The 1980 documentary “Cosmos” has astronomer Carl Sagan famously saying, “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” The whole documentary takes the viewer on a tour of the beauty and complexity of our universe. The 2014 documentary series “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is a recent reboot of the original that pays homage to Sagan’s documentary. The reboot was produced by Seth MacFarlane who is well known for creating the popular animated show “Family Guy.” These two shows could not be further from one another. So, what prompted MacFarlane to stray outside of his normal genre with “Cosmos”?
He said in a 2014 LA Times interview that there has been “a resurgence of creationism and intelligent design quote-unquote theory” and “a real vacuum when it comes to science education.” Because more schools have begun to question evolution and there has been a rise in intelligent people advocating for intelligent design and the creation of our universe, MacFarlane wanted to reboot Cosmos to set the record straight: There is no God. There is nothing other than our physical universe. Science is the only thing that gives us truth. And science explains everything, including the cosmos.
But the Apostle’s Creed says we believe in God, “maker of heaven and earth” because Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” So, either God is eternal and created the universe or the universe is eternal and there is no God. Which is
The Cosmological Argument for God’s Existence
The Cosmological Argument is a philosophic argument for the existence of God based on the reality of the universe’s existence and the need to explain that reality. Either it is eternal or it came into existence a finite time ago. If it came into existence, then there is a cause for the cosmos that requires explanation. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig presents the cosmological argument in his book Reasonable Faith:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.1
This is a deductive argument where the conclusion (3) is considered true because the premises (1 & 2) are both true. But in true philosophical fashion, each premise must be argued for to secure the truth of the conclusion.
The first premise is a truth that seems fairly obvious based on how the world works. Everyone knows that things that begin their existence at a particular point in time and space have a cause. Things do not just pop into existence out of nowhere without a cause (“out of nothing, nothing comes.”) Nothing literally has no thing about it to cause anything. The lack of qualities, properties, and attributes prohibits something coming from nothing. While we can imagine a massive elephant materializing in our living room while we’re watching Netflix, this doesn’t actually happen in real life. And if it did we would have a lot of questions. But the answers to our questions would always lead us to suppose a cause for this mysterious elephant because even an incredible sounding cause for this effect would make more logical sense than something coming from nothing.
The second premise has both philosophical and scientific evidence to support it. The claim that the universe began to exist contradicts any notion that the universe is eternal. If the universe were eternal then that would mean that it had no beginning and consists of an infinite amount of nonstop, successive events. This is hard to fathom and has many implications for time and reality if true. If the universe has no beginning and ending, how are we to understand our place in a timeline that stretches on forever in each direction?
An analogy for this may be helpful. Think of this concept of an eternal universe and its timeline like being on a walking journey. The number of steps you have to take and the distance you must travel are infinite. No matter where you are in your journey, if the distance to travel is infinite then you always have an infinite number of steps left to go and never make it to your destination. Similarly, If the number of moments the universe has existed had no starting point and were literally infinite and unlimited then we would never have arrived at today. But this is impossible because we are clearly here right now at this point in history. So, if this is impossible, then the amount of events in the universe must be finite, not infinite. Therefore, the universe is not eternal but had a beginning. This is philosophical evidence for the beginning of the universe, but there is also scientific evidence.
From the findings of the astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929 we know that galaxies are moving away from one another in a state of constant expansion. This contributes to the theory known as the “big bang”—that there was an original singularity that initiated the creation and expansion of the universe. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the host for “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” says in the show that the big bang is “the first moment of the universe” and is currently “as far back as we can see in time.” World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said, “almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.”2 The scientific evidence in support of the Big Bang and the fact that literally everything (space, time, matter, and energy) began at that moment is well known and accepted. This lends further evidence to the beginning of the universe.
So does the second law of thermodynamics. This law says that the universe is in a state of decline and will one day reach what is known as “heat death.” It will eventually come to a state of “maximum disorder and minimum energy.”3 As the universe continues to expand forever all matter and energy will decline until a state of equilibrium is reached where no more processes are possible. Life will cease because the universe will be dead and unable to change from this state. If the universe were eternal, however, then the earth would have already reached this state by now. But it has not. This also suggests that the universe is not eternal and did indeed have a beginning.
