (as quoted in Heeren, 1995, p. 303, emp. added).
The scientific community today, by and large, incorrectly defines “science” in such a way that anything supernatural cannot be considered “scientific,” and therefore science “fails” in certain areas. Only natural phenomena are deemed worthy of being categorized “science.” According to the definition, if something cannot be empirically observed and tested, it is not “scientific.” [NOTE: The naturalistic community contradicts itself on this matter, since several fundamental planks of evolutionary theory are unnatural—they have never been observed and all scientific investigation has proven them to be impossible (e.g., spontaneous generation of life and the laws of science, macroevolution, etc.; cf. Miller, 2012b).] One result of this flawed definition is highlighted by Jastrow, himself, in the above quote. Contrary to Jastrow’s statement, the laws of science, by definition, do not “fail.” They have no known exceptions. So, it would be unscientific to claim, without conclusive evidence in support of the claim, that a law has failed.
This leaves atheistic evolutionists in a quandary when trying to explain how the effect of the infinitely complex Universe could have come about “unscientifically”—without a natural cause. Four decades ago, Jastrow wrote:
The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect without a known cause. An effect without a known cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to banish. As scientists, what are we to make of this picture? I do not know (1977, p. 21).
When Jastrow says that there is no “known cause” for everything in the Universe, he is referring to the fact that there is no known natural cause. If atheism were true, if the material realm is all that exists, if naturalistic science can shed light on the matter of origins, there must be a natural explanation of what caused the Universe. Scientists and philosophers recognize that there must be a cause that would be sufficient to bring about matter and the Universe—and yet no natural cause is known. The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms says that “causality,” in physics, is “the principle that an event cannot precede its cause” (p. 346). However, the atheist must concede that in order for his/her claim to be valid, the effect of the Universe did not precede its cause—rather, it actually came about without it! Such a viewpoint is hardly in keeping with science.
The Law of Causality—A Friend to Creationists
Instead of flippantly disregarding the truth of the Law of Causality because it contradicts naturalistic theories, why not recognize that the highly respected, exception-less Law of Causality is not the problem? Why not recognize the fact that naturalistic theories, such as the Theory of Evolution and the Big Bang Theory, are simply not in harmony with science on a fundamental level? Why not consider an option that does not contradict the Law? If one were to follow the evidence wherever it leads, rather than defining God out of science, one is led to the unavoidable conclusion that there must be Someone super-natural that caused the Universe to be. If every material (i.e., natural) effect must have a cause, then the ultimate Cause of the Universe must be supernatural.
Every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. Notice that creationists have absolutely no problem with the truth articulated by this God-ordained law from antiquity. In Hebrews 3:4, the Bible says that “every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.” A house must have a cause—namely, a builder. It will not build itself. Scientifically speaking, according to the Law of Cause and Effect, there had to be a Cause for the Universe. And that is the essence of the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God.
The only book on the planet which contains characteristics that prove its production to be above human capability is the Bible (see Butt, 2007). The God of the Bible is its author (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and in the very first verse of the inspired material He gave to humans, He articulated with authority and clarity that He is the Cause Who brought about the Universe and all that is in it. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth” (Genesis 1:1).
Emile Borel was a famous French mathematician for whom the Borel lunar crater was named (O’Connor and Robertson, 2008). He once said concerning the amazing human brain that is able to author works of literature, “Now the complexity of that brain must therefore have been even richer than the particular work to which it gave birth” (1963, p. 125). The effect of the brain’s existence, like a work of literature, must have an adequate cause. In the same way, we know that the infinite Mind behind the creation of this infinitely complex Universe had to be, and was, more than adequate for the task of bringing it all into existence (Revelation 19:6).
"But if everything had to have a beginning, why does the same concept not apply to God? Doesn’t God need a cause, too? Who caused God?” First, notice that this statement is based on a misunderstanding of what the Law of Cause and Effect claims concerning the Universe. The law states that every material effect must have an adequate antecedent or simultaneous cause. A law of science is determined through the observation of nature—not super-nature. Since they have not observed the supernatural realm, scientists cannot apply the scientific Law of Causality to it. The laws of nature do not apply to non-material entities. The God of the Bible is a spiritual Being (John 4:24) and therefore is not governed by physical law. In the words of skeptic Michael Shermer, executive director of the Skeptics Society and columnist for Scientific American:
If God is a being in space and time, it means that He is restrained by the laws of nature and the contingencies of chance, just like all other beings of this world. An omniscient and omnipotent God must be above such constraints, not subject to nature and chance. God as creator of heaven and earth and all things invisible would need necessarily to be outside such created objects (2006, Ch. 8, emp. added).
Recall also what Professor W.T. Stace wrote in A Critical History of Greek Philosophy concerning causality. “[E]verything which has a beginning has a cause” (p. 6, emp. added). God, according to the Bible, had no beginning. Psalm 90:2 says concerning God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (emp. added). The Bible describes God as a Being Who has always been and always will be—“from everlasting to everlasting.” He, therefore, had no beginning. Recall Hebrews 3:4 again, which indicates that God is not constrained by the Law of Cause and Effect, as are houses, but rather, presides as the Chief Builder—the Uncaused Causer—the Being Who initially set all effects into motion (John 1:3).
