Eternity is Not Forever: An Argument for Theism
Thomas Aquinas made a categorical distinction between eternity and forever. Eternity, he said, is timelessness; forever is endless time. The former is not rooted within a temporal framework whereas the latter is. "Eternity is a now; time has a now and then."2 Eternity cannot be divided whereas time can be. Norman Geisler and H. Wayne House described it this way:
Endless time is not eternity: it is just more of time. Eternity differs in essence, not merely accidentally in quantity. Endless time is an elongation of time. More of the same thing is essentially the same thing. There is a crucial difference between the "now" of time and the "now" of eternity . The "now" of time moves; the "now" of eternity does not move in any way.3
The implications of this distinction between eternity (infinity) and endless time are significant to things future and things past: it gives us a better understanding of the nature of our post-resurrection existence (things future), and reveals a compelling argument in support of a theistic origin of the universe (things past).
Before examining the more complex concept of time we will examine the less complex concept of numbers. Numbers are potentially infinite. Theoretically speaking there is no end to the amount of possible numbers. While numbers have the potential for infinity, it would be impossible to arrive at an infinite number by adding one number to another, even if we continue counting forever. Why is this so? It is because "no amount of finite parts [can] add up to an infinite."4 We cannot arrive at an infinite number by adding one number to another. While our number will constantly increase in size, it will never become an infinite number no matter how large it gets, because an enormously large number is still not an infinite number. An infinite number has no terminus, and yet any number we may be able to count to always terminates with the number we are presently at. When counting numbers, going from 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001, our counting terminates at 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,001. While the number is very large, and could grow even larger, it is still a finite number, describing a finite count, not an infinite count.5 Infinity is not a particular number. Infinity, by definition is innumerable.6 Whatever has parts that can be counted cannot be infinite, because an infinity of anything cannot be reached by adding one thing to another.7
Understanding the concept of infinity as it relates to numbers lays the foundation for understanding the concept of infinity as it relates to time (eternity). Time, like numbers, is measurable. We measure the passing of time through seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, etc. That which is measurable cannot be infinite, because infinity is without limits, and therefore not measurable.
Time consists of a series of nows. These nows, when added together equal seconds, minutes, years, etc. We arrive at the future by passing through a series of nows. Likewise we conceive of the past by subtracting a certain series of nows from the standpoint of the present. In the same way that we cannot arrive at infinity by adding one number to another, we cannot arrive at eternity by adding one moment to the next. "An infinite number of temporal moments is impossible."8 We cannot arrive at an eternal future by adding moments to the present, and neither can we arrive at an eternal past by subtracting one moment from another, for at whatever point we would arrive it would describe a finite point in history, even if that point is exceedingly old.
The impossibility of an eternal past is extremely important as it relates to the issue of origins, so it will be explored in a little more depth. It is impossible to have an infinite amount of time before the present because the present would be the terminus of that infinite amount of preceding time. Because infinity has no terminus, however, it would be a contradiction in terms to speak of an infinite amount of time before the present. There cannot be an infinite amount of moments before today, for if there was we would never arrive at today.9 Greg Koukl summed this up very well when he said:
We agreed you cannot get to any infinite point in the future by adding events one to another. Therefore, this present moment in time can't represent an actual infinite number of events added one to another proceeding from the past. Time has proceeded forward from the past as one event is added onto another to get us to today. But we know that whenever you pause in the count you can't have an infinite number of events. Which means that there is no infinite number of events that goes backward from this point in time, only a finite number of events. If you can't get into the infinite future from a fixed reference point (the present) by adding consecutive events one by one, you cannot get into the infinite past by subtracting consecutive events, one by one, from a fixed reference point (the present).10
Philosopher Dallas Willard illustrated this point using dominoes as an analogy. He said that if an infinite amount of dominoes had to fall before domino X would fall, domino X would never fall because the infinite chain of dominoes could never reach the terminus of domino X.11 An infinite chain of dominoes could never stop at a particular point to hit a particular domino. It is simply impossible to "complete an infinite number of events."12
Understanding the distinction between eternity and forever is important to Christians as we contemplate the nature of our post-resurrection existence. Simply put, while we will live forever with Christ, we will not live for an eternity. Only God's existence is eternal, without beginning and without ending. Only God has a timeless existence. Creation cannot be eternal because creation is temporal, existing in time. Time consists of parts, or moments. We cannot arrive at eternity by adding one moment of existence to another. No matter how long we live (how many moments) we could always calculate the amount of moments we have been in existence, beginning at a certain point and ending in what will then be the present.13 While we may live an enormous amount of time, it will always be just that; i.e. a particular amount of time, not an eternity.
