05 / 06
bird bird

Objections So Bad I Couldn't Have Made Them Up

The World's Ten Worst Objections To The Kalam Cosmological Argument

William Lane Craig's lecture at Biola University with a look at 10 of the worst objections to the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

1 - 3: Objection to the Form. 4, 5: Objection to the First Premise. 6, 7: Objection to the Second Premise. 8 - 10: Objection to the Conclusion


INTRODUCTION: Thank you so much for coming to this because not only are you enjoying a good dinner and hearing from Dr. Craig but you are also helping to support the Christian apologetics program at Biola and we are very grateful for that; so thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I think you will enjoy the talk tonight.

You can see that it is “Objections So Bad I Couldn't Have Made Them Up.” This is going to be a little bit of fun. In fact, it kept me thinking about a comment I heard from William F. Buckley one time on Firing Line. His opponent was making just a terrible argument and Buckley looked at him and said, “I don't mean to insult your intelligence by suggesting that you actually believe what you just said.” I think you will have that in mind when you hear some of this.

The reason you are hear is because you actually know who Dr. Craig is so I don't know if I need to give a long introduction. As you know he has a doctorate in philosophy and a doctorate in New Testament studies. He has got a whole range of books. There is a bio on the blue sheet in front of you but be aware he does have a brand new book out called On Guard which is a wonderful popular treatment of apologetics. It is being gobbled up by churches all around the country and there is a wonderful study guide that accompanies it and people are going through the study. We are just thrilled that Dr. Craig was able to boil down some of his high level thinking to a popular level so that we can all have at it.

Without further ado, Dr. Craig, we look forward to hearing from you.

DR. CRAIG: Thank you very much. I have been looking forward to this evening and am delighted to have the opportunity to share this talk with you tonight which I have never given before. So this is its inaugural flight so to speak and I am delighted to have the chance to share it with you. I just want to second what Craig said about the value of this apologetics program at Biola. I was at those sessions this morning in Sacramento listening to these graduates from the Biola program and I have to tell you honestly I was so impressed. It was the best, I think, testimony – the best advertising – that you could possibly have for the value of this program to see what its graduates can do. They were obviously well trained and well equipped to give a reason for the hope within. I was so impressed with them and I consider it a privilege to be partnered with the team here at Biola in this apologetics program.

In my published work on the kalam cosmological argument, I always try to anticipate and respond to objections that might be raised against the argument, so that readers might be equipped to deal with them should someone bring them up in conversation. [1] I figured that I had basically dealt with virtually all the objections that critics might raise and that any further debate would be over the adequacy of my responses.

Alas, however, I discovered that I've been unsuccessful in covering all the bases! For what I've come to realize is that some objections are so squirrelly, so off the wall, so bad that I could never have anticipated them. These criticisms are not found in scholarly publications. Instead, they're found in popular critiques of the argument on the Internet and YouTube. Up to now, I've focused on the scholarly critiques of the argument and just ignored such popular criticisms because I figured they were so misguided that there was just no point in responding to them. But tonight I've chosen to use this opportunity to address the worst of them.

Now you might be thinking, If these objections are really that bad, then why waste time responding to them? Well, there are several reasons I think for doing so.

First, these objections are very widespread and therefore influential. Infidel websites and YouTube are replete with these criticisms. They reach thousands of people and are confidently touted by many as delivering crushing refutations of the kalam cosmological argument.

Secondly, the average layman, not being trained in philosophy and logic, may not know how to answer these objections. I frequently receive e-mails from visitors to our website,, including a link to some video or some website and asking for help in dealing with these objections. [2] People are unable to discern where the fallacy lies, and therefore they often find themselves at a loss for words when confronting these objections in conversation or they may even find these criticisms to be fairly persuasive.

Finally, number three, answering these objections usually yields some positive insight which is valuable. We can, for example, clarify and so come to a better understanding of certain fallacies which are alleged against the argument or gain a deeper insight into a certain concept that plays a role in the argument. So the time taken to answer these objections will prove to be time well spent and will repay itself.

