Summary: Cause For Celebration: An Examination Of The Cosmological Argument
Often the classics rank among the best. Even though time passes and intellectual fashions change, certain insights and perspectives address something so profound they forever earn a place as a steadfast pillar among sifting seas of opinion. Much of what comes after such a point simply serves as either confirmation, renunciation, clarification, or criticism. Though he lived and labored during the Middle Ages in the 1200‘s, the cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas has withstood the test of time as one of those stalwart pillars of the mind pointing to a rational basis for belief in God.
Though the term “cosmological argument” sounds intimidating and the concept it strives to convey seems profound, this series of propositions endeavors to express a most elementary idea in a highly rational form. The thrust of the cosmological argument seeks to prove that the universe must have a cause and that only God can serve as an adequate explanation for the existence of the universe. Norman Geisler in Introduction To Christian Philosophy states the basic argument in the following manner: “(1) Finite changing things exist. (2) Every finite, changing thing must be caused by another. (3) There cannot be an infinite regress of causes. (4) Therefore, there must be a first uncaused cause of every finite changing thing that exists (page 267).” From here, Aquinas proceeds to argue that only God is powerful enough to serve as an explanation behind this uncaused cause.
This assertion is buttressed by Aquinas’ notion of contingency and the need for a necessary being. A contingent being, according to Ronald Nash in Faith & Reason: Searching For A Rational Faith, is one whose existence depends upon another and whose nonexistence is possible; likewise, a necessary being is one that must exist, does not depend on another being for its existence, and whose nonexistence is an impossibility (128). The necessary being ultimately serves as the sufficient reason for all contingent beings.
Despite the power of the cosmological argument, it has not escaped its share of scrutiny throughout the course of its distinguished existence. For while the conclusions of the cosmological argument seem to flow naturally within the framework of traditional Judeo-Christian theism, they are not quite as obvious to adherents of other philosophies and systems of thought or to those seeking to undermine them through a process of intense rationalistic analysis. Skeptics and opponents of the Judeo-Christian assumptions that the cosmological argument seeks to prove can call upon a number of criticisms and counterclaims in support of their contrarian position.
The first brand of criticism stems from those advocating worldviews hostile to Christian presuppositions that possess a considerable stake in finding an explanation for the origins of the universe through causes other than an instant of divine creation. Foremost among the systems opposing the premises of the cosmological argument stand the various strands of naturalism.