Christian Apologetics - Lesson 16

Cosmological Argument

One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson 16
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Cosmological Argument

The Existence of God

Part 3

III.  The Cosmological Argument

A.  Two Versions of the Argument

1.  God as first in time

2.  God as first in importance

B.  Criticism of the First Version - David Hume

1.  The First Cause may be dead.

2.  There may be more than one First Cause.

3.  The First Cause may be finite.

  • Introduction to Apologetics.

  • Apologetics involves finding evidence and presenting arguments to defend the Christian faith.

  • Two prominent worldviews are Christian theism and naturalism.

  • The law of non-contradiction states that A cannot be B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense.

  • Explanations and responses to different worldviews.

  • If God is good and all powerful, then why does evil exist?

  • Discussion about how the existence of evil is consistent with God's character.

  • Your noetic structure, presuppositions and view of epistemology are important elements in the formation of your worldview.

  • Discussion of deductive presuppositionalism vs. inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Objections to inductive presuppositionalism.

  • Arguments for and against evidentialism.

  • Arguments for and against foundationalism.

  • Discussion of natural theology.

  • There are valid, sound and cogent arguments for the existence of God, but no coercive proofs.

  • Discussion of different arguments for God's existence.

  • One version of the cosmological argument for God's existence emphasizes God as first in time, another emphasizes God as first in importance.

  • A possible world is a way the real world could have been. Modal logic, propositions, state of affairs and eternal entities are some of the considerations when discussing a possible world.

  • Something is logically possible if its description does not include a logical contradiction. The existence of the laws of knowledge refute the system of naturalism.

  • Middle knowledge is a form of knowledge attributed to God by Molina.

  • Miracles are a dividing line and central to Christianity.

  • David Hume's rational arguments against miracles and responses to those arguments.

  • Two miracles central to Christianity are the incarnation and resurrection.

  • The question of whether or not Jesus is the only savior touches on pluralism, inclusivism and exclusivism.

  • Pluralism is the view that all religions have salvific value.

  • Inclusivism is the view that even though the work of Christ is the only means of salvation, it does not follow that explicit knowledge of Christ is necessary in order for a person to be saved.

  • Salvation is totally the work of God and all children who die in infancy are elect of God.

  • Discussion from a biblical perspective of God's character and attributes.

  • Open theists believe that God does not have a perfect knowledge of the future.

  • Divine omnipotence and divine omniscience are two attributes of God.

  • When contemplating life after death, remember, Jesus has been there and come back. Will you commit your life to him or reject him?

These lectures were given at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida during the fall of 2001.


Dr. Ronald Nash
Christian Apologetics
Lesson Transcript


Now let me just say some general things about the cosmological argument. And I may not do what you think I might do from this. All right. This is chapter nine, Back in the Faith and reason book for Christian parents who have children. When their children ask them for an argument for God's existence. Most Christian parents give their child the worst possible answer. If you ever preach on this subject, here's what you could call your sermon. The worst answer, the worst argument you could ever give your children. Now, let me distinguish two forms of the cosmological argument, and then I'll tell you what the bad one is. There is a good form. The only problem is none of your children will ever understand this. The argument your children will understand is a terrible argument because the minute they go to a college class in philosophy, that's the first thing a college philosophy professor will destroy. I have observed over 45 years of reading proofs for God's existence. That the as an argument for God's existence becomes more potent and more impressive. And more powerful. The number of people who can understand that argument diminish significantly. I have read literally hundreds of arguments for God's existence and philosophical journals. And the more excited the author of that argument is, the more difficult it is for me to understand it. I'll be honest with you, as I've as I've finished many journal articles after which the author which the author concludes by saying thus, Have I proven the existence of the Triune God? I'm still back on page one and I have no idea what he said after that. Okay. The stronger an argument is, or so philosophers think, the smaller the number of people who understand it.


Okay, now the cosmological argument. This, of course, comes from two Greek words Kosmos. And Lagos. I love that word Lagos. This is an attempt to prove the existence of God from the mere fact that the world exists. This is an attempt to argue that God is the first cause. Okay. But the problem is the word first has two meanings. The word first can be used in the sense of temporal first cause, first in time. That's the bad kind of argument. But that's the argument that most parents give their children. Mommy, why does God exist? Because everything had a cause. JR I understand that, Mommy. Well, God is the first cause of the world. And Johnny will say, But who caused got mommy? But that's not the real problem here. The second meaning of the word first is first in importance. I give you both of these arguments in chapter nine. This is the only version of the cosmological argument that has any hope. But the problem is it's inconsequential. It's it's ambivalent. It really it doesn't clinch the sale. Now, how does this one go? Well, let me give you some examples. Okay. Have you ever been stuck at a railroad crossing here in Orlando? If you haven't. Just drive up and down 434 and Longwood for a couple of hours and you'll find you'll find yourself stuck there. Okay. And then you want to know what? At that particular railroad crossing, you sometimes think this train has no end. No end. You're counting car. Hundred cars, 200 cars, 300 carpool. Now suppose the train is being pushed. Okay. Suppose the train is instead of the train being pulled. Suppose it's being pushed. So what you're waiting for is the first cause of the train, which would be the engine which comes at the end and is pushing it forward.