Now I had thought at first to arrange our world's worst objections into a sort of “Top Ten” list, climaxing with the all-time worst of the worst. But the problem is that the worst of the worst is not necessarily the most entertaining, so that our list would reach something of an anticlimax. So rather than arrange the objections in this way, I've decided instead to arrange them according to the steps in the argument, grouping together first objections to the general form of the argument, followed secondly by objections to each of the argument's two premises respectively, and finally wrapping up with objections to the argument's conclusion.

Now for those who are unfamiliar with the kalam cosmological argument, I'll first provide a brief summary of it. The argument is a simple syllogism:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The crucial second premise of the argument is supported by both philosophical arguments against the infinitude of the past and by scientific evidence for a beginning of the universe. Having arrived at the conclusion that the universe has a cause, one may then do a conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe. One discovers that one is thereby brought to an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, enormously powerful, personal Creator of the universe. For the intriguing details have a look at On Guard or Now, with this summary of the argument in hand, let's go to our objections!

Objections to the Form of the Argument

Objection #1: Craig says that he believes in God on the basis of the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart, not on the basis of the kalam cosmological argument. In fact, he says that even if the argument were refuted, he would still believe in God. This is blatant hypocrisy on Craig's part.

Response to #1: The problem with this objection is that even if I were a hypocrite, there is just no relationship between the soundness of an argument and the psychological state of the person propounding it. The objector is thus guilty of putting forward a textbook example of an argument ad hominem, that is to say, trying to invalidate a position by attacking the character of the person who defends it.

So what does make for a sound deductive argument? The answer is: true premises and valid logic. An argument is sound if the premises of the argument are true and the conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic. The soundness of the kalam cosmological argument is thus entirely independent of me. The argument was, after all, defended by the medieval Muslim theologian al-Ghazali one thousand years before I was born. If the argument is sound, it was sound then. If the argument is sound, it was sound during the Jurassic period, before anyone had propounded it. My alleged hypocrisy just has nothing to do with the soundness of the argument. [3]

Now to be a good argument, the argument must, admittedly, be more than merely sound. If the premises of an argument are true, but we have no evidence for the truth of those premises, then the argument will not be a good one. It may (unbeknownst to us) be sound, but in the absence of any evidence for the premises it won't, or at least shouldn't, convince anyone. The premises have to have some kind of epistemic warrant for us in order for a sound argument to be a good argument. I've argued that what is needed is that the premises need to be not only true but more plausible than their opposites or negations. If it is more plausible that a premise is true, in light of the evidence, rather than false, then we ought to believe the premise.

Now plausibility is to a certain degree person-relative. Some people may find a premise more plausible than its opposite, while others may not. In that sense the goodness of an argument is not wholly independent of people's psychological states. In the case of the kalam cosmological argument, I do in fact find the premises more plausible than their opposites, and therefore I am convinced that it is a good argument.

I just don't regard the argument as the basis for my belief in God. I've been quite candid about that. My belief in God is a properly basic belief grounded in the inner witness of God's Holy Spirit. I find it odd that rather than being commended for my candor, I'm accused of hypocrisy.

I've elsewhere defended the proper basicality of belief in God on the basis of the Spirit's witness [4], but that's quite unnecessary here. For even if I were entirely mistaken about that, it would have no bearing on the worth of the kalam cosmological argument. To illustrate the point, suppose I believe that Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest of American presidents, and in order to convince you of this, I present to you the testimony of expert historians along with a detailed account of Lincoln's amazing accomplishments. But suppose that the real reason I think Lincoln was so great is because he had a beard, and I once had a beard and therefore am prejudiced in favor of bearded presidents. Obviously, my personal prejudice would have no bearing whatsoever upon the worth of the evidence for Lincoln's greatness.

Similarly, whatever reason I have personally for believing in God, whether it's the witness of the Holy Spirit or the ontological argument or the teleological argument or divine revelation, or whatever, that just has no relation to the soundness or the worth of the kalam cosmological argument. The skeptic may not like my taking belief in God as properly basic, but that's not a criticism of the kalam cosmological argument. That's at best a rejection of the proper basicality of belief in God, which has simple no bearing on the worth of the kalam argument.

Objection #2: The kalam cosmological argument is question-begging. For the truth of the first premise presupposes the truth of the conclusion. Therefore the argument is an example of reasoning in a circle.

