Well, Who Made God, Then?

Tonight I heard a debate between a Christian, John Mark Reynolds, and an atheist, Dan Barker. The question was “Does God Exist?”

Dan Barker is an intelligent man who routinely speaks against religion and has similar debates. Midway through the debate, Barker used the tired old statement, ‘Who made God?’ I am amazed that such a statement is still being used by intelligent atheists. That Richard Dawkins would make it a central point of one of his books is surprising. That Bertrand Russell used it a couple of generations ago is astounding, since Russell is far superior to Dawkins.

The question Who made God? is trotted out by popular atheists as if it is some sort of profound statement that theists and philosophers have never thought of. Atheists seem to think they’ve used a nuclear weapon to end the argument. That such a tired line of reasoning is still being used demonstrates that these atheists either do not care to learn the answers, or know the flaw and use the argument anyway.

The statement Who made God? usually comes up after theists have given a statement about there being design in the universe or that the universe is caused. Atheists respond by saying that if complexity requires a designer, or existence of the universe requires a cause, then God would be subject to the same principles, and God would require a designer or a creator.

The primary problem with this is that no theist, especially no theist trained in philosophy, makes the claim that everything needs a cause. Further, most theists claim that God is not composed, not made of parts, and did not have a beginning. The proofs for God claim that composed things that have a beginning need a cause, and that designed things need a designer.

Theists argue that there is a first cause, and this first cause is God. No one that I know of has made the claim that a first cause is not first, or that a being not made of parts was put together. Such a claim is absurd.

It is amazing that otherwise intelligent atheists are still using a line of reason that is so different than what theists argue. Atheists must have had an opportunity to hear the correct form of the argument for God, for Aquinas explained the theistic position 750 years ago, and Christian apologists are continually re-explaining the concept: first causes are first, and uncomposed things do not need a composer.

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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20 Responses to Well, Who Made God, Then?

  1. The problem with that: “Everything X, except Y, thus Y.” is not a valid argument.

    • Mutant,

      Everything X, except Y, thus Y is your argument, not the one being made.

      The argument being made is based on the meaning of simple words:

      “First” means that there is nothing preceding. Consequently, “first cause” is uncaused since there are no causes preceding the first one.

      So an atheist who asks, “Who created God?” is expressing profound inability to understand the meaning of simple words and the inability to think about the implications of a word like “first.”

      This exercise demonstrates that atheists refuse to consider anything that debunks atheist dogma.

      Refusal to make such considerations is an attribute of irrationality, delusional thinking and fanaticism.

      • 1) Everything that has a beginning has a cause.

        Ok, we can write that in another way…

        1) Everything has a cause, except things that have no beginning.

        Ok, we have now separated “everything” into two categories: Things, that have a beginning (BT) and things that don’t (NBT). So how many things are there supposed to be in the NBT category? Thousands? Hundreds? Dozens? Nope. One. It’s supposed to be “god”. So, in other words, god IS the whole category, so we can write that argument above really that way…

        1) Everything has a cause, except god.

        And now it’s pretty clear why you can’t conclude to “There is a god” from the argument. Because it’s already in the premise.

        (And I hope, nobody wants to argue that there could be other things in the NBT category, because then there would be things that exist that weren’t created by god or being god.)

        • humblesmith says:

          The problem is that your second 1) is NOT how the argument is presented, nor are the first and second statements equal. The logical argument does not say “Everything has a cause except god.” The premise and the syllogism deals with things that are caused, not things that are uncaused. So the ways you have presented it are not equal. Uncaused things fall into a different category than what the syllogism is speaking about.

          Next, how many things fit into a category has nothing to do with the truth claim that is being presented. Is it some surprise that the argument is dealing with God? Of course the argument points to the existence of God, that’s the subject being discussed. Whether or not there is one or four things in the category has nothing to do with whether it is true.

          Only by changing our argument can you continue to maintain that God is presumed in the premises. That we continue to speak of such basic, simple concepts makes a profound statement about atheism.

          • Do you want to argue that something that has no beginning has a cause? Because that would be the only chance to say that the sentences are not equal. I doubt it, as then god could be caused and the argument becomes useless, as you can’t say for sure that there can’t be a cause for god. So, we can say, that what you want to say is, that things without a beginning have no cause (otherwise it would not qualify as a starting point).

