The Cosmological Argument and God
A Term Paper
Presented to Steve Kim
Instructor in Apologetics
At Columbia Bible College
By Brandon Born
April 14th, 2018
Proving God’s existence is a topic that receives tons of attention from people all around the world, and why is that? Well, for starters, theology has changed the course of history since the creation of man. Theology has been at the forefront of trying to find purpose and uncovering how we came into this universe. At the center of theology, and what differentiates it from religion, is the assumption of God’s existence. In order to prove God’s existence, we need to look at some facts and understandings. One of those understandings is how the universe started. Looking from a cosmological point of view, we would understand that the universe and everything in it has a beginning and a reason for existence. In the following pages I am going to argue God’s existence from a cosmological point of view and give examples as to why we can see this as a viable option to believe in God.
Cosmology is a subsection of astronomy that focuses on the start of the universe itself. Most well known, in this field of study, the Big Bang Theory is the most commonly accepted understanding of how the universe came to be. The observations that everything came from nothing and exploded into being has become the most accepted theory in the science community. (Redd) If we step outside the science community and into the philosophy community we can start talking about religious cosmology. Religious cosmology, in the case of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, has a root in the belief that the universe was created by a single deity that itself did not need creating. (Halvorson)
When looking at arguing the existence of God using cosmology we need to understand that we are up against the Big Bang Theory, which has been widely accepted worldwide. To understand cosmology, we need to understand each aspect of the study. The big bang theory in a nutshell is the belief that the universe came from a single, infinitely dense point of heat. That point then exploded, or started expanding, and cooling. This created new atoms that started creating matter in the universe. The expansion of the universe is something that has been recorded and has been highly monitored. There are even estimates that the universe started 13.4 billion years ago. (Space) With all of these measurements and findings we still have yet to find a purpose to why any of it is here.
The First Cause arguments were first introduced by Aristotle back in the 4th century. This was the idea that everything that exists has a cause and by expanding on this idea and looking far enough back, we could assume that we could find a first cause. For Aristotle this simply a deity, but around the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas expanded on this understanding and studied it, from a Christian perspective. Aquinas believed that to prove God we needed five laws, or five arguments that would need to be proven in order for God’s existence to be manifested. (Feser)
Aquinas wrote a book, Summa Theologica, in the 13th century that outline the five arguments. The first four arguments are commonly considered to be cosmological arguments, but the last one is considered to be a teleological argument. Cosmological arguments are summarized as the fact that everything in the universe has a cause. By this we can assume that the universe itself exists for a reason and the cause of such a universe must be God. The teleological argument summarizes as the fact that creation itself is so complex that it could not have been created naturally. It is similar to the cosmological argument in that it looks at the purpose or reason of the universe. (Halvorson)
The first argument Aquinas sets forth is the argument of the unmoved mover. The unmoved mover is understood by the idea that everything that moves must have had something move it initially. If the whole universe is moving, then something must have set things in motion. Motion, in this definition, also includes change. (Feser) As the universe moves and changes we need to realize that we have never observed anything start moving without a cause, and because of this we should not assume that anything can start without a cause. (Feser)
The second argument is the first cause argument where Aquinas describes how we can see things that are caused, but something cannot cause itself. This would mean that the cause must have existed before, which would contradict itself. (Feser) If the cause, caused itself, then this would foster a force that would last forever, therefor there must be something that exists without a cause. That something would be God.
The third argument is the argument of contingency or of perishable things. Aquinas argues that everything we experience goes in and out of existence all the time. Plants and animals are born and die, buildings catch fire and disappear. If everything was this way and if we assumed an infinite past, then at some point we would have nothing. If the past is infinite than that point would already be here, but since we do see things around us, then there must be something that is not perishable. That thing we understand to be God. (Feser)
The fourth argument is the argument of degrees. Aquinas explains that we seem to have a natural tendency to decide if something is good or bad. What we base that off of must be a kind of standard; what makes sick bad and health good? What makes a shape perfect or misshapen? We also use this when it comes to truths in our lives, the standard we set goodness at, must be good itself. We understand this good to be God. (Feser) We can see proof of this in Isaiah 33:22 “The Lord is our Lawgiver.” He is our moral compass that gives us that tendency to understand good and bad.