Response to #2: All the objector has done is describe the nature of a deductive argument. In a deductive argument, the conclusion is implicit in the premises, waiting to be derived by the logical rules of inference. A classic illustration of a deductive argument is:

1. All men are mortal.

2. Socrates is a man.

3. Therefore, Socrates is moral.

This argument has the same logical form as the kalam cosmological argument. [5] In fact, this form of the argument even has a name. It is called modus ponens. Symbolically, it looks like this:

This is one of the most basic and important logically valid argument forms. Incredibly, I have actually seen claims by Internet critics that this argument about Socrates being mortal is also question-begging!

This raises the question of what it means for an argument to be question-begging. Technically, arguments don't beg the question; people do. One is guilty of begging the question if one's only reason for believing in a premise is that one already believes in the conclusion. For example, suppose you were to present the following argument for the existence of God:

1. Either God exists or the moon is made of green cheese.

2. The moon is not made of green cheese.

3. Therefore, God exists.

This is a sound argument for God's existence: its premises are both true, and the conclusion follows from the premises by the rules of logic (specifically, disjunctive syllogism). Nevertheless, the argument is not any good because your only reason for believing the first premise to be true is that you already believe that God exists (a disjunction like premise (1) is true if one of the disjuncts is true). But the belief that God exists is the conclusion of the argument! Therefore, in putting forward this argument you are reasoning in a circle or begging the question. The only reason you believe (1) is because you already believe (3).

Now neither the argument for Socrates' mortality nor the kalam argument is like this. In both cases reasons are given for believing the first premise which are quite independent of the argument's conclusion. Biological and medical evidence may be marshaled on behalf of the premise that all men are mortal, and I have presented arguments (which I'll review shortly) for the truth of the premise that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Therefore, I have not begging the question. The objector has made an elementary mistake of confusing a deductive argument with a question-begging argument.

Objection #3: The argument commits the fallacy of equivocation. In the first premise “cause” means “material cause,” while in the conclusion it does not.

Response to #3: This objection raises the question of what it means to commit the fallacy of equivocation. This fallacy is using a word in the same context with two different meanings. For example, suppose someone were to reason as follows:

1. Socrates was Greek

2. Greek is a language.

3. Therefore, Socrates is a language.

The untoward conclusion results from equivocating on the meaning of the word “Greek,” using it first to denote an ethnicity or nationality and later a language.

In formulating the kalam cosmological argument, I intended to speak of what Aristotle called efficient causes. Aristotle distinguished between efficient causes and material causes. An efficient cause is what brings an effect into being, what produces an effect in existence, while a material cause is the stuff out of which the thing is made. For example, Michelangelo was the efficient cause of the statue David, and the material cause of David was the block of marble that Michelangelo sculpted. My claim was that whatever begins to exist has an efficient cause and therefore the universe, having begun to exist, must have an efficient cause. The charge of equivocation immediately evaporates. [6]

These first three objections to the kalam cosmological argument, while not very scintillating, are among the very worst objections. Without challenging the truth of any of its premises, they attack what is a logically impeccable argument.

Objections to the First Premise

Objection #4: The first premise is based upon the fallacy of composition. It fallaciously infers that because everything in the universe has a cause, therefore the whole universe has a cause.

Response to #4: In order to understand this objection we need to understand the fallacy of composition. This is the fallacy of reasoning that because every part of a thing has a certain property, therefore the whole thing has that same property. While wholes do sometimes possess the properties of their parts (for example, a fence, every picket of which is green, is also green), this is not always the case. For example, every little part of an elephant may be light in weight, but that does not imply that the whole elephant is light in weight.

Now I have never argued that because every part of the universe has a cause, therefore the whole universe has a cause. That would be manifestly fallacious. Rather the reasons I have offered for thinking that everything that begins to exist has a cause are these:

1. Something cannot come from nothing. To claim that something can come into being out of nothing is worse than magic. When a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, at least you've got the magician, not to mention the hat! But if you deny premise (1) you've got to think that the whole universe just appeared at some point in the past for no reason whatsoever. But nobody sincerely believes that things, say, a horse or an Eskimo village, can just pop into being without a cause.

