Cosmological Argument

Cosmological Argument

Question

What is the cosmological argument? Are there different forms of it? I don't get it.

Answer

The cosmological argument attempts to prove that God exists by showing that there cannot be an infinite number of regressions of causes to things that exist. It states that there must be a final uncaused-cause of all things. There must be an uncaused existence. This uncaused-cause or uncaused existence is asserted to be God.

The cosmological argument takes several forms. One such form comes from St. Augustine (1224-1274) who taught that things in motion could not have brought themselves into motion, but must have been caused to move. There cannot be an infinite regression of movers, therefore there must be an Unmoved Mover. This Unmoved Mover is God. A simpler form of this is:

(1) Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
(2) The universe exists.
Therefore:
(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
Therefore:
(5) God exists.

This is a strong argument. However, one of its major weaknesses is that if all things need a cause to exist, then God Himself must also, by definition, need a cause to exist. There is a major short-coming in this argument.

If, on the one hand, God is thought to have a cause of his existence, then positing the existence of God in order to explain the existence of the universe does not get us anywhere. Without God there is one entity the existence of which we cannot explain, namely the universe; with God there is one entity the existence of which we cannot explain, namely God. Positing the existence of God, then, raises as many problems as it solves, and so the cosmological argument leaves us in no better position than it found us, with one entity the existence of which we cannot explain.

If, on the other hand, God is thought not to have a cause of his existence, i.e. if God is thought to be an uncaused being, then this too raises difficulties for the simple cosmological argument. For if God were an uncaused being then his existence would be a counterexample to premise (1), "Everything that exists has a cause of its existence." If God exists but does not have a cause of his existence then premise (1) is false, in which case the simple cosmological argument is unsound. If premise (1) is false, i.e. if some things that exist do not have a cause, then the cosmological argument can be resisted on the ground that the universe itself might be such a thing. If God is claimed to exist uncaused, then, then the simple cosmological argument fails.

- Tim Holt (PhilosophyofReligioninfo.com)

Two related arguments that help in overcoming some of these difficulties are the Kalam cosmological argument and the argument from contingency. Although William Lane Craig has made great strides in the Kalam argument, both of these arguments still have problems.

When discussing such philosophical solutions, Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 seem to become especially alive: "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." Although this type of argument is somewhat helpful, the reader may find more comfort in Presuppositional Apologetics.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).