Since all my interactions on a daily basis fall within the fences of Western culture, it’s inevitable that the subject of “god” is broached from time to time. Sometimes when people find out I’m Christian the conversation instantly moves back a step, from Christ to the existence of God. I also encounter kids, flush with “new” knowledge from teachers, professors or the internet, dismissing the existence of god with a wave of the hand. For me, when the subject turns to god, the last thing I want to do is say anything that would shut the conversation down. So, many times I try to at least hand the other person a morsel, something to chew on. What’s my “elevator pitch”? What’s my quick and simple explanation for why I believe there is a god? It’s a condensed version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument, a variation of what is known as the “cosmological argument”, argues for the existence of a first cause for the universe, and the existence of a god. This argument comes out of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim medieval thinkers, but has its roots in the theologians of the Islamic Kalām tradition. The Kalam Cosmological Argument was revived and refined by William Lane Craig in a 1979 publication as a valid argument according to the “rules of inference” in formal logic. It is a logical proposition; in other words, as long as the premises are true then the conclusion is also true. Using the standard laws of logical reasoning the conclusion is arrived at deductively. Sherlock Holmes operated in this way. Simply put, it goes like this:
If A is true, then C is true
A is true
Therefore, C is true
The Kalam Cosmological Argument goes like this:
Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore, the universe requires a cause
Thus it is postulated that something caused the Universe to begin to exist, and this first cause is God (with a capital “G”). Let’s have a look at the premises.
- “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”. If you deny this premise, you deny that something cannot come out of nothing, and the evidence that is constantly confirmed in our experiences.
- “The universe began to exist”. If you deny that the universe came into being, then you deny the evidence for the expansion of the universe, the validity of the thermodynamic properties of the universe and the cutting-edge of modern cosmology (cosmology is a branch of astronomy that studies the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution).
Okay, so the universe “began to exist”. What does that mean? Well, it means that at the instant the Universe was created:
- SPACE came into existence
- TIME came into existence
- MATTER came into existence
So what does that say about whatever it is that caused these things to come into existence? What was the cause of the universe? Well, it means that:
- Whatever caused the Universe to begin to exist could not be physical because physical things take up SPACE and space didn’t exist before the creation event.
- Whatever caused the Universe to begin to exist could not exist in TIME because time didn’t exist before the creation event.
- Whatever caused the Universe to begin to exist could not be material because MATTER didn’t exist before the creation event.
Whatever caused the Universe (space, time, matter) to begin to exist is non-physical, not bound by time and not made of matter. And there are only two kinds of non-physical realities:
- Abstract Objects (numbers, sets, mathematical relations) and
We can rule out abstract objects because they have no ‘causal properties’ – in other words, they can’t cause anything to happen. So that leaves us with minds, and a mind does have causal properties – it can cause things to happen. Doubt it? Just tap your foot or lift your leg; there’s your proof.
Therefore, what the Kalam Cosmological Argument points to is this:
- The cause of the universe had to be something outside the universe as a whole, outside the ‘natural’; in other words it had to be SUPERNATURAL.
- The cause of the universe had to be an abstract object with causal properties; in other words it had to be a MIND.
- Therefore, the cause of the universe is a SUPERNATURAL MIND (which I like to refer to as “GOD”).
Now this is all just an overview of the Kalam, but is more than enough to get you started should you wish to delve into the deeper philosophical and scientific complexities inherent in the argument. A follow-up to this article will wade more deeply into those things.
Here is a short video of Dr. Craig explaining the Kalam Cosmological Argument:
By the way, one of the best ways to understand a concept is to be familiar with arguments against that concept. Here is a video to get you started down that path.