Many Christian apologists give an argument that the universe needs a cause, therefore there must be a God who caused it. I bumped into a YouTube video from an atheist who repeats the old Bertrand Russell critique that says:
If everything needs a cause, then so does God. So what caused God? If God does not need a cause, then neither does the universe need a cause. Either way, the theist is trapped, and the argument that the Universe must be caused by God is flawed.
We are therefore told that the Christian is being logically senseless, changing the rules in mid-stream, not applying the law of causality to God. The video I saw even went so far as to say the law of causality is invented by people trying to prove God.
First, let’s look at the great skeptic David Hume, who spent a lot of energy trying to disprove God, even going so far as to say that we can’t know cause and effect. Hume went so far as to say that if we let go a stone, we can’t determine whether it will extinguish the sun. Now, that’s a skeptic! But even Hume said “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as to say that something should arise without a cause.” To deny that effects need causes is to undermine most everything. We would hope no one would assert so absurd a proposition as to say things are happening around us without any cause whatsoever.
Second, Russell’s oft-repeated criticism (above) is a classic straw man argument. For I defy any critic to find a theistic apologist who states that “everything needs a cause.” No one who has thought about it very long would say this, no one trained in philosophy or apologetics would ever say such a thing, and the skeptics conveniently never quote any sources, for there aren’t any that claim this.
Rather, the argument is that everything that is caused needs a cause. (duh!) Everything that has a beginning needs a cause. Everything that is an effect needs a cause. Everything that is finite needs a cause. But no philosopher or apologist beyond Logic 101 ever claimed in print that everything needs a cause, for it ultimately ends in meaningless circles. So if you’re going to criticize the arguments for the existence of God, at least state the argument correctly.
1. Every finite thing has a beginning and needs a cause.
2. The universe is finite and had a beginning.
3. The universe needs a cause.
Of course, proving premise 2 is the crucial step. That’s another blog for another day. But for now, let’s just say that anyone who denies premise 2 is saying that the universe is infinite and eternal, thus violating the second law of thermodynamics and teaching some sort of pantheism. At the very least, anyone who denies premise 2 is sneaking God in the side door and calling Him something else.
Again, if you’re going to criticize the arguments for the existence of God, at least stop beating up a straw man.