Categories
Apologetics

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

as popularized by Dr. William Lane Craig

I would like to preface by saying that these ideas are not primarily mine! They were formulated by much smarter individuals than I, and I am merely defending and popularizing these arguments. I will attach their defenses of these arguments below for you to reference as well.

The Kalam is one of the historical arguments from natural theology for the existence of God. The purpose of the argument is not to prove that one specific religion’s conception of God is correct, but the only purpose of this argument is to prove that such a being exists necessarily. That is, the universe is contingent upon the existence of God. This is a deductive argument in that if the first two premises are true, then the conclusion is inescapable.

The argument reads as follows:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

(2) The universe began to exist.

(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

I do not see a need to defend (1) as I think no sincere seeker of truth can deny it and maintain credibility. To assert that something can begin to exist uncaused is to appeal to magic.

I will then articulate some basic points in support of (2) so that we can all be on the same page when engaging with this argument. Two basic arguments in support of (2) are as follows: (2.1) An actually infinite number of things is impossible, and (2.2) It is impossible to pass through an infinite number of elements one at a time.

Dr. Craig formulates them in this way:

(2.11) An actual infinite cannot exist.

(2.12) An infinite regress of events is an actual infinite.

(2.13) Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

And

(2.21) A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.

(2.12) The temporal series of events is a collection formed by successive addition.

(2.13) Therefore, the temporal series of events cannot be an actual infinite.

In support of (2.1): Let’s discuss some of the absurdities that would occur if we could actualize an infinite by using the analogy of Hilbert’s Hotel. Imagine that there existed a hotel with infinite rooms, but all of the rooms were occupied by an infinite amount of guests. There is not a single vacancy throughout the entire hotel. However, if a new guest were to show up asking for a room, the manager would have no problem accommodating him since there are infinite rooms! He would simply move the occupants of room 1 into room 2, room 2 into room 3…ad Infinitum. As a result of these room changes, room 1 is now unoccupied and available for our guest.

Furthermore, if an infinite number of guests were to show up asking for rooms, they could also be accommodated as the manager would simply move each current occupant into the room number which is double his current number. The current guests would all end up in even-numbered rooms, and all the odd-numbered rooms would become vacant! Therefore, the infinite hotel that is already full can accommodate an infinite number of new guests (and this could be done an infinite amount of times)! Now, what would happen if guests started to check out? If all of the guests in the odd-numbered rooms checked out, an infinite number of people would have just left the hotel and an infinite would be left. The manager could move his occupants back into the odd-numbered rooms in reverse order of what we already witnessed above, and he would still have a full hotel! Now, imagine if the guests all checked out from numbers 6, 7, 8…ad Infinitum. Then, the infinite has been reduced to just 5 guests, and the same amount of guests just checked out as when the guests staying in odd-numbered rooms checked out. This exercise shows some of the incredible absurdities that we should expect if an actual infinite were able to exist (ability to exist is defined as a metaphysical actualization, not a mathematical ability). It’s also important to note that the existence of these incongruities is not because we do not understand the concept of infinity. Modern set theory is very advanced, and these absurdities arise only because we understand the nature of actual infinities, not out of a lack of understanding.

When we subtract quantities such as all the odd positive numbers from all the positive numbers, we end up with all the even positive numbers. When we subtract 4, 5, 6…ad Infinitum from all the positive numbers, we end up with 4 numbers. In both of these cases, we subtract identical quantities of infinity from identical quantities of infinity and end up with nonidentical answers. The second example can be repeated using a different starting point to produce any number until infinity, and this is precisely where the contradiction lies in Hilbert’s Hotel. While subtracting and dividing infinities is forbidden in trans-infinite mathematics, one cannot stop guests from checking out of a hotel! It’s also important to note that the argument is not that an infinite is mathematically impossible but that an actual infinite is metaphysically impossible. The actualization of such a hotel in the mind-independent universe would be ontologically absurd. If an actual infinite were metaphysically possible, then such a hotel would be metaphysically possible. Therefore, the real existence of an actual infinite is not metaphysically possible. Dr. Graham Oppy’s solution to “move the guests in room N to room 2N (for all N)” does little to alleviate my doubts that such a hotel is ontologically absurd and does not answer the contradictions that occur from subtracting infinities.

Let’s consider the grim reaper paradox: you are alive at 12:00 am, and there are infinitely many numbers of grim reapers waiting to kill you. The first grim reaper will kill you if you are still alive at 1:00 am, and he does nothing if you are already dead. The second grim reaper will kill you at 12:30 if you are still alive, and the next at 12:45…ad Infinitum. Due to this paradox, you cannot survive past 12:00, but no grim reaper will ever swing his scythe to kill you because an earlier one would have already done so. Dr. Oppy’s solution to this paradox involves a quite bizarre form of retro-causation that would result in the collective action of the grim reapers causing your death, but not any one grim reaper specifically being responsible (unless I misunderstand him). But of course, this retro-causation does not apply to this particular form of the paradox popularized by Dr. Rob Koons and Dr. Alexander Pruss (sic ‘em bears!) because no grim reaper would ever swing his scythe once you are dead which rules out collective action.