            And no, it’s not a surprise. It’s just not a good argument, as by putting him into the premise that way, makes the whole argument useless to prove it.

            Of course, that the argument is hogwash doesn’t say anything about the truth. God still could exist. Or not.

            And no, I change nothing. I only show the hidden premise in your argument, that includes god. And thus, I destroy it. This doesn’t disprove god, of course, it’s just one (of many) problems with this argument.

          • humblesmith says:

            The point of the post is to respond to men such as Bertrand Russell who try to make the Kalam argument say that everything needs a cause. No trained theist ever stated it as such, and I challenge you to find one that did. Your search will be fruitless.

            The scope of the argument is with things that have beginnings. To continue to keep insisting that a point made about things with beginnings has to apply to things without beginnings, and to do so through sheer assertion, shows problems in atheists that I cannot even describe without sounding like an ad hominem. So I will not continue with this absurdity. The post stands as repeated in these comments.

          • No, the scope of the argument includes things that have no beginnings, as it tries to prove god. So, you are only trying to ignore a point against it away. Doesn’t work.

  2. Nate says:

    The reason it’s brought up is that theists aren’t answering it suficiently. Atomic Mutant makes a good point. You can’t argue for God’s existence by saying the universe must have a creator, then say God doesn’t need one. Is God less complex than the universe?

    I find it far easier to believe matter and energy are eternal than that an intelligent, powerful, supernatural being is eternal.

    • humblesmith says:

      Actually, God is less complex than the universe, if we measure the same things the design argument is making. The design argument begins with the world having composition, therefore it needs a composer. God is not composed……the theological term is “simple.” I’ve posted on the simplicity of God….if you search for it you can see explanations.

  3. Debilis says:

    I rather agree with the original argument, and I feel that the dissenting remarks here only further illustrate the point. It seems that, unless atheists are willing to claim that the same attributes which would exclude God from a need for a cause would apply to the universe (such as simplicity, eternality, etc), then there is no force behind these objections.

    Rather, it seems simply a missing of the point.

  4. hausdorff says:

    I’ve always liked the argument made by Dan Barker here, and I haven’t seen a good response to it, but it seems you would argue that I don’t understand the argument the theist is making in the first place. Ultimately, the argument is that the universe needs a cause but God does not need a cause. What is it about the universe that needs a cause, and why does this not apply to God as well?

    You said in another comment that God is simple, what does that mean exactly? An omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being doesn’t sound simple at all to me so I’m guessing this isn’t the common usage, but instead means something specific in this context.

    You also said that the universe is composed but God isn’t, I’m also not sure what composed means here.

    One other thing, you said that God is less complex than the universe, but since God is all knowing, isn’t everything about the universe contained within his mind? So wouldn’t he be more complicated than the universe by definition? (As I type this one, I’m not so sure about it but I’m still curious how you would respond)

    Sorry if these are simple questions, but I’m honestly just trying to understand your argument. If you want to answer by tossing some links at me which address these points that’s cool with me.

    • humblesmith says:

      You are asking very pertinent questions in a respectful tone. Thank you.

      For those perhaps unfamiliar with the general context of this post, the post deals with a response commonly given by atheists to some arguments Christians give for the existence of God. A typical form of this argument is the following syllogism:
      1. Everything that has a beginning needs a cause.
      2. The universe had a beginning.
      3. Therefore the universe needs a cause.

      Both the first and second premises deal with things that have beginnings, so things that have beginnings are the limit of the premises. (3. is the conclusion). From this syllogism, we can only draw conclusions about things that begin. Things without beginnings are not in the scope of the premises.

      What Barker and Dawkins and Russell and a host of other atheists try to do is make 1. say something like “everything needs a cause.” This is not what it says, nor what it means. The syllogism can only be applied to things with beginnings, for things with beginnings need causes, as 1. states. A beginningless thing does not require a prior cause, for there is no prior state.

