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The Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

There is no doubt that the religious climate in the Western world has become increasingly colder toward the Christian faith. The New Atheists and others like them make few attempts to understand Christianity, choosing instead to attack caricatures of it or dismiss it out of hand. They act as if all believers are simple-minded “faith-heads” (to quote Richard Dawkins) who have never wrestled with philosophical arguments or scientific data. This derisive attitude is captured in a speech when Dawkins urged a crowd gathered at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington D.C. to mock believers and ridicule them publicly.

Thanks to the aggressive efforts of public figures like Dawkins and others, many people have begun to question their faith. In an age of scientific investigation where we put a premium upon evidence, what proof do Christians have for God? Can his existence be determined by a test or procedure, or be discovered under a microscope or in the stars? If God is a spiritual being (John 4:24), how do we know he exists? And is it a little too convenient if we don’t have scientific proof?

The apostle Paul tells Christians in Rome that they can detect evidence of God’s existence in creation itself (Rom. 1:18-20). On this point, Christians should agree. This is where we introduce the cosmological argument for God’s existence. This argument can be outlined as follows:

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist must have an adequate cause.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: The universe has a cause.

Whatever Begins To Exist Has A Cause

Something cannot come from nothing. This has found expression in the traditional phrase ex nihilo nihil fit (“Out of nothing, nothing comes”). This is common sense for most people but creates numerous problems when trying to formulate an opinion on the origin of our cosmos. Many people may not realize that thinkers for millennia have grappled with the idea of an infinite past and whether the universe had a beginning. Plato understood that everything had to have a point of origin when he wrote, “The answer is that it has come into being … And what comes into being or changes must do so, we said, owing to some cause” (Timaeus, 28).

Anything that exists must receive the quality of existence from its creator. In other words, it must be created. Some scientists have attempted to show that the universe could have come from a quantum vacuum, but these arguments are little more than scientific sleight of hand. In these cases, the term “nothing” must be redefined to permit “something” to exist at the point of “nothingness.” Christians must be cautious when encountering these arguments, which sound impressive when dressed in scientific language but are logically bankrupt (and scientifically specious).

The Universe Began To Exist

That the universe has a beginning is not disputed today, but this has not always been the case. In times past, scientists believed that the universe had existed for eternity. This changed in the 20th century. When the Big Bang first appeared, it met with considerable resistance because it struck many as being too close to the biblical story of creation. Consequently, some opposed it on those grounds alone. In time, the Big Bang theory gained traction and is now the dominant explanation for the existence of our universe as we now see it.

While the Big Bang theory satisfies most scientists, it leaves an important question unanswered: what happened before the Big Bang? Where was our universe at that point? The answer is, essentially, a shrug of the shoulders. The scientific method will not allow us to go back before the cosmic singularity that created the universe as we know it. Therefore, many argue, there is no point in trying to speculate about the matter. This argument is not good enough.

All of the data tells us that the universe began to exist at some point. If it had existed for eternity past, all of the usable energy in the universe would have been exhausted (this process is known as entropy). Every star would have burned out long ago, and the cosmos would be a lifeless expanse. Instead, what we find is a relatively young universe that is still expanding. Because of this expansion, we understand that the universe came into being at some point in the finite past. Because the universe began to exist, something or someone on the outside had to give it the quality of being or existence.

The Universe Has A Cause

If nothing comes from nothing, then the most obvious conclusion is that the universe had a point of origin.  It cannot come from nothing (proven by science), nor can it create itself (a logical impossibility).  This being the case, then the universe must have an adequate cause for its existence.  For philosophical reasons, this cause cannot be material, nor can it be constrained by time and space, and it must be timeless itself.  This certainly fits the description of the biblical God.

Some have tried to respond to the cosmological argument for God’s existence by saying, “If God created the universe, then who created God?”  This is not as creative or innovative a question as critics think.  It is an example of a fallacious argument known as a category mistake.  God is, by definition, an eternal being, unconstrained by space and time, who needs no creator because he has the power of being within himself (due to self-existence, not self-creation).  This is the very kind of creator that the universe needs to exist.

Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX.  He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.