The Kalam Cosmological Argument – analysis of its value

Last time I outlined the formal, deductive argument for the existence of God called, “the Kalam Cosmological argument.” But just knowing the premises and the conclusion for the argument isn’t sufficient to answer the real question, does the Kalam cosmological argument “prove” the existence of an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and all encompassing moral being exists? Well, in and of itself, no, and in fact some facts about God can only be known if He chooses to reveal Himself, as Christians believe He has. But this does not make this, or any of the other arguments for God’s existence far from. I believe the Kalam Cosmological argument has three uses for the modern Christian.

It Implies the existence of God

 

A distinction must be made from arguing that a single, deductive proof makes certain that God exists and the fact that they imply His existence. If the universe has a cause, then this cause most precede the existence of universe itself, which means that the cause of the universe cannot be matter or energy interacting within time and space. Additionally, it needs to be able to explain how time began when it did, which implies a “personal cause” (that a person with the ability to exercise will); in other words, the cause of the universe must be able to explain why we do not have an infinite regression of causes (which would be impossible), and currently a personal cause seems to be the best (but not necessarily the proven) possibility.

In this vein, the deductive arguments from God, along with the argument from design (an inductive argument with deductive elements) are like individual pieces of evidence in a court trial. A GSR test doesn’t prove someone was a murderer, it proves he fired a gun. A ballistics test match doesn’t prove that the defendant is the killer, it proves that the gun involved probably fired the fatal bullet. The defendants finger prints on the gun also don’t prove he is the murderer, but it proves he held the gun. Finally, the hair of the defendant at the murder scene doesn’t prove the defendant is a murderer, but it indicates he was present at that location. When we take, however, a ballistics test match of the fatal bullet to a weapon with the defendants finger prints, a GSR test proves the defendant fired a gun recently, and his hair at the murder scene, well, we either have a fictional murder (in which the kinds of conspiracies that never seem to actually work in real life exist), or a high probability that the defendant is a murderer. It is my contention that two of the Cosmological arguments along with the argument from design, along with the arguments from mankind’s experience strongly implies the existence of a Creator.

It Demonstrates that the Christian worldview is consistent with the Universe

As I have noted elsewhere, Christianity doesn’t begin with the assertion that the Bible is inspired. I am not denying inspiration or inerrancy, but these are later steps in the theological process, they are important supporting branches of the Christian tree, not the roots. Yet, that does not mean the Bible is unimportant in the discussion of Christianity. When discussing the Bible with unbelievers, we do not begin by proclaiming our view on inspiration (these are conclusions that require assumptions they reject), rather we begin with treating the Bible as a historical record of man’s interactions with God. As I noted above, we can only know so much about God from the natural world, just as I learn about a limited amount of material about an engineer when he builds a bridge (I may certainly come to understand something of his competency with mathematics, physics and materials, something perhaps of his style since there are artistic elements on some bridges, but the bridge builder’s political opinions, preferences in food, humor, how he interacts with his children, etc can only be learned by interacting with that man or woman). Similarly, with God there are some elements that can only be learned by meeting Him on a personal level, and some of those who have wrote their experiences down.

Christianity is built on experiences with the Creator. Naturalists will preclude them without actually working through the testimony itself, and so such testimony, if we are making the argument that Christianity is true, needs corroborating facts and suppositions – why should I simply take Isaiah and Moses word and trust my essential self to the belief that their experience is not a delusion? My answer in large part is the resurrection on the one hand, and the fact that the Christian worldview is consistent with reality as we can understand it, on the other.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument Part 1: The Structure of the Argument

There are a number of arguments for the “existence of God.” One class of arguments are known as the “Cosmological arguments” which argue from the universe itself that God must exist. There are actually a number of these “Cosmological arguments,” though this is sometimes discussed in the singular (ie some authors will speak of the Cosmological argument, while all cosmological arguments share certain common elements, they are distinct, and some authors will use more than one. Thomas Aquinas had three distinct versions, for example in a famous “Five ways of knowing” a medieval apologetic that existed primarily for something called today “theological prolegomena”).

I consider several Cosmological arguments to be both “valid and sound,” (logic speak for I find them to be useful, and accurate). One cannot treat the various cosmological arguments in a single article, and even within the cosmological arguments from cause, minor changes really change the nature of the argument.

