Applying Paul

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Prov 1:7 (ESV)

Recognizing God for who He is and giving Him due reverence as Lord is the beginning of knowledge, not the end of it. This is very different from what most people think today. Even some Christians think that if we just start with what we already know without God, we can show people that God really does exist. From there, we can tell people about who God is. This does not match the verse though. A knowledge of God does not come after wisdom or knowledge, a knowledge of God comes prior to wisdom and knowledge. People cannot fear God if they do not know Him, and people cannot have knowledge of other things if they do not fear God. Therefore a knowledge of God is necessary to a knowledge of anything else. The more we come to know God the more we know ourselves and the world around us. It is also true that the more we know about ourselves and the world the more we can know God, for He has revealed Himself to us through ourselves and the world.

All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. There are none outside of Him. Beware of being taken captive by anti-Christ thought that is worldly and human and tradition, rather than thinking in accordance with Christ. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Oh how different this is from most attempts to “prove” the existence of God today! Take, for example, the following “proof for the existence of God”:

1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

The person who uses this argument would present it and then explain that this cause must be God. Of course, it is not quite that simple. First of all, how do we know that everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being? It might be said that everyone just knows this, but there are those who claim that they do not know it. Either way, the person who is making this argument must be able to support the first premise of the argument. How could someone possibly do this? Even now there are some scientists who are in various ways casting doubt on the belief that those things which come into existence must be caused. Besides that, no one has ever experienced everything which begins to exist. As you read this a baby platypus is probably coming into the world for the first time, but how do you know that this event was caused? You certainly were not there. Much more, even if you know that the event was caused, how do you go about proving that to someone else who likewise was not there?

There are many who do not believe the second premise of the argument either. There are various arguments offered in support of the second premise, but they have not gone unanswered. For example, some will say that if the universe never began to exist, it must have always existed. Very well, but if there were actually an infinite number of moments before the moment you are reading this, then we never would have reached this moment. The trouble here is that this is really no argument at all. How do we know that we would have never reached this moment, given an infinite number of such moments which came before? If the universe has always existed, then an infinite number of moments did come before this moment. Who is to say that this did not happen? Where is the argument? One can repeat that if there were an infinite number of moments prior to this moment then we would never reach this moment, but this is just assuming what needs to be proven. We are at this moment now. We have reached it. There may have been an infinite number of moments prior to it; there is no way to prove otherwise. Other mathematical arguments involving infinite set theory have been set forth to prove that the universe had a beginning. Similarly, scientific models of how the universe began have been used to support the second premise of the argument. For example, the Big Bang theorizes that there was a beginning of the universe. What may be found is a group of Christians defending the Big Bang to try and prove that the universe had a beginning so that they can prove that the universe was caused so that they can somehow prove that this cause was our God.

Even assuming that everything which begins to exist does have a cause and that the universe began to exist, who is to say that the universe itself is not the one thing which began to exist but was not caused? The point is that 99 things coming into existence with causes do not mean that the 100th thing that comes into existence will also have a cause. It looks altogether impossible to me to prove that the universe had to have a cause for its coming into being, even granting that the other premises are true. The problems do not end here.

Consider the argument that “everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence, and the universe began to exist, therefore the universe has a cause for its coming into existence”. Someone would have to know everything in order to even begin to show that “everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into existence”. Further, the argument just assumes that the universe has a cause because everything else does. Perhaps everything which begins to exist does not have a cause because the universe does not. Aside from these difficulties is the difficulty of proving that the universe indeed did begin to exist and has not existed eternally as many believe that it has.

Even if the argument all works though, what has it really shown? The universe has a cause…? So what? How do we know that this cause did not happen and then go out of existence? How do we know that it still exists? Why only one cause and not many others? What else can we really know about this cause? If someone honestly wants to show that the Christian God exists, this is not the argument to use, because it fails miserably. Even if the argument succeeds then it has proven the existence of any number of gods unlike that of Christianity. So those gods exist?