Aquinas’s last argument is considered to be a teleological argument where he uses the design of the universe as a way to argue the existence of God. A teleological argument is a subsection in the cosmological argument, but it focuses more on evolution, harmony and the reason for existence of items. (Williams) Aquinas uses this argument to describe that we have inanimate objects that act in a certain way and these ways can be predicted. The reason that these objects behave in a certain way is because something designed them to do this task or action. We see rivers flow and rocks sit because that’s what they were designed to do. The behavior of these objects must have been put into motion by something that is intelligent, God. (Feser)
The cosmological argument has a few points that Immanuel Kant had taken issue to. He believed that if everything needed to have a cause to exist, then so did God. By doing this it would put the idea of needing a cause back into an endless loop of needing a cause for a cause. He also concluded that we do not know that all things need a cause so therefore we cannot come to a conclusion that this would prove God’s existence. (Wood)
If we were to assume that all things that came into existence must have a cause and God has always existed, then we can forego this argument. For a Christian, this is something that we can believe is true, but would not be plausible to logically prove. (Wood) For myself, if the biggest issue that would disprove God is that he needed to have existed without cause for Him to be real, then I’m content with having faith that He did exist forever.
Romans 1:20 says, ”For His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” I see this verse as an important verse for Christians to know and understand. Paul is explaining to us that there is proof of God’s existence, we just need to look for it. In fact, God does not ask for blind faith, he tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 that we should “Test all things; but hold fast what is good.” We can look for proof of God’s existence and if we have faith then He may open our eyes to it.
Another spot I look to when looking for proof of God’s existence is in Job 12:7-10 "But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?" This verse, though more teleological sounding, is an important verse to read and understand. It’s another clue that has been put into scripture for us to see creation itself is expressing that God caused it all to exist. There is so much in scripture that hints at us to seek proof of God’s existence. Psalm 8:3–4, Hebrews 11:3, Genesis 2:7 and of course, Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." All of these verses are tools we can use when deciding if we think God is real or not.
When I look at the cosmological argument and pair that up with scripture I am convinced that God exists. The strongest argument against this philosophical idea is based off of the fact that God would have had to have existed before everything. This is part of my faith and is not something that can sway me when I look at everything else I’ve written about above. Thomas Aquinas was a brilliant scientist who built on Aristotle’s works, but from a Christian perspective and I see these brilliant minds as people who were awakened by the holy spirit to help people have faith in our creator. (Eardley)
Cosmology is a broad subject, but when put into context of God, we can see quite clearly, if God didn’t exist, there would be a lot of questions and truths we could not answer. The Five Ways may not prove God’s existence, but they do make it easy to see that without God we wouldn’t have a purpose, we wouldn’t understand our moral compass, we can’t understand why objects act the way they do and we wouldn’t know how nothing turned into an entire universe. Scripture leads us too question everything, look for God in everything and I think that is what the cosmological argument is leading us to do. The Prima Causa (first Cause) is leading towards an intelligent designer, and for Christians, this designer is God.
Eardley, Pater S. and Carl N. Still. Aquinas: A Guide for the Perplexed. Continuum, 2010. Guides for the Perplexed. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=350256&site=ehost-live.
Feser, Edward. Aquinas : A Beginner's Guide. Oneworld Publications, 2011. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=910688&site=ehost-live.
Halvorson, Hans, and Helge Kragh. “Cosmology and Theology.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 5 Apr. 2017, plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmology-theology/.
Redd, Nola Taylor. “What Is Cosmology? Definition & History.” Space.com, www.space.com/16042-cosmology.html.
Reichenbach, Bruce. “Cosmological Argument.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
Stanford University, 11 Oct. 2017, plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/.
“Thomas Aquinas.” AllAboutPhilosophy.org, www.allaboutphilosophy.org/thomas-aquinas.htm.
Williams, Steve J. Teleological Argument. www.allaboutphilosophy.org/teleological-argument.htm.
Wood, W. Jay. God. MQUP, 2014. Central Problems of Philosophy. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=846522&site=ehost-live.