The Kalam Cosmological argument has become a central discussion in William Lane Craig’s various books and debates. This is not my favorite cosmological argument, but it is one of the simplest, and so the first one I will attempt to discuss here. The argument can be stated this way:

1. All things which have a beginning, have a cause.

  1. The Universe had a beginning.
  2. Therefore the Universe had a cause.
  1. All things which have a beginning have a cause

This premise is generally assumed, based on our observations. Our experience though, provides no exceptions to the principle. This is sometimes treated as saying, “Everything has a cause” but this would actually not be true – what is the cause of the existence of abstractions, such as the number 3, for example? As Christians we may assume abstractions have beginnings, but this cannot be demonstrated, so it does not play a role in this argument.

  1. The Universe had a beginning.

This second point can be demonstrated in at least two ways:

  1. It is impossible to have an infinite regression of causes

 

Since the days of David Hume, the general assumption by most atheists is that there is no first cause but that every cause had one that came before it, and thus matter and energy are eternal. This concept is known as an “infinite regression of causes,” which is impossible. In the case of an infinite regression of causes, that would mean an infinite number of “event states,” (or moments in time, or to the physicist “Planc units”) must have happened before the present, but if that were the true, there could be no “present” we could not have reached this point in time yet (as it is impossible to count to infinity).

In some cases, some atheists will appeal to mathematical constructs, such as infinite set theory. But this is actually a weak answer that sounds more intelligent than it actually is. Not all mathematical concepts necessarily reflect the real world, after all, imaginary numbers may be useful for solving some problems, but we would never suggest that there can be the Square root of negative 1 event states before the present either, since the number cannot exist in the real world.

 

  1. The Red Doppler shift indicates that the universe had a beginning.

           

Currently, even those who do not accept creationism the universe admit that the universe had a beginning. The basis for the “Big Bang Theory” is known as the Red Doppler shift, and it indicates that the universe is expanding. If the universe is expanding (or to put it another way, it is growing). If the universe is growing, that growth must have had a point of beginning – it can only have been so small in the first place. Though I am a young earth Creationists, even if I conceded the possibility of the Big Bang, this would then be a beginning. There have been a number of challenges to the Big Bang theory (many of which appear to be metaphysically motivated, as even one of the theorists involved in these theories has admitted), but there is currently no viable theory that would demonstrate how the universe could be self-sustaining, without a beginning.

  1. All things which have a beginning have a cause

This conclusion flows logically from the first premise. As matter, time and space are all elements of the universe we inhabit, we can infer that the universe is caused, but not by actions that fit our current understanding.

I will leave the evaluation of what this means until next time, but this is the “structure” of the Kalam Cosmological argument.

The Coda of Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design: Theistic Evolution, Bad Philosophers and The Problem of

Recently, I noted my thoughts (in perhaps a rather unstructured format) on the “conflicts” between the Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent design advocates. A few of my major conclusions were:

  • The real issue for the Christian is a logical one. Because as Christians we reject religious naturalism, it is illogical for us to accept naturalistic assumptions in our interpretation of the data related to origins. In fact, doing so is ultimately a form of idolatry: it is adapting a false religion to the worship of the true God. (On this grounds, if one was to try to convince me of the veracity of any model of evolution – theistic or atheistic, one must either find the body or one must demonstrate evolution in a manner consistent with my presuppositions). This is the reasoning I employed in The Tragedy of Compromise.
  • It does not follow, however, that my point is to develop atheistic young earth creationists. Since Christianity is a necessary presupposition to creationism, I can use intelligent design, the cosmological argument, or the fossil record to challenge his/her assumptions, or for that matter discuss only the resurrection. Thus, in a sense, the Intelligent Design strategy is an effective challenge to unbelievers.

I had thought I was done with this line of argument, and had started on a pair of articles on the Kalam Cosmological argument, when I realized I had left something important out. Listening to a very poor examination of the teleological argument, I was reminded of the influence of one’s view of origins on Christian theodicy (theodicy is a reference to any attempt to answer the problem of how God can be omniscient, omnipotent and still create a world in which evil exists).

If man is not a fallen creature, then whatever answer we might raise to the problems of natural evils (such as earthquakes, parasitic infestations, and disease) are inevitably weakened by the assumption that natural evils (such as the aforementioned disease, parasitic infestations and earthquakes); presumably predate the fall, since physical death would also predate the fall (as death is necessary in evolutionary processes – the fittest survive to pass on their genes and the less fit do not). Additionally one assumes that God made the world red in tooth and claw, rather than viewing the world as damaged by the fall itself. Finally, the question of the fall itself and how it relates to man’s evil becomes far more difficult to discuss – how did we come to be dead in trespasses and sins?

