8/28/2008

Cosmological Argument Restated – Why I am Here

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.

8/26/2008

The Greatest Sexual Tragedy

The Ministry of Reconciliation blog gives an article on Egyptian women and their fight against Female Circumcision.

More should be said about this horrible practice and about the Islamic nations which allow it!

8/25/2008

John Macarthur on Evil

I have a copy of John Macarthur’s book The Truth War on the shelf at home. I was a great read. I have an mp3 disc of the messages at last’s years Ligonier conference where Macarthur spoke. In both places, he handled the ‘problem of evil’ very well.

Ligonier Ministries has now posted links to Macarthur’s address. These are great links to follow.

8/20/2008

Searching Ourselves Into Oblivion?

Breakpoint commentaries are always informative and help me to think clearly. That is true even when I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions reached. Today’s commentary by Mark Earley is a good example. Titled: Google and Our Heart's Desire, today’s commentary bounces off an article from the Atlantic Monthly’s July/August edition by Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains.”

To the Breakpoint commentary:


…Google and the Internet-at-large are convincing us that knowledge ought to be at our fingertips; whether it is a map, stock-price, article, quote, or video clip…As author Carr puts it, “the Net seems to be . . . chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” Carr is right. No wonder we are so crazy about it—it gives us the instant gratification we crave.

While the Scriptures teach us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, Google bombards us with the opposite message: You ought to have what you want when you want it. And when you break it down, instant gratification is really another manifestation of pride.


Having detailed information at our fingertips is not necessarily something that can play into proud, self-gratifying, thinking. Having something to keep up with the details can free our minds to contemplate larger questions of life.

I have never been a detail person. (If you are a type-watcher, I am a Myers-Briggs INTJ.) I learned long ago that if I am to keep track of details, I need a very carefully designed system to help me remember. You should see my day-planner. It’s full of notes and reminders. My computer e-mail software is the same. You find multiple “to do” lists with automatic reminders, including multiple layers of information to help me fulfill my daily obligations.

Having detailed information at my fingertips helps free my mind to think clearly about concepts and abstract ideas. I find that I am able to concentrate on applying those concepts to current situations. The systems help me remember what I need to do, and in turn, I can do what I need to remember.

The internet functions in much the same way. The ESV web-site helps me find the Bible’s guidance. Mapquest helps me get where I am going. Wikipedia gives me a place to start research (There are limits to Wiki. I never end research there.). Google Reader lets me keep up with multiple blog sites whose articles interest me. MSN gives me news. The National Weather Service helps me keep my head dry. And the mother of all search engines, Google, finds details I could never recall

I am free। I am free from worrying about the things I forget। I am free from the ‘devil in the details.’

But I am also free to think. Free to contemplate the Greatness of God and my small place in His universe. Free to force abstract ideas into practical problem-solving tools. Free to pray far-reaching prayers from a comfortable, mostly worry-free place. Free to learn how to talk to others more clearly. Free to find out how my wife and daughter ‘tick.’ Free to do the most important things in my life.

This is not instantly self-gratified laziness. It’s glorious freedom.

8/14/2008

Hamas / Islamic Convert

Stand to Reason’s Blog relates the story of a Hamas Leader's Son named Mosab Hassan Yousef who has become a Christian. The FOXNews version is here.

Here’s a quote from Yousef:

When I studied the Bible carefully verse by verse, I made sure that that was the book of God, the word of God for sure, so I started to see things in a different way, which was difficult for me, to say Islam is wrong.

8/08/2008

Chapmans Interviewed

Thanks to Between Two Worlds for links (here and here) to interviews of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman and family. I grieve with that family on the tragic loss of their daughter to a freak accident.

I have been a fan of Steve Curtis Chapman’s music for a long time, and I cannot imagine the grief they feel. I applaud the courage they are showing by undergoing the interviews.

8/07/2008

Gene Edward Veith on the New Atheism

Try the article on modern atheism by Veith here. Here’s a taste:

...The atheists' problem, though, is that however much they attack belief in God,
their own worldview lacks all appeal. They get hung up on the last remaining
absolute: Atheism is not beautiful. It is so depressing.

8/01/2008

The End of Reason – Zacharias Does It Again

I have grown to appreciate the apologetics ministry of Ravi Zacharias, so it should come as no surprise that I purchased and read a copy of his latest book. The short little book is titled: The End of Reason: A Response to the New Atheists (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2008), and it is a winsome and effective counter-argument to Harris, Dawkins, et. al. Zacharias’ polemics are clear and convincing. His version of the moral argument for God’s existence is emotional and intellectually vital.

Here is part of his response to Harris’ argument that evil and suffering prove that an all-powerful, good God cannot exist:

Harris’ antagonism toward God ends up proving that he finds some things reprehensible. But he cannot explain his innate sense of right and wrong – the reality of God’s law written on his heart – because there is no logical explanation for how that intuition toward morality could develop from sheer matter and chemistry.

Popularly stated, I would put it this way:
* When you assert that there is such thing as evil, you must assume there is such a thing as good.
* When you say there is such a thing as good, you must assume there is a moral law by which to distinguish between good and evil. There must be some standard by which to determine what is good and what is evil.
* When you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver – the source of the moral law.
But this moral lawgiver is precisely who atheists are trying to disprove. (pp. 54-55)


We know evil because of what it does to others and to ourselves, but that knowledge assumes that all people have worth in and of themselves. When we postulate a moral code, we assume that people have this intrinsic worth. How can mere matter in motion make us worth something? We end up being big germs. Why should we care if the big white germs discriminate against the big black germs? Neither color of germ has any value anyway.

Back to the book:

…in a world in which matter alone exists there can be no intrinsic worth. Let me put it in philosophical terms:
* Objective moral values exist only if God exists.
* Objective moral values do exist…
* Therefore God exists. (p. 56)



We have to assume that true moral standards exist in order to object to the evil and suffering we see all around us. We cannot have those standards in a universe without God. A person’s denial of God’s existence because of evil ends up being an affirmation of the existence of the God that he tries to avoid accountability to.

[I have used this argument as formed by Greg Bahnsen here.]

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