Part 19 Was the cause personal or impersonal

Arguing for the Existence of God

Now we have finally reached the final step of the Kalaam Cosmological argument.  Last post we established the universe had to have a cause.  Now we can ask…

3.  Was the Cause Personal or Impersonal?

A.  Cause was impersonal (event causation)

When something happens, we call that an event.  All events have causes.  An example of an event is a house falls down.  What was the cause?  Scientists tell us it was an earthquake.  We then ask, what caused the earthquake?  Someone tells us plate tectonics.  What caused the plate tectonics?  We are told volcanic activity.  What caused the volcanic activity?   As you can see we can keep going on and on.

The problem we discover is that you can’t have an infinite number of causes.  All events have to have a 1st cause and that 1st cause itself couldn’t be an event because the next question is, what caused the event?  All events need a 1st cause, a beginning.  Therefore if the event or an impersonal cause cannot explain the beginning, then the 1st cause has to be personal.

B.  Cause was personal (agent causation)

When there is no physical explanation, we always defer to a personal explanation.  If I walked into my son’s bedroom and I found it a total mess, barring an earthquake or some other physical explanation, what would we ask?  Who created the mess?  We might find out that my son and his friends had a late night gathering, made the mess and nobody cleaned it up.  If “a what” (physical explanation) cannot explain it, we always conclude that it must have been “a who.”   If “a what,” a physical explanation could not have caused the universe to come into existence, we must therefore conclude that “a who” caused it.

This “who” that caused the creation of the universe has to be an uncaused, eternal personal being.  The effect or the event can’t be greater than the cause.  If we look at the evidence from our universe we see:  Personal elements in it (consciousness, free will, a mind, emotions) that point to a personal creator.  If the cause were impersonal then the effect would be impersonal.  Rational thinking and consciousness wouldn’t exist.  You couldn’t even reflect and analyze what I’ve just written if the cause was impersonal.  Therefore, since you at least are following me to some degree that is a demonstration of rationality.  If rationality and mind exist then it can be argued that the universe had a personal beginning.  A personal universe leads us to a personal creator.


The argument was stated in 3 simple either/or steps:

1) The universe either had a beginning, or it didn’t have a beginning and is eternal.  I argued for a beginning by pointing to the Big bang and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. There are powerful philosophical arguments against having a past collection of infinite days; since we are talking science I didn’t use them.

2) If the universe had a beginning, it was either caused or uncaused.  To be uncaused it had to be caused by nothing.  Since the cause can’t be nothing then there had to be a cause.

3) If the universe was caused, then the cause was either personal or impersonal.  All impersonal events need a first cause.  If the impersonal cause can be ruled out then the only other option is a personal cause.  Since we observe many personal characteristics in this universe, such as rationality and mind, the creation cannot be greater than the cause therefore the cause must be personal.  That personal cause is uncaused by definition and eternal, which means there was never a time when this cause or God did not exist.

When someone asks me who caused God, I ask, what comes before the beginning?  The universe screams out the need for an uncaused, personal first cause and that cause is God.  God is uncaused by definition.

Now it is possible that I could be wrong.  But to demonstrate that a person is going to have to prove either the universe is eternal and/or that it popped into existence from nothing.  If a person cannot refute the argument I have presented then atheism is defeated.  Yet, I can tell you from personal experience, even if you defeat atheism many still will not believe.  They will place their faith in the future and explain they believe someday science will figure it out.  This is sort of faith is not based on evidence but is blindly looking to the future.  The Christian faith is based on a solid foundation of evidence that is available today for anyone who would embrace it.

My next series of posts will look at the argument for God's existence from the design of the universe.

Go to part 20 here

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Tom Wright July 23, 2010, 9:23 pm

    Your earthquake illustration is interesting. Are you saying that if the origins of an earthquake are traced all the way back to basic physics and chemical and temperature reactions (impersonal), these principles “cannot explain the event”, and that a “who” caused it?
    Is it possible that “rational thinking and consciousness” (survival) came about through evolution and natural selection? Where is the evidence that “if the cause is impersonal, then the effect would be impersonal”? If “rationality and mind exist”, how do you leap to this being creator caused?
    …”someday science will figure it out”……this has been happening since Gallileo (sp?). As science advances, the church must come to terms with the science. Hence the “old earth v. new earth”, the macro v. micro evolution arguments in your church. Soon it will be the irrefutable evidence of DNA in evolutionary discussions.
    What does a “past collection of infinite days” mean?
    If science was able to scientifically explain the Big Bang origin, would you believe it?
    A final question……The Christian God: male or female, and why?
    Hope your lecture trip(s) are going swimmingly….

  • Steve August 8, 2010, 6:43 am

    Remember for every effect there must be a cause. This is a standard scientific fact. Therefore, an earthquake has to have a cause. Each cause is an event, so we can ask what caused that event? You cannot go back forever or until you reach infinity. A past collection of infinite days is needed to get to the present, if cause and effect goes on forever. If there wasn’t a past collection of infinite days we couldn’t reach today. It would like trying to jump out of a bottomless pit. Without something to jump off, like ground, you could never jump out of the pit. The same goes for an infinite past; there has to be a first day (ground to jump off) to reach the present. Back to cause and effect, there cannot be an endless or infinite series of cause and effects; therefore there has to be a first cause. Something or someone had to be the first cause. If the cause cannot be a “something,” then it must be a “someone.” That is the conclusion of the entire Kalaam argument in my series. I showed how science supports this conclusion.