In the Atheistic discussions of the problem of evil, there is an assumption that as Christians we do not share: atheists assume we do not deserve to suffer, their argument as I have noted is as much an emotional one as it is rational. Yet if man is depraved, then in discussing God’s goodness it is necessary to account for His justice in punishing evil.

This of course is not to say that the question of evil and suffering is impossible for theistic evolutionists to answer – I doubt any Christian has a perfect grasp on theology, so this is not intended to throw stones. In fact, many theistic evolutionists still raise the same basic arguments I do on these points, but in a sense, their argument is weaker when we are inconsistent with our principles.

Please note, I am not suggesting that we maintain creationism simply to answer the problem of evil, I have reviewed my reasoning at the beginning of the column for that.  Rather, my point is that when we are inconsistent with core principles and precepts of theology, there are negative consequences for the Church and the faith in the real world.

Disproving Christianity 2.0

Sometimes, when I see a debate on a Facebook board, I feel obliged to jump in a little – if for no other reason than to refine my arguments and the presentation of those arguments, and because even armchair apologists like myself require some “street” or “internet cred.” It never hurts to get some ideas for articles, either.

Last year, I noticed the interesting question, would Christians abandon belief in God, if it could be proven that He does not exist. My response was in my usual vein, “Find the body.” Since this article was originally published, I’ve refined my arguments – I’m never satisfied with the completeness of my past work.

The question for me is not that of proving theism – I’m not merely a generic theist, I’m a Christian. As such, the real question is (or should be), “Would I change my beliefs if someone could disprove Christianity?” This question, naturally leads to the follow up, “if so, how could someone disprove Christianity?” The only means to do so is to prove that the Resurrection did not occur, or at the least present me with an argument on the resurrection that I find more convincing.

Here is my organization of the minimum facts that must be disproved. These are ultimately not original with me, but this is the way I organize them:

1 Jesus died when crucified.

2 His followers claimed to have seen Him after His death. These men and women were profoundly changed by what they saw, and most were tortured and killed for their faith; none recanted.

3 Paul and James were skeptics about Jesus at one point in their lives, who later claimed to have seen Jesus after His death. Both became followers after these experiences and both died martyrs’ deaths.

4 The tomb was guarded by soldiers who were answerable to Pilate, yet the tomb was found to be empty.

Any theory about Christian origins must be able to account for all of the above minimum facts. Additionally, to be credible, there are some limits to the way in which a competing theory can be constructed.

  1. It cannot invent evidence, or cherrypick the evidence. One cannot argue that the tomb had a backdoor (due to a lack of evidence) or simply pick elements of the New Testament that fit ones theory and reject the rest without some demonstrated criteria external to one’s arguments, if such a criteria is invented for working through the evidence, it must be one that is demonstrated to either be true, or with arguments that I consider convincing.
  2. One cannot simply dismiss the source material without a solid argument that is not based solely on speculation. All of the external evidence supports the traditional authorship (and the patristic evidence on this point is rather impressive), there is nothing in the internal evidence that requires someone to reject that external evidence – a highly speculative case can be made that the documents were written by other people – but as noted, the key phrase is that the case cannot be based “solely” on speculation, since another word for speculation would be “Imagination.”
  3. It must be able to account for the growth of the Church in the first century at Jerusalem, since many early converts to Christianity were present at the time of the events.
  4. It must yield to Ockham’s razor, which is a warning about the multiplication of causes. If an argument requires us to assume one thing caused the empty tomb, and requires a separate, unrelated cause to account for the conversion of Paul, and a third separate, unrelated cause to account for the conversion of James, then that theory should be dismissed on grounds of being “ad hoc.”

To date, no explanation other than the Resurrection is successful at dealing with these facts in the manner I’ve noted.

Perhaps someone may come up with an alternate theory that adequately explains the minimal facts in the manner I have described. Similarly, perhaps someone will come up with a way of proving that the moon really is made of green cheese.

Science, Assumptions and Intelligent Design Part 5: Conclusions

We’ve been away from our discussion of origins (perhaps you thought I had forgotten). In brief, to review where we have been:

  1. Intelligent design is not an answer to the question of origins, it is a restatement of the teleological argument for God.
  2. Yet this does not mean intelligent design is useless, it is useful precisely at this point and juncture.
  3. Commonly one of the real problems for Young Earth Creationism is the comparison between an elementary Sunday School version of Creationist idea (often poorly discussed even at that level) to what one learns in high school about Evolution.

