Nice video about the Kalam Cosmological Argument

Just a quick post… I posted a new video I came across on our local congregational website concerning the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. I have commented on that argument before here on the blog (specifically, here: “The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)”), and I thought the video by Dr. William Lane Craig’s organization was very well done. It’s concise, it gets the point across without getting lost in minutia, and it is pleasantly and professionally produced.

Feel free and watch it for yourself. And you might use it as a spur to do what I recommended to my congregation: Take advantage of this Sabbath to ask someone why they personally believe that God exists and share your own reasons, as well.

The video is here, below. (And, as with all such links and embeds, the standard caveat applies.)

(And for those who have never read it, please consider our booklet: “The Real God: Proofs and Promises”)

The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)

A pretty spiral galaxy (Courtesy NASA & STScI). It had a beginning, so does that mean it had a cause?

Recently I wrote a post highlighting a form of Leibniz’s cosmological argument and mentioning how nice it was to see him get some press. Actually, he appeared recently in another book I am currently reading that was just about irresistible at the local Half Price Books when I saw it: The Probability of God, by Stephen D. Unwin. Dr. Unwin is a former theoretical physicist and risk analyst who decided to perform a Bayesian analysis of the probability that the statement “God exists” is true (that is, he calculates P(G)). While, on one hand, I don’t fully agree with all of his points so far–in the spirit of the book, I should say that my confidence in the truth of some of the points he asserts is less than 100%–on the other hand, I understand why, for the sake of the analysis he is trying to do, he makes those points. And it’s amazing to me someone happened to stumble on a recipe for a book that my nature virtually requires me to purchase it. (Theoretical physicist? Risk analyst? Bayesian probability calculations? God’s existence? Can my debit card come out of my wallet fast enough?)

His mention of Leibniz is hilarious in a “wow, what a crazy historical tale the discovery of calculus is, huh?” sort of way.  It went like this in a early passage where he is discussing quantum theory:

Isaac Newton didn’t hear of it, since he was already long dead, but if he had, he would have claimed to have invented it. (This is from my pro-Leibniz joke repertoire and is not really relevant.)

Ha! Not that I side with the Leibniz bunch (the Bernoullis and the gang) on the Newton vs. Leibniz matter, since history has shown the matter to be a draw, but the humor is still appreciated, and the book has quite a bit of that so far. (This really does tempt me to write about the role Calculus has played in empowering the end-time Beast power. I’ve got to write that post one day.)

However, that isn’t really what I intended to write about this morning. Having mentioned Leibniz’ cosmological argument, I thought I would follow up and mention the Kalam cosmological argument, which William Lane Craig (a huge fan of the argument) highlights in his book On Guard to which I referred last time. It’s pleasant and clean in its simplicity and well worth a look for those who enjoy such things:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The third statement follows unavoidably from the first two, so the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not the first two premises are true. (Note: If one of the premises is false, it does not mean that the conclusion is false, but if both of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, as well.)

Of course, the conclusion is not a conclusion that many like, so most will argue against one or both of the premises to even extreme limits, but at least the discussion is properly focused. And the two premises have the benefit of seeming reasonable on the surface to most reasonable people: Our common experience in life gives us ample evidence of the likelihood that premise 1 is true (indeed, it is the basis for virtually the entirety of scientific enterprise), and ever since the Big Bang revolutionized thinking in astrophysics, premise 2 has become very reasonable, as well. It is, however, the premise which seems to be debated the most.

Of course, no argument is a “knock down, drag out” winner, because there is always something to debate. Even fulfilled prophecy as evidence for God could be argued by some who are of a mindset like that of unsound thinker Michael Drosnin of “The Bible Code” shame who might claim that the scriptures were inspired not by a prophecy-fulfilling God but, instead, by super-advanced, time-traveling aliens from Zeta Reticuli — an argument-ender if I ever heard one. But arguments can still highlight what is reasonable to conclude, and I think the Kalam argument gives a very strong argument that belief in an eternally existing Creator is entirely reasonable.  (Concerning the groupings in our The Real God: Proofs and Promises booklet, I think it falls under the “Creation Demands a Creator” category.)