We can also modify this paradox to deal with an infinite past. The same basic rules apply of grim reapers waiting to kill you, but none of them actually swinging their scythe to kill you provided you are dead before their appointed time comes. Suppose you are an everlasting being that could only be killed by a grim reaper. If you were alive today, a grim reaper would kill you. If you were alive yesterday, a different grim reaper would have killed you. If you were alive the day before yesterday, a different grim reaper would have killed you…ad Infinitum. Since the series of past days has no beginning, it makes no sense to say that though you were once alive, you cannot live to the present. Then, if you were a finite being, you would never even exist because of the mere intention of an infinite amount of grim reapers to kill you! The key here is that you are an everlasting being, so this key element is what creates the paradox. We cannot rely on the notion that space-time is infinitely divisible as each grim reaper is equidistant in time from the one before and after it, and we cannot rely on the notion that there cannot be an actual infinite or Hawthorne’s mereological totalities as there never has to be an actually infinite amount of reapers. Therefore, the results are similar to the first formulation in that you cannot live to the present, but no grim reaper can kill you because a prior one would have already done so.

Dr. Pruss formulates everything we have covered so far in this way:

(2.121) If there could be a backwards infinite sequence of events, Hilbert’s Hotel would be possible.

(2.122) If Hilbert’s Hotel were possible, the Grim Reaper Paradox could happen.

(2.123) The Grim Reaper Paradox cannot happen.

(2.124) Therefore, there cannot be a backwards infinite sequence of events.

Dr. Pruss argues that causal finitism solves the problem in that all causal sequences have only finitely many members, and no member is causally dependent on infinitely many members. On causal finitism, the grim reaper paradox is impossible because each grim reaper’s action is causally essential to the outcome. There also cannot be an infinitely dense sequence of grim reaper actions since time is discreet (Aristotelian discreteness perhaps since the Kalam assumes A-theory). Besides, the infinite past example is impossible because an ungrounded infinite causally connected chain cannot actually exist as will be demonstrated shortly. It follows logically from these ideas that an infinite past is impossible, and therefore, there must have been a beginning to the universe some finite distance in the past.

In support of (2.2): No series formed by adding one event after another can ever reach infinity. In support of this, I suggest that you attempt to count to infinity. You will see very quickly that, no matter how many numbers you have counted, there is still an infinite number left to count. Well, if we cannot count to infinity, how could we expect to count down from infinity to reach the present day? This is like being forced to count all of the negative numbers backward before we can count zero; i.e. you must count -1 before 0, -2 before -1…ad Infinitum. You would never reach zero and would be driven back into the past so that no number could ever be counted! So then we see that if an infinite number of non-zero moments have preceded this one, we would never have reached today. This shows, by nature of us being in the present moment, that the number of past events must be finite and have a beginning.

Addressing the issue of infinite causal sequences: I think that while an infinite causal sequence is certainly possible to conceive of mathematically, I’m not sure that I see an infinite causal sequence as a more plausible metaphysical alternative than a concrete beginning a finite time away to the mind-independent universe. So that we’re all on the same page, this idea is usually formulated as follows: “There is a beginning infinitely distant in time, that is, while there are infinitely many past events, time nevertheless did have a first instant.” Let’s picture this causal sequence as a chain: this is a chain with two definite ends (i.e. the present and a beginning), but there are infinitely many links between the two ends. This analogy reads like two ships passing in the night since the two subsets of chains (beginning and ending) would never actually connect. We never actually reach two links that would complete this chain. If we think of the beginning as x and the end as y, then the chain, not being transitively closed, will never insatiate a causal sequence that terminates on y. I think this rules out that the universe has an infinite regress of causes at least as it relates to infinite causal chains that begin to exist. Therefore, if the universe began to exist, that beginning must be a finite duration from the present.

Now, this has only ruled out infinite causal chains that have beginnings. What about infinite causal chains that are beginning-less? If we think of an infinite causal loop as another chain of causes that must eventually reconnect to one of its prior links, then it must eventually reach its predecessor. If our causal chain is infinite, we will end up with an infinite chain possessing two starting points only that the two ends have been somehow connected! Since we cannot reach the end of the chain from a starting point, such a causal loop is impossible as well. Since no such ungrounded infinite causal chain exists, the space-time universe must have a beginning.

