Does the Cosmological Argument Really Point to God?

We have been looking at Wes Morriston’s critique of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. In the first two parts (Part 1 and Part 2), we looked at Morriston’s challenges to the first premise of the argument, everything that begins to exist has a cause. Morriston also makes the claim that the KCA does not point to a personal creator.

Must the First Cause be Personal?

Dr. Craig provides a simple argument for the personhood of the first cause. If the first cause is impersonal, it produces its effect whenever the sufficient conditions are present. Whatever the sufficient conditions were in the timeless state before the beginning, they would stay that way. The conditions wouldn’t change over time. Let’s ask the question, “Where the sufficient conditions met or unmet in the timeless state?”

If the sufficient conditions were met, then the first cause would produce its effect in the timeless state. This would result in a timeless or eternal universe.

If the sufficient conditions were unmet, then the first cause would never produce the universe. Sufficient conditions would never develop.

So if the first cause is impersonal, then we should expect either a timeless, eternal universe or no universe. We would not expect a temporal universe like ours if the first cause is impersonal. Only a personal agent can selectively bring about its effects.

Morriston uses quantum mechanics to counter this point. In quantum mechanics, the field exists, and yet the quantum particles come about later. In other words, the sufficient conditions are met but do not immediately bring about their effect even though the cause (the quantum field) is impersonal. “So the alternatives – either an eternally sufficient condition or an eternal personal agent – are not (according to Craig’s own position) the only logical possibilities.” [1] It seems quantum mechanics provides a powerful counter-example to Craig’s assertion that every impersonal cause produces its effect whenever the sufficient conditions are met.

According to Morriston, even apart from quantum mechanics, it seems that a personal first cause has the same problem as an impersonal one. If God is eternal and timeless, then his intention to bring about the universe is eternal and timeless. This implies that an eternal God with an eternal decision to create the universe should bring about an eternally existing universe, for “God’s eternal decision to create a universe must surely be causally sufficient for the existence of the world.” [2] One might push back that God first wills to bring about the universe, and then the universe comes about, but this is to treat the timeless state as though it were in time. Morriston explains, “There can be no temporal gap between the time at which it does the willing and the time at which the thing willed actually happens. In this respect, a timeless personal cause is no different from a non-personal cause.” [3] So if Craig has correctly identified a problem for non-personal causes, then he has the same problem for personal causes.

It is questionable whether Craig’s whole exercise is helpful, asserts Morriston. After all, Craig presumes that we should have expected an impersonal first cause to have created the universe earlier than it did. Craig’s point is that the universe we experience should not be so young, that its beginning should have been pushed farther back (infinitely farther back) into eternity. This does not take the timeless state seriously. There was no earlier time at which the universe could have been created. “From the point of view of eternity, there [is] no time at which [the universe] does not yet exist. Consequently, there is no time at which [the first cause] has failed to produce [the universe], and no time at which [the first cause] would already have produced [the universe].” [4] So, we will see the universe whenever we look at the First Cause. 

Where does Morriston go wrong?

Challenge from Quantum Mechanics

Morriston says the gap in time between the cause and the effect in quantum mechanics is similar to a separation between the sufficient conditions and the first cause’s effect in an eternal, timeless state. However, if there were no time, then the quantum particles wouldn’t come to exist over time. The particles would either exist timelessly or not at all. Morriston’s analogy fails because it does not show that impersonal causes can selectively bring about their effects without the duration of time. Remember that Craig’s point is that a timeless First Cause in a timeless set of sufficient conditions cannot selectively bring about its effect. Even if Morriston is correct about quantum mechanics, all that it would show is that there may be a gap of time in between causes and their effects. Since we refer to a state of affairs in which there is no time at all, it is difficult to see how his analogy is relevant.

An eternal God with the eternal decision to create should bring about an eternal universe.

Morriston’s point seems to rely on the denial of free will. He seems to take for granted that one’s state of being (that of having an intention) flows logically and necessarily into our actions. You don’t decide to act; your state of being cause your action. What passes from indecision to decision is the change in your state of being, not some effort on your part. So God’s creating the universe flows directly and automatically from God’s state of being, and God’s eternal state of being includes the intention to create the universe. 

Morriston has an enormous burden of proof for this point to go through. He has to show that God’s decisions are governed by his state of being rather than his will. Otherwise, God’s act of creating can be independent of his intention to create.

It seems evident that our actions rely on both our will and our intent to act. Consider the room you are in now as you are reading this. Indeed, you intend to leave the room (you won’t be staying there forever), but you aren’t going right now. It isn’t enough that you intend to leave the room; you must also leave the room. 

So it seems more evident that our actions are determined by our free will than that they are determined mechanically by our states of being. If that is true, then Morriston’s challenge can’t go through. God’s intention to create the universe is not enough to bring about the universe; God must also exercise his free will to create the universe.

There can be no temporal gap between the time at which God does the willing and the time at which the thing willed actually happens.

All that is necessary for the difference to be real is for there to be a difference between the will or intention of a personal agent and that agent’s action. God eternally intended to create the universe, and time began with his act of creation. His intention was in an eternal state, his action in a temporal state (the first moment). As Craig explains, “It is insufficient to account for the origin of the universe by citing simply God, His timeless intention to create a world with a beginning, and His power to produce such a result. There must be an exercise of His causal power for the universe to be created.” [5] So there really is a “temporal gap” of sorts between God’s intention and his will to act. The intention was timeless, his action temporal.

Finally, Morriston’s point about there being no time when the first cause has not brought about the universe misses the point. If the first cause were impersonal, then there would be no state of affairs in which the first cause exists without the universe. In other words, the universe would exist in the same state of affairs as the first cause. We can infer logically, however, that the first cause must have been timeless before the creation of the universe and that the universe has been in time since its creation. Thus while there is no time at which the first cause has not brought about the universe, there is a state of affairs in which the first cause exists without the universe. Morriston’s point fails here, too, because he does not account for the eternal state of affairs without the universe.

It seems that Morriston’s challenges against the personhood of the First Cause are not more persuasive than the arguments for it. For that reason, the Kalam Cosmological Argument remains a good reason to believe that God exists.

If you found this post helpful, hit the “Follow” button to subscribe.

[1] Wes Morriston, “Must The Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause?: A Critical Examination of the Kalam Cosmological Argument” Faith and Philosophy 17:2 April 2000, pg 165.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid, pg 167.

[4] ibid.

[5] William Lane Craig, “Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause?: A Rejoinder” accessed 5/27/2018.

One thought on “Does the Cosmological Argument Really Point to God?

Comments are closed.