Everything has a Reason for its Existence. The ultimate Reason is God.

We now move on to Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument. (A summary of the argument from William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith)

Premise 1: Anything that exists has a reason for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.

Premise 2: If the universe has a reason for its existence, then that reason is God.

Premise 3: The universe exists.

Premise 4: Therefore, the universe has a reason for its existence (following from 1 and 3)

Therefore, the explanation of the reason of the universe is God (following from 2 and 4)

Premise 1: Anything that exists has a reason for its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.

This premise matches our every day experience. Look around you: Everything you see has a cause for its existence. Nothing appears out of nowhere without reason. This premise is constantly confirmed by experience and forms the basis of scientific inquiry.

Imagine you are walking in the woods with your friend and you come across a semi-translucent ball. You might ask: Why does this ball exist? You might not know the reason – perhaps it was left by a fellow traveler, or perhaps it is an especially unusual rock formation. Either way, you’re justified in thinking it didn’t just appear without reason.

For this premise, size doesn’t matter. Would you be any less justified in asking about the reason for the mysterious ball if it were the size of a house, a planet, or the universe? No, everything has a reason for its existence.

You might notice the qualification on this premise: “either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.” This premise is important because, one might ask, if everything has a reason for its existence, and God exists, then does God need a reason for His existence? And wouldn’t the just send us back on into an infinity of “whys”?

The answer to this dilemma is that the theistic idea of God is that God exists “by the necessity of His own existence.” What theistic arguments for God are trying to prove, is a reason for the contingent universe, a Reason behind all reasons, a Cause behind all causes. So, this is isn’t really an objection to a theistic version of God, since the God which Christians believe in exists by necessity of His own nature.

But are Christians just arbitrarily assigning this necessary existence to God? I don’t think so. First, again, this is exactly the sort of Being we’re trying to demonstrate exists. Second, there are potentially other “things” which exist by the nature of their being, such as mathematical principles. Physical objects or properties, though, are not necessary beings, but are contingent beings. The reason for their existence is some external cause.

Premise 2: If the universe has a reason for its existence, then that reason is God.

At first glance this seems like a bold claim, but we are not yet describing what this God is like. The argument isn’t saying, the reason for the existence of the universe is the Christian God, but God in a more general sense, as some self-existence, necessary Being. If the universe includes all contingent physical/temporal reality, then we must look outside the universe for some ultimate Reason, which theists describe as God.

Premise 3: The universe exists. No objections here, I presume.

Premise 4: Therefore, the universe has a reason for its existence.

This premise logically follows from 1 and 3. If everything that exists has a reason for its existence, and the universe exists, then the universe has a reason for its existence.

Here, or perhaps at premise 2, one could object that if God exists by the necessity of His existence, why couldn’t we say that the universe exists by the necessity of its existence? Or, to put it another way, some might argue that the premise “everything that exists has a reason for its existence” applies to everything in the universe, but not the universe itself.

My first observation is that in doing this, the atheist ascribes a divine attribute to the universe – self-existence. It might be hard at this point to differentiate between a necessary self-existent Universe from the self-existent God of the Leibniz cosmological argument, except that perhaps one is impersonal and one is personal.

Second, its hard to see how a materialist or naturalist is warranted in ascribing this self-existence to the universe. If everything they see in the universe is contingent, then on what basis would the summation of all those things, be necessary? And, if the universe is not the summation of all things in the universe, but more than the universe, then aren’t we just using Universe as a different word for God?

Therefore, the explanation of the reason of the universe is God (following from 2 and 4)

It logically follows, then, that the reason, or explanation, or cause, of the universe is God.

Evaluation

The Leibniz Cosmological Argument provides a strong demonstration of some ultimate, self-existent, necessary being which we call God, but it doesn’t go much further. If this was all we had, we could be left with the Deist conception of God, that Being which “wound up”  the universe and then stepped away.

But when combined with the Moral Argument we can learn more about this Necessarily Existing Being, as a Personal and perfectly good Law Giver.

Up next… the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Book Recommendation

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

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