    How can chemicals come together and form rational thinking? You need to give an argument for this. Our rational minds have greater abilities than the computer on your desk. For material process, like evolution to produce rationality, it would be comparable to putting the materials in a junkyard into a giant blender, mixing it up for billions of years, and a computer complete with software, comes into existence. I don’t have the faith you have to believe that is possible; but that’s what you have to believe if you think blind processes created a mind. How can rationality come from irrationality (material processes)? Since rationality and thinking are immaterial, then how can the physical/material world produce something immaterial? Material can only produce material and therefore, the mind and rationality cannot be produced through any physical process.

    “Someday science will figure it out” simply admits the evidence is against your viewpoint. In fact many of these items we are discussing, science cannot even get started, like explaining the origin of life. DNA and what they are currently discovering about the cell is moving more towards intelligent design and away from your viewpoint. When I get more time, I will begin read Stephen Meyers book Signature in the Cell. His book on the cell clearly shows DNA needs an intelligent designer. Scientists are struggling to answer him.

    I believe in science and when it can explain things physically; such as the age of the universe. However, the big bang, the mind, complexity of the cell, and the origin of life seem out of the realm of scientific explanation. The answers given are weak and refuted by scientists like Stephen Meyer. The problem in science today is not evidence; the evidence point to an intelligent designer. The problem is philosophy. And when philosophy and evidence contradict, philosophy will win every time.

    The God of Christianity has no gender. Male descriptions are utilized to help the reader, from ancient culture to today, to understand God is a personal Deity. Some belief systems call God an “it” because they believe in an impersonal God. Our God is personal and he loves us and cares for us, like a father cares for his children; hence the personal description attributed to God, as the Father.

  • Tom Wright August 8, 2010, 8:38 pm

    Interesting stuff…..
    Why do you have to go back to infinity to find the origin of an earthquake? Do you have to keep “going on and on?”
    The “first cause” may possibly be something v. somebody. I don’t know all the science, but certain building blocks of life, amino acids, for one, may spontaneously have created the first cell billions of years ago. As I said, I don’t have the science at hand, but have read articles describing this.
    My statement about science “someday figuring it out” means just that. The CURRENT evidence may be against my viewpoint, but same could be said for the middle age scientists who finally proved the earth was not flat and that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth.
    Finally, “philosophy will win every time”….If you believe in science, wouldn’t scientific evidence (i.e. a 4 billion year old earth v. 10,000 year old one) trump philosophy?
    Finally, finally: when we chatted this morning, the discussion came around to Islam and their intolerance for other religions. Wasn’t this true of the middle age Crusaders who murdered thousands in the mid-east? Maybe Islam will someday evolve as Christianity did and join the rest of the 21st century….
    Talk to you soon….

  • Steve August 16, 2010, 6:37 am

    Thanks for all you interest in these discussions. Sorry it takes time for me to get back to you; too many other projects.

    As far as the cause of an earthquake going back to infinity, science supports the concept of cause and effect. Basically, all events have a cause. So an earthquake has to keep going back because each time you say this event is the cause, you can then ask what caused that event. This can go on forever, which is my point. There has to be first cause and that first cause has to be uncaused or you could ask what caused that event (the first cause). Do you see what I mean?

    You said the building blocks of life, amino acids, could have spontaneously created the first cell billions of years ago. You said a mouthful in your simple statement. This is why origin of life experts have no idea how life came into being. First, where did the building blocks of life come from? Scientists (intelligent designers) have tried over the years and have succeeded at times producing a few amino acids in the lab but admit they are far from those coming together to form a protein and are light years from producing simple life; and this is done by an intelligent designer (scientist). Tom do you see a problem here? Second, moving from the development of a simple protein, you have to create the first cell, which is equal to saying a lap top computer can come into existence over the time period of a billion years in a junk yard. In this illustration the parts of the computer are all in the junk yard and they have to over time and heavy winds and other environmental occurrences, collect and form the computer. Do you really believe a cell (more difficult to build than a lap top computer) can come into existence on its own, as per my illustration?

    As far as the statement “science will someday figure it out” the problem is the evidence is some areas (i.e. how did life begin?) is so overwhelmingly against it, scientists don’t even know where or how to begin. Why not believe in the best explanation based on the current evidence? The first cell was a product of an intelligent designer.

    On philosophy trumps science, if science has an answer and it has been tested and proven true, they science wins. However, with the issues we have been discussing, origin of the universe, the origin of life, etc. when the evidence is against science, the philosophy of naturalism (atheism) wins every time. Answers outside of naturalism are not even considered, even if the evidence points in the opposite direction.

    Yes Christianity had its dark days. However, the Crusades began as an attempt to stop the spread of Islam. It succeeded but went beyond the original intent. Many people were needless killed as a result of the Crusades. However, the difference between Islam and Christianity can be summed up in the book that guides each belief system and the life of the main leader. In Islam Mohammed was a military leader and used force to spread his religion. The Koran is a book that at times advocates violence against the unbeliever. Conversely, Jesus spread his message through good deeds and dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins; he died for us which is an ultimate sacrifice. The New Testament teaches to love your enemies. The political leaders, who pushed the Crusades beyond their original intent, were going against their leader and the New Testament. Those Muslims that were behind the attacks of 9-11 and other acts of terrorism are following their leader and their book. If the leader of Islam killed unbelievers and the Koran talks of killing non-Muslims, do you think Islam can move in the same direction as Christianity? Personally, I don’t think so. Here are my reasons: It is estimated that about 85% of Muslims are peaceful and only 15% advocate violence. However, that 15% represents around 200,000 people who want us dead. Those 200,000 believe they represent the true Islam and Allah will not be satisfied until the entire world follows him. They will use whatever it takes to bring that about. At the same time Christianity advocates becoming more like Jesus. Unwarranted violence coming out of Christianity goes against Jesus and the Bible.

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