      Therefore God, as a beginningless being, does not require a cause, at least not because of the premises in this syllogism. To ask ‘what caused god?” is to ask a question outside of the argument. If one wants to build a case that God requires a beginning, then fine, knock yourself out trying. But what is not valid is to take take this syllogism and try to turn it on itself and make it say that God needs a cause, or try to make it say that begininnigless things are implied in 1.
      So to your question, “What is it about the universe that needs a cause, and why does this not apply to God?” The answer is that the universe has a beginning, and God does not, and the argument only deals with things with beginnings.

      As to simple and complex: The term ‘simple’ here does not mean “easy to understand.” Rather, in this context, simple means not compound, not made of parts. Remember in grammar there are simple sentences and compound sentences? This is the same idea. God is simple in the sense that He is not composed of parts. God is not complex because He is not composed of parts.

      This becomes relevant due to another argument for God. The design argument says that there is design in the universe, and anything designed needs a designer. Atheists then respond by saying something like, ‘if anything designed needs a designer, and the universe is designed, then the designer would have to be more complex than the universe, and then God would also require a designer.’ But this is false, for neither the design argument, nor reason, requires the cause to be more complex than the effect. Humans can make machines with more parts than we have, computers with more data than we have, run faster than we do, etc. So nothing in the design argument says that the cause has to be more designed than the effect.

      Again, God being simple and without composition does not mean He is easy to understand. Quite the opposite, actually.

      More on all this here:

      http://humblesmith.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/god-is-simple-and-does-not-need-a-cause/

      Fun stuff.

      • hausdorff says:

        Hmm, very interesting indeed. I see what you mean when you say that it is out of the scope of the argument as it is dealing with things that have a beginning. It doesn’t apply to God as he doesn’t have a beginning.

        I do see a potential problem here though, this is a proof for the existence of God, right? So how can you start by assuming that God is beginningless? It would seem that you are assuming some properties of God right from the start, before you even start your proof that he exists. In isolation this definitely seems like a huge issue, but perhaps with some auxiliary proofs it’s not as big of a deal as it seems.

        I hope you would agree with me that simply assuming God is beginningless is no good. It needs to be justified. I’ve seen Kalam many, many times, and this always seems to be just assumed, which is probably why the atheist rebuttal you initially complained about is so prevalent.

        You on the other hand don’t seem to be simply assuming it, you are saying that it is in the premises of this argument, however, it is not just assumed from the start, it is proven over here. (and you provided me a link, which I have bookmarked but haven’t had a chance to read yet, but I am planning on looking at it as soon as I can)

        I think what might help (for me at least) would be better defined inputs and outputs. What exactly does Kalam assume and what does it aim to show? The argument does assume that God has no beginning, but that doesn’t mean that this fact isn’t proven elsewhere. And of course, assuming the proof that God has no beginning doesn’t rely on Kalam everything should work out nicely. Furthermore, I often hear Kalam described as a proof of God, but that suggests it is something more than it is doesn’t it? It is claiming to prove some properties of God, but certainly not all of them (some properties of God are assumed in this argument).

        Hmm, sorry if that got a bit rambly, hope it makes sense :)

        • humblesmith says:

          More good questions. This is getting off topic, but I’ll try a brief response. This actually deserves a more lengthy post with more homework, but I don’t have time for that right now. If you’ll give me a bit of leeway for a sloppy response now, I’ll try to tighten it up in an official post later. I realize this explanation will move quick and cover a lot of ground, but this is the explanation in a nutshell.

          Your comments are discovering the limitations of both the kalam argument and the vertical cosmological argument. Strictly speaking, they only argue to an undefined cause, and not to the God that we commonly think of. All apologists readily admit this. The arguments are still valid, but to get to God requires some follow-up reasoning. But the arguments do not presuppose the attributes of God, just merely deal with a cause for the universe, nothing more nor less.

          Once we have a cause for the universe, we can then conclude:
          1. The cause must be a first cause, for an infinite string of prior causes cannot exist. This is because A) by definition, we cannot reach the end of an infinite, yet we are at the end of all the causes prior to now. We cannot say the causes are “continuing to infinity” because ever-increasing finites are not infinites. And B) if every prior cause was itself caused, we would have an infinite string, and actual infinites cannot exist. (key word here is “actual”).

          2. The cause must be infinite, for all finites require a cause, and if the cause required a cause, we would have the problems of 1.

