Does God exist, or is the material universe all that is or ever was or ever will be? One approach to answering this question is the cosmological argument. It goes like this. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. Is the first premise true? Let’s consider.
Believing that something can pop into existence without a cause is more of a stretch than believing in magic. At least with magic you’ve got a hat and a magician. And if something can come into being from nothing, then why don’t we see this happening all the time? No; everyday experience and scientific evidence confirm our first premise. If something begins to exist, it must have a cause.
But what about our second premise? Did the universe begin, or has it always existed? Atheists have typically said that the universe has been here forever.
“The universe is just there, and that’s all.” Bertrand Russell
First, let’s consider the second law of thermodynamics. It tells us the universe is slowly running out of usable energy, and that’s the point. If the universe had been here forever it would have run out of usable energy by now. The second law points us to a universe that has a definite beginning.
This is further confirmed by a series of remarkable scientific discoveries. In 1915 Albert Einstein presented his general theory of relativity. This allowed us for the first time to talk meaningfully about the past history of the universe. Next Alexander Friedmann and Georges Lemaitre, each working with Einstein’s equations, predicted that the universe is expanding. Then in 1929, Edwin Hubble measured the red shift and light from distant galaxies. This empirical evidence confirmed not only that the universe is expanding, but that it sprang into being from a single point in the finite past. It was a monumental discovery almost beyond comprehension.
However, not everyone is fond of a finite universe, so it wasn’t long before alternative models popped into existence. But one by one, these models failed to stand the test of time. More recently three leading cosmologists, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, proved that any universe which has on average been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning. This even applies to the multiverse, if there is such a thing.
This means that scientists can no longer hide behind a past eternal universe. There is no escape. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning. Any adequate model must have a beginning just like the standard model. It’s quite plausible then that both premises of the argument are true. This means that the conclusion is also true; The universe has a cause. And since the universe can’t cause itself, its cause must be beyond the space-time universe. It must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, uncaused, and unimaginably powerful, much like… God.
The cosmological argument shows that in fact it is quite reasonable to believe that God does exist.