You are reading this blog post. But, in order to read the post, you must have sat down at the computer, pulled your phone out, or accessed the Internet in some fashion. Before you accessed the Internet, you were doing something else, maybe making a cup of tea to drink while you surfed the web. To make the tea, you had to fill a pot with water and grab a mug and tea bag. To even have a tea bag to put into your mug with hot water, you would have at some point shopped at a supermarket. To get to the supermarket, you would need to start your car. To have a car, you would have had to buy a car. To be a being of the kind that can buy a car you were at some point born. For that to happen, the act-of-which-we-shall-not-speak must have taken place. Before that, each of your parents had their own complicated causal history that, if it had not taken place the act-of-which-shall-not-be-spoken would not have happened, led to your sitting down and reading this blog post.
Question: Can this chain of cause and effect extend infinitely?
Now, before I answer that question I want to assure you that this is not some sort of 'what if' game the basis of which makes movies like Back to the Future and Looper so entertaining. What we are looking at here is a serious argument for the existence of God. It is called the cosmological argument and it answers the question I raised with a simple no.
Why? Well, you know that it is absurd to deny that you are sitting and reading this blog post. However, if there was not some sort of first cause that began the chain leading to you sitting here reading this blog post, then you wouldn’t be sitting here reading the blog post which we just agreed is absurd. Thus, there must be a first cause. Furthermore, this cause must be uncaused itself, for if it were caused in the “normal way” then it would need a cause itself.
What sort of being does not need a cause to exist yet is the cause of everything else that exists in the universe? Traditionally, this is God.
The logic is rather quite simple. I’ll use what is arguably the most popular version of the argument revived by William Lane Craig called the Kalam Cosmological Argument:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore the universe has a cause.
Now of course, the simplicity of this statement does not entail anything as to the argument's validity (logical consistency) or its soundness (truth of the statements). Nevertheless, this argument is one with a long legacy within and without Christianity.
If you’re interested in learning more about the argument and its pros and cons, check out the Thinking Fellows Podcast where I sit down with the hosts to discuss the argument in more detail.