Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Nature of God and the Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God typically goes:

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause;
2) The universe began to exist;
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This has recently been revived by Dr. William Lane Craig, a believing scholar who I am proud to call a friend despite our enormous disagreements (1).

The argument has attracted sharp attention from the nontheist crowd, specifically since Bill has both defined all his terms in the argument clearly and has adjusted his argument effectively for past criticisms. Former believers Dan Barker and my friend John Loftus and philosophy professors Quentin Smith and Ray Bradley are just a few skeptics who have offered recent refutations for this argument (2).

One of the most peculiar aspects of the argument is the nature of God that is implied from the argument itself (if one grants that the argument proves that the "First Cause" is nonpersonal, a granting which I don't freely give away even if I concede for sake of argument that Kalam is valid!). As I discovered from a discussion on Kalam earlier tonight, the three possible views of God are:

(1) Timeless and eternal.
(2) Always temporal.
(3) Timeless sans Creation and cotemporal with Creation.

Position 3 is advocated by Bill Craig (3), but I have run across a few who do not agree. However, I see problems inherent in the other two possibilities - if God were timeless and eternal, how would He be omniscient? He would know, for instance, that "on September 11, 2001, terrorists attack the World Trade Center in New York City," but He would *NOT* know any current state of being, i.e. "it is 7:22 AM."

God would see all actualities at once, not just all potentialities as in Bill Craig's position. Both versions of God would "see" all existence at once, kind of the same way we see the Mona Lisa all at once. However, God #3 would become temporal at the time of Creation, thus enabling Him to sit back and actually watch as the Mona Lisa is in fact painted, enjoying the full set of omniscience that it grants. In a timeless state sans Creation, He would not need to know all the tensed truths of Creation since Creation is not alongside Him in the timeless state.

Given that He created, though, His Omniscience would demand that He come into time since the Universe would be in an actual progressive temporal state, meaning He must realize this state fully to maintain Omniscience. Furthermore, from His morning strolls in the Garden of Eden to His conversations with Job and Isaiah, it is clear the Bible states God interacted with the world temporally. To me, then, a God who is "always timeless" is not only not omniscient, but he can't be the God of the Bible, either.

The other option - the eternally temporal God - seems silly on its face. After all, God would have literally taken forever to create the Universe. He must have been quite bored.

Craig's option has deeper issues, which I will think out more clearly in a later post, but the top problem that pops to mind is that a timeless God by definition can't "choose" anything. If the "choice" existed outside of time as part of God's Knowledge (perhaps the lowest twig on the whole tree, or the last step in logical priority?), then how does that choice enable God to make a universe with a beginning in time?

The aforementioned upcoming post will also present my objections to Kalam qua Kalam, but for now I will stop here. For these first few posts, I will moderate the comments for a bitsy, to make sure none of the recent DC problems with vulgar comments don't wander their way here, but in a while I'll keep the area as open for discussion as possible (hoping there will be some hanging around who think I'm worthy enough to discuss!).


(1) Craig, Reasonable Faith 3rd Edition, 2008 Crossway Publishing.
(2) See e.g. Dan Barker's Godless and John W. Loftus' Why I Became an Atheist (Prometheus Books), Quentin Smith's many debates and discussions with Bill Craig on the subject of Kalam, and Ray Bradley's excellent paper here: http://www.eequalsmcsquared.auckland.ac.nz/sites/emc2/tl/philosophy/articles/does-the-creator-have-a-creator.cfm
(3) Craig, Time and Eternity, 2001 Crossway Publishing.


  1. Hey,

    I just found your article from a link at Debunking Christianity.

    Anyway, one of the bigger flaws I see in the Kalam is that time is a temporal concept, so God could not cause the Universe to exist (being outside of time "before" creating).

    I'm writing a book on the arguments for and against God, and I would like to know if you would be willing to read a draft chapter and give your opinion on it. Would you? If so just hop on over to my blog and leave a comment with your email address (I'll delete it once it shows up so that no one else will steal it).


  2. Darrin, Instead of your Mona Lisa analogy, try thinking of a novel, where time exists within the novel. The author (God) knows the details from start to finish, but can turn to any line on any page at will, and who also has written himself into the story.

    It's an imperfect analogy, but may be helpful.

    And Ryan, we have to consider that time is a part of the created universe (think spacetime), and therefore a Creator has to be outside of time.

  3. No ahswan, he doesn't. Plenty of Christians hold that there is a sort of "never ending time" in Heaven.

    But the objection stll stands: Time cannot be caused because causes happen within time.

  4. Wow. This is far more impressive than any of the material on DC.

  5. Thanks for the comments and compliments, all.

    AIG - my email address is darrinrasberry at gmail dot com. Feel free to let me see what you wish to be edited.

  6. Does God know all the real numbers? If he does then his knowledge constitutes an actual infinity -thereby refuting the cosmological argument. If he does not then his knowledge is an infinitesimal fraction of what could be known - about as far from an all knowing god as you can imagine.

  7. As cause, time and event presuppose previous causes, times and events, the First Cause is thus incoherent, affirming ignnotstcism. As Existence is all there is, there can be no transcendent cause and no other object to compare it with. Craig begs the question of that starting point. Aquinas, who begged questions himself, knew that it was one day at a time.