Does God Exist? The Kalām Argument
There is a problem with Aristotle’s argument. Aristotle believed the universe is eternal. It had no beginning. That’s the problem. Science no longer supports Aristotle’s understanding of the universe.
Our universe is finite. It had a beginning. And it’s composed of finite stuff. Everything formed in this universe is finite. Infinite and finite entities have little in common. They are completely different.
We assume someday our universe will come to an end. But what if our universe continues into the future forever? Would it ever be infinite? No. Why? Because our universe had a beginning. Our universe began to exist. Scientists say that happened about 14 billion years ago. Fourteen billion years is a long time. But it’s not infinity.
The Problem with Space and Time
Space and time are conditions of finite matter. If the universe were infinite, it would be an infinity in space and time. That is not possible. So how did we get here in the first place?
Remember two previous sections titled “Infinity Never Ends” and “Eternity from the Beginning?” If you skipped over them, go back and read them. Remember the library with an infinite number of books? If you took a million books from that library, how many books would be left? An infinite number of books.
Now suppose you took that finite segment of a million books. Could that be made into a sub-section within the infinite library? The sub-section would have a beginning and an end. It could have the properties of a finite set. But its beginning and end would merge into the totality of infinity.
Is it possible for an infinitely powerful Being to make a finite section within infinity or eternity? Yes! Would this alter the totality of infinity or eternity? No! The infinity would still be infinite. The eternity would continue as an eternity. But a sub-section has been designated. Within that sub-section our powerful Being could create space and time.
But what sort of Being could do that? Who could possibly have such power? An infinite Being creates a finite universe? That Being must be God.
Our universe began to exist. Aristotle’s Cosmological Argument no longer fits with the science. Can we adapt his argument to this new understanding of the universe? Can we use it to prove the existence of God for a universe that began to exist?
In fact, the proof we need already exists. It’s called the Kalām Argument. This Argument has been around for more than a thousand years.
Wait a minute! The Big Bang Theory helped scientists discover the finite nature of our universe. That theory is less than one hundred years old. Why did the Kalām Argument predate the scientific “discovery” by a thousand years? How did these philosophers and theologians beat science by a thousand years?
Philosophers from a Faith Tradition
Greek philosophy declined after Aristotle. The Golden Age of Athens was gone. New Greek philosophers came along. None of them are as famous as Aristotle. Rome also produced some philosophers. Greek and Roman philosophy just muddled on. Never again would they own the top places in philosophy.
New philosophies developed and grew. The Jewish faith blossomed across the Roman Empire. Christianity arose within Judaism. It surpassed its Jewish origin. But Christianity never abandoned its Jewish roots. The Hebrew Scriptures became the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. Then Islam arose in the seventh century. It accepted portions of both the Old and New Testaments as holy writ.
What happened when Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers ran into Aristotle’s theory? Aristotle believed the atoms of the universe are eternal. But what does the Bible say? Genesis 1: 1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s right, God created! According to the New Testament:
“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11: 3 (NAS)
Aristotle’s cosmological argument needed some adjustments. God’s Word bore witness to a creator God.
Christian philosopher John Philoponus (490-570) was first to take a swing at Aristotle. He tried to adapt Greek and Christian philosophy. Around A.D. 550 he wrote a theological work called “On the Creation of the World.” It commented on the Bible’s story of creation, adding the insights of Greek philosophers. The next philosopher to consider modifying Aristotle’s argument was Muslim.
Al-Kindi (c. A.D. 801-873) was arguably the greatest Muslim philosopher. He is known as the “father of Arabic philosophy.” He tried to combine Greek philosophy with Islam’s theology. He also demonstrated that the universe cannot be infinite. Time and space are sequential-–one part following another. No matter how many parts you add, you can always add another. There is no true, actual infinity in the universe.
Rabbi Sa’adiah ben Josel Gaon (A.D. 882/892-942) came next. He was the first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Arabic. He is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. He also is one of the founders of a Jewish philosophical school known as the “Jewish Kalām.”
Al-Gahazi (c. A.D. 1058-1111) is perhaps the second most influential Muslim of all time. Only the prophet Muhammad is more influential. Muslims consider him a Mujaddid–a renewer of the faith. He wrote against Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato. Greek writers were non-believers. He had an influence on Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1225–1274).
Saint Bonaventure (A.D. 1221-1274) lived during the years of Aquinas. He fought Aristotle’s belief in the eternity of the universe. The Kalām argument was forgotten following the days of Scholasticism.
But today the Kalām argument is making a comeback. Its foremost advocate today is William Lane Craig. Craig is a well-known seminary professor and Christian apologist. His web site is http://www.reasonablefaith.org. You may want to visit this web site. Kalām is a version of the Cosmological argument that supports the teachings of the Bible.
So, what is it? Why is this Kalām argument important? Why have so many of us never heard of it before?
The Kalām Cosmological Argument
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” For the Christian that’s how it all began. Muslims and Jews agree. God created the heavens and the earth.
The Kalām argument was named after the Kalām tradition of Islamic philosophy. The Arabic word Kalām means “words, discussion, discourse.” This argument is expressed through formal logic.
The Kalām argument establishes the creation of the universe. Sorry, Aristotle, the universe is not eternal. Logically, this is why. Here is the Kalām argument in its classical form.
The Classic Kalām Argument
1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence; Therefore:
3. The universe has a cause of its existence.
Aristotle said the atoms of the universe are eternal. Something caused motion in the universe. The motion caused change. The atoms came together. Complex substances formed. Voilà! The world exists!
How Can Something Begin to Exist?
Kalām is different. The first proposition is common sense. Everything that began to exist had to be caused by something. Universes do not just pop into existence. There must be a cause. Science says the cause is a singularity. Faith says the cause is God.
Science says the universe is the result of an exploding singularity? Ok, science, what caused the singularity? Must have been God. What caused God? Nothing. God never began to exist. Both Greek logic and the logic of faith agree on this point. An eternal “something” must exist. Faith calls that eternal something God. Logic says He must exist eternally.
So everything that begins to exist is caused to exist. What next?
Infinity: That Unavoidable Concept
“The universe has a beginning of its existence.” Why? Who says so? Why must the universe have a beginning?
For a very simple reason, my friends. The universe exists in space and time. Space and time cannot produce an actual infinity. Our space and time universe cannot be eternal or infinite. Logically speaking,
1. An actual infinity cannot exist in space and time.
2. Our universe exists in space and time.
3. Our universe is not infinite – it never will become an actual infinity.
The universe is not eternal or infinite. Therefore, the universe began to exist.
Therefore . . .
Something caused the universe to exist. That something is God.
An Improvement Over Aristotle?
Is the Kalām argument and improvement over Aristotle? Yes, for the Christian. This argument is consistent with Biblical revelation. It also is based on logic.
Few people surpass Aristotle. The breadth and depth of his knowledge is matched by few others. However, some of his findings are surpassed by better logical arguments. Kalām is one of those arguments.