When Vs How

What makes the two arguments different? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was recently engaged with someone on the Kalam argument who was arguing with someone else. I jumped in asking if he was arguing against the horizontal form or the vertical form. He didn’t know the difference, but he said it doesn’t matter since the whole premise is faulty about the universe beginning to exist.

Pro-tip: If you admit you don’t know the differences between two arguments, it’s highly recommended to not act like you know what the premises are to the unknown argument.

Many of you know the Kalam from someone like William Lane Craig.

Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
The universe began to exist.
The universe has a cause.

The form is entirely valid. I don’t know anyone who disputes the form. There might be some atheist out there who does, but I haven’t seen it yet.

The problem is a number of atheists ask a lot of questions.

“How do you know the universe began to exist?”

“What about the multiverse?”

“What caused God?”

To get into any of these, you often have to go beyond science into metaphysics.

Which is why I value the vertical way. It doesn’t depend on modern science at all. I don’t think the universe is eternal, but that wouldn’t change the Kalam working that I use. Now some might think that Aquinas used this and he did believe that the universe had a beginning. Indeed he did, but that wasn’t a premise he used in his arguments for the existing of God that were based on empirical knowledge alone.

If we look at Q. 46 Art. 2 of the Summa in the “On the contrary”, he says:

On the contrary, The articles of faith cannot be proved demonstratively, because faith is of things “that appear not” (Hebrews 11:1). But that God is the Creator of the world: hence that the world began, is an article of faith; for we say, “I believe in one God,” etc. And again, Gregory says (Hom. i in Ezech.), that Moses prophesied of the past, saying, “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”: in which words the newness of the world is stated. Therefore the newness of the world is known only by revelation; and therefore it cannot be proved demonstratively.

Thus, Aquinas says you need revelation to know that the world had a beginning. He even wrote a short book on this topic. His contention was that you couldn’t know this by logical argument and empirical knowledge alone. You could say “He was wrong on that!” but that’s irrelevant. The whole point is that his argument for God, his Kalam, does not depend on the world having a beginning.

So what is he arguing?

Imagine you’re at your home one day minding your own business and you hear some strange music. You step outside of your residence and try to follow the sound. Where is it coming from?

What is causing that?

Now in another scenario, you wake up and you look outside and it looks like it’s a beautiful day. Why not step outside? You do so and right on your driveway is a giant orb.

What caused that?

It makes sense to us. The orb being placed was a one-time event so you asked “What caused that?” but the music is continuous. “What is causing that?” Aquinas says, “But you can ask ‘What is causing that?’ about the orb also.”

How so?

The orb doesn’t exist by its own nature or power. Something is holding it in existing. Think of how Scripture says in a passage like Col. 1:15-18 that Christ upholds all things by His power. If He ceased holding them, they would cease existing.

But could something eternal still have a cause of its existing?


I tell people to picture this scenario. You have a man who has existed eternally and he is standing in front of a mirror. The mirror is also eternal. The man has been eternally looking into the mirror. He sees eternally his own reflection.

Question: Is the reflection eternal?

Answer: Yes.

Question: Is the reflection caused?

Answer: Also yes.

The reflection in the mirror is still dependent on the man and the mirror both even if eternal.

Aquinas is not saying “The universe came to be, therefore it had a beginner.” Odds are, he would not disagree, but his argument is different. He doesn’t want to know when the universe came to be. It’s irrelevant to him. He wants to know how the universe continues to be.

If I was making a Kalam, I would make it something like this.

Whatever does not have the basis of its existing in itself depends on something else to exist.
The universe does not have the basis of its existing in itself.
Therefore, the universe depends on something else to exist.

Now that is God who is the exception not because of special pleading, but because God is the only being whose nature is simply to be. If He depended on something else, that something would be God. Aquinas spends the rest of that part of the Summa on the doctrine of God describing this God based on that.

This is also the form of the argument I prefer. It’s simple and powerful and honestly, most atheists don’t even attempt to understand the argument at all. I usually try to get them to tell me what Aquinas is arguing in the first way in their own words and it’s always some quick attempt to refute it and not even understand it.

Back to a pro-tip: Before you refute an argument, make sure you understand it and the best way to assure your opponent you do is when you can repeat it to him in your own words to his satisfaction.

If you can’t do that, don’t try.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Atheists: Please Get The Argument Right

What happens when you misrepresent an argument? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I had an atheist get in touch with a ministry I work for and the conversation was cordial enough. Anyway, he recommended I come to his blog and subscribe and give my thoughts since they wanted to see intelligent theists. I subscribed and yesterday responded to something about blind faith including the Richard Dawkins idea that faith is believing something without evidence.

In the comments section, somehow it came to the cosmological argument, which I had not advanced, and the pointing out of how silly it was. After all, it’s silly to say that everything that exists has a cause. Why is it that God is the exception? The blog owner and another atheist said this and a third showed up to celebrate what a great response it was.

Yes. Absolutely wonderful.

Except, you know, that’s not what the argument is.

I know of no serious defender of the cosmological argument who is a scholar of the field and/or teaches at an institution of higher learning who advances this argument. None of them say “Everything has a cause.” The argument traditionally given is “Everything that begins to exist has a cause.”

To say something like this would be like me going to a group I was giving an apologetics lecture to and saying, “Do you want to know how stupid evolution is? Let me give you an example. Evolutionists believe that a fish crawled out of the sea and turned into a puppy dog and that puppy dog gave birth to a lion who gave birth to a human being. Isn’t that stupid?”

It definitely is. The problem is that evolutionists do not present arguments like this. This is not the way evolution is formulated. Keep in mind that this does not mean evolution is true nor does it mean that evolution is false. The atheists misrepresented the Kalam, but that does not mean that the Kalam is an airtight argument that works. The Kalam must still stand on its own two feet.

What it does mean is when dealing with any argument, one must deal with the argument as it is and not as one would like to have it. Do the latter and you can dispatch with any argument. Just turn it into something completely ridiculous and refute that and your work is done.

It’s also quite ironic to have atheists talking about blind faith and yet believing simply whatever is read in a book or on a web site by an atheist without looking to see if the argument is right. Were any theistic philosophers consulted to see if they used this argument? You know the answer to that as well as I do.

This has been going after atheists, but keep in mind this is entirely unacceptable for Christians. We are people who do want to take down our opponents’ arguments and we should, but let’s make sure we are taking down their arguments. There is no victory in making a fake argument and it’s dishonest and an insult to the cause of Christ.

And to atheist readers of this, if you have done this, stop it. Deal with the real argument. When I see the fake argument put forward, I just conclude that you’re an atheist who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters