The first-cause argument, also known as a cosmological argument, starts with the existence of the universe and reasons to the existence of God as the best explanation of the universe. There have been several different forms of the argument throughout history. Two important versions are those expressed by Thomas Aquinas and Gottfried Leibniz. However, in recent years another version has become very popular. It’s known as the Kalam cosmological argument. Let’s have a look.
Premise 1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
Conclusion: Therefore the universe has a cause.
If the two premises are true then the conclusion logically follows.
Let’s consider premise 1. It works from the simple logic that something now exists (our universe) and that something cannot spring from nothing. It’s true that the combination of things can produce new things – for instance when two hydrogen atoms bond with one oxygen atom we get water – but that is not something coming out of nothing. Even our everyday experience confirms this first premise. We don’t see various objects popping into existence out of nothing, and everything we do see began to exist and has a cause. For example, people, animals, trees, TVs, motor vehicles, computers, etc. all began to exist and all have a cause for their existence.
Let’s now consider premise 2. Did the universe begin? Or has it always existed? Thanks to various pieces of scientific evidence, like the second law of thermodynamics, we know that the universe is expending all of its useful energy. If the universe was eternal and had no beginning and was therefore infinitely old, then it would have already used up its useful energy. This leads us to conclude that the universe is not eternal but instead had a beginning. There is other scientific evidence that the universe began to exist, including the red shift, the cosmic background microwave radiation, and the implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
We know that both premises are true. The conclusion logically follows that the universe has a cause. This raises an important question, “Who or what caused the universe to begin to exist?”
We know that time, space, and matter did not exist before the beginning of the universe. Therefore the cause of the universe had to be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. The cause also had to be powerful in order to create the universe out of nothing. Furthermore, borrowing from the fine-tuning argument and the moral argument for the existence of God, we can also derive that the cause must’ve been intelligent in order to create such a perfectly balanced, life-permitting and life-sustaining universe, and also moral in order to account for the reality of objective moral values.
So, the cause of the universe must have been timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, intelligent and moral. That sounds a lot like, God.
The first-cause argument is a strong one. However, it does not get us all the way to the God of the Bible, but it does rule out atheism as a plausible explanation for the origin of the universe.
If you enjoyed this article click here to check out the accompanying ebooklet.
Further reading recommendations
'Reasonable Faith' by William Lane Craig
'Kalam Cosmological Argument' by Paul Copan and William Lane Craig
'On Guard' by William Lane Craig
'I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist' by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek
'Five Proofs of the Existence of God' by Edward Feser