2. If something can come into being from nothing, then it becomes inexplicable why just anything or everything doesn't come into being from nothing. Think about it: why don't bicycles and Beethoven and root beer just pop into being from nothing? Why is it only universes that can pop into being from nothing? What makes nothingness so discriminatory? There can't be anything about nothingness that favors universes, for nothingness doesn't have any properties. Nor can anything constrain nothingness, since there isn't anything to be constrained!

3. Common experience and scientific evidence confirm the truth of premise (1). Premise (1) is constantly verified and never falsified. It is hard to understand how any atheist committed to modern science could deny that premise (1) is more plausibly true than false in light of the evidence. [7]

Note well that the third reason is an appeal to inductive reasoning, not reasoning by composition. It's drawing an inductive inference about all the members of a class of things based on a sample of the class. Inductive reasoning undergirds all of science and is not to be confused with reasoning by composition, which is a fallacy.

So this objection is aimed at a straw man of the objector's own construction.

Objection #5: If the universe began to exist, then it must have come from nothing. That is quite plausible, since there are no constraints on nothing, and so nothing can do anything, including producing the universe.

Response to #5: This objector seems to be hopelessly confused about the use of the world “nothing.” When it is rightly said that nothing preceded the universe, one doesn't mean that something preceded it, and that was nothing. [8] We mean that it was not preceded by anything. Reifying negative terms has been the butt of jokes as old as Homer's story of the Cyclops and Odysseus. Imagine, if you will, the following dialogue between two people discussing the Second World War:

“Nothing stopped the German advance from sweeping across Belgium.”

“Oh, that's good. I'm glad it was stopped.”

“But it wasn't stopped!”

“But you said that nothing stopped it.”

“That's right, nothing stopped it..”

“That's what I said. It was stopped, and it was nothing that stopped it.”

“No, no, I meant they it wasn't stopped by anything.”

“Well, then why didn't you say so in the first place?”

The objector, in thinking that nothing produced the universe, seems to be guilty of exactly the same sort of mistake. Nothingness has no properties, no powers; it isn't even anything. Therefore, it is wholly misconceived to say it produced the universe.

To say the universe was caused by nothing is to say the universe had no cause; it wasn't caused by anything. That is surely metaphysically absurd. Out of nothing, nothing comes. This is a classical principle of metaphysics that goes back to at least Plato. In his classic dialogue, the Timaeus, Plato wrote the following:

We must in my opinion begin by distinguishing between that which always is and never becomes and that which is always becoming and never is . . . everything that becomes or changes must do so owing to some cause; for nothing can come to be without a cause. . . . As for the world – call it that or 'cosmos' or any other name acceptable to it – we must ask about it the question one is bound to ask to begin with about anything; whether it has always existed and had no beginning, or whether it has come into existence and started from some beginning. The answer is that it has come into being. . . . And what comes into being or changes must do so, we said, owing to some cause. [9]

Thus, the first premise of the kalam cosmological argument is one of the oldest and most widely recognized truths of metaphysics.

Objections to the Second Premise

Objection #6: Nothing ever begins to exist! For the material of which a thing consists precedes it. So it is not true that the universe began to exist.

Response to #6: I think this is my favorite bad objection, since the assertion that nothing ever begins to exist is so patently ridiculous. Did I exist before I was conceived? If so, where was I? What was I doing during the Jurassic period? Has the Word Trade Center always existed? If so, why didn't the Native Americans ever noticed it?

This objection obviously confuses a thing with the matter or stuff of which the thing is made. Just because the stuff of which something was made has always existed doesn't imply that the thing itself has always existed.

Since writing this talk, it has occurred to me that the objector could save himself from the embarrassment of affirming that he has always existed by adopting what is called mereological nihilism, which is the view that there are no composite objects. That is to say, all that exists are just fundamental particles which are arranged in various ways. So in fact there really are no chairs or tables or horses or people or palm trees. There are just fundamental particles, which are arranged chair-wise or table-wise or people-wise. So in denying that he ever began to exist, the objector isn't affirming that he has always existed but rather what he is denying is that he ever does exist.

