Category Archives: Arguments about God’s existence

The infinity problem in the Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Kalam cosmological argument goes like this:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

It relies on theinfinitysmall premise that the universe cannot have existed for an infinite amount of time, for that would create an actual infinite past, which would have to be traversed to get to the present. It would be like trying to count from negative infinity to zero: it can’t be done.

An infinitely existing mechanical cause might fit the bill, but would by necessity be always in the “on” state, thus making the universe infinite again. God escapes this problem because He is purported to exist timelessly, so avoids the problem of an actual infinite. Yet because he has a will, unlike a mechanical device, he can go from an “off” to an “on” state, and move from the atemporal realm to the temporal. William Lane Craig, the chief proponent of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, puts it this way:

If the cause were simply a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions existing from eternity, then why would not the effect also exist from eternity? For example, if the cause of water’s being frozen is the temperature’s being below zero degrees, then if the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity, then any water present would be frozen from eternity. The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time. For example, a man sitting from eternity may will to stand up; hence, a temporal effect may arise from an eternally existing agent. Indeed, the agent may will from eternity to create a temporal effect, so that no change in the agent need be conceived. Thus, we are brought not merely to the first cause of the universe, but to its personal Creator.

You can read the entire article here. The biggest problem I have with this argument is the idea of God existing atemporally. An atemporal existence requires one to exist in a state where absolutely nothing is going on physically, spiritually, or mentally. No thinking or other activity can occur, for a thought requires time. Without time, there can be no past or future. Can there then be a present in which a thought can exist? Any one thought would be different from another thought, or no thought, thus creating a sequence, which also would seem to require time. Do we even know that existence is possible without time, or know that a sentient, thinking being can exist in a timeless state? What if cognitive action and timelessness are mutually exclusive? I don’t think we know that actual timelessness is any more coherent than actual nothingness or actual infinity. Therefore the Argument merely trades one mystery for another.

Most of us have not been exposed to the idea of timelessness, so sweeping known mysteries under the carpet of something we seldom think about only appears to resolve them. The Kalam Cosmological Argument uses a clever re-arranging of terms to make it appear that conundrums like actual infinites don’t apply to God. But if you think about it, they still do.