Thursday, April 28, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

When we think of Evolution we tend to think of Darwin, Hitchens and Dawkins, but evolutionary theory is nothing new. You might be surprised to learn that the early Church Fathers were quite familiar with the concept and wrote against it. Sadly, today many Christians have given ground to atheism, not understanding the many arguments against it, nor how to present those arguments. While it is beyond the scope of an article as brief as this to offer a detailed explanation of each of them, what I will do is examine just one of them- the Cosmological Argument. Essentially, the Cosmological Argument logically posits the following: Anything that exists must have an explanation for its existence. The universe exists. Therefore, the universe must have an explanation for its existence. I will start with Leibniz's Cosmological Argument. Leibniz offers the following logical argument:

1. *Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence. It is either necessary (its own explanation) or has an external cause.
2. *If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God. *God by definition is self-existent, independent, and necessary.

3. The universe exists.
4. *The universe has an explanation of its existence. *It is not self-existent or necessary.

5. Therefore, the explanation of the universe is God.

The early Church Fathers understood these principles, though they stated them in a different way. For example:

"Any person who sees a ship on the sea rigged and in sail, and heading for the harbor, will no doubt infer that there is a pilot in her who is steering her. Likewise, we must perceive that God is the Pilot of the whole universe.."- Theophilus

The Kalam Cosmological Argument, my personal favorite, addresses the issue in a more simple manner. It states:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a Cause.- Science has no experience of something coming from nothing. If indeed something could come from nothing, why do we not see things "popping" into existence even now? Scientifically, this premise is verified by observation and basic common sense.

"I cannot understand how so many distinguished men have been of the opinion that matter...was uncreated. That is, it was not formed by God Himself, who is the Creator of all things. Rather, they say that its nature and power were the result of chance...thinking that so great a work as the universe could exist without an architect or overseer."- Origen

"It is more believable that matter was made by God (because He is all powerful) than to believe that the world was not made by God. For nothing can be made without mind, intelligence and design." - Lactantius

2. The universe began to exist.- *If the universe always existed, as some of the New Atheists claim, then an (actually) infinite number of past events occurred prior to today. But that is impossible, since an infinite number could never be reached (in actuality). *You can’t pass through an infinite number of elements one at a time. *If you can’t count to infinity, then you can’t down from infinity. The fact that the universe is expanding demonstrates that it had a beginning. The beginning of the universe is, then, the beginning of time. 

"God completed the world and this admirable work of nature in the space of six days, as is contained in the secrets of Holy Scripture."- Lactantius

3. Therefore, the universe has a Cause.- On the basis of both science and philosophy, we understand the universe has a beginning, and that anything that has a beginning has a Cause. Thus, the universe cannot be self caused, as atheists would have it. In fact, all evidence points to a Transcendent Cause, which is itself "uncaused". Why? Because an infinite number of causes is impossible. The Cause must also be Immaterial, non-physical and unimaginably powerful! And finally, the Cause must be personal, as intellect, will, desire, etc. all must have been factors in creation, and these are only characteristics of a personal Being. Only a mind could be immaterial, transcendent, non-physical and all powerful. *A personal cause is the only way to explain how a timeless cause can produce a temporal effect (beginning of the universe). Without a will, there would be no permanent cause without a permanent effect. *A personal being with freedom of the will could bring about something spontaneous and new, such as the creation of the universe. The magnificent order and beauty of the universe point to a personal, all powerful, transcendent God.

"Who can bear to hear it said that this mighty habitation, which is composed of heaven and earth, and is called the "cosmos",...was established in all its order and beauty by those atoms that hold their course- devoid of order and beauty? Or, that this same state of disorder has grown into this true cosmos of order?"- Dionysius of Alexandria

I join with the early Church Fathers in my confident assertion that the Genesis account of creation is true, and to be taken literally.

"It is dangerous to wholly disdain the literal meaning...particularly of Genesis, where the unchangeable decrees of God for the constitution of the universe are set forth."- Methodius


*All Patristic quotes are taken from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot- Editor. Copyright 1998

2 comments:

  1. Are you Orthodox? Orthodoxy holds to a form of Panentheism. The conclusion of the Cosmological argument does not work with a Panentheist God. The Cosmological argument only works for a classical theistic God.

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  2. No, I'm not a member of any ethnic Orthodox church. I'm orthodox in the classic sense that the Ante-Nicene Fathers were orthodox. Panentheism is easily refuted by the Ecumenical Councils, as well as Sacred Scripture and the early Church Fathers. One of the problems in ethnic Orthodoxy is exactly what you've mentioned- an absorption of pagan and gnostic elements. So while the Cosmological Argument might not work well against a panentheist, panentheism itself does not meet the criteria of the theology of the historic church, so the point is really moot.

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