I have a hard time critically thinking sometimes could someone break down this claim for my by an atheist:
“A good example is the cosmological argument. Everything that begins to exist has a cause, the universe began to exist, therefore the universe had a cause. Because an infinite regress is impossible, there had to be an uncaused cause that started everything. If you’re starting with the assumption that God is real, then this makes perfect sense. God is the uncaused cause that creates everything…
But there’s still a problem here. If God created the universe, then two things must be true. He must have wanted to create, and must have been able to create. When those two conditions are true, that was when God created the universe. But if the universe did not exist prior to God creating it, then that means there was a point where one or both of those conditions were not true. God either did not want to create, or could not. That means that something had to change, from the point where God wasn’t ready to create, to the point that he was.
How long did it take God to get ready? To develop the desire or ability to create our universe? Well, if God is uncaused, and therefore had existed for an infinite amount of time, then that means it would have taken God an infinite amount of time to get ready. Since you can’t cross infinity, God would never have been ready to create, and therefore our universe would never have been created.
Since our universe does exist, that means God would have reached the point where he was ready to create. If he reached that point, then he could not have existed for an infinite amount of time. If he had not existed for an infinite amount of time, then he could not have always existed. If he did not always exist, then he cannot be the first cause. Or he began to exist without a cause, and if something can begin to exist without a cause, then why not the universe?
Another solution is that God was ready to create as soon as he began to exist. This would mean our universe was created as soon as God began to exist. If God is eternal and has always existed, then that means our universe would also have to be eternal, as it began to exist at the same moment as God began to exist…but if our universe has always existed, then that means it didn’t need a creator.
This is just an example of how an argument that made so much sense when I was a believer, became more complicated and less clear when I started thinking about it more in depth as a non-believer. A big problem I have with apologists is that they often assert things with such confidence, but I think that confidence is unwarranted. Most apologetic arguments only work if you make major assumptions about things we just can’t really know…”
Line 1; “He must have wanted to create”
Assumption 1: God was lacking before he created the universe. This is not correct with the Christian view of the Trinity. In eternity past; God was perfect and lacked nothing. He did not ‘need’ or ‘want’ to create anything. Within the Trinity; there was perfect love in eternity past.
Love needs more than one person; a person to love; and a person to receive that love.
I’ve heard it said that the Trinity makes it possible for Love to exit first; then Power second (to create the Universe)
With a non-Trinity view of God; it is only possible for Power to exist first (to create); then Love second; because once other beings exist they could receive God’s love.
Line 2: “God must have been able to create”. I agree. He was able.
This argument rests on the flaw I pointed out above; God was somehow imperfect and lacking something before He created the universe.
The second problem is unmentioned I think; but it touches on the argument: “If God created the universe, Who or what created God”. God revealed in the Bible is from eternity past self-existent; so the question “Who created an Eternal Being” is a category error. Eternal Beings are not created.
I believe this makes the mistake of God being ‘inside’ of time; and subject to it. An Eternal Being is outside of time; and thus you have to ask the question ‘what is time’. Time is the passing of events; and time would have only started at Creation from nothing ‘Ex nihilo’
To ask the question; “How long did God take to get ready to create”; is to place Him inside time; God is unchanging, He is Eternal and He is outside of time.
Either God is Eternal, outside of time; or he is a created being; and inside time. This paragraph tries to have it both ways.
Curious statement “Since you can’t cross infinity, God would never have been ready to create”; also I believe tries to put God, being Eternal outside of time prior to Creation; and then place God inside creation and subject to time. God is unchanging; and is always Eternal; and always outside of time.
As we know; Jesus Christ the second person of the Trinity entered time/space and became a man.
Basically the unwinding of the statements above. Nothing that had a beginning can spontaneously self-create.
That’s not a solution; if both the Universe and God both were created entities simultaneously; then both of them need a cause.
This is basically pantheism; that the Universe and everything material is God. The other thing to mention here is that God is an Eternal Spirit; and the Material Universe including Time had a beginning.
The writer is asserting confidence in his non-belief; saying theistic apologists also assert confidence in belief. This is not an argument; just an assertion.
My assertion; “It takes a lot more faith to believe in atheism; than it does in theism”. (actually that is a John Lennox quote ).
as I said; I’m not a philosopher; and others such as @SeanO or @boabbott or @Keith_Moore would do a better job of clarifying; so I’ll tag them in here and see if they have time to respond.
A book you might enjoy; and also have as a resource to give to atheist friends is RZIM speaker @Andy_Bannister “The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist”. It’s a great mixture of humour and apologetic; and really makes you think.
Also; if you are discussing with this particular atheist; and trying to reach them; and there is a stalemate with the Cosmological Argument; you might move on to the question of Morality: How do we know what is objectively right and wrong?
William Lane Craig has a little snippet to think about…
Matthew has gone given answers to each point that was raised. Let me give a different approach to this cosmological question:
My response is that something had to be there from the beginning. If nothing was there at any time nothing will be there now unless one is willing to believe in magic where things pop into existence without a cause. So if something was there in the beginning then either it was a mind (God) who created matter or just matter and energy and the laws of nature that happened to be there in just such a precise way to create not only all the amazing galaxies but the intricate cells and eventually our minds. If they still insist that the latter is a more likely scenario I ask them how will we ever know if this is the case as our minds that came up with these ideas are subject to the laws that created the minds and so we have no grounds for trusting the mind’s outputs.
Ultimately I have to agree with your last sentence “Most apologetic arguments only work if you make major assumptions about things we just can’t really know.”
@matthew.western is to be thanked for taking time to really untangle the conundrum of arguments in the statement and has broken down the details and accurately summarized the faulty assumption of the claim that subjects God to the natural laws of His creation. The particular focus here is about the fallacy of infinite regression. I’m just pitching in to extract a shorter summary for you.
On God wanting to create– God, in His triune perfection, do not need nor want anything. Creating us is for our benefit, not His. As Ravi has put it, “There is unity and diversity within the community of the trinity.”
On God being able to create– While the principle holds true to physics and mathematics that one cannot have an infinitely regressing (i.e. not being able to arrive at any) starting point, it doesn’t hold true to God as He is outside of the bounds of the physical and mathematical laws He created.
God is able to start His creation even when we cannot comprehend the WHEN in God’s time economy.