My main concern is the internal effects on Christian thought and doctrine – this is the entire point of my pamphlet The Tragedy of Compromise, which argues that it is illogical and idolatrous for Christians to assume naturalism in areas of the origin of the universe, but denying it in other areas of our worldview. By compromising on this issue, I believe we plant the seeds of doubt into the minds of Christian young people.

To be sure, one may make concessions for the sake of an argument, one may choose not to expound the full implications of ones thoughts on a given subject in a given debate, but this is not the same thing as conceding the belief in point of fact. A concession for the sake of an argument is for the purpose of noting an internal inconsistency, or something that has been overlooked in the other person’s argument, it is hypothetical. Failing to expound a full view of origins similarly is not an actual concession either. After all, our acceptance of Creationism is based on faith in Christ, which is prerequisite to our reasoning about this matter. The danger is when in our thoughts and theology we make the same conclusions.

So how do we use intelligent design and maintain Young Earth Creationism? I would suggest that as a young Earth Creationist, my goal with evolutionists outside the faith is not to convert them to young earth creationism, it is to convert them to Christianity, and concerns on origins can be addressed after this point. If my concerns with old earth Creationism are the doctrinal health of the Church, well, the doctrinal health of atheists is rather a moot point. Indeed one might concede the point for the sake of the argument (without conceding the point). This for example is how I would use William Lane Craig’s version of the Kalaam Cosmological argument – even if we conceded that the Big Bang happened (something I concede for the point of the argument, but not in point of fact), the big bang is a difficulty for evolutionists (and explains why it has such a controversial history within their own circles). It demonstrates that the universe had a beginning and must therefore have had a non-material cause that happened outside of time and space. This is consistent with a Christian worldview, but is inconsistent with atheistic metaphysics. This of course is not the only means of using the Kalaam Cosmological argument (one can also get there by noting the impossibility of an infinite regression of causes), but the apparent expansion of the universe is not a problem for the Christian worldview as some atheists seem to believe, it is a problem for theirs.

Thus, when speaking with an unbeliever, I will likely speak primarily in terms of intelligent design, though possibly adding information about the Rate project, the distance between the earth and the moon and other problems for the timeline put forward by evolutionists.

Presidential Ignorance, and Christian Love

The President has once again made a comment about Christians, stating, “And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned.” I will not try to read the president’s mind, I can read what is known of his history and his words, but every man’s mind is its own domain, and any of our fellows that claims to read the specific contents of our hearts is a fool, I will therefore avoid speculation on his point.

Perhaps it was men like Jeremiah Wright (whose incendiary rhetoric nearly derailed his campaign in 2008) that the president meant, though the president’s later words lead me to question whether he actually understands Christianity on these points. The president went on to clarify that his own position is not actually a Christian one. The president stated, “we are all Children of God.” This of course is not in line with historic Christian teaching (and if it is not in line with historic Christianity, to call it Christianity is sophistry). We are not all children of God (or Christ would not have referred to the Pharisees as the children of the devil), only those who have accepted Christ as Savior can be considered God’s children.

Perhaps this mistake is ignorance – this is not to be unkind, there is no crime in being ignorant and it is more kind than the alternative assumption that the President was simply looking for an opportunity to attack those he perceives as political opponents.  I will assume, out of Christian charity, which reminds me to assume no evil, that this is a point of the presidents ignorance about Christianity. Besides this, as a Christian it is clear we live in a society that does not understand what love is.

Our society views love as an emotion and often confuses it with acceptance – as a Christian I believe this entire definition and view of love to be misguided. This is rooted in the Religious Humanist viewpoint that has, unfortunately, become prevalent. This philosophy is grounded in the assumption that man is basically good, the Christian position is that man is at his root, evil and self-interested, motivated by evil desires, and avoiding his duties to his Creator. Thus, societies are presented in Romans 1 as in a state of free-fall and degeneration, due to open rejection of our Creator, and the last stage of which is marked by acceptance of homosexual activity. Christ himself noted, it is not food that causes mankind to be defiled (thus noting that ceremonial cleanliness was not the same as Godliness), but rather what defiles us is what comes out of our impure hearts. Paul sums it up by noting that before we came to Christ we were dead in trespasses and sin.

