This is the first of a series of articles about the existence of God. In them, my aim is to show that belief in God can be rationally defended. I am not aiming to prove the existence of God in such a way that people are compelled to accept his existence, because I don’t think that sort of proof is possible. By the same token no-one can disprove the existence of God in a way which compels people to accept atheism. There has to be some explanation for the existence of the universe and all that is in it. I personally, like several billion other people, do not find an atheistic explanation at all credible.
I do not believe in a “God of the gaps,” i.e. that God is merely an explanation of what science cannot (currently) explain. Rather I believe that this complex, ordered and beautiful universe, including the world we live in, all of which started in the Big Bang; this human life which is capable of such moral, intellectual and creative heights is all the handiwork of a Divine Being. This is not the God of the Gaps but rather the God of Everything. However I do want to affirm that only God could have brought the universe into being in the first place.
It is surely a self-evident truth, supported by logic and experience, that something cannot come from absolutely nothing. According to science, before the Big Bang happened some 13.7 billion years ago, there was absolutely nothing. Then a “singularity” (a point so small it had no dimensions: height, length, breadth) came into being. This is all rather mind-boggling!
However, for anything to exist, it must either be self-sufficient/self-existent i.e. have always existed, or it must be the product or effect of something else that has always existed.
Anthony Kenny Professor of Philosophy, Oxford University writes, “A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that … the universe came from nothing and by nothing.” I think the idea that the universe came from nothing and by nothing is not rational.
On the other hand, to say that there is an eternal, self-existent Divine Being who brought the universe into being is a perfectly coherent and meaningful concept.
OBJECTIONS TO THE ARGUMENT FROM CAUSALITY
a. Could the universe have always existed?
This is not the view of modern cosmologists. Professor Steven Hawking, in his book The Nature of Space and Time (1996), wrote “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.”
It also contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that the universe is running down like a clock or, better, cooling off like a giant stove. This is irreversible. So the universe could not have been running and cooling forever. It must have had a beginning.
If the universe is eternal that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite. However mathematicians recognize this leads to self-contradictions. You can never get to infinity by addition because you can always add one more.
David Hilbert, late Professor of Mathematics at the University of Gottingen, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, stated: “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.”
b. Could there not be an impersonal cause of the universe?
Such a cause would have to be self-existent and eternal. But if it were impersonal then the cause could never exist without the effect. This would be simply automatic: an impersonal adequate cause must immediately produce its effect. The only way for the cause to be timeless and the effect to begin in time is for the cause to be a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time without any prior determining conditions. Thus, we are brought, not merely to a transcendent cause of the universe, but to its Personal Creator.
Dr Stephen Meyer (a geophysicist with a Cambridge doctorate in origin-of-life biology): “If it’s true there’s a beginning to the universe, as modern cosmologists now agree, then this implies a cause that transcends the universe. … To get life going in the first place would have required biological information; the implications point beyond the material realm to a prior intelligent cause.”
So, my first argument is that only an eternal, personal God could have brought the universe into being. Next time we shall look at the Argument from Design.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction