Home > Apologetics > The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God


This is one of my favorite arguments for the existence of a creator God, and I really hope not to butcher it too much here. I could just point you to apologists’ articles on this topic, but I think it’s fair that my blog should contain these kinds of materials directly. Plus, I can communicate my own interpretative thoughts here.

I will say that because of this argument’s frequent use (it has existed in some form or another for centuries) and its inherent power, plenty of people have tried to debunk it as fallacious or speculative. No argument is perfect, but I’ve found that there are no satisfactory responses to this one. People will often post videos or write articles claiming to have proved it false, but what they fail to realize is that their counterpoints have already been addressed elsewhere. The finer points won’t often show up in debates due to the lack of time…but just because they are not mentioned in those settings doesn’t mean that the apologists haven’t thought it through or written about it.

That being said, this is the layout of the argument. You can see that if the premises are true (or more likely to be true than false), then the conclusion logically follows.

Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Premise #2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe had a cause.

What also follows from this logical argument is that the cause of the universe must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, unimaginably powerful, and personal. These attributes all describe a creator God, but we’ll get to that…

Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

“Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”

At the most basic, scientific level, you and I began to exist because of the union of sperm and egg. The sperm and the egg were formed out of biological functions in our parents’ bodies, fueled and constructed from foods they ate. Getting away from biology for a moment, we also know that a rainstorm cannot happen without preexisting conditions of humidity and such. A car comes to existence by manufacturing and design processes.

Simply put, we have never witnessed an exception to this rule throughout observational history. For a premise in an argument to be true, it must be “more plausibly true than not,” and I think this premise is a strong candidate for plausibility.

Premise #2: The universe began to exist.

There are basically three proofs for this premise that are virtually irrefutable. We only need to establish a more-likely-than-not level of certainty, but again, this one is pretty much knocked out of the park.

First, the Big Bang model shows us that the universe began to exist about 13.7 billion years ago, exploding out from a singularity. This theory was first espoused by Georges Lemaitre in 1927, but it was Edwin Hubble’s work on a telescope that provided the first observational evidence in support of this theory in 1929. Since then, science has continually confirmed this theory to a degree of high certainty. It is the most widely accepted theory of the beginning of the universe today. This disproves earlier scientists’ claims that the universe was eternal.

Second, the Second Law of Thermodynamics demonstrates to us that any closed system (like our universe) will increase in entropy over time, and that this is an irreversible process. Scientists have determined that our universe is actually headed—in a finite amount of time—toward a state of maximum entropy, which will result in the end of all life once this “heat death” is achieved. Now, the question is, if this is going to occur in a finite amount of time, why hasn’t this already occurred if our universe is eternal? The logical and unavoidable conclusion is that our universe has NOT been around forever.

Third, an actual infinite number of anything cannot exist. An infinite past for the universe and an infinite number of events that have already taken place is logically untenable. As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Hilbert’s Hotel demonstrates the impossibility of infinity beautifully, as does our common sense.

(I love the intentional irony of Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase, “To infinity and beyond!”)

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe had a cause.

If our first two premises are correct and the logical progression is valid, then the conclusion follows that the universe had a cause.

OK great, big deal. Now what?

Well, we know from the big bang theory that the universe began to exist billions of years ago. What we also know with modern science is the inextricably tied nature of space, matter, and time. These things all began to exist at the big bang, even time itself (I know, it’s pretty much impossible to comprehend).

So, this means that whatever caused the creation/beginning of the universe must be outside the bounds of space, matter, and time. Therefore, it must be spaceless, immaterial, and timeless.

Again, hard to grasp, but necessarily true. Next, this cause or creator must be unimaginably powerful, since it had the capability to create a universe from nothing (and not only that, but finely tuned all of the initial conditions that were required for life, but that’s another proof entirely).

Finally, this cause must be personal. Why is that? Well, the only immaterial and spaceless things we know of are abstract objects (like numbers) and an unembodied mind. But abstract objects cannot cause anything in themselves, so we’re left with an unimaginably powerful mind. Unlike our human minds, which can “create” thoughts, plans, and intentions seemingly from nothing…this mind must have been powerful enough to create the universe from a willful decision.

Consider a cause that is not deliberate or personal, like freezing weather conditions (which cause things to freeze). If the temperature is low enough, water will necessarily freeze. The weather cannot decide whether or not that water will freeze; it just will by necessity.

But a personal cause can decide upon an effect apart from necessity. There were no necessary reasons for space, matter, and time to have come about from a spaceless, immaterial, and timeless cause. The existence of the universe didn’t need to follow from any preexisting conditions. If the universe was necessary (and by that, I don’t mean its usefulness, but rather logical necessity of existence), it would have always existed with the cause, and would therefore be eternal. But we know this isn’t the case.

In summary (not to beat you over the head with it)…the “cause” of the universe was spaceless, immaterial, timeless, unimaginably powerful, and personal. This aptly describes a creator God, which is the most plausible conclusion one can draw from logic and science itself.

That’s it in a nutshell!

  1. May 20, 2011 at 12:19 am

    From my experience, many atheists get a kick out of asking the theist “Well, who created God?” yet they never seem too keen on answering “Who created the Universe? How did it come about? What ‘natural laws’ coincide with matter coming from non-mattee, from something out of nothing?”

    And what answer to I get? Nothing, or at least nothing seemingly rational.

    • May 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

      Precisely! While we can’t know anything with 100% certainty, a creator that fits the description of God seems to be the most logical and plausible.

      That whole “who created God” question, to put it in Dawkins’ own words, is a silly question. 1) You don’t need an explanation of the explanation to know that it’s the best; and 2) a timeless, necessary cause/creator could not be preceded by anything. Or if someone could believe in an actual infinite, there would need to be an infinite regress of creators/gods, which makes far less sense than the simpler solution. Occam’s Razor comes into play here.

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