The Kalam Cosmological Argument: The ultimate Cause of the Universe

Diving right in to apologist William Lane Craig’s favorite argument for God, the Kalam Cosmological Argument is as follows:

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause

Premise 2: The universe began to exist

Conclusion: The universe has a cause

Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause

Like premise 1 of Leibniz’s cosmological argument (anything that exists has a reason for its existence), this premise is self-evident and is constantly confirmed by our daily experience. We don’t see horses, tigers, or people just pop into existence out of nowhere. Even in science fiction, if something materializes, it does so from another place or another dimension by some causal mechanism. Everything has a cause, even if we don’t know what it is.

Yet, two objections might be raised.

Objection 1: Does this apply to God? Does God need a cause for His existence? The answer is in the premise – “whatever begins to exist…” God, in the theistic sense, had no beginning and no end. He is eternal. Specifically, most theologians would argue that He exists outside of time and that, in fact, He is the Creator of time itself. The idea that God is outside of time might be mysterious (being that we are time-bound creators) but it is not illogical or incomprehensible.

Objection 2: That everything begins to exist has a cause is true at the level of Newtonian physics, but is it true at the level of quantum physics? Isn’t it true that sub-atomic particles can appear out of nowhere uncaused? Again, the answer is no. Quantum mechanics does apparently describe indeterministic probabilities, but not exactly uncaused events. Second, sub-atomic particles do not appear in nothingness or out of nothingness, but into a “sub-atomic vacuum”, which is itself “a rich structure governed by physical laws.” You don’t get sub-atomic particles ex nihilo.

Premise 2: The universe began to exist

One need not have a creationist’s view of Genesis to agree with this premise (though it coincides well with this premise). In fact, one doesn’t need a Bible at all to agree with this premise. Science itself – even apart from belief in God – points to the universe itself having a beginning.

The mostly widely accepted view of the origin of the universe is the Standard Model, also called the Big Bang theory. This theory was developed when scientists started looking out into the cosmos and observed that all the galaxies were moving away from each other, that the universe was getting less and less dense.

If that trend were reversed over time (if we went back in time) we would see the universe getting more and more dense until it was at a state of infinite density. But that’s not to say that before this point, called the singularity, this infinite ball of matter was just sitting there waiting to explode. No, before this point (if we can speak of a “before”) there would have been nothing. In fact, it would have been at this point – or immediately thereafter – that space and time, that the universe, began to exist.

In the scientific community there have been numerous attempts to overthrow this theory in order to imagine an infinite universe without a beginning, but none have been successful (oscillating models aren’t truly infinite – the oscillation could only occur so many times – and multi-verse models still need a point of origination, it is just pushed further back). There are also philosophical reasons to believe that the universe had a beginning, like the question of how we could ever get to “here” if we had to count up from infinity (hint: we’d never get to a “here”).

A final note: The Kalam cosmological argument does not rest on the theory of the Big Bang, but it does serve as evidence that whether we think about the world theologically, scientifically, or philosophically, the conclusion is inescapable: the universe began to exist.

Conclusion: The universe had a cause

It logically follows that the universe had a cause. So, could the universe have caused itself? I’ve heard this argued on a couple of occasions. In one case, it was argued that the laws of the universe could have caused the universe, but that still leaves out the question of the origination of the laws of the universe (and is very scientifically dubious, even the person arguing for it admitted that). From a logical perspective, a self-caused universe is illogical, for it would mean that the universe would have had to existed prior to the universe existing, which is contradictory.

It follows then, that the universe had a cause and that Cause exists outside the universe and is different from the universe.

What can we learn about God from this argument, besides that He exists? We learn that He is the Creator of all things. A Being of this nature would be exceedingly powerful and would have to a will to create. He must exist outside of time and outside of the universe. Add this to the moral argument and the Leibnizian cosmological argument and we can begin to have a clearer picture of the nature of God.

Book Recommendation

On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision