This article is the first installment of our “Crash Course” series where we will discuss foundational terms and concepts regarding apologetics and theology.
Apologetics, or defending the faith, is something every Christian should be involved in (1 Pet. 3:15). While we’ve written extensively on apologetics on 1st Century Faith Today, we have long neglected in-depth descriptions of foundational concepts. We are beginning our crash course in apologetics by examining one of the “Big Three” apologetic arguments: the cosmological argument.
Definitions and History
The cosmological argument is so called because it is an argument (logos) for the existence of God by observing the universe (cosmos). The cosmological argument is often credited to Aristotle, and later Thomas Aquinas. The concept is seen (though not very developed) in Hebrews 3:4.
The cosmological argument is closely related to the concept of cause and effect. In short, the cosmological argument can be outlined as follows:
1. Every effect must have an adequate or simultaneous cause (the law of causality).
2. The universe is an effect which demands an adequate or simultaneous cause.
3. God (understood as a transcendent creator) is this adequate cause.
In this way, the cosmological argument works from the observable universe backward. The question which the cosmological argument seeks to answer is, “what caused the massive effect of what we see as the universe?” The answer can logically be shown to be a supernatural first cause. The cause is supernatural in that it exists outside of the physical universe. How could something inside of the physical universe create the physical universe?
Strengths and Weaknesses of the Cosmological Argument
The strengths of this time-tested apologetic approach are several. Most obviously, this argument is logically sound and valid. The law of causality is a well-attested-to-fact that needs to be applied to the universe. If all things have a cause (which they do), then the universe must have a cause, and this cause must logically be 1) outside of the universe and 2) sufficient (“great enough”) to create all matter. Thus we are providing logical evidence for a supreme creator (God) by what we can observe around us and deduce.
Everyone knows that something cannot come from nothing. We are surrounded by “something,” and that “something” demands a cause. The cosmological argument seeks to show that the “something” we observe around us is caused by God.
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An admitted weakness of the cosmological argument is the fact that it in and of itself does not necessarily exclude all creators other than the One presented in the Bible. In other words, the cosmological argument can prove that a supernatural creator exists, it will take additional proofs (the supernatural characteristics of the Bible, etc.) to deduce that the Creator the cosmological argument proves is the one presented in Biblical literature. The cosmological argument is also cited by apologists for Islam and those who pre-date Christianity.
“But Who/What Created God?”
Sometimes when the cosmological argument is presented, the question that follows is, “then who created God.” This is a great question which proves the efficacy of the argument. Since it is true that all things have to have a cause, and God is the cause of the universe, it is asked, who/what is the cause of God?
The answer to this question will not be sufficient to some, but it is an answer nonetheless. It is consistent with the very concept of God and with the cosmological argument as a whole. First, God doesn’t need a cause. This isn’t because of some logical gymnastics or a sudden change to the rules. The law of causality is a law of nature. God is by definition supernatural, therefore the natural laws do not apply to Him. He is their Creator and transcends them.
Further, logic demands an uncaused cause of all things. This what is referred to as the prime, or unmoved, mover. An uncaused cause is logically necessary because without it you have an infinite regress of causes and this cannot be so because then there would be no first cause and therefore no further causes (i.e. it is self-refuting). There must be an uncaused first cause responsible for the universe. We call this cause God.