The article states that each of the alternatives given is “logically permissible.” This is a misnomer; “logically permissible” implies that there is a cogent argument in support of the explanation. Since many of the explanations are contradictory, this cannot be the case. To imply otherwise makes no sense. The author does note that these possibilities “should not be mistaken for scientific theories or even scientific possibilities.” I agree, but would add that logic in and of itself excludes all of the possibilities except one: theism.
I will grant that many of these explanations are theoretically possible, that is, taken individually, they are internally consistent. They are possible in that sense, but one must successfully argue for the truth or falsehood of each in order for them to be logically possible.
I will give a series of posts that address many of the possibilities given in the article. I have given logical arguments for God’s existence elsewhere, and I do not plan to repeat all of the argument’s details for these posts (see here and here to get started). I will start with the notion of the universe as an illusion.
To quote R. C. Sproul, “if something exists - if anything exists - then that which exists is either an illusion, self-created, self-existent or ultimately created by something that is self-existent.” All alternatives in the Skeptic Magazine article reduce to one of these four. I will take each of the four alternatives in a slightly different order: illusion, self-created, created by something self-existent, or self-existent. I apply these alternatives to you, your own being. (Quote from here.)
The universe could theoretically be an illusion. But, if you find yourself in an illusion, there is one truth you can be certain of: you exist. You must exist because if you did not exist, there would be no one to have the illusion. You are not an illusion, so you must have an explanation for your own being. We must now explore different possibilities.
You cannot be self-created. For anything or anyone to create itself, that thing must exist before it exists. I hope that last sentence gives you a splitting headache, because it is supposed to. It is not logically possible to exist before you exist. You would have to be existing and not existing at the same time and in the same way. That is not logically possible.
Now we can explore what we mean by something that is “self-existent.” By “self-existent,” I mean something that has always been, something that has the power of being in and of itself. It cannot not exist. That is, it exists necessarily. To clarify, I turn to Sproul:
… if something exists, then something exists necessarily. This piece of paper that I’m holding cannot exist unless there is some necessary existence somewhere somehow that has the power of being in itself. If there ever was a time when there was nothing - absolutely nothing - then nothing could possibly exist now. And whatever is eternal and self-existent is ontologically transcendent [of a differing order of being] to everything else. (Quote from here.)
We can know a few things about this necessary being. If it must be in and of itself. If this being causes all that is to exist, it must exist independent of the universe it creates, or it must transcend the universe. Since it exists outside of the universe it causes, it is not limited in its being by anything or anyone else.
Something that has always existed would not have a changing being because to change means to be limited by something or someone else. Change also means to stop being one way and start being another way, but the cause of all that is cannot stop being. Therefore, the cause of all that is cannot change. Norman Geisler expounds on what it means to exist in the way I am describing, to exist necessarily:
… necessary existence means that He cannot not exist—so He had no
beginning and no end. But it also means that He cannot “come to be” in any
other way. He must be as He is necessarily. He can’t become something new. That removes all change from His being—He is unchanging... In fact, since a necessary being cannot not be, He can have no limits. A limitation means “to not be” in some sense, and that is impossible—so He is infinite. Also, He can’t be limited to categories like “here and there,” because unlimited being must be in all places at all times—therefore, He is omnipresent. All of these are attributes that follow just from knowing that He is necessary. (Quote from here. See Norman Geisler here and here for further argument.)
Now the other option is that you have existed forever. First of all, this runs contrary to all of human experience. You are conscious of a time when you began to be. You have a first memory. In addition, you are not capable of maintaining your own existence forever, and you are conscious of that fact. You can cease to exist. That is why you spend so much time and energy preserving your life.
Second, our being changes. Scientific studies that show that even our very cells die out and regenerate. We are literally not the same physical being today that we were yesterday. We grow old. We take ill. We are injured. All of these things are a change in being or essence.
If you cannot be self-existent, then you are left with a self-existent cause of your own existence. Other arguments lead to the same conclusions, and I have tried to expound on them here.
Quotes from R. C. Sproul are from the article “God’s Existence and Atheism: R.C. Sproul talks to Peter Hastie,” Copyright Australian Presbyterian July 2002, as downloaded from here on 7/27/07.
Quotes from Norman Geisler are from the article “Questions About God: What Kind of God Exists?” by Dr. Norman Geisler as downloaded from here on 6/4/08.