Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #28: Did the Universe Begin to Exist?

Kreeft’s Case for God – Part #28: Did the Universe Begin to Exist? July 4, 2018

WHERE WE ARE AT

There is only one more argument in Kreeft’s case that we need to evaluate: Argument #6: the Kalam Cosmological Argument.  In Part 24, I did an initial analysis of Argument #7, and I pointed out some significant problems with that argument.  Argument #6 has the same set of significant problems:

  • it does NOT show the existence of an omnipotent person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an omniscient person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a perfectly morally good person
  • it does NOT show the existence of an eternal person
  • it does NOT show the existence of a person who is the creator of the universe
  • it does NOT show that there is JUST ONE being that is the cause of the beginning of the universe

Furthermore, the conclusion of Argument #6 asserts that the cause of the beginning of the universe is OUTSIDE OF TIME, which means that this being is absolutely UNCHANGING, which means it cannot be the creator of the universe,  which means it cannot be God.  Thus, even if Argument #6 was a sound argument, it would prove the existence of a being that was NOT God.

It might be objected that in his presentation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, Kreeft provides reasoning in support of the conclusion that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe “must exist eternally” (HCA, p.60).  However, it is clear that this does NOT mean that this being has existed forever, because that would contradict the philosophical arguments used to support the second premise of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and because Kreeft clearly indicates that what he means by “exist eternally” is that this cause exists OUTSIDE of time:

It must somehow stand outside the limitations and constraints of space and time. (HCA, p. 60)

But if this argument proves the existence of a thing or being that is outside of time, then that thing or being cannot change, cannot be a person, and cannot be the creator of anything, and so even if Argument #6 were a sound argument, it would necessarily FAIL to prove the existence of God.

 

THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE?

Kreeft seems to think that Argument #6 proves the existence of a creator of the universe:

…the world could not be infinitely old and must therefore have been created by God. (HCA, p.58)

Therefore, the universe has a cause of its coming into being, a Creator. (HCA, p.59)

This cause created the entire universe of space and time.  (HCA, p.60)

And the Kalam argument proves something central to the Christian belief in God: that the universe is not eternal and without beginning; that there is a Maker of heaven and earth.  (HCA, p.60)

Kreeft does argue that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe was a choice made by some being (or beings), but this falls short of showing that this being is the CREATOR of the universe.  In order to be the creator of the universe, a being must be a PERSON who INTENTIONALLY DESIGNS the universe and then MAKES the universe in accordance with that design.  Even if Kreeft were able to prove that “the cause” of the beginning of the universe was a choice by some being, he has NOT shown that this choice was made by a PERSON, nor that this choice involved MAKING the universe in accordance with a DESIGN for the universe that was produced by the mind of the being in question.  So, Kreeft FAILS to show that “the cause” of the universe was the CREATOR of the universe.

 

PHASE I OF ARGUMENT #6

Argument #6 can be divided into two phases.  In Phase 1, Kreeft argues that there is a cause of the beginning of the universe, and in Phase 2, he argues that this cause is “eternal” and is a being that made a choice that resulted in the universe coming into existence.  Let’s start with Phase 1 of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (see HCA, p.58):

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.

2. The universe began to exist.

THEREFORE:

3. The universe has a cause for its coming into being.

The inference in the argument as stated here appears to be deductively valid, so the only question is whether the premises are both true.  Note, however, that the expression “begins to exist” in premise (1) must have the same meaning as the expression “began to exist” in premise (2) in order for the argument to be logically valid.  Furthermore, the expression “the universe” in premise (2) must have the same meaning as the expression “the universe” does in the conclusion, statement (3).

 

CLARIFICATION OF PREMISE (2) OF THE PHASE 1 ARGUMENT

Premise (2) consists of a subject and a predicate, both of which require clarification:

Subject:  The universe…

Predicate:  …began to exist.

Kreeft provides a definition of the phrase “the universe”:

Did the universe–the collection of all things bounded by space and time–begin to exist? (HCA, p.58)

This definition is very similar to the one Kreeft gives in Argument #7:

The universe–the collection of beings in space and time–exists. (HCA, p.61)

I have pointed out that there are various ambiguities in this definition, which result in the phrase “the universe” having at least sixteen different possible interpretations.

In email correspondence, Kreeft has provided some clarifications that eliminate some of the ambiguities in the definition.  Based on those clarifications, we can modify the definition of “the universe” to make it less ambiguous:

X is “the universe” IF AND ONLY IF:

X is the collection of all of the things that currently exist both in space and in time.

NOTE: The word “things” here includes plants, animals, and people, not just inanimate objects.

What about the predicate of premise (2)?  What does “began to exist” mean?  There is an important ambiguity in this expression.  It could mean either of the following:

  • came to exist out of nothing
  • came to exist out of something else

In the context of Christian theology, the idea that the universe “began to exist” suggests that the universe came to exist out of nothing.  But when we are talking about ordinary things, plants, animals, and human beings, things do NOT come to exist out of nothing.  Plants come from seeds, when buried in soil, and watered.  Animals and human beings come from the bodies of their parents.  We never experience things, plants, animals, or people coming from nothing.

So, if we are to interpret the phrase “began to exist” in accordance with our actual experience of the beginnings of things, plants, animals, and people, then we should interpret this phrase to mean “came to exist out of something else”.  On the other hand, if we are to interpret the phrase “began to exist” in accordance with Christian theology concerning the origin of the universe, then we should interpret this phrase to mean “came to exist out of nothing”.

Perhaps it is better to think about this distinction as two different sub-categories of “began to exist”.  In general, when something begins to exist, it represents a re-configuration of previously existing matter/energy.  However, we can conceive of the possibility of something beginning to exist from out of nothing, not from previously existing matter/energy.  This is a very odd possibility that we don’t ever experience or observe happening, but it seems to be a possibility.  So, things usually “began to exist” when there is a re-configuration of previously existing matter/energy, but we can imagine that some thing or things “began to exist” from out of nothing.

NEXT POST:  Is Premise (2) True?

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