Based on the above reasoning, I think that (2.1) and (2.2) are true and thus validating the premise that the universe did have a beginning some finite distance in the past. This necessarily leads to (3); namely, that the universe has a cause. I will make another post discussing (3) and what is commonly called the “gap problem.” This problem deals with what the possible causes of the universe could be, and I think that the best answer to the gap problem is God. I made some jumps in logic for the sake of space on this post, but I can explain the jumps I made if you have questions (or you can read the essays below). As always, I welcome conversations around these ideas!

References for this post:

The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology/Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview! Buy one! Read it!

Here is Dr. William Lane Craig’s website where you can read more about this argument and watch him debate it with top academics: http://reasonablefaith.org

Here is Dr. Alexander Pruss’ blog: http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/

Here is Dr. Robert Koons’ website: http://robkoons.net/

Here are some resources from Dr. Alvin Plantinga: https://www.plantingavideos.com/go-deeper

Relevant academic works:

http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/kalaam.pdf

http://www.apologeticsinthechurch.com/uploads/7/4/5/6/7456646/craig-and-sinclair-the-kalam-cosmological-argument.pdf

http://robkoons.net/media/3d211414d9a8a675ffff80beffaf2815.pdf

http://robkoons.net/media/83c9b25c56d629ffffff810fffffd524.pdf

Categories
Apologetics Theology/Spirituality

The Good News

We will all die. Mortality is a fact of life with which all of humanity must reckon. Every single person living today will most likely die within the next 100 years. Our hearts will stop beating, and our lungs will stop breathing. We will die. Most individuals within western civilization spend our comfortable lives trying to forget our mortality, but this does not change the fact that death will happen – likely sooner than we wish (I promise this gets better so stick with me).

Generation Z is likely the most anxious and depressed generation to ever walk the face of the Earth, and for many, reading that first paragraph probably induced incredible panic and anxiety. So why do I say this? Why bring up that depressing fact that we all know but try so hard to forget? I bring it up because I do not think death has to be depressing at all. In fact, I believe that we can hope in our death and no longer live in fear of the unknown.

Is there a solution to our inevitable death? Does God exist? If so, which one? Is there an afterlife? I hope to provide some answers to these questions to the best of my tiny pea brain’s ability in the coming paragraphs. To start, I believe that God exists. I will give a more exhaustive list of reasons and resources as to why I believe in a benevolent Creator in another post. For now, I will cite the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Moral Argument, the historicity and consistency of the New and Old Testament texts, the many recorded near-death experiences that closely reflect what the Bible teaches, and my own experience of the Holy Spirit as my main (but not sole) reasons for believing.

I will expound a bit on the Moral Argument for the existence of God today which reads as follows:

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

It appears within society that there is a law of morality that we expect everyone to know about. There have been moral differences within societies, but never a total difference. Men have never been respected for running away in battle, betraying those closest to them, or selfishness, and anyone who claims they do not believe in an objective morality will still be indignant if you break a promise to them. There is an expected behavioral standard for all of humanity. We may have mistakes in our understanding of morality, but an objective right and wrong do exist.

The second fact about the moral law is that we all expect others to keep this law, but none of us keep it perfectly ourselves. We don’t live up to standards we set for ourselves and others, but as soon as this fact is pointed out, we come up with a laundry list of excuses for ourselves. However, you may notice that when someone else doesn’t keep to your expectations, the blame is often immediately placed upon them instead of accepting their excuses.

I will finish this section by quoting a passage from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (which I recommend to get a clearer picture of this argument):

“If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so— that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in…If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe-no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way which we could expect to it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way.”

If there is no God, then rape is not objectively wrong. If there is no God, then the holocaust was not evil. If there is no God, then what we call good and evil is merely a personal preference and not an objective standard. If we state that there is a worldview or society that has a better morality than another, we are measuring it by some standard and stating that one society adheres to that standard better than another. The consequence of believing in objective morality is that some transcendent consciousness outside of us must provide that morality.

Now, how do we get from a vague, transcendent consciousness to the Christian Godhead as we understand Him? The Christian faith centers around the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this single event springs all Christian theology and traditions. Therefore, if one can disprove the resurrection, they can disprove the Christian faith as a whole. However, if the resurrection proves true, then it logically follows that expressions of Christianity as we know them today must at least be close to the truth. Scholars (even secular ones) generally agree that Jesus was a real, physical human being who walked the earth, that Jesus died on the cross, and that Jesus’ disciples and dissenters such as Paul and James saw him after his death. The secular scholars attempt to explain the resurrection by claiming that the over 500 eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15) who saw Jesus after raising from the dead all hallucinated (and other naturalistic explanations), but I think these explanations are far more unlikely than what the Bible claims. I implore you to research the strong historical evidence for the life, the resurrection, and the deity of Jesus.

The general reasoning given by those who refuse to believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus is that a miracle is not a reasonable explanation for anything, and to that, I say: is it not entirely possible and reasonable that if there is a God who created the laws of nature, he could break them to reveal Himself to us? After all, God is not subject to His creation, or He would be a very weak diety if such were true. Therefore, it follows that believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is perfectly logical. I also tend to believe that there are a large number of individuals who would rather ignore the evidence for Christ’s resurrection because of the personal consequences of acknowledging it as true. For Jesus says in Luke 16:31, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

How does all of this pertain to us in the twenty-first century? What does this have to do with our eventual death? What does the resurrection tell us about God? Well, I’m so glad you asked! From here on out, I will assume that Christianity is true for the sake of space and attempt to explain why I believe what I believe Biblically and rationally.

Given that God is good and just, He must judge us according to our deeds. Ecclesiastes ends by stating that “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Therefore, we can understand that God must punish every sin, or he is not just for a judge who pardons a guilty defendant is considered a terrible judge.

Most people generally have this idea that we are “good” people and that God would not punish us because we have done good deeds. To that I say: A judge does not pardon someone based on the number of good deeds they have done, but they punish each injustice individually. Our good deeds cannot outweigh the blasphemy we have committed, and evil must be punished.

If I have come off as self-righteous at all during this, I must let you know that I am a terrible sinner. I have no grounds to be self-righteous, and I do not write this to puff myself up but instead to hopefully point you towards what I believe to be the truth. According to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and the ten commandments, I am a lying, adultering, fornicating, blaspheming, prideful wretch just to name a few. I have hurt people that I care about significantly in the past, and I have hurt myself significantly. I regret many things that I’ve done, but hurting people and myself, though very painful, is not primarily why my sin is wrong. My sin is wrong because it blasphemes our holy and righteous God. When we sin, we are choosing ourselves as god over our lives instead of the living God who reveals Himself in the Bible.

Think of the severity of sin this way: If you take a quarter and scrape the cement in your street with that quarter, there will be no punishment. If you take that same quarter to a car junkyard and scrape an old beater, you likely will face no punishment. If you take that quarter to a used car lot and scrape a used Volkswagen, your punishment increases significantly. Now, if you take that quarter to a Lamborghini showroom and scrape a Lamborghini, your punishment becomes very, very severe. You see, the crime itself remained the same, but the object of the crime became more valuable as we went along. How much more valuable is our holy and righteous God than that Lamborgini so that when we sin against Him it is seen as high treason!

How should we atone for this sin? How can we make ourselves right before God? The Bible states that God is love in 1 John 4, and Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbor with all of our heart, soul, and mind as the chief commandments in Matthew 22. We can understand from this that God’s nature is love, and because of this, He seeks to make a way for fallen man (Genesis 3) to be reconciled to Him (Isaiah 52 and 53). However, because God is just, He must punish every sin, so He sent His Son to live a perfect, sinless human life recorded in the Gospel accounts. Jesus died on the cross at cavalry, absorbed God’s wrath for humanity in our place, and rose from death on the third day (Matt. 27-28). Because of this sacrifice, we have the option to be justified before God (Romans 3:21-36). All that we must do to be saved is “believe in the Lord Jesus” as Paul tells the jailer in Acts 16. We are justified when we put our faith in Jesus Christ alone. When Jesus says to “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” in Matthew 4, the word he uses for repent is metanoia, and it translates “to change one’s mind/to change directions.” This mind change that Jesus refers to is such a deep shift that the way one sees the world and treats people often completely changes. We are reborn during this change of mind in a way that is difficult to fully put into words. This rebirth is open to you if you will accept it so that you may glorify the only One worth praising and thereby experience a deeper joy than previously known to you.

There are only two religions in this world. There is the religion by which we attempt to make or declare ourselves righteous or good through our abilities and sets of rules. Then, there is the true religion that allows the atonement of Jesus to work for us in which we can live out of loving obedience and not fear. We will all stand before a righteous and holy God one day who will judge us justly, and the Bible also makes it clear that Heaven and Hell are both very real (Luke 16:19-31 as one example). I don’t say this to scare you but to hopefully place a real reverence for God in your heart. Do you want it to be your feeble works that attempt to justify you, or will you be made right through the sacrifice that God’s own son made for you? The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that our works are like “filthy rags” before the Lord. We deserve to go to Hell for our sins, so we must allow Him to redeem us.

This is the cure for our mortality and death. God gifts us eternal life through His Son that we may spend an eternity in relationship with Him. Jesus loves you and wants a relationship with you that will last forever. So I will ask you the same question that Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16: Who do you say that Jesus is? Will you accept him as your Lord and Savior and realize your spiritual poverty? I am always open to grabbing coffee or talking on the phone. Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to talk, and I pray that God’s blessings and peace would be upon you during this trying season.

I’ll leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis’ sermon titled The Weight of Glory (I’m really loving some Lewis this week y’all):

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It’s a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals with whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”