September 02, 2007

Kalam and Multiple Cosmic Causes

Hi Dr. Craig,

I’ve been reading your book, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”, and I find the argument as persuasive as always. However, I was wondering how you would respond to the “many causes” response? Is it possible for there to be more than one efficient cause of the universe?



I must confess that I’ve never felt the force of this objection, Doug. It reminds me of the objection to the teleological argument that it only proves a Designer of the cosmos and not necessarily a Creator. If people really thought there were a Designer of the universe, they would be wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the prospect, not complaining that he might not also be its Creator. Similarly, in this case to complain that we don’t know on the basis of the kalam cosmological argument whether the personal Creator of the universe is unique or not seems an utter triviality in comparison to what the argument does prove. Someone who is looking for truth will find here, not a shortcoming of the argument, but an incentive for further inquiry.

If one could prove that the cause of the universe’s origin is omnipotent, then I think that one could successfully run an argument for the uniqueness of the cause on the grounds that a plurality of omnipotent beings is impossible. But it’s not clear to me that a cause of the universe must be omnipotent. Perhaps there is an argument here from creatio ex nihilo — Duns Scotus argued that since there is an infinite distance between being and non-being, it would require infinite power to create the universe from nothing. He could argue that it is not possible to have greater power than the power to create ex nihilo. I find this argument appealing but am not entirely convinced. So this is an area for further exploration.

The kalam argument is clearly not consistent with there being a group of deities cavorting with one another prior to the world’s creation, since the argument takes us back to a changeless state which is, I think, timeless. To imagine a group of timeless, unembodied minds somehow acting wholly in concert to create the world brings one awfully close to the doctrine of the Trinity. A Trinitarian (or Unitarian) concept of God seems much more plausible than polytheism’s many gods all independently existing timelessly and acting in concert to create the universe.

That being said, it seems to me that the proponent of the kalam argument will justifiably appeal to Ockham’s Razor: one should not multiply causes beyond necessity. One is justified in positing only such causes as are necessary to explain the effect. In the case of the universe’s origin, only one ultra-mundane Personal Creator is needed, so it would be gratuitous to postulate more.

Beyond that, one should remember that ours is a cumulative case for theism, and the uniqueness of God is given by other arguments in one’s case, such as the Leibnizian argument from contingency, the moral argument, and the ontological argument. Moreover, we have good grounds for believing Jesus of Nazareth’s radical claim to be the decisive revelation of God, and Jesus taught monotheism: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.”