If your head is spinning, do not worry. While clear, God honoring thinking is something required of the believer, the type of “proof” just discussed is not. Now you have seen a traditional “proof” for the existence of God with some of its problems. Now let us take this popular argument and compare it with how the Bible sets out showing that God exists:

In the beginning, God
Gen 1:1 (ESV)

That is it. The very first verse of the Bible does not offer large, confused syllogistic proofs for the existence of God. Rather, the Bible simply assumes that God exists from the very start. We should too, and we should not be ashamed to do so. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. All of the treasures of knowledge are hidden in Christ. Beware of deceptive philosophy which is according to human tradition and the first principles of the world rather than according to Christ.

Photo – Credit: Jeffrey Newman (Univ. of California at Berkeley) and NASA


5 Comments

Mitchell LeBlanc

I will certainly not be one to defend the Kalam argument, but it seems you have simplified it far too much.

Almost every objection you’ve raised is dealt with by Craig in his scholarly work. You’re also leaving out some premises of his argument, the full argument entails not just that the Universe had a cause for its existence but rather the cause was timeless, spaceless and personal in nature.

This argument alone does not arrive at Christian theism, obviously. And I understand the critique of such arguments from your position, but surely you must deal with Craig’s approach as he presents it. Not as a “magic bullet” but rather a cumulative approach which does arrive at the conclusions that you, perhaps erroneously, presuppose.

Though as I said, I’m not one to defend Craig’s Kalam…

C.L. Bolt

Thanks for the critique.

Is the Kalam argument as follows?:

1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause for its coming into being.

If not, then what have I left out?

If so, then how did I simplify it far too much?

As they say, “almost” does not count except for in horseshoes. If there are objections I have raised that Craig has not dealt with and those objections stick then Craig has not successfully defended the argument.

I have read my fair share of Craig. I know that he touches on some of what I have raised here, however it does not follow that his answers are sufficient. We would need to go through them.

The “full argument” changes methodology halfway through, and if what little I present does not hold then the remainder of the argument is really not all that relevant.

That the argument does not arrive at Christian theism is one of the largest objections I raise. It is also a proposition that you rejected in previous comments on this site but now affirm which means that you are either inconsistent or have changed your view.

What I wrote was not necessarily pertaining to Craig’s version of the argument in particular. I am finding it difficult to understand your sentence which states that Craig’s cumulative approach does arrive at its conclusions unless you are not an atheist. You are an atheist…right?

Mitchell LeBlanc

Craig’s Kalam argument is much more than the three premises, it includes many supporting premises for the first two points and further premises arguing for the spaceless, timeless, personal creator of the Universe. If you’ve deemed it irrelevant, than so be it. His recent formulation in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology is a good read, if you’re interested.

I don’t think I ever rejected that the Kalam alone does not arrive at Christian Theism. I think the quote you’re thinking of is:

“Craig’s apologetic method presents a set of arguments. The Kalam, the Argument from Design, the Argument from Morality and the Argument from Miracles (Resurrection of Jesus).

Together these form an argument for the existence of the Christian God.”

Of course at the end, when I said that it does arrive at its conclusions I was speaking rather abstractly. I should have said that “if it is sound…”, as I said I do not yet think that this is the case.

It is interesting to note that your objections to the Kalam are the common objections given by many “new atheists” (I distinguish from those actively publishing in the philosophy of religion). It is perhaps of no great relevance, but I just find it interesting that as a Christian you share identical objections. It makes me wonder about the Christians who accept it… Or perhaps we are just missing something.

C.L.Bolt

The supporting premises were partially explained in the arguments against them. The “further premises” are those involved in the change of method that I mentioned. They largely presuppose the soundness of the Kalam argument as it was stated in my post.

“This idea that somehow the traditional arguments suggest a ‘different’ God is just a misunderstanding.”

“This argument alone does not arrive at Christian theism, obviously.”

“It is interesting to note that your objections to the Kalam are the common objections given by many ‘new atheists’”

I do not read much from the “new atheists”, so I was unaware of that. Surely they must be right about *something* though. 🙂

“I just find it interesting that as a Christian you share identical objections.”

I am sure I could find others, but the ones above should suffice for now. 🙂

Mitchell LeBlanc

That quotation is a lack of clarity on my part. I should have said that traditional arguments that are given in a cumulative apologetic. It was also in specific reference to a discussion on the Ontological Argument, I think. It is still my position that if the Ontological Argument holds, it cannot possibly argue for any other God than the one that necessarily exists, by virtue of the modal approach it takes.


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