How many times a day do we ask, “Where did this come from?” When we see something out of place, our first instinct is to find out how it got there. A janitor might say that after finding something unusual on the ground. A parent might say it after their child says something out of character. A doctor might say this when making an unexpected diagnosis. We always want to know origins. The most unsatisfying response to that curiosity is a blunt answer like, “It just is. Don’t question it.”
Interestingly, this very basic instinct to look for a cause gives us one of the most powerful evidences for God’s existence. When we apply that question of “where did this come from?” further back, we run into a bigger question. Where did the universe come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? Should anything exist at all?
This is what has come to be known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Dr. William Lane Craig is partially responsible for championing this topic and bringing it into the modern debate. The thought process is pretty straightforward. If the first two premises are true, the conclusion is true.
- 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- 2. The universe began to exist.
- 3. The universe has a cause.
That is actually perhaps the most modest conclusion you can draw. Some also infer that the cause must be personal, at which point you may as well say that cause is God. Let’s look at each of those three points individually.
Premise 1. Basic Logic
Premise 1, that everything that begins to exist has a cause, is the point most people can agree upon. We know that things do not simply pop into being without any reason or explanation. If they did, we wouldn’t have arguments about miracles. What’s more miraculous than something appearing from nothing? Arguing against this premise is arguing against the natural understanding that everyone has of their own existence and the world around them. You don’t need a degree in physics to understand that.
Premise 2. Only Two Options
The second premise, that the universe began to exist, is a bit more debated. The question is whether, at some point in time, the universe came into being? Was there that singular moment where everything began? The vast majority of scientists and philosophers say yes. This has not stopped them from trying to find theories and models that don’t have a beginning. Even Albert Einstein originally fudged the numbers on his theory of General Relativity because they showed clearly that time and space had a beginning. Einstein did not like his own conclusion for ideological reasons, and later confessed to changing the numbers.
But the long and short of it is there are only two possibilities. Either the universe came into being at some point in the distant past, or the universe is eternal and has been here for an infinite amount of time. But the idea of an infinite past takes us into some major problems both scientifically and philosophically. Physically speaking, we have very good reason to believe that the universe is expanding and running out of energy. At the rate we are going, somewhere far down the road, this universe is going to end. But if the past is infinite, shouldn’t we already be gone? You can’t go on for an eternity with finite resources.
Premise 3. Is God the Conclusion?
So if the universe had to have a cause, and that cause has to be outside of the universe, it would have to be timeless spaceless, and immaterial. Especially if you add the characteristic of personal, which would exclude any kind of multi-verse theory, there are not many options for what that could be other than God. This is often when skeptics raise the question of who caused God, but the entire point is that you have to reach an uncaused cause.
Note that this says nothing to confirm we’re dealing with the Christian God, which is why this argument was even used by Muslim philosophers in the Middle Ages. But it’s a lot easier to make the case for Christianity if you’ve already established that there’s a God who created the universe. This argument is not going to finish the conversation, but it can be a wonderful foundation to build upon.
Why is there something rather than nothing? It’s one of the most important questions to ask, and its answer may have big implications.
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