What is the Kalam Cosmological Argument?
The Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) was popularized by William Lane Craig, one of the preeminent Christian philosophers today. There have been many versions of the cosmological argument, but the KCA hearkens back to a Muslim theologian named Al-Ghazali. The argument is as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This is a deductive argument meaning that if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. Now, it is important to understand what exactly the KCA is and isn’t arguing for. It is arguing that the universe was caused by someone or something. It isn’t arguing that the Christian God or any other god exists. However, assuming that the KCA is true, one can draw some important conclusions about the nature of the first cause. In the next sections, we will explore the two premises and the conclusion more in-depth.
Premise #1 – Everything that begins to exist has a cause
The first premise seems to be fairly intuitive but let’s walk through it. First, notice the word “begin.” This is important because it divides everything into two categories: things that have started to exist and things that have always existed. Things that are eternal do not need to have a cause because they have never had a beginning. Therefore, the first premise only relates to those things that had a definite beginning.
Now, is the premise actually true? It seems at least in keeping with common sense that things do not just pop into existence from nothing. No one, as far as we know, has witnessed the appearance of any new matter (or energy), whether it be an atom or a cow. That said, it is impossible to absolutely prove that things cannot come into existence from nothing because it may be that it has happened when no one was watching or will happen sometime in the future. However, to believe this is very unscientific and requires an enormous amount of faith. Thus we can say with 99% certainty that the first premise is true.
Premise #2 – The universe began to exist
Having established that things do not just pop into existence, one must argue that the universe is somehow eternal in order to debate the second premise. There are three main arguments against this idea: the expansion of the universe, the impossibility of infinite time, and the second law of thermodynamics. Thanks to the work of Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble, among others, it has been established that our universe is expanding. This means that if you travel backwards in time, there will be a single point out of which all of the universe sprang. This fact alone points to a definite beginning to the universe.
The second problem with an infinite universe is the impossibility of infinite time. The problem with infinite time is that it leads to a type of infinite regress. As we know, time moves in chronological order, one moment following the previous moment. Now assuming the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time, if we take the moment prior to this one and every moment before it, we will have an infinite amount of time. However it is impossible for an infinite amount of time to pass, meaning we never could arrive at this moment now. This means that the universe cannot exist for an infinite amount of time.
The problem that the second law of thermodynamics presents has to do with usable energy. From this law, we know that used energy is transformed into an unusable state. This means that as time passes, less and less energy is available to us. Therefore, if the universe was infinite, all of the energy would be used up. Because energy still exists within the universe, we know that the universe cannot be infinite.
These three arguments individually present a very compelling case and together establish with almost full certainty that the universe began to exist.
Conclusion – Therefore, the universe had a cause
Assuming that you agree with the premises above, you must accept the conclusion. Now, you might ask what exactly is so spectacular about the idea that the universe had a cause. It certainly seems to be far from God. While that is true, we can draw some interesting conclusions about this thing that caused the universe. Here’s what a video produced by Reasonable Faith has to say about it:
Since the universe can’t cause itself [space, time, matter], its cause must be beyond the space-time universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful.1
Because space, time, and matter exist within the universe, the cause must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. It must be uncaused because otherwise, we would have an infinite regress of causes similar to the problem with infinite time. Finally, it must be unimaginably powerful because if it were not, it could not have caused this enormous universe. You may have noticed that this first cause sounds a lot like God.
Using the KCA
When it comes to belief, we cannot always have absolute proof for our beliefs. Often, we have to resort to the best possible explanation. As I said before, the KCA does not prove the existence of the Christian God. It does, however, lead us to something that is remarkably like Him. Considering the evidence before us, it seems reasonable to me that God is the best explanation of this first cause. There are many other arguments that can be made for why exactly the Christian God, but these must be left for another time.
Joshua Blank is from NYC, but is living in Boston for the next four years where he is attending Sattler College. He enjoys learning, living in the city, good discussions, and anything related to music. He is hoping to use his business degree as an opportunity in foreign missions.