So in this case the cure is really worse than the disease. Because now instead of saying he has always existed what the objector has to say is that he doesn't exist. The objector literally does not exist. [10] If that is the case, then it might make us wonder why we should bother responding to him if he doesn't exist. What this implies is that in fact literally nobody has ever raised this objection because there aren't any people. But this is surely absurd. Am I to affirm that I do not exist?

It reminds me of the undergraduate student who had been reading Descartes and burst into his professor's office early one morning, bleary-eyed and unshaven – obviously he'd been up all night. He was very distraught and he said, “Professor, tell me, Do I exist?” The professor looked at him a moment and then said, “Who wants to know?” The idea that one does not exist is surely metaphysically absurd. It seems to me that this is simply to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

The serious point of this muddled objection, I think, is its presupposition that everything that begins to exist has a material cause. But that claim is irrelevant to the truth of the two premises of the kalam cosmological argument and requires proof in any case. It is true, I think, that in our experience material things do not begin to exist without material causes, so we do have the same sort of inductive evidence on behalf of material causation as we have for efficient causation. But if we have good arguments and evidence that the material realm had an absolute beginning preceded by nothing, this can override the inductive evidence. What we cannot reasonably say, I think, is that the universe sprang into being without either an efficient or a material cause, since being does not come from nonbeing. But there is no sort of metaphysical absurdity involved in somethings having an efficient cause but no material cause.

Objection #7: The argument equivocates on “begins to exist.” In premise (1) it means to begin “from a previous material state,” but in premise (2) it means “not from a material state.”

Response to #7: In order to defeat the allegation of equivocation all one needs to do is provide a univocal meaning for the phrase in both its occurrences. That's easy to do. By “begins to exist” all I mean is “comes into being.” Everything that comes into begin has a cause, and the universe came into being. No equivocation here!

If we want to, we can go further and provide an analysis of what it means to begin to exist. Here is one such analysis:

x begins to exist if and only if x exists at some time t and there is no time t* prior to t at which x exists.

This analysis is adequate for all practical purposes. It would allow even time itself to begin to exist. It would become problematic only in case one thinks that God is timeless without creation and enters time at the moment of creation. In such a case God would exist at the first moment of time t0 and there would be no time t* < t0 at which God existed. It would follow from our analysis that God began to exist at t0, which is wrong-headed, since God did not come into being at t0. Fortunately, this problem is easily fixed by amending our analysis as follows:

x begins to exist if and only if x exists at some time t and there is no time t* prior to t at which x exists and no state of affairs in the actual world in which x exists timelessly

So amended, the analysis does not imply that God began to exist at the first moment of time if he enters time from a state of timelessness at the moment of creation.

In sum, the objections to the second premise are just as bad as the objections to the first. The second premise is certainly a controversial premise and is open to debate but not for the reasons alleged here. [11]

Objections to the Argument's Conclusion

Objection #8: The argument is logically self-contradictory. For it says that everything has a cause yet it concludes that there is a first uncaused cause.

Response to #8: Man, how do people think these things up? Premise (1) states that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Something cannot come into being without a cause. This premise does not require that something that is eternal and never had a beginning has a cause (think again of Plato's distinction between that which always is and that which comes into being). The objector has been inattentive to the formulation of the first premise.

Notice that this is not special pleading for God. The atheist has typically said that the universe itself is eternal and uncaused. Matter and energy have existed from eternity past and so have no cause of their being. The problem is: that supposition has now been rendered dubious in light of the strong arguments in support of premise (2) that the universe began to exist.

Objection #9: The cause mentioned in the argument's conclusion is not different from nothing. For timelessness, changelessness, spacelessness, etc., are all purely negative attributions which are also true of nothingness. Thus, the argument might as well be taken to prove that the universe came into being from nothing.

Response to #9: You've got to be kidding. The argument concludes to a cause of the universe. That is a positive existential affirmation: there is a cause of the universe. To say that the universe was caused by nothing, by contrast, is to affirm that it was not caused by anything, or in other words, the universe is uncaused, which is the very opposite of the argument’s conclusion.

Moreover, the argument's conclusion also implies the attribution of incredible causal power to this entity that brought the universe into being without any sort of material cause. It is therefore wholly different from nothing, which has no reality, no properties, and no causal powers.