Again, philosophers recognize that, logically, there must be an initial cause of the Universe. [Those who attempt to sidestep the need for a Cause and argue the eternality of the physical Universe are in direct contradiction to the Law of Causality (since the Universe is a physical effect that demands a cause), as well as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which indicates that nothing physical lasts forever (see Miller, 2013).] Aristotle, in Physics, discussed the logical line of reasoning that leads to the conclusion that the initial cause of motion must be something that is not, itself, in motion—an unmoved mover (1984, 1:428). Aquinas built on Aristotle’s reasoning and said:
Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another…. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality…. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e., that it should move itself. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently no other mover…. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God (1952, 19:12,13, emp. added).
God, not being a physical, finite being, but an eternal, spiritual being (by definition), would not be subject to the condition of requiring a beginning. Therefore, the law does not apply to Him. Concerning the Law of Causality, Kant said that “everything which is contingent has a cause, which, if itself contingent, must also have a cause; and so on, till the series of subordinated causes must end with an absolutely necessary cause, without which it would not possess completeness” (2008, p. 284, emp. added). An uncaused Cause is necessary. Only God sufficiently fills that void.
Consider: in the same way that dimensional space—length, width, and height—are part of the physical Universe, time, itself, is as well. In the same way that space had to have a cause, time itself had to as well: time had a beginning. That means that its Creator logically could not have a beginning. A “beginning” implies a specific timeframe that has begun. Without time in existence, there could be no such thing as a “beginning.” So the Cause of the Universe could not have a beginning since He created time, itself. In essence, there was no such thing as a “beginning” until the uncaused Cause began something. [NOTE: If time was not created, then it exists apart from God and even God is subject to it. The Bible affirms, however, that time itself was created along with the Universe when it uses the phrase “in the beginning” in Genesis 1:1.]
Consider further: if there ever were a time in history when absolutely nothing existed—not even God—then nothing would continue to exist today, since nothing comes from nothing (in keeping with common sense and the First Law of Thermodynamics; Miller, 2013). However, we know something exists (e.g., the Universe)—which means something had to exist eternally, or we would eventually get to a point in past time when nothing existed, which we have already noted cannot be. That something that existed forever could not be physical or material, since such things do not last forever (cf. the Second Law of Thermodynamics; Miller, 2013). It follows that the eternal something must be non-physical or non-material. It must be mind rather than matter. Logically, there must be a Mind that has existed forever. That Mind, according to the Bible, is God. He, being spirit, is not subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics and can exist forever—the uncreated Creator. While usable energy in the Universe is inevitably expended, according to the Second Law, moving the Universe ever closer to a state of completed deterioration and unusable energy, God’s power is “eternal” (Romans 1:20).
Of old You laid the foundation of the Earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end (Psalm 102:25-27, emp. added).
The Universe exists. It cannot be eternal according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It could not create itself according to the First Law of Thermodynamics. Its existence requires an adequate, supernatural Cause. The Bible calls Him Jehovah.
Aquinas, Thomas (1952), Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago).
Aristotle (1984), Physics in The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Aristotle (2009), Metaphysics, trans. W.D. Ross, http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/metaphysics.1.i.html.
Borel, Emile (1963), Probability and Certainty (New York: Walker).
Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Behold%20the%20Word%20of%20God.pdf.
“Causality” (2008), Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press), http://www.wordreference.com/definition/causality.
“Causality” (2009), Collins English Dictionary—Complete & Unabridged (New York: HarperCollins Publishers), tenth edition, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Causality?x=35&y=25.
Einstein, Albert (2007), The World As I See It (New York: BN Publishing).
Heeren, Fred (1995), Show Me God (Wheeling, IL: Searchlight Publications).
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Kant, Immanuel (1781), The Critique of Pure Reason, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn (London: Henry G. Bohn), 1878 edition, http://philosophy.eserver.org/kant/critique-of-pure-reason.txt.
Kant, Immanuel (2008), Kant’s Critiques: The Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason, the Critique of Judgment (Radford, VA: Wilder Publications).
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (2003), pub. M.D. Licker (New York: McGraw-Hill), sixth edition.
Miller, Jeff (2012a), “Simultaneous Causation,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=687&topic=57.
Miller, Jeff (2012b), “The Atheistic Naturalist’s Self-Contradiction,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=4225&topic=296.
Miller, Jeff (2013), “Evolution and the Laws of Science: The Laws of Thermodynamics,” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=2786.
O’Connor, John J. and Edmund F. Robertson (2008), “Felix Edouard Justin Emile Borel,” The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Mathematicians/Borel.html.
Plato (1966), Plato in Twelve Volumes, trans. Harold North Fowler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D96a.
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Shermer, Michael (2006), Why Darwin Matters (New York: Henry Holt), Kindle file.
Stace, W.T. (1934), A Critical History of Greek Philosophy (London: Macmillan).
Taylor, Richard (1967), “Causation,” in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Philosophical Library).
Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science (1998), National Academy of Sciences (Washington, DC: National Academy Press).
“Tsunamis” (2000), The Oxford Companion to the Earth, ed. Paul L. Hancock and Brian J. Skinner (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press).
Virchow, Rudolf (1858), “On the Mechanistic Interpretation of Life,” in Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays, ed. by L.J. Rather (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), 1958 edition.