          3. The cause cannot be a composite thing, for A) all composed things cannot be infinite, for it is impossible to have an infinite number of parts because of 1. And B) composed things require a composer (a cause), which cannot be because of 1. Therefore the cause is uncomposed, i.e., simple.

          4. The cause must be necessary (i.e., must exist), for the kalam and vertical cosmological arguments prove logical necessity.

          5. The cause must be one. The cause is infinite due to 2. There cannot be two actual infinites since one infinite would have to have something different than the other to make a distinction, and if there was something that the second had that the first did not, neither would be infinite.

          6. The cause must be unchanging, since if the infinite could change, it would have something it did not previously have, and would not have been infinite.

          7. The cause cannot produce what it does not have, so since the effect has power, knowledge, and personality, the cause must have them also. So when an infinite cause has power and knowledge, it it infinitely powerful and all-knowing. If the effect is personal, personality must be in the cause.

          So it is true the kalam only proves a cause. But if we follow the reasoning, we can show that the cause is first, infinite, simple, necessary, one, unchanging, all-knowing, all-powerful, and personal. This we call God.

          Again, a quick sloppy explanation, but this is the line of reasoning.

          Peace.

    • The question itself is telling. Notice the questioner asks “who” not “what” created the universe. Our intuition points to the fact that you can’t get a “who” from a “what”. A “what” without a mind does not create! And, if every explanation needed and explanation, we’d end up in an infinite regress. Even science couldn’t, and doesn’t work this way. Science has confirmed a big bang, so therefore the universe came into existence and NEEDS a cause. By definition, God is immaterial and therefore doesn’t need a cause.

  5. Uncle Tree says:

    God is the blind, unconscious,
    but seemingly intelligent driving force,
    whom Darwin indirectly termed – The Boss of Evolution
    by renaming The One with two big words: Natural Selection

    The Gospel According to Uncle Tree ;)

    I bless this discussion for its candor.
    A descendant of Yggdrasil I willingly be
    keeping it real ~ UT

  6. Phillip Cowan says:

    This argument is way over my average head. In all candor, I suggest it is over the heads of the participants also. When minds like Aquinas and Russell have grappled unsuccessfully with these concepts for centuries, perhaps the answer is unknowable to the finite mind. I agree with Joshua who declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I do not need to question God’s existence, I simply accept it by faith. Call me simple.

  7. humblesmith says:

    Having re-read the comments in this post, another explanation seems in order. The kalam argument, as a sylogism, says:
    1. Everything with a beginning needs a cause.
    2. The universe had a beginning.
    3. Therefore the universe needs a cause.

    The original comment to this post says that the argument is actually saying “Everything X except Y, therefore Y” and accuses the kalam of therefore being invalid. This criticism is invalid for a very straightforward reason in logic. Note the sylogism above, which is a standard logical sylogism. It has two premises and a conclusion, with three terms, namely: Everything with a beginning, a cause, and the universe. The criticism, “Everything X except Y, therefore Y” is purported to be a restatement of the sylogism. They’re trying to get it to say “Everything needs a cause except the cause of the universe, therefore the cause of the universe exists.” The problem is that this restatement does not have the three terms. It only has two terms. The criticism therefore squeezes out one of the terms, then changes the meaning of the logic from “things with” to “everything except,” then tries to imply that the restatement is the same. The commenters are correct that stated this way the sentence tells us nothing, but are incorrect that it is a restatement of the kalam sylogism. The commenters are incorrect that the three terms of the argument are somehow only two. Consider the classic sylogism used to teach logic:

    1a. All men are mortal.
    2a. Socrates is a man.
    3a. Socrates is mortal.

    If we restated this the same way that the original criticism of this post, it would say something like:

    1b. Everything is immortal except things like Socrates.
    2b. Therefore Socrates is mortal.

    As you can see, 1a is talking about all men, and 1b is talking about immortal things. Therefore 1a-3a is valid, and 1b-2b is an invalid restatement, something totally different.

    As stated previously, the commenters are also incorrect by shoe-horning beginingless things into the first premise, when the sylogism is clearly only speaking of things with beginnings. This merely shows the lengths atheists will go to in using rhetoric instead of logic.

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