Conversations with Kevin over at HeathenZ inspired me to write this post. I have tried to expand the comment I posted at HeathenZ and make it a little more understandable. It is a cogent argument for God’s existence from God’s creation, a cosmological argument.
I exist. I must exist in order to deny my own existence. This may seem an obvious point, but some make much of the idea that everything we see is an illusion. Even if that is the case, I must exist in order to have the illusion.
I was caused. There was a time when I came to be. My own self-awareness and the empirical evidence that I find support this.
There must have been a cause of my existence. Something must have existed before me in order to bring about my existence. Out of nothing, nothing comes. There is something now, so there was never nothing. Remember this is about causing to be. It is about existence itself.
If I trace back from the cause of my existence to the cause of the cause of my existence, and so on, I must arrive at something that never came to be. The series of causes cannot go back without end. Some examples follow.
It is not possible to count to the end of the series of positive real numbers when you start at zero (0, 1, 2, 3, 4…). You can always count one more. It is, in one sense, an infinite series of discrete things. You cannot count to the end of the string of positive numbers; it has no end. Starting from zero, you cannot count to the beginning of the string of negative numbers; it has no beginning (0, -1, -2, -3, …). We go endlessly in either direction. We cannot count either up or down through an endless series of numbers. If we count forward to zero, we must start counting from a particular negative number, or we will never count to zero.
It is similarly impossible to move through an infinite series of discrete moments of time. For example, if time extends forward endlessly it will obviously never end. Reversing the process, if time extends endlessly into the past, time would never have arrived at this moment because an endless number of moments of time would have elapsed to get to now.
Going back to the series of causes leading up to me, this series cannot contain an endless number of causes in the past because I would then be the end of an endless series of causes, which is impossible. There must have been a first cause to begin the series of causes that lead to my existence. This first cause must have always existed in order to give a starting place to the series. If there was a time when it did not exist, there would be nothing now.
This first cause must always exist because it has the power of being in itself. Again, it existed before everything else, so nothing else could cause it to be. It’s being is not caused by anything but itself.
This first cause must have the power to bring about everything else. It was the only thing that existed at the time of creation, so everything must have been a result of its action. If it has the power to cause everything to be, it must have the ability to cease to cause everything to be. It can create or destroy.
This first cause must be able to cause itself to act to produce everything else. The first cause existed before everything else, so there was nothing else to cause it to act. This ability to act or not to act implies something like the freedom of choice. Free choice is a key element of personhood.
So the argument has arrived at a being that has always existed and cannot cease to exist (what Christian theology has called being ‘eternal’). This being has the power to bring the universe into existence or take the universe out of existence (what Christian theology has meant by omnipotence; the power to do anything with the creation that is possible), and has the power to cause itself to act (this is part of the foundation for personhood).
What if the universe has some element in it that has always existed? Then that element must have always existed and cannot cease to exist, has the power to bring the universe into existence or destroy it, and has the power to cause itself to act. Now we are just arguing about the name of the first cause, not its essential nature.
This eternal, self-existent, omnipotent, personal First Cause is remarkably similar to the God of Christianity. Other evidence from our universe leads us to other attributes. Design requires an intelligent designer (see search label “Teleological Argument”). Morality requires something to be good (see search label “Moral Argument”). Reasoning abilities require a ground in an unchanging logical being (see search label “Presuppositionalism”). This First Cause has communicated with us in the Person of Jesus Christ (see search label “Argument from Scripture”).
This is my best shot at arguing for God’s existence from the fact of my own existence. Please pardon my limited language skills. (I am, after all, an engineer.) It should at least be a conversation starter. I have tried to state the argument using what I have learned from Norman L. Geisler, R. C. Sproul, and J. P. Moreland. Of course, if I have misunderstood something they wrote or said, it is not their fault.