Origin of the Universe
The question of origins is often thought of as a difficult issue with no easy answers. In all reality the question turns out to be fairly straightforward when broken down into three simple questions. The three questions we must ask to determine the origin of the universe are as follows:
1. Did the universe have a beginning?
2. If the universe had a beginning, did it have a cause?
3. If the universe is caused, was that cause personal or impersonal?
The answers to these questions form the basis of the Kalam Cosmological Argument-and argument for God's existence based on an examination of the cosmos.
Did the Universe Have a Beginning?
Understanding the distinction between eternity and forever argues strongly in favor of a personal, divine creator, and against naturalistic evolution. Some individuals, when asked what caused the universe to come to be, will assert that the universe is eternal, not having or needing a cause. Not only does such a response contradict popular scientific opinion (as will be discussed shortly), but it is logically impossible as well. If we cannot arrive at an eternal past by subtracting moments from the present, the universe cannot be eternal. It had to come into being at a certain point in time, and have been in existence for a certain, measurable amount of time. Any claim that the universe is eternal is unfounded, and contrary to sound philosophical reasoning. This observation alone would rule out Hinduism and many other Eastern religions which maintain that the universe is eternal.
The overwhelming majority of the scientific community is convinced that the universe had a beginning as well. They believe in what is called the Big Bang theory of origins. In essence the Big Bang theory states that there was a point in time at which nothing existed, including matter, space, and time. Then, without any prior cause, an explosion of matter occurred (from non-matter), bringing matter, space, and time into existence simultaneously for the first time (referred to as the point of singularity), fully charged with energy.14
The implications of a beginning for the universe, and thus a beginning of time itself are astounding. Astrophysicist, Hugh Ross, noted that
time is that dimension in which cause and effect phenomena take place. If time's beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the cosmos. This conclusion is powerfully important to our understanding of who God is and who or what God isn't. It tells us that the Creator is transcendent, operating beyond the dimensional limits of the universe. It tells us that God is not the universe itself, nor is God contained within the universe. Pantheism and atheism do not square with the facts . (emphasis mine)15
Did the Universe Have a Cause?
Now that we have established the temporality of the universe we must ask Did the universe have a cause, or was it uncaused? This is a very simple question to answer. Every physical event has a prior cause. The beginning of the universe was a physical event, and therefore it must have a cause. There is nothing in the known universe that is uncaused. At times we be unaware of what the particular causes are to a known effect, but we do not question whether or not the cause(s) exists. If we were to argue that the universe came into being without a productive cause, it would be the only known example of such in our universe. The one who wishes to claim that the universe is the result of a causeless effect is making a statement of pure faith, not of science, because there is no scientific or philosophic support in its behalf. We cannot even comprehend the concept of a causeless effect. The former sentence is an example of this. I had to speak of the universe as a "result of a causeless effect." To say that the universe is the result of a causeless effect implies a prior cause from which the result followed. There can be no question that the universe has a productive cause, but what was that prior productive cause?
Some would attribute the cause of the universe to the Big Bang, but the Big Bang is not the cause of the universe; it is itself an effect. Besides, to argue that the Big Bang was the cause of the universe only pushes the problem back one step farther because we would still have to ask What caused the Big Bang?16 It does not help to argue that the Big Bang was its own cause because a cause must precede the effect. Something cannot be its own cause. The only other option is to argue that the Big Bang was without a cause. But how can there be an effect without a cause? Furthermore, how can something come from nothing, time come from timelessness, and space from spacelessness? There must be a First Cause that is itself uncaused in order to account for the origin of the universe.
Others may argue that an infinite amount of causes preceded the effects we see today, and thus there need not be a first cause at all. But an infinite amount of causes is impossible for the same reason it is impossible to count to infinity, or to have an infinite past. Today's effects would be the result of all previous causes, and thus today would be the terminus of all previous causes. Because infinity has no terminus, it would be impossible to have an infinite amount of causes before today. There must be a First Cause that is itself uncaused, that caused all the effects we see today. What we must seek to discover is who or what that First Cause is. Evolutionary theory ignores the issue by denying a First Cause altogether, or by taking the agnostic position that it is impossible to know what it was.
A universe bound to time is temporal, and that which is temporal cannot be eternal, and cannot cause itself. It had to be caused by something non-temporal, for it would be a contradiction to think of a temporal something creating time when it is itself temporal. It is impossible to bring into existence something that already exists.17 This contradiction aside, if the universe was caused by a temporal something we would only remove the problem of origins back one step, for we would still have to ask What was the cause of the cause that brought the universe into existence?
