If Everything Has A Cause, Then What Caused God?

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It is written:

Psalm 102:25-27-Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26  They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be change 27  But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.

The Law of Causality states that every effect must have an adequate antecedent cause. Along with the First Law of Thermodynamics (which states that neither matter nor energy can be self-created or destroyed) and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (which states that the universe is winding down and thus must have had a beginning), we see that the universe must have had a beginning. Furthermore, this Cause of the universe must be supernatural (existing outside the laws of nature which had a beginning).

Yet atheists often claim that this means that God Himself must have had a beginning.

What shall we say to this?

First, the atheist who makes this claim misses the thrust of the argument. The argument does not claim that everything has a beginning and a cause; rather it claims that everything which begins to exist must have a cause. One former atheist describes it well:

“As for Michel Onfray, he accuses Christians of being opposed to science, mentioning “the eternity of the universe” in a list of scientific theses rejected by believers: “Is there anything to be said for scientific belief in the eternity of the universe? In multiple universes? (Both Epicurean theses, incidentally . . .) Absolutely not! God created the universe from nothing. Before nothing, there was . . . nothing.”[ 8] I’m not sure who Onfray is thinking of when he tells us that scientists believe in the eternity of the universe because modern science teaches exactly the opposite. The vast majority of scientific evidence points to a beginning of the universe. The standard model is the Big Bang theory, which places the absolute beginning of space and time around 13.7 billion years ago.[ 9] Albert Jacquard explains the consequences of this model: Since the Big Bang has been defined as both the beginning of space and of the objects contained therein, it is also of necessity the beginning of time, which only began to tick away from that moment on. There was therefore no “before.”[ 10] There are many good reasons besides this one to affirm a beginning. Some are scientific (the expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, the second law of thermodynamics), and others are philosophical (the impossibility of having an actually infinite set of moments in the past or the impossibility of crossing over an infinite past to arrive at today). These reasons are convincing, but for a complete defense, I invite you to take a more in-depth look at the philosophical and scientific literature that deals with each of them. For our purposes here, I’ll simply say that the beginning of the universe is at least the standard scientific model, and that when Michel Onfray affirms “the eternity of the universe,” he is the one turning his back on modern science while accusing Christians of living in the Dark Ages. There are also some atheist objections based on a lack of understanding of the argument. Bertrand Russell quips, “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.”[ 11] This proves a lack of understanding of the first premise of the argument. The believer does not claim that everything must have a cause but only “that which begins to exist.” Since God exists outside of time, he does not have a beginning and, hence, he has no need of a cause. Why couldn’t that be the case with the universe? Because it has a beginning! Prosper Alfaric misrepresents the first premise when he says that “all beings, and all movement in general, comes from another and that one from another still.”[ 12] But that is not what the argument says. All beings which begin to exist must “come from another.” These critics are not interacting with the theist’s true argument; they are missing the mark. Jean Meslier asks how God could have caused the universe without preceding it in time: “If time was something that could be created and even if it were created, as our ‘God-lovers’ would have us believe, it certainly could only have been created by a being that preceded it, because if this being did not precede it, how could he have created it?”[ 13] The answer is simple: God precedes the universe logically but not temporally. There is no reason to think it was impossible for God, who exists outside of time, to freely create the universe before time existed. If it seems strange to the atheist that the universe was created without a temporal cause, the atheist scenario is stranger still because there is no cause, either inside or outside of time. So the kalam cosmological argument holds up quite well before its critics, and it supports the existence of a God who created the universe.” (Guillaume Bignon, Confessions of a French Atheist: How God Hijacked My Quest to Disprove the Christian Faith, 184-187 (Kindle Edition); Carol Stream, Illinois; Tyndale House Publishers)

Second, these laws of nature actually indicate that there must be some Being which is eternal in nature and which did not have a beginning. Simply stated, the atheist who argues, “Well, maybe something God,” leads to an infinite regress. This is the belief that there has been an endless chain of causes and effects stretching back forever without an original uncaused Cause. The problem with this is that it leads to an infinite number of contradictions which would make existence itself impossible.

For example, if I had an infinite number of marbles and wanted to give someone half of them, how many would they now have? That’s right: they would have an infinite number. ButI have just given away half of my marbles, yet how many would I still have? That’s right: an infinite number. In this scenario, infinity minus infinity would lead to an infinity.

In this illustration, an infinite regress would make mathematics impossible. Examples like this could be multiplied to an “infinite” degree (sarcasm intended).

The Laws of Nature point undeniably to the existence of the eternal God. He had no beginning, and can have no end-for everything within His Nature provides for His self-existence and eternality.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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