As Christians then, we assume man is evil and therefore engages in evil. But Scripture is clear, the solution to the problem of human evil is found in the sacrifice of Christ as the final, complete sacrifice for sin, and if this is ignored, then sadly the wrath of God is revealed for those that do not seek shelter in the Cross. From such a position, Christians are in an unusual position, we can love our neighbors, or we can be unloving by accepting what Scripture tells us is wrong. As Christians we believe, for example, that homosexuality is an expression of the evils within a man or woman’s heart. It might very well seem natural, but that is only germane if man’s nature is assumed to be good (which as noted above is contrary to Christian teachings). To accept homosexual marriage, then, is not to be loving, but to give a person false assurance that God accepts their sinful lifestyle, and they therefore have no need of redemption. It is to pave the way to hell for the gay couple by removing the warning signs, “Bridge out, hell ahead, turn to the Savior to survive.” In short, it is as loving as the mother who enables a child that addicts himself to drugs – it may have surface appeal, but no real kindness to the errant child is provided. There are to be sure Christians who express these truths in a way that are ineffective, but this is a matter of the speech, not the heart, something which no one, including the president, can read.

Last Day of our free offerings

Well, Easter has passed for another year (at least in the west) and while the celebration in life of the Resurrection is never over, our freebies will be done soon, sadly. Today, Monday April 6th 2015 will end all of the freebies for the quarter, and I won’t be able to run another under the Kindle Publishing rules for another three months.

My latest release, Towards a Positive Case for Christ is the first step in a larger project, as I state, this is my notebook, and tomorrow, I start making plans towards next year’s edition, along with some other lines of research that will be loosely held around other elements of life.

Before the special ends, here is a quick excerpt, my closing “argument” in Chapter 10 in the first part of Towards a Positive Case for Christ.

 

           Many times people will discuss the canonicity debates, but they do so in a fashion that assumes that a formal canon developed in isolation from earlier Christian writings. The canonicity debates were about the “formal canon” but most of the New Testament was quoted by the fathers authoratitively before these issues ever arose, that is there was an “informal” canon before there was one. It is true that some books of the New Testament were questioned in the third, fourth and fifth century, but the canonical gospels, the Pauline Epistles and the book of Acts were never seriously challanged or questioned by the early Church.

The books that were unchallaenged during the canonicity debates were accepted as authoritative by the Church from their beginning. Debates between believing and unbelieving Biblical scholars are not debates about the evidence – that is there is not a body of evidence that supports the evangelical position for the gospels and another body of evidence that would appear to support the unbelieving position on the gospels. The fact is that all of the extant, external evidence favors the evangelical position, and the unbelieving scholar is forced to respond to the evidence with speculation. To put it another way, the unbelieving scholar argues against the evidence rather than from it, on the basis of speculation that has been accepted as almost a tradition,[i] and assumptions based on moldy works of nineteenth century philosophy, many of these arguments begin with the presupposition that miracles are not possible.[ii] In liberal theology no theory ever really dies, it just gets recycled when no one is looking. In more technical terms there is a prima facia case for the traditional authorship of the New Testament, and the burden of proof therefore falls on the unbeliever to prove their case about the gospels.

Arguments on the evidence for the gospels cannot be answered with mere conjecture – conjectural arguments stating that the evidence is not as good as I have demonstrated it to be will inevitably violate the logical principle known as Ockham’s razor, ultimately derived from Hume’s arguments against miracles.[iii] Once we begin cherry picking the evidence or conjecturing from a basis other than fact, anything is ultimately feasible – such approaches are little different than theories that the world we inhabit is really an elaborate computer program – technically possible, but there is little positive evidence that can be adduced in its favor, and no sane person would assume this is true without some positive evidence adduced to defend this viewpoint. We can also argue the various alleged discrepencies, as we have noted, however, discussions of historical reliability are logically prior to discussions of inspiration, since the latter is based on the acceptance of Christianity. We can concede a given discussion on a given passage – it makes no sense to argue that inerrancy with an unbeliever, but what we cannot conceed is the general character of the historical reliability of the New Testament that has been proven.

[i] Stephen Neill and Tom Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament: 1861-1986 (Oxford: UP, 1988; reprint 2003), 62-63.

            [ii] “The presupposion of modern Biblical Criticism has been the impossibility or unidentifiability of miracles, so that an openminded approach to the Scriptures necessitates a priori defense of the rationality of belif in miracles.” Craig, 278, he further discusses this in terms of Hume’s argument against miracles as accepted be many Biblical critics. Craig 278-280.

[iii] Craig 278-80