Friday, October 7, 2016

Why Are We Here? (Part 3)

This is the third and final article in a brief series on the Cosmological Argument (CA) for the existence of God. The other two can be found here and here. In them, we considered some of the basics of this type of argument, and discussed the three C’s of Contingency, Causation, and Continuation. Now, we can move on to considering the implications of what we have discovered.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Purely with reference to natural philosophy, we have been able to determine a great deal. The CA tells us there is a Necessary Being, a First Cause, and a Continual Source. It also tells us that the Necessary Being must be the First Cause and the Continual Source. This being is supernatural, since it is beyond nature. It is intelligent, since it could conceive of the universe and can continue to oversee its operations. It is powerful, since it was able to cause the universe to be. And it is personal, since it chose to do the work of creating of its own free will rather than having anything capable of constraining it to do so.

But you may have noticed, I have been for the most part very careful to refer to this philosophically arrived-at Creator “it.” That is because of the limits of the CA. For as much as it can tell us, there is also much it cannot. The CA cannot help us determine anything more specific about the Creator. It would be what we would call God, but the argument cannot name God. It cannot tell us which version of human religion is true, if any of them are true.


Of course, it does cross a few off the list. Atheism and agnosticism cannot coincide with the CA. Their only recourse is to deny it out of hand because it offers only reasonable assumption, rather than proof. But that is basically to deny the possibility of almost every other form of knowledge, as well, since there is very little of which we can be so absolutely certain as they demand we be in showing the existence of God. So they cling to the impossible for the sake of being able to continue to deny the most probable. That is not reasonable.

Pantheism, the belief that everything is God and God is everything, is also incompatible with the CA. The universe is contingent and caused. It cannot be its own source, and therefore cannot be God. Something must supersede it.

As for polytheistic faiths, they are basically overcomplicated. The many, petty gods and spirits of polytheism are far less than the Creator, which such systems still require. Or, they would require that all the gods be first causes, in order for them to be equal and truly worshipful. But in that case, they would all have to be of one will, and could not differ. Seeing as the polytheistic gods are constantly at cross purposes in their mythology, they cannot fit that role. So there are not many gods.

Another take, popular in Early Modernity, was deism. It was the belief that God created the universe, but then stepped away to allow it to work on its own. The deist’s God is a disinterested one. But as we have seen, that cannot answer the question of Continuation. God is still at work. Atheism rose to intellectual prominence because of all the thinkers who saw this weakness in deism, but who could not come to terms with the implications of a personal Creator who might care what people did with their lives.

And finally, Mormonism cannot be made to fit within the CA. According to the Mormons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit were all beings with a beginning. Essentially, Mormon cosmology has an infinite universe in which spiritual beings somehow and at some time started to exist. Since the universe is not eternal, however, we are still left needing a First Cause to provide the Father with a kick-start. That cause would actually be the greatest thing there is, and most worthy of honor. The Mormons, if they were right, would be worshipping the wrong God.

Best Available Answer

Thanks to the CA, there is only one reasonable approach to understanding God. That approach is monotheism. Of course, that is still a fairly broad category. The world’s two largest religions are monotheistic, and a third monotheistic religion is hugely influential. All three have argued over the right way to understand God, and over who has truly spoken for Him. At most, only one of them can be completely right. The CA does not tell us which. It does not even tell us that is must be one of the three. Purely looking at the philosophy of cosmology, they could all be wrong.

Obviously, then, that just means there is more to the search for God than cosmology. Christians should understand that. The CA is not going to help you reach Jews and Muslims. They accept it, too. They have been instrumental in developing it. You have to turn to something else.

The Cosmological Argument and the Bible

But for everything that is not monotheistic, the CA is good to know. And it is also good to know that Christianity does not contradict the CA. Long before the argument was developed, the Bible taught us that God created everything out of nothing (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1–3; Hebrews 11:3). We are told that He is eternal (Exodus 3:14; 1 Timothy 1:17; Revelation 1:11). Scripture says that He is personal, intelligent, and powerful (open a Bible and put a finger on just about any verse to find an example). And we know that He continues to care for His creation (Job 12:7–10; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17; John 3:16). 

We need to be aware of these things, and know how to talk about them. Reason does not prove that faith is wrong. Reason, instead, supports the Christian faith. You do not have to be ashamed of it. You do not have to hold it blindly. Based on the evidence of cosmology, we are pretty well on our way. The rest of it comes down to knowing Jesus. With the miracle of creation and the miracle of the resurrection firmly established, we know we have the truth. We have more reason to be confident than anyone else. Fix that in your mind, find your way to describe it, and share it. In combination with the life of love we are called to lead, we have all we need to be persuasive to those who are truly open to listening.

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