Finally, the attribution of negative predicates like timelessness, changelessness, spacelessness, and so on to this entity is enormously informative and metaphysically significant. From its timelessness and immateriality, I've argued we can deduce its personhood. [12] This is a positive property of great significance and theological importance and utterly unlike nothingness.

Objection #10: Our tenth and final bad objection comes courtesy of that enfant terrible of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins. He doesn't dispute either premise of the kalam cosmological argument. Instead he just complains about the argument's conclusion. He writes,

Even if we allow the dubious luxury of arbitrarily conjuring up a terminator to an infinite regress and giving it a name, there is absolutely no reason to endow that terminator with any of the properties normally ascribed to God: omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, creativity of design, to say nothing of such human attributes as listening to prayers, forgiving sins and reading innermost thoughts. [13]

Response to #10: Apart from the opening dig, this is an amazingly concessionary statement. Dawkins doesn't deny that the argument successfully demonstrates the existence of an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, spaceless, timeless, and unimaginably powerful, personal Creator of the universe. He merely complains that this cause hasn't also been shown to be omnipotent, omniscient, good, creative of design, listening to prayers, forgiving sins, and reading innermost thoughts. [14] So what? The argument doesn't aspire to prove those things. It would be a bizarre form of atheism – indeed, one not worth the name – that conceded that there exists an uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful, personal Creator of the universe who may, for all we know, also possess all the properties listed by Dawkins! We needn't call the personal Creator of the universe “God” if Dawkins finds this unhelpful or misleading but the point remains that a being such as described must exist.


So there you have them: the world's 10 all-time worst! These represent the level of discourse that pervades the Internet and YouTube. You can see how worthless they are. I hope you don't feel that I’ve wasted you time. For in discussing these bad objections I hope that you've gained a better understanding of the sort of fallacies which are alleged against the argument along with some deeper insight into the argument itself.

QUESTION: Would you say that the Big Bang proves the kalam cosmological argument?

DR. CRAIG: I would say that the Big Bang is evidence for the second premise of the argument. I think it is important to be careful in stating it that way because often you will get accused of a god-of-the-gaps sort of reasoning. But I am not using the Big Bang to prove God. I am using the Big Bang to prove the second premise that the universe began to exist which is a religiously neutral statement that can be found in any textbook on astronomy and astrophysics. So the way I would present the scientific evidence is that scientific evidence can support a premise in an argument for a conclusion having religious significance.

QUESTION: These academic objections are fairly recent, I guess. Before, you didn't really want to dignify them with a response pretty much but now you find yourself having to respond to these types of objections. Do you think that the culture of the last thirty years has dumbed down to the point where they are making these kinds of arguments?

DR. CRAIG: That is a really hard judgment to make. Although I think these are very bad arguments, at least there is this kind of debate going on. I am not aware that, say, back in the 50s or even the 60s that these sorts of debates were taking place. So while these are kind of low level, at least there is this interaction, this roiling, bubbling caldron of discussion. So I am not sure it is a dumbing down frankly. I think the culture has always been kind of dumb. But I see it in a sense as the culture is getting more interested in these things. I really see it as a positive thing. It is just that we need to help a lot of these infidel types to realize that they haven't mastered the literature. They don't know the scholarly work and that their objections are pseudo-intellectual. I mean it sounds intellectual, doesn't it? The fallacy of composition, the fallacy of equivocation, begging-the-question. These sound like they are really academic, intellectual arguments. But it is really pseudo-intellectual misunderstandings if you really understand what those fallacies are.

QUESTION: How would you answer the objection that the cause could be another universe like in the multiverse – string theory?