Where is the first cause to this train? Now, suppose you've been there so long, Maybe 5 hours. You go out and you look for a trucker who's got a CB radio. Does anybody know where the first cause of this train is? And the trucker says, yeah, the the engine pushing this train is still in Daytona Beach. You've been there 5 hours. But then another trucker says, No, I just heard from my buddies. That this train is infinitely long. There are an infinite number of cars on this train. Well, you know what you do, right? Then you walk home. You leave your car right there. Because you're never you're never going to get across that intersection. Now, most parents tell their when their children say, up, daddy, how do we know that God exists? You say God is the first cause. And what you mean is at the beginning of this series of causes and effects, God was the being that got it all started. And that has some apparent plausibility because obviously if you're stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for an infinitely long train of cars to pass through, it's never going to happen. If there's to be a genuine first cause, then there must be a second cause and a third cause and a fourth cause. You've got to have a beginning. Otherwise. The thing will never end or the thing will never begin. Now, the greatest criticisms and the most important criticisms of this first version of the cosmological argument were developed by David HUME, the Scottish philosopher who died in 1776. He was born in 1711. David HUME said this version of the cosmological argument suffers from at least three major failings. And here they are. First of all, even if your series of causes that you're using, hopefully to prove the existence of God, even if that first cause did exist, and even if that first cause did get the world started, how do you know that first cause is still around now? Maybe your so-called first cause came into existence and got the whole series going and then died.


I'll give you an example. In Kentucky many years ago, there was a tendency on the part of certain shopping malls to have displays of dominos. And some of them got pretty elaborate. You know, I've seen domino displays where the dominoes are toppling over and then boom, guns, little toy guns get fired and little toy men come down and parachutes and, you know, really incredible stuff. Think of something like that in in the the the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Huge the biggest mall in the world. And let us say that when that chain of dominoes starts toppling. It'll take 20 years for this whole thing to finish up night and day for 20 years. Pretty big event. Okay, then let's say that you, you and your family, you walk in. Somewhere along the 19th year of this process and you didn't know what was going on. And then the Mall of America. And you say, kids, look at this. Look at this marvelous display of dominoes. And you're so impressed, you say to the people. I'd like to shake the hand of the man who put all of this together. And they said, Well, he died 15 years ago. How do you know your first cause still exists? See, that's. That's question mark number one, about your cosmological argument. Second question. Here's the second problem. David HUME said, How do you know that the first cause of there's only one first cause of the world. I mean, actually, the world is a is an outcome from an infinite number of causes and effects, an infinite number or or a very large number of causal sequences. So how do you know there was only one first cause? Maybe there were hundreds of first causes. Well, what's bad about that? Simply this.


You Christians believe in one God who's eternal. We've just proven to you that the cosmological argument doesn't necessarily prove the existence of eternal God. Maybe it doesn't prove the existence of one God. Maybe what it proves is the truth of polytheism. That's David HUME. He was a nasty guy. Really nasty guy. I visited his grave on at least three occasions. He's buried in. If you ever go to Edinburgh, he's buried on the road up to what is called a Scots folly. And just there in between Hume's grave and the grave of Adam Smith, his good friend is a deep valley where the railroads come in to Edinburgh. After one of my trips to Scotland, I said to some of my history colleagues at Western Kentucky University. I said, While I was in Edinburgh, I visited the grave of Adam Smith. And I said it would be nice someday to be buried right next to Adam Smith. And those guys said, Yeah, and the sooner the better. Nash The sooner the better. All right. Now, here's the third criticism of the cosmological argument. David HUME said a cause need be no greater than is necessary to produce an effect. A cause need be no greater than is necessary to produce an effect. Let me give you an example. Suppose the lights in this room flicker. Suppose the lights in the whole building flicker. Okay. And suppose the lights go out. Now, here are some of the possibilities. Maybe the power plant that serves all of central Florida blew up as a result of terrorist activity. Okay, mate. That's a possibility. Here's another possibility. Some car hit a light pole down the road and knocked off the electricity just for this campus. You see how the sphere of activity is getting smaller and smaller? And here's another possibility.


Maybe there's a rat up in the attic somewhere, and he just bit into a light cable, and he's. He's fried meat. He's dead meat. All right. Notice how you can go from an earth shaking cause to a little trivial cause like a rat in the attic. When the cop, when the event or the effect that you are seeking to explain is finite. Then all you need to explain a finite effect is a finite cause. You don't need an infinite God to. You're dealing with a finite world. Why would you Christians postulate an infinite God as a cause for a finite world? So the cosmological argument doesn't work. Number one, your first cause may not exist anymore. Number two, your first cause may be many causes, thus implying polytheism. And number three, your first cause doesn't have to be an infinite God or a perfect God. After all, it might just be a rat dying in the attic. So the cosmological argument doesn't prove what you Christians think it will prove. That's David HUME. Well, I tell you, I don't know how to answer David HUME, so I never use this version of the cosmological argument. When my grandchildren come up to me and they say, Grandpa, give us a proof for God's existence. First thing I say to Andrew is, have you read Michael Behe on this ship? And he says, Are there any pictures in there? And if, Mike, if you know, if my seven year old grandson is not able to read Michael Behe, then I start talking to him about the number one, the number one. And Andrew will understand that.