Objections to the Beginning of the Universe
But many in the scientific community find the beginning of the universe at the Big Bang to be difficult to accept. For one, this places limitations on what humans can learn about nature through science, for it seems that there are certain things that just cannot be known about the origin of the universe scientifically. Second, many scientists recoil at the implications surrounding the definite beginning of the universe at the Big Bang. For, if there was literally nothing beforehand to actualize the universe, then how did it come into existence? Stephen Hawking says “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” But, for scientists who accept naturalism (the view that the only thing that exists is nature), this is problematic for it points to a supernatural Being who not only exists outside of space and time but created both. Hawking goes on to talk about how a particular “inflationary model” of the universe by physicist and cosmologist Alan Guth can help “avoid this difficulty."4
Many such attempts beyond the inflationary model have been put forward by scientists to help explain the beginning of the universe, but none of them have received as much overwhelming evidential support as the Big Bang theory. While this may be a difficulty for Hawking that is not the case for the Christian because we have always accepted the idea of an eternal God who has created all things. Now we just have further scientific proof for Genesis 1:1.
A Personal Creator
The conclusion of the argument states that if the universe began to exist then it must have a cause. If the universe does in fact have a cause then that cause is outside of the universe because the cause of the universe cannot itself be part of the universe—it must be immaterial and beyond space and time. And this cause must be either personal or impersonal because there are no other possibilities. If the cause were impersonal then it would not have the ability to choose to create the universe because choice is a characteristic of personhood. Rather, this impersonal cause would just be an automatic set of principles and conditions. If that were the case then these impersonal principles would automatically and necessarily create the universe. So, the existence of these principles and the universe would have always coexisted. But this leads us to an eternal universe, which we have already shown to be impossible.
Therefore, the cause of the universe must be personal. This makes sense because there was literally nothing before the Big Bang—no properties, qualities, attributes, or potentialities. Without the conscience act of a personal being to bring the universe into existence, this state of nothingness would have just continued. Since “out of nothing, nothing comes,” a personal being must have willfully caused the something of the universe.
But some may object and say, “If everything that exists must have a cause, then God must have a cause!” This is the “who created God?” question. But God by definition is not created and did not begin to exist. He is eternal, not bound by time and space (since He existed just fine without them and created them), and does not need anything else to sustain his existence. This objection misunderstands the first premise of the argument, “whatever begins to exist has a cause.” Thus, this objection does not hurt the cosmological argument.
Who is this Creator?
This argument, while sound and successful, does not guarantee the existence of the God of the Bible. However, many qualities about this being that brought the universe into existence can be known from the cosmological argument. This being is a single, personal being that created the entire universe out of nothing, and is self-existent, eternal, and omnipotent (for you would need a great amount of power to create the universe and it is hard to imagine anything else possessing greater power than this). This argument helps in affirming several major biblical doctrines: The doctrines of one God, a personal God, his self-existent/eternal nature, his role as creator, and his omnipotence are all affirmed. The cosmological argument attests to so many aspects of the nature and character of God without explicitly saying that this God is the God of the Bible. Therefore, it gives great comfort to Christians because they have strong argumentation for their biblical faith. And this argument, when taken with other apologetic arguments that we will discuss, presents a strong case for the existence of the biblical God and the truth of the Christian worldview.
Contrary to what Seth MacFarlane and other atheistic naturalists who place their hope in science might say, there are good philosophical and scientific reasons to believe in a Creator God. Hopefully this introduction to the cosmological argument helps you to see that and to proclaim with even more confidence “I believe in God…maker of heaven and earth.”
1. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 111.
2. Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time, The Isaac Newton Institute Series of Lectures (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), 20., quoted in J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 478.
3. J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City: a Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1987), 34.
4. Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything (Beverly Hills, CA: New Millennium, 2002), 107, quoted in Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics (Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 229.
-By Kevin Tapscott