Arguments and theological premise-wrangling aside, I really am getting a kick out of Unwin’s The Probability of God, and the math teacher/actuary/minister in me hopes it continues to be as good as it has been so far.  Any guy who ends his book (yes, I’ve peaked ahead, but just a bit!) by helping the reader to create their own spreadsheet to calculate their own probability of God’s existence is a special breed.

Leibniz’s argument for God’s existence

250th day of death of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibni...
Image of Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz on a stamp (Image via Wikipedia)

My sermon last Sabbath was about what the Bible teaches about the purpose of man (we have a great booklet on that: Your Ultimate Destiny), and in it I spoke a bit against the abuse of logic and philosophy. But that does not mean I’m anti-logic or anti-philosophy in general. Actually, I’m very pro-logic, and even pro-philosophy as it’s most simply defined (courtesy of “the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct”). I’m currently working on a Tomorrow’s World telecast tentatively titled “Why Believe in God?” (offering The Real God: Proofs and Promises) and the logic behind concluding that there is a God is very much on my mind these days.

Recently I’ve enjoyed some podcasts from William Lane Craig’s website, and I think his book On Guard is pretty good. Being a debater and popularizer of philosophy, Craig has crafted his book with a focus on the practical side of logical argumentation, with some convenient charts explaining his arguments’ flow and illustrating how some objections are handled. For someone new to logical argumentation, the book is a good starter I think, and I might add it to my kiddos’ reading list (at least the older boys). While Dr. Craig and I would passionately disagree on a number of items concerning biblical doctrine, I appreciate the thinking he’s done on matters of proving the truth of God’s existence, the nature of time and knowledge, and defending the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On the matter of arguing that God exists, I appreciate that he includes in his books an argument from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz — not because the argument is special to me or anything like that. Rather, being the former Calculus teacher that I am, Leibniz is one of my old heroes and it’s nice to see his work on something even more important than Calculus (believe it or not) given some credit. (The crucial, uncredited role that Leibniz played in bringing about the end times Beast Power of Revelation is something I enjoy explaining on occasion–with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course–and I may add that tale here to the blog one day.)

Here’s the essence (as I understand and summarize it) of Lane’s presentation of Leibniz’s argument for the existence of God, for your viewing pleasure…

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

The premises 1 & 3 lead to the conclusion 4, and 4 combined with premise 2 leads to the conclusion 5.

It’s a valid argument, in the sense that it is structurally solid and its conclusion would follow from its premises, but is it a sound argument–that is, is it also true?  Clearly, that depends on the truth of its premises.  No one would question premise 3–if they would, you could simply call it a day and take them out for some non-existent coffee. Consequently, the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not premises 1 and 2 are true.

The obvious objection one could bring up (and Craig mentions this) is that if one says that everything that exists has an explanation and if you are claiming God exists, then God, too, must have an explanation. (If you already thought of that, treat yourself to a cookie!)

However, this glosses over a subtlety in Leibniz’s argument that goes unstated in the formulation above–namely, that there are things that exist due to external causes and things that exist of necessity. God is not “caused” by anything–by nature, He exists necessarily.  This leads Craig to refine his statement of Leibniz’s argument making these claims explicit:

  1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
  2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
  3. The universe exists.
  4. The universe has an explanation of its existence.
  5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God.

This narrows possible disagreements to arguing against premise 1–say, by claiming, say, that nothing can exist necessarily (essentially assuming God does not exist from the start), disagreeing that everything has an explanation of its existence (specifically, disagreeing that universe has an explanation for its existence)–or arguing against premise 2–say, by claiming that the universe exists necessarily.

Again, I’m fond of Leibniz (and look forward to meeting him one day), and it was nice to see him featured in this way. I prefer Dr. Craig’s Kalam argument, which I might mention in another post sometime, but here I thought I would give Leibniz some props. After the whole Newton/Calculus affair, it’s nice to give him some credit where he’s earned it. 🙂