DR. CRAIG: On two levels, I think you can answer that. Philosophically – the philosophical arguments against an infinite regress apply to any series of events whether they are in this universe or a sort of embedding multiverse or whatever. If there can't be an actually infinite number of past events there has to go back to an absolute beginning. So philosophically, the metaphysical arguments just aren't affected by the size of the universe. In terms of the scientific evidence, this is all in the discussion. Multiverse models, higher dimensional models, brane cosmologies, inflationary cosmologies. This isn't foreign to the discussion. This is all part of the discussion. In my published work, I interact with these multiverse models and try to show how they are empirically inadequate or untenable or imply the very beginning that they were meant to avoid. [15] A very significant development was the discovery in 2003 by Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexandar Vilenkin of a theorem which proves that any universe which is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past.  [16]  And their theorem applies to the multiverse as well as to our universe. So even if there is a multiverse, it can't be infinite in the past and must have had a beginning. So if you look at the work that I've done with James Sinclair, for example, in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, you will find a thorough discussion of all of these higher dimensional and multiverse cosmologies.

QUESTION: On various places on your website you bring up the tensed versus the tenseless theory of time and you mentioned that were one to adopt the B-Theory that would constitute a defeater of the first premise of the kalam as you present it because it presupposes an A-Theory and on a B-Theory things don't actually come into being. I did wonder if one were a B-Theorist (if you were to pretend to be a B-Theorist for a moment) could you formulate a defensible version of the kalam? For example, could you say every event has a cause, the beginning of the universe was an event, so therefore the universe has a cause?

DR. CRAIG: Let's clarify this for those who are not familiar with the terminology. There are two broad theories of time. One is what we might call the A-Theory which is a dynamic theory of time. Things come into being and then go out of being. Temporal becoming is real. The other theory is called the B-Theory which is a sort of static theory and says that events in the past, the present, and the future are all equally real. Time is like a line stretched out and temporal becoming is just an illusion of human consciousness. It is just our subjective location on the time line but in fact there is no real present, no real now. Time is space-like, if you will. What he suggested is that, on my view, if time is like the B-Theory then I don't see any reason to think that the beginning of the universe would require a cause because the universe never really comes into being. The universe as a whole – the four-dimensional spacetime block – just exists timelessly. And to say it has a beginning just means the block has a front edge and I can't see any reason to think that in virtue of having a front edge it needs a cause. I would say the same if you do it in terms of event causation. Why would you need a cause for that first event on a B-Theory? That is why I have spent an enormous amount of time in discussing the differences between the A- and the B-Theory and giving a very robust metaphysical defense of the A-Theory of time because I do think this is the truth. I think my commitment to the reality of temporal becoming is probably second philosophically only to my belief in God. I just can't imagine anything that could be more evident than the reality of the passage of time and the reality of the present. If there is somebody who can make the kalam argument work on a B-Theory, boy, all the more power to him. I say go to it. But for my hunch, I don't see that it works if you are a B-Theorist. I think instead what you would do is appeal to the Leibnizian version of the cosmological argument – namely, why is there something rather than nothing? Why does this contingent, four-dimensional spacetime thing exist rather than nothing? I think that will lead you then via Leibniz' reasoning to God as a metaphysically necessary sufficient reason for the existence of this spacetime block.

QUESTION: I have watched a lot of the debates that you have done and a lot of the lectures you have given over the years on YouTube and various other places and I really have yet to see anyone come up with any good arguments against the existence of God by the standards you argue and the way that you formulate your arguments and the objections that they come up with. I was wondering, in your opinion, what would be the best objections that you've come across to this argument and what would be the rebuttals that you've used. [17]

DR. CRAIG: I think the best objections would be probably arguments from the appearance of gratuitous evil and suffering in the world. That is very powerful emotionally and I think we all have difficulty when we see something like a little child suffer horribly an apparently gratuitous death. What I would simply say is what I've said in my books like Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview that it is neither inconsistent with God's existence nor does it render God's existence improbable to see those sorts of events because God could have morally sufficient reasons for those which we do not discern within our lifetime and our limited sphere of knowledge. I think it is not at all improbable that only in a world that is suffused with natural and moral evil would the maximal number of people freely come to find him and his salvation and so eternal life. So that God permits all this evil and suffering only with a view toward maximizing the number of people in the Kingdom of God. The other objection would be probably arguments based on the impossibility of mind-body interaction. These would be your traditional monistic arguments against dualism. How can the mind influence the body? How can an immaterial substance have effects in the material body? That, writ large, how can God have effects upon the world? There really isn't an answer to that in one sense because the dualist doesn't claim that there is any sort of intermediate linkage between the mind and the body or between God and the world – it is a direct action. What I would appeal to there, I suppose, would be simply to say we have good reasons for believing that dualism is true about ourselves. That we are immaterial selves or substances endowed with intentionality and free will and that we experience by acquaintance our ability to cause effects in our body and in the world. Although we do not understand how this happens, we know it happens and therefore that is enough to say that it is also possible for God as an immaterial self to have direct effects in the world which would be analogous to direct actions that we would have in our body.

