In my last post I explained the Kalam cosmological argument for the existence of God, but perhaps some questions were raised in your mind which I did not answer. Today, I would like to try to briefly address a few.
Firstly, some modern physicists attempt to get around the uncomfortable implications of the universe’s beginning out of nothing by redefining “nothing.” When we say that the universe came from nothing, it is a literal nothing that we are talking about: not a quantum vacuum, not a blank slate that an imperfection can arise on its own, not a quantum vacuum; no-thing. Anything in existence prior to this starting point would have to be explained in terms of causation itself, and this argument concerns that ultimate origin.
A second point sometimes raised concerns the confusing notion of infinities. Why can’t the universe be infinitely old? Aside from the observational data referenced in the Kalam argument post which indicates a beginning, a bit of careful thinking will reveal that actual infinites are impossible. Only mathematical infinites are useful; when one tries to imagine an actual infinite, absurdities begin to multiply. The main issue, specifically applied to an infinitely old universe, is that it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite number of points in time (days, minutes, seconds, etc.) to get to the present moment. If we move back in time ten years, we should have a smaller amount of time prior to today, right? Well no, it’s still infinite. What if we move back halfway in time? Is it a smaller amount? No, still infinite. What if we remove an infinite number of years from the past timeline? Infinity remains. I hope this clears it up a bit, but for more information, a further, more thorough explanation of this concept can be found by William Lane Craig at his website here.
Thirdly, what about the multiverse hypothesis? I am actually going to defer this to a later date, when I discuss Intelligent Design. For now, suffice it to say that any multiverse generator still must be explained in terms of first causes.
Which leads to the fourth issue sometimes raised, that is put forth something like this: “If everything must have a cause, what caused God?” The idea is that we as Christians are trapped in the same infinite regress absurdity that we identify as a weakness of naturalistic explanations in the second point above. But the answer to this is really quite simple – we do not believe in a created God, but one who is the uncaused cause of everything else. Does this sound like a sidestep, some sort of religious special pleading? The point is that every explanation is going to have to have some first cause without a prior explanation. God, I submit, an intelligent, purposeful, willful mind, is the best explanation of a first cause.
Age of the Universe?
Another quite important issue that I want to make some very brief comments about is that of my beliefs about the age of the universe. The second premise in Kalam cosmological argument, namely that the universe began to exist, is largely supported by modern scientific observation and evidence of the Big Bang, the single point in time and space which expanded eons ago into the universe we have now. Now we will revisit some of this in the Intelligent Design section, but the main point to think of here is that, as Greg Koukl puts it, “the Big Bang needs a Big Banger;” that is, we have to account for causes. The Big Bang explanation doesn’t remove the need for God; in my view, it underscores it! Furthermore, even though there is some disagreement among Christians, I believe that an ancient universe is at the very least compatible with the Bible, and indeed the best explanation.
However (and this is important), this is not a crucial issue of orthodoxy, nor is it one I feel such strong convictions over that I spend a lot of time trying to convince anyone. My reasons for adopting an old-universe view are several. For one, I believe that natural revelation points to an old universe, and since the biblical accounts may be vague in their interpretations on this point, I believe that we are justified in applying the more clear evidence from science about this question. For another reason, I don’t stand alone in this view. There are many dedicated, well-credentialed Christian scientists and theologians that have adopted an old-universe view. Finally, pragmatically, this view is convenient in interacting with unbelievers with apologetics. An ancient universe view can be held in common with most non-Christians and built on as a starting point.
That is all I really want to say about the issue of young-earth vs. old-earth creationism except for the good advice from St. Augustine,
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Christian friends, the age of the universe is not one of the essentials.
Finally, if you want to see some of the arguments that have persuaded me, the best one has to do with starlight over at Stand To Reason here. Another site which has done a lot of work to demonstrate from the scriptures and from science the old-earth view is Reasons to Believe, and some of their resources on this topic can be found here.
Next, I plan to discuss another argument for God’s existence from design. Please join me!
Comments, questions, challenges? Email me through the form on my “about” page, we’ll discuss, and your comments may inspire a follow-up post!