I find it interesting that people are willing to believe matter is eternal (in contradiction to known laws of science such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and in contradiction to logic) rather than caused, and yet find it foolish to believe in an eternal God. It takes more faith to believe that the universe is eternal and/or uncaused than it does to believe in an eternal and uncaused divine being who caused the existence of the universe, because a divine being is personal and intelligent. The cause of something is always greater than the effect. If the universe shows traces of personality and intelligence, it must follow that the cause of the universe possesses personality and intelligence as well.18 Not only must the cause have personality and intelligence, but it must have more personality and intelligence than that of the effect because the cause must be greater than the effect. An intelligent, personal, and eternal being can explain how the universe came to be, why it shows evidence of design, and why elements of creation are personal and possess intelligence. An eternal universe that is impersonal and random (i.e. without intelligence), however, cannot account for the organization and design of the universe, nor the personality and intellect we find in the universe. It takes more faith to believe in an eternal universe than it does to believe in an eternal God.
We have firmly established, then, that both science and philosophy stand against the notion of an eternal universe. If it is impossible for the universe to be eternal, by default it must have had a beginning, and a productive cause.
Is the Cause of the Universe Personal or Impersonal?
Once we have established the temporality and causal nature of the universe as a scientific and philosophic necessity, the question the atheist must be able to answer is What caused the universe to come to be? Another way of phrasing this would be to ask What is the nature of the First Cause of the universe? Specifically, is the First Cause personal or impersonal? This issue, and other issues related to the nature of the First Cause will be discussed in the following section.
The Nature of the First Cause
We have already established that philosophical and scientific necessity of a First Cause, but not its nature. What is required of the First Cause for it to truly be the First Cause of all other effects?
A First Cause must itself be uncaused. While it is the cause of all else, it is itself not caused by anything. This is true of a First Cause by definition.
Eternal and Necessary
All temporal things must have a cause,19 so the First Cause cannot be temporal, but must be eternal20 (whatever is eternal never came to be).21 And what is eternal is necessary, for it must exist, and must be what it is. It cannot not exist, and cannot be anything else other than what it is. This is why philosophers refer to God as a Necessary Being. His existence is not derived from, nor dependent on any prior cause. He gives existence to all others,22 but He Himself receives existence from nothing, nor anyone. A being of this sort simply is.23
Non-Spatial and Immaterial
Furthermore, the First Cause cannot be spatial or material because these things came into existence simultaneously with time (the point of singularity), and it is the cause of these things that is in question. The First Cause cannot be the cause of space and matter if it is rooted in space and matter itself; it would simply be such things. It is impossible to bring something into existence that already exists. In the same way that the First Cause must be eternal to cause the existence of time, it must also be non-spatial and immaterial to cause the existence of space and matter.
The First Cause must also possess Pure Actuality. Being is divided up into two categories: actual (it truly exists), potential (it has the potential to exist).24 A being who is eternal and necessary is a being of Pure Existence, or Pure Actuality, possessing no potentiality to become anything other than what it is. Whatever the First Cause might be, it cannot possess any potentiality to become because that which has potentiality to become must have that potentiality actualized by another actualizer (cause). No potentiality can actualize itself. It must be actualized by something else. For example, metal has the potential to become a car, but it cannot actualize itself to become such unless an outside force acts on the metal's potentiality to become a car. It is a simple cause and effect relationship. If the First Cause has potentiality to become we would have to ask Who actualized its potential to come to be? If God is that First Cause, we would have to ask Who caused God to become? This sends us off searching for the First Cause once again. Because there cannot be an infinite regress of causation, the First Cause must possess Pure Actuality, having no potentiality of His own to be actualized by a prior cause. The First Cause is the one who actualizes (causes) all other potentials (ability to become), but has no potential of His own to be actualized by another actualizer.
Infinite and Simple = One
What would it take for something to be an Uncaused Causer? In addition to being eternal, immaterial, and non-spatial an Uncaused Causer needs to be infinite and simple, because that which finite and composite is contingent, requiring both a source for its existence and a cause to unite its composite parts. That which has a source and a cause cannot be the uncaused causer of all else. Seeing that we have already proven the impossibility of an infinite regress of causation, there must be a First Cause that is simple and infinite. To be infinite implies an "all," and there cannot be two "alls." Seeing that there cannot be more than one infinite, there cannot be more than one First Cause.
The evidence points to a First Cause that is personal, not impersonal in nature.
It was argued earlier that the cause of something is always greater than the effect. If the universe shows traces of personality and intelligence, it follows that the cause of the universe possesses personality and intelligence as well. Not only must the First Cause possess personality and intelligence, but it must possess more personality and intelligence than that of the effect because the cause must be greater than the effect. If the First Cause was impersonal it would be difficult to explain the origin of the personal elements reflected in our universe. Non-material, personal elements such as the mind and soul cannot be brought into existence by impersonal or physical causes.
In his lecture titled "You Bet Your Life: A Simple Case Against Atheism,"25 Greg Koukl argues for the necessity of a personal First Cause by drawing on a philosophical distinction relating to causation. There are two types of causes: event causation (spontaneous result of previous impersonal factors), and agent causation (an agent simply decides). When dealing with event causation it is always appropriate to ask What was the event that caused this event?, because every event presumes a prior event-cause. For example, let's say the roof caved in. What caused this event? A falling tree. Why did the tree fall? Because it was on fire. Why was it on fire? Because the grass surrounding it caught fire. Why? Because there was no rain, and so on.
An event cause (i.e. a non-personal entity) cannot account for the beginning of the universe because with any event we must ask What prior event caused that current event, and what event caused that prior event?, ad infinitum. Seeing that an infinite regress of causation is not possible because there cannot be an infinite amount of time in which an infinite amount of events could take place, the ultimate cause of the universe cannot be an impersonal event.
When an event cause (a what) is insufficient to explain an event, we automatically default to agent causation (a who), recognizing that a free-agent must be responsible for the event. For example, if your children's room is a disaster, and you are certain that no tornado has passed through the room, you immediately ask "Who did this?!?!"
With agent causation, an intelligent being with a free will simply decides. While agents have reasons for willing as they do, those reasons influence their decisions; they do not force them. A deciding will can move itself. Something else does not have to move it. Only a self-moved, free-will agent can account for the beginning of the universe. Such a being is personal by definition.
William Lane Craig argues for a personal cause to the universe based on the impossibility of an eternal, impersonal cause bringing into being a finite effect such as the universe. He said, "A changeless, impersonal cause can never exist without its effect. If the changeless impersonal conditions for an effect are timelessly present, then their effect must be timelessly present as well."26 Craig demonstrated his point with an analogy of eternal water. The cause of water freezing is the temperature falling below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature of water was below 32 degrees Fahrenheit from eternity, the water could never begin to be frozen a finite time ago. It would simply be eternally frozen. Likewise, if the eternal cause of the universe was impersonal, the effect of that cause (i.e. the universe) would be eternal as well because there is no personal agent to will the finite effect to come into existence at a finite point in time.
We can imagine an eternal man who has been sitting for eternity, who then wills to begin to stand up at a finite point. The effect is not eternal, but finite, only coming into existence because of the man's will to change his eternal state. The same cannot be said of something that is impersonal such as water. Water cannot will to change its state of being anymore than my shirt can will to be ironed rather than wrinkled. If a personal agent (me) does not will to change the state of the shirt's being from wrinkled to ironed, it will forever remain wrinkled.
Without a personal agent to will the finite effect into existence the universe could not have a beginning, but would be eternally contemporaneous with the eternal cause. Since we have already demonstrated that the universe had a finite beginning we know that the cause of the universe cannot be impersonal, but requires a personal agent. As Craig stated, "The only way for a cause to be timeless [eternal], and the effect to have begun a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent who chooses to create a new effect without any prior determining conditions."27 Whoever this personal agent is, he has an enormous amount of power and is incomprehensibly intelligent.
We conclude, then, that the First Cause must be uncaused, eternal, necessary, intelligent, personal, immaterial, non-spatial, and transcendent to the universe. Thus far the necessary qualifications of the First Cause have perfectly described the God of Christianity. While there are further steps necessary to fully identify the First Cause as the God of Christianity,28 nevertheless, the qualifications for the First Cause that we have established thus far can only be satisfied by a divine, personal being. This would rule out any naturalistic explanation of the universe, such as Darwinian evolution. The same can be said of all views that propose a non-personal entity or force as the First Cause, such as is found in Christian Science, New Age beliefs, and Hinduism. Likewise, doctrines of god(s) that maintain god(s) is the universe, or is contained within the universe are false as well. Finally, any religion that does not believe in an eternal God cannot be true because a God bound to time is a God who must have been created as well, and cannot explain the origin of a temporal universe (Mormonism29).
The Implications of Denying God as the First Cause
If one rejects God as the First Cause of the universe they are left to confess that the universe just popped into existence out of nowhere, the universe was caused by nothing, the effect is greater than the cause, life comes from non-life, order comes from chaos, and natural law comes from randomness.
Greg Koukl said it well when he commented:
Why would you opt for such a thing? Why would you argue for such a thing? That's treating nothing as if it were something, and nowhere as if it were somewhere. It is like saying that something caused the universe and nothing was that something.
It may be that life came from non-life, and order came from chaos, and natural law comes from randomness, and the effect is greater than the cause. But boy, you have to have a heck of a lot of faith to believe that kind of thing.30
Evolution: Bad Science, Bad Faith
Is naturalistic evolution science? No, naturalistic evolution is a godless religion, based on blind faith. To believe in evolution one must believe that matter can come from non-matter, that an effect can be without a productive cause, that life can come from non-life, and that order can come from chaos. Evolutionary theory cannot get off the ground unless these necessary affirmations can be demonstrated scientifically, and yet no such scientific evidence exists for their support. Where does this leave the evolutionist? It leaves him wading in the waters of faith, maintaining his commitment to evolutionary theory in spite of the scientific and philosophical evidence against it, and denying any theistic explanation of origins in spite of the evidence supporting it. Friends, this is a blind faith.
If there is no scientific evidence in support of the above affirmations, why do scientists continue to believe in evolution, and why has the general public bought into the concept? I would argue that scientists have committed themselves to the absurdities required by the evolutionary theory for two reasons. First, their disciple requires that they provide naturalistic explanations for the operations of our universe. They will not allow any appeals to the supernatural to explain the data in the natural. According to the philosophy of science no supernatural elements can be introduced into the equation because the realm of the supernatural does not belong to the realm of science, but rather philosophy and religion. Secondly, scientists (along with the general population) have committed themselves to the absurdities of evolution to avoid believing in a divine Creator to whom they are responsible.
I would argue that the general public has bought into the concept because it has been falsely packaged under the label of "science" even though the very foundation of evolutionary theory has no supporting evidence from that discipline. In the scientific age in which we live people have come to believe that science provides us with all truth, so whatever science says is true must be true. While it is true that science does provide us with truth, science cannot provide us with all truth, and neither is science infallible. All one needs to do to see that this is true is look at the history of the scientific discipline. The history of science is a history of replacing one scientific claim with another scientific claim as humanity continues to grow in knowledge of its world. To claim that evolution is "science" is misleading at best, and deceptive at worst. Evolution is based on theory, not evidence; faith, not fact. Because the foundational evidence is so lacking for evolution, evolutionists have no choice but to commit to evolution blindly, against all reason and evidence. Evolution is not science, it is faith, and a very poor faith at that because the very basis of evolutionary theory lacks the support of the two disciplines that provide us with knowledge: science, philosophy.
Christians have every reason to reject the theory of evolution. Our rejection is not based on religious grounds, but on philosophical and scientific grounds. We should not be bullied into believing that the notion of a divine creator is intellectually absurd, and that it must be accepted by blind faith. No. The evidence is stacked in favor of a theistic origin of the universe. It is the faith of the evolutionists that is blind, willing to accept notions that are logically absurd and lacking scientific support. If one must believe in a causeless effect, ordered chaos, life from non-life, space from spacelessness, and something coming from nothing to be considered intellectual, I will gladly accept the stigma of being an "ignorant Christian." But if every effect must have a cause, chaos does not produce order, the law of biogenesis is still a scientific law (life can only come from life), and something has to come from something to be something, then the burden of proof is on the evolutionists to demonstrate how they can call their belief in evolution "science," rather than calling it what it really is; i.e. a religion devoid of God, and devoid of common sense.
1. Infinity by definition is without beginning or ending.
2. We cannot get to an infinity of anything by counting or adding one thing to another.
3. The universe cannot be eternal because today would mark the end of the eternal past, and yet eternity has no end to be reached.
a. If we pause in our count to acknowledge that we live in the present, then an eternity could not have preceded today.
b. If the past is eternal it would be impossible to arrive at the present (domino analogy) because an infinite number of events or moments could never be completed.
4. The universe must have a personal cause.
a. The cause of the universe must be the First Cause, lest we push the problem of causation one step back infinitely (which is impossible).
b. The First Cause must be eternal, immaterial, and non-spatial to bring time, space, and matter into existence.
c. The First Cause must be personal and intelligent because creation has elements of personality and intelligence, and the cause must be greater than the effect.
d. The First Cause is a self-existing cause of all things, eternal, immaterial, non-spatial, unchanging, independent, personal, intelligent, and transcendent to the universe. This is the God of Christianity.
Kalam Cosmological Argument in Syllogistic Form
P1 Everything that begins to exist has a cause
P2 The universe began to exist.
The universe has a cause
P2 is supported by the following two arguments:
P1 A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
P2 A temporal series of events is a collection formed by successive addition.
A temporal series of events cannot be actually infinite.
P1 It is impossible to complete an infinite series of events
P2 In an eternal cosmos today would be the end of an infinite series of events
The cosmos cannot contain an infinite series of events
P1 An event-cause requires a preceding cause ad infinitum
P2 There cannot be an infinite regress of causation.
The First Cause was not an event
P1 An agent-cause is sufficient in itself to bring about an effect without prior cause
P2 The cause of the universe cannot have a prior cause
The cause of the universe was an agent
There must be a singular point in time past before which nothing existed. The cause for the emergence of the created realm must be eternal, non-spatial, and personal. This is a description of the Christian God.
Some may argue that it is inconsistent to claim that the existence of personality and intelligence in our universe demands that the First Cause possesses personality and intelligence as well, when it is also being argued that only an eternal, non-spatial, and immaterial cause can account for the rise of time, space, and matter. If the First Cause must be eternal, non-spatial, and immaterial to bring time, space, and matter into existence, does it follow that the First Cause must be non-personal and unintelligent to account for the personality and intelligence we find in our universe? No. Such an argument presupposes that the logic behind the former assertion is that in order to cause something, the cause has to be the opposite of the effect. That is not the logic being employed. The cause of something does not have to be the opposite of the effect for the effect to exist.
The reason the First Cause must be eternal, non-spatial, and immaterial to account for the beginning of a material world (time, space, and matter) is due to the fact that we know these three elements must have a beginning, and that beginning must be found in a First Cause. The First Cause cannot be that which brought the time-space-matter continuum into existence if it is itself part of time, space, and matter. The same cannot be said of personality and intellect, however. There is no evidence to suggest that personality and intellect have their origin with the material universe. Actually, the philosophic evidence suggests that personality and the mind belong to the spiritual realm31 (which need not have a beginning), not the physical realm (which must have a beginning).32 Only that which is material requires a beginning. That which is immaterial does not have a beginning, but is eternal.
Where would an immaterial aspect of man (such as the mind/soul) come from? It must come from that which is both spiritual and eternal, because the physical and temporal can only produce physical and temporal things, of which the soul does not belong. This would require a source that is transcendent to the material universe. The only thing that transcends the material universe is the First Cause of the universe. Can the First Cause account for such elements? Yes. Eternality and immateriality are essential to the nature of the First Cause, and that which is immaterial is spiritual by definition. The spiritual nature of man, then, must transcend the created realm, finding its existence within the First Cause itself.
The personality and intellect of man did not begin to exist with man; it preexisted within the First Cause as part of its essential nature. The personality and intellect found in man is not a creation of some new thing that never existed before, but is a reflection of the First Cause's essential nature. Personality and intellect belong properly to the First Cause, but man partakes of this spiritual aspect by impartation from the transcendent First Cause. The First Cause is Spirit; man merely has spirit. We derive our immaterial aspects of personality, mind, and intelligence from the First Cause.33
To illustrate the point, consider the transmission of knowledge. When a teacher transmits knowledge to his students, he does not cause that knowledge to exist, nor does he cause the existence of more knowledge. The teacher merely causes more people to possess knowledge. In like manner, the First Cause's impartation of personality and intellect to man does not cause personality and intellect to begin to exist; it only causes more people to possess it.
We would have to confess that hile the immaterial aspect of man is eternal, it came into being at a particular point in time. Is this a contradiction?34 No. The eternality of man's immaterial being and its temporal beginning in us individually are not in contradiction. While we begin to possess personality and intellect at a particular point in time, personality and intellect themselves do not begin with us in particular, nor with humanity in general. Personality and intellect are eternal, immaterial attributes of the First Cause, of which mankind partakes. While personality and intellect are reflected in the material realm, personality and intellect transcend the material realm in the First Cause. The First Cause is the transcendent source of all immaterial being.
While not everything that possesses spiritual existence has existed eternally (such as angels and the immaterial aspect of humanity), the category of existence defined as "spiritual" must be eternal because spirituality (immateriality) is an essential attribute of the First Cause, and the First Cause is eternal. While the spiritual aspect of humanity has a beginning in that it came to exist at a particular point in time, the spiritual substance of which we partake is eternal in nature. The substance itself is eternal, but we do not eternally possess the substance. We begin to possess the substance in time as the transcendent First Cause extends it to us. The only thing temporal about our spiritual nature is the point in time at which we begin to individually partake of the eternal spiritual substance of the First Cause.
At this point some may think I am advocating some form of pantheism wherein all is God. This is not the case. The fact that our immaterial nature is derived from the transcendent, eternal First Cause does not mean that we share in the divine, beings gods ourselves. While we derive our spiritual nature from the First Cause, we are personally distinct from the same. We have a particular, individual existence that is peculiarly ours, in contradistinction to other human persons, and in contradistinction to the First Cause. Just as all material things share in the common substance of matter, and yet one material thing remains distinct from another material thing (a tree is distinct from a rock; a rock is distinct from a bird, etc., and yet all share in materiality), likewise, while all spiritual beings share in the one common substance of spirit, one spiritual thing remains distinct from another: I remain distinct from you, and the First Cause remains distinct from me.
In summary, there are two basic categories of existence: the material, the immaterial (spiritual). Only that which is material requires a beginning. That which is immaterial cannot have its origin in the material world because the material world can only produce material things. The immaterial must be eternal, because immateriality is an essential aspect of the First Cause, and the First Cause is eternal. Anything in our physical universe that partakes of spiritual substance (such as the soul, intellect, mind, spirit, etc.), then, must find its source in something that transcends the material world. The only thing that transcends the material world is the First Cause. The spiritual aspect of man must find its origin in the First Cause, reflecting the intelligence and personality inherent to its nature, while remaining personally distinct from the same.
1. I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to Greg Koukl's article titled "You Won't Live an Eternity." The basis of my arguments in part one is derived from this short, but masterful article. Specific references to this article will noted throughout.
2. Norman Geisler and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2001), 81.
4. Ibid., 148.
5. Not only does the number have a terminus, but it also has a beginning: the number at which we began counting. An infinite number, however, has no beginning, further demonstrating that it is impossible to count to infinity.
6. Greg Koukl, "You Won't Live an Eternity;" available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/misc_topics/eternity.htm; Internet, accessed 6 June 2000.
7. Koukl, "You Won't Live an Eternity."
8. Geisler and House, The Battle for God, 94.
9. Koukl, "You Won't Live an Eternity."
11. Dallas Willard, Does God Exist-The Great Debate, 203-4, quoted in Greg Koukl, "You Won't Live an Eternity;" available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/misc_topics/eternity.htm; Internet, accessed 6 June 2000.
12. Koukl, "You Won't Live an Eternity."
14. The rise of matter necessitates that there be space in which the matter can exist, and time in which the matter can move. Scientists call this interdependent triunity the time-space-matter continuum. Scientists are well aware that this continuum necessitates that the universe be temporal.
15. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1993) p 76.
16. Furthermore, the Big Bang explosion would have to consist of matter, space, and time in order to result in a material, spatial, and temporal universe, and yet it would be impossible for the Big Bang to consist of such elements if it is the cause of the very existence of such elements.
17. Some may argue that it is possible to bring something into existence that already exists because human beings can bring new human beings into existence. Such an argument misses the point under consideration. What is being discussed is the beginning of the existence of time. The analogy of humans producing new humans only demonstrates that that which already exists can produce more of the same, but not that that which already exists can bring that same thing into existence for the first time. Human reproduction does not create the existence of humanity, but merely brings more humanity into existence, adding more individuals to the already existing category of humanity.
18. See the appendix for a more detailed argument in favor of this point.
19. Temporal things require a prior cause because all cause and effect relationships occur sequentially in time. It is impossible for a cause and effect relationship to be established simultaneously. The cause of any effect must be sequentially prior to that effect. If time had a beginning, the cause of that first moment of time cannot itself be temporal, because you cannot have anything sequentially prior (a temporal word) to the first moment of time. To say that there is a temporal cause to the first moment of time is like me saying I caused my own existence. That is impossible because I would have to exist prior to my own existence in order to cause my existence. Something cannot be its own cause, whether it is my own existence, or the existence of time. Whatever the cause of time was, then, it must itself transcend time. Only something eternal can account for the beginning of time.
20. Many ask, "What was God doing before He created the universe? Wasn't He bored if nothing existed but Himself?" Such a question is easily answered in light of God's eternality. The problem with such a question is that God's existence prior to creation is being thought of in temporal terms. We tend to think that God existed for billions and zillions of years before creating the universe. Such thinking is understandable, but inaccurate. It is understandable in that we are temporal creatures, and as such are bound to think and speak in temporal categories/terms; it is inaccurate in that an eternal existence is an existence without time, and thus it is not appropriate to apply temporal categories/terms to the eternal. Even the question What was God doing before creation? is a misstatement. "Before" is a temporal word. It is impossible to have a before prior to the existence of time because "before" is a temporal word. The same can be said of the question How long has God existed? God's existence cannot be defined in terms of time (years, eons, etc.) To ask How long has God existed presumes that God exists in time, and thus His existences is measurable. An eternal existence, however, is not measurable because it is timeless, without beginning and without ending. All such thoughts evidence the fact that we are imposing temporal categories upon an eternal being.
21. One might object that theists are cheating at this point, allowing for God to be eternal, but not allowing the same for the universe. This objection is misinformed, because it mistakenly assumes we are arguing that nothing can be eternal. Such is not the case. The cosmological argument demonstrates that the physical universe cannot be eternal, not that nothing can be eternal. Indeed, something must be eternal: either the universe, or something outside the universe. Compelling evidence has been offered that the universe cannot be that something, so by default that which is eternal must be something outside the natural universe (making the cause of the universe supernatural by definition). If God is not physical, and does not experience a series of physical events, He can be eternal and uncaused.
22. This is reminiscent of Paul's statement in Acts 17:28: "For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' "
23. Think of God's statement in Exodus 3:14 wherein He called Himself "I am that I am," indicating His self-existence.
24. While these terms may sound complicated, we use them everyday in a very simple way. If someone makes a statement that is false, we correct them by saying, "Actually, it is this way or that way." What we mean is that the reality of the thing is different than the way the individual conceived it. Likewise, we often say to our children, "You have great potential to be such and such or do such and such." What we mean is that the child is not really such and such right now, but they possess the ability to become such and such if they have that potential actualized in them. When it comes to being, the terms "actual" and "potential" are used in a similar way. The former describes what already exists, while the latter describes would could exist if it were actualized.
25. Available from http://www.str.org/cgi-bin/shop.pl/task=search/subject=Comparisons/SID=PUT_SID_HERE
26. William Lane Craig, "What is the Evidence For/Against the Existence of God?" (Carter Center in Atlanta, GA: The Faith and Science Lecture Forum, 1998), filmstrip.
28. Arguing for the existence of God gets us halfway there, but to arrive at monotheism we must prove that the First Cause is infinite, because there cannot be more than one infinite. We can establish God's infinity by proving that the First Cause cannot be finite and composite. We can prove that He cannot be finite and composite based on the fact that He is uncaused. We need only ask ourselves What would it take for something to be an Uncaused Causer? In addition to being eternal, immaterial, and non-spatial, an Uncaused Causer needs to be infinite and simple, because that which finite and composite is contingent, requiring both a source for its existence and a cause to unite its composite parts. That which has a source and a cause cannot be the uncaused causer of all else. Seeing that we have already proven the impossibility of an infinite regress of causation, there must be a First Cause that is simple and necessary, and hence infinite. To be infinite implies an "all," and there cannot be two alls. So not only has our reflection on causation proven that God must exist, but also that this god must be one, not many (When we look further at creation, we discover that this infinite, simple being must also be personal). This eliminates every polytheistic religion from the equation, leaving us with the three monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. To further narrow those options we must examine their holy books, each of which claims to be divinely inspired. If the claims of a holy book can be proven false or invalid, there is good reason to reject the religion that is based on those claims. While space does not permit me to demonstrate so here, this investigation will lead one to the God of Christianity.
29. According to Mormon doctrine God is spatial, temporal and material, which roots Him within creation. He is not transcendent to creation, but part of it. As part of creation, God is subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that all things within a closed system tend to break down and deteriorate. If the Mormon God cannot transcend the closed system of our universe because He is rooted in it just as we are, then He is subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics just as we are. This would mean that the God of Mormonism is wearing out as time goes by.
30. Greg Koukl, "Unbelievable Unbelief;" available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/apologetics/comparisons/unbelief.htm; Internet, accessed 14 October 2002.
31. Christians call this spiritual aspect of man the "soul," "spirit," and/or "mind."
32. For a detailed argument of this position I recommend Greg Koukl's article titled "Dominos, Determinism, and Naturalism," found at http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/evolution/dominosd.htm.
33. The fact that our immaterial nature is derived from the transcendent, eternal First Cause does not mean that we share in the divine, and are gods in our own right. While we derive our spiritual nature from the First Cause, we are personally distinct from the same. We have a particular, individual existence that is peculiarly ours, in contradistinction to other human persons, and in contradistinction to the First Cause. Just as all material things share in the common substance of matter, and yet one material thing remains distinct from another material thing (a tree is distinct from a rock; a rock is distinct from a bird, etc., and yet all share in materiality), likewise, while all spiritual beings share in the one common substance of spirit, one spiritual thing remains distinct from another: I remain distinct from you, and the First Cause remains distinct from me.
34. Greek philosophy saw this to be a contradiction, and so proposed that the soul eternally preexisted the material body, but was joined to the same in time. Such a construct is not necessary to confess the eternal nature of the soul and the temporal nature of man.
IBS | Statement of Faith | Home
| Browse by Author | Q
Links | Virtual Classroom | Copyright | Submitting Articles | Search