QUESTION: I noticed that there were two objections of equivocation that you discussed. I am going to try a third one and see what you say. I believe that Paul Draper alleged that in the first premise of the kalam argument it is actually anything that begins to exist within time has a cause and premise two is that the universe began to exist with time and that we've never actually seen anything begin to exist with time like the standard model is saying that the universe did. So he is saying we really don't have any reason to say that it is more likely that the universe which began with time instead of within time actually did so.

DR. CRAIG: That is not really an argument that alleges I am equivocating. I think really what that is is just an argument against the truth of the first premise that everything that begins to exist has a cause. He is saying that that premise is true with respect to things in time but it is not true of the universe which originates with time. And I think that that is simply a distinction without a difference. The first premise is based, as Plato saw in his metaphysical intuition, that being cannot come from nonbeing. It is just immaterial whether the thing that comes into being was preceded by a time in which it didn't exist. How could that even be relevant to its coming into being or not. In fact, it would seem lke it would be more difficult for something to come into being out of nothing if there wasn't anything prior to it. On an A-Theory of time, in which temporal becoming is real, every moment of time is, in essence, like a fresh beginning because the past is gone. There isn't anything prior to it. So, I can't see that there is any metaphysical difference of any consequence between something coming into being from nothing in time and something coming into being at the first moment of time. [18] In either case, something can't come from nothing. What he's asking us to believe is that the universe can just pop into being out of nothing. I think the three arguments that I gave would all apply to that. It is worse than magic – if that is the case, then why is it just universes that pop into being at the beginning of time, why wasn't it Beethoven or something? And the third one, this is always verified and never falsified. I suppose that wouldn't apply because he would say we don't have anything at the beginning of time so perhaps that would undercut the inductive argument to a degree, I guess. But it wouldn't affect the other two – the metaphysical arguments.

QUESTION: I believe it was objection #6, talking about that things don't actually come into existence and you had given the possibility of mereological nihilism. But, according to that quote you gave of Plato, is that even possible because it speaks of changing and alteration as well needing a cause? So even if it is just an arrangement of particles, those particles still changed to different arrangements. To avoid it, would they have devolve all the way to a sort of pantheism where there actually is no distinction and any kind of entity?

DR. CRAIG: This is a very good question. I was ad libbing at that point in my lecture this evening. I had intended to say a further comment but I neglected because I didn't have notes. And that is, we can actually reformulate or rephrase the kalam argument to meet the scruples of the mereological nihilist. And it would go like this:

1' If the fundamental particles arranged universe-wise began to exist, they have a cause.

2' The fundamental particles arranged universe-wise began to exist.

3' Therefore, the fundamental particles arranged universe-wise have a cause.

So you can simply reformulate the argument to meet the demands of the mereological nihilist whose view in any case, I think, is absolutely mad. As I say, I at least exist even if nothing else does. But we can really rephrase the argument in such a way as to not assume that the universe is a composite object.

Well, thank you very much for coming and sharing this time this evening. [19]

  • [1]

    See, e.g., William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), pp. 73-104; and idem, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. rev. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), pp. 111-56.

  • [2]


  • [3]


  • [4]

    Craig, Reasonable Faith, pp. 43-51.

  • [5]


  • [6]


  • [7]

    Craig, On Guard, p. 78.

  • [8]


  • [9]

    Plato, Timaeus 27-28

  • [10]


  • [11]


  • [12]

    Craig, On Guard, pp. 99-100; and Reasonable Faith, pp. 152-54.

  • [13]

    Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006), p. 77.

  • [14]


  • [15]


  • [16]

  • [17]


  • [18]


  • [19]

    Total Running Time: 57:57 (Copyright (c) 2010 William Lane Craig)