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The atheist will argue that the universe is eternal or uncaused. The pantheist will argue that the universe itself is divine or at least contains the divine.
And the theist (or deist) will argue that the universe can only be explained as the product of a supernatural and intelligent creator. (Note that theism / deism encompasses a broad array of intepretations of that intelligent being).
Each of these baseline theories has subsets and spin-offs, to be sure. But, make no mistake, these are the foundational explanations – and one of them must be true.
Let’s first acknowledge that the universe exists. There are some humans who refuse to accept this. They believe that existence itself is imaginary and illusory. Time will not permit us to fully confront this minority view.
But suffice it to say, it is a form of atheism. If nothing exists, that would certainly call into question the reality of any kind of god – to say the least.
The vast majority of people have no trouble rejecting the fringe view of non-existence, and are willing to accept that the universe is, in fact, real. That being the case, we are left with two choices.
Either the universe is wholly independent and uncaused or it is dependent and caused.
Ancient philosophers coined the terms “necessary being” and “contingent being” to describe these two categories. Do not get hung up on these definitions. They are simply provided for clarity and description.
A contingent being is something that depends on another being for its origin and/or continued existence. A necessary being is an entity that needs no outside aid. It is timeless and absolute.
If the universe is all that there is, it (by definition) cannot be a contingent being. As Taylor University’s Winfried Corduan explains: “By its very nature, a contingent being needs to be caused by another being.
It consists of actualized potential, and since a potential cannot actualize itself, it must be actualized by a cause outside itself.”
Some try to get around this problem by arguing that the universe has always been. But the evolutionary theory decimates this position, since it holds that things have, over billions and trillions of years, evolved from lower orders of things.
That evolutionary process must have started somewhere. Of course, the evolutionary theory itself is problematic, as we will see in future articles. Nevertheless, those who enthusiastically embrace evolution can’t then logically hold to a static, eternal universe.
Those that regard the universe to be a necessary being, meaning that it is timeless, slide ultimately into the pantheist camp. The reason is that they must hypothesize conditions which would render the universe as being dynamic and, at some level, conscious.
This is how many evolutionists explain the origin of the evolutionary process. But a superior intelligence or consciousness makes atheism a lie and thus this line of reasoning must be categorized with pantheism, which will be addressed later.
The only logically consistent answer an atheist can have to the origin of the universe is that it spontaneously originated from nothing. Not that such a position is logical. It is simply the only position logically consistent with atheism.
The atheist must embrace an uncaused universe. Of course, being consistent with atheism is not an argument in favor of this notion.
There are simply too many pitfalls to the atheist position. If you believe the universe to be infinite and timeless, you have to either argue in favor of an infinite regress of caused causes (something that makes no logical sense) or you must regard the universe as dynamic and animate, and this makes you no longer an atheist.
In short, atheism provides no sensible or rational explanation for the universe.
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, pantheism is “the doctrine that the universe conceived of as a whole is God and, conversely, that there is no God but the combined substance, forces, and laws that are manifested in the existing universe.”
Pantheism falls apart on two primary points. First, the universe is decaying. Most scientists agree that, as things presently appear, the universe will end. Therefore, pantheism would mean that God is dying.
This is hardly a tenet any such religion would want to rally around. Moreover, the concept of God is theologically and philosophically contingent on His (or Her, some would say) being eternal. Otherwise, God wouldn’t be God.
The second blow to pantheism is that the universe is (scientifically and technically speaking) finite. There is ample evidence that the universe is expanding. In order to expand, it must have boundaries. For all practical purposes, humanity will never reach those boundaries in space travel.
Thus, from our vantage point, the universe might as well be infinite. But, our vantage point is not what determines reality. The universe is, most scientists agree, expanding. Therefore, the universe is finite.
God, by His inherent nature, is infinite. This is a contradiction, and it fatally undermines pantheism.
If the universe is not a necessary being, it must be a contingent being. This means it was originated. It was caused. And that means there had to be a cause.
Arguing against the above premise is an exercise in futility. Science has all but shown the universe had an origin and that it is growing. Only the most radical atheist would dare dispute this.
Therefore, the universe is a contingent being – caused by a necessary being. Atheists or agnostics, at this point, predictably ask: “What about God? Doesn’t God also need a cause?”
Remember the definitions. A “necessary being” does NOT need a cause. A “necessary being” is, according to its definition, uncaused and independent. Some might say we are playing with semantics and definitions here, but this doesn’t get the atheist anywhere.
If an atheist rejects this definition of a necessary being, what does that achieve? That there are no uncaused beings?
Okay, that means that everything is caused. What does that get you? That the universe and all life is therefore an endless chain of caused causes? You have a perpetual puzzle that defies logic or rationality.
So, let’s get back onto logical ground here, and accept that there is almost certainly a true “necessary being” – a cause for all the contingent beings in the universe. Such a necessary being would therefore, by its nature, be:
– independent (nothing else caused it and it depends on nothing else)
– infinite (limitless)
– unrestricted by time (eternal)
– (likely) unlimited (in its scope and power)
Think through what it means to be a necessary being ultimately responsible for the reality and existence of all contingent beings in the universe, and you’ll understand the above qualities would have to be the characteristics of the necessary being.
And, guess what? These are precisely the qualities normally associated with divinity, and therefore we can pretty safely hypothesize that such a divine entity exists.
That, however, isn’t all. As Corduan explains: “The cause of beings must have the positive qualities that it instills in its effects….Any intrinsically positive property encountered in creation ultimately reflects the nature of the creator.”
Since the universe isn’t merely matter and energy, but also includes conscious life, that tells us something else about this divine entity.
The divine cause of the universe must be conscious and intelligent. And now we can start using the word “God” to desribe this divine being. In fact, this understanding of “God” is consisent with (though not necessarily exclusive to) the Judeo-Christian God’s statement as recorded in Genesis: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)
In fact, according to the Bible, God literally breathed life into Adam, making mankind a “living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
Human consciousness is most credibly explained as the work of God. To argue that consciousness is an illusion or the product of random chance defies logic. God is the most sensible explanation of what we call the human soul. Otherwise, we are just thinking matter.
The most sensible, logical, and rational explanation for the origin of the universe and the presence of conscious life is the one found in the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
Author: Brian Tubbs