Updated: Mar 3
Once upon a time, there was a man who thought: “If my house needs a foundation to rest upon, then surely the Earth too needs a foundation to rest upon.” In other words: “What is keeping the Earth from falling through space?” He speculated that the earth is resting on a turtle. But, what is holding the turtle up? Why another turtle of course! And what is holding up that second turtle—another turtle. This continues on for infinity, and therefore there is no last turtle—just one more turtle, and another, and another…
Infinity assumes that there is no end. In the case of the turtles, not one of them will reach the “bottom,” instead the earth is held up by the “last” turtle. The only problem is, there can never be a last turtle; so, instead of the turtles supporting the Earth and keeping it from falling through space, the turtles are hanging on to it and, let’s imagine, pulling it down with them!
Let’s go a little deeper. With the rise of modern science, came the first and second laws of thermodynamics and the big bang theory. The first and second laws of thermodynamics say that energy cannot be created nor destroyed and that the amount of usable energy in the universe is running out. This suggests that the universe had a beginning, because, if it were eternal, then how is it that—with a finite, or limited, amount of usable energy—we haven’t run out yet? The big bang theory suggests that the universe began from a single point and then expanded outward from that point. Both ideas suggest that the universe had a beginning.
The question is: “What caused the beginning of the universe?” Some speculate that another universe started this one. But, “What started that universe?” Well, another universe of course! Just like the example with the turtles, there is a problem here. Is there an answer to this problem? Some of you may have already guessed that there is a very simple solution, and that is that there must be, as philosophers would call it, a “first cause.”
There cannot be an infinite regress of universes that causes the one before it into existence. There must be a starting point. This starting point cannot have a cause of its own or else we get another infinite regress of causes. What does this mean? It means that the first cause must be eternal. It was never born, nor will it ever die.
For some, this may seem strange but consider the alternative. We have seen that there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. The solution to that was that there must have been a first cause that is eternal. The only other alternative to that is to say that nothing “caused” the universe into existence. So, your options are either 1.) Something caused the universe, or 2.) nothing caused the universe.
A world created by nothing would be a fantastical one to say the least! So, option one it is! Now, what is this first cause? Well, we know that this first cause brought the universe into being. This assumes many things, one of which is that it must be very powerful to accomplish such a feat!
It also assumes that this first cause must be personal. To some, this may seem like a reach, but there is a very good explanation for why that is. Al-Ghazali, an 11th century Persian philosopher, gives us an explanation: “If a cause is sufficient to produce its effect, then if the cause is there, the effect must be there, too.” An example of this is gravity. Gravity causes us to be “grounded” (effect). As long as gravity is there, we will always remain “grounded.”
Let’s assume for a minute, that gravity caused the universe. If gravity is the cause of the universe, then if gravity exists (the cause), then so must the universe (the effect). We know that the first cause is eternal; so, if gravity is the first cause, it is eternal. This also means that the effect (the universe) would also be eternal because its cause is eternal.
However, we know that the universe is not eternal. So, how can we have a sufficient first cause of the universe—without having an eternal universe? Al-Ghazali’s answer to this is that the first cause must be personal. It must be personal because only a personal being can choose to cause the universe.
I can cause my freezer to be cold and therefore freeze my soon-to-be ice. The ice is frozen because it is cold, but the “cold” cannot choose to not freeze the water. Only I can. I can choose to unplug the freezer. The existence of the universe does not necessarily follow because of this personal being. Just like a piece of art does not necessarily follow because I exist. But frozen water necessarily follows from the temperature being 32 degrees. And us being “grounded” necessarily follows because gravity exists.
This means that the universe does not have to be eternal if a personal being caused it. The personal being can choose “when” to cause the universe. Just like I can choose when to create a painting. This allows for the universe to be finite—despite its cause being eternal.
So, the cause of the universe is:
Theologians call this being—God. To know which god, requires more arguments. Lucky for you, there are more arguments that show that this God is the God of Christianity. Here are some arguments for the existence of a God—“The Moral Argument,” “The Teleological Argument,” “The Epistemological Argument,” and here is a basic rundown of a historical argument for the Christian God—“The Minimal Facts Approach.”
I wouldn’t take this lightly, even if you are not fully convinced. The existence of God comes with many implications and answers to fundamental questions like: “Who am I? Why am I here? Do I have an intended function or purpose? What is good and evil? Is there an afterlife?” So, whether you are convinced or not, this is worth looking into.
Al-Gha-zalı-, Kitab al-Iqtisad fi’l-I’tiqad, Quoted in William Lane Craig. "The Kalam Cosmological Argument." 2015. Reasonablefaith.Org. https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/
 Al-Gha-zalı-, Kitab al-Iqtisad fi’l-I’tiqad, Quoted in William Lane Craig, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument," 2015, Reasonablefaith.Org, https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/