What is the cause of the universe?

by Matt Slick
7/26/2016

Many people throughout the centuries have wondered where the universe came from. It is vastly huge and old. It had a beginning. Therefore, what is the cause of the universe?

Now, perhaps you might raise the objection that the universe was not caused to exist and that it is infinitely old. But that cannot be because it would mean that the universe has existed forever and an infinite amount of time would have to have been transverse to in order to get to now. But we cannot cross an infinite amount of time in order to get to now. Since we are in the now, we have not crossed an infinite amount of time. Therefore, the universe is not infinitely old.

Another argument would be based on the concept of entropy. This is the second law of thermodynamics which states that things move towards chaos. In other words, the overall order, and usable energy, in a closed system is decreased as time progresses. Functionally, the universe is a closed system and will eventually suffer complete heat death where all energy is evenly dispersed, and no biological life can exist. But if the universe were infinitely old, it would have reached the heat death state long ago. Since it has not done that, the universe is not infinitely old.

The problem with an infinite set of causes

The following is taken from the CARM article found at Who created God?

"Let's say that there was an infinitely long line of dominoes on an infinitely large surface. You and I are talking about the origin of God and we hear the sound of dominoes falling, one after another. We stop our conversation and watch one domino knock down another as the sequence passes us by. We are curious to find the origin of the sequence, so we get in our superfast spaceship, and we head towards the origin of the domino sequence. But, if that line is infinitely long (each domino represents a cause), then by definition, we can never reach the start, because there is no start. There is no first domino. But, if there is no first domino, then there cannot be a second, or a third, or a fourth, etc. Furthermore, in order for the dominoes to fall one after another and reach us at our original location, an infinite number of dominoes would have needed to have fallen in order to get to where we are now. But that is not possible because an infinite number of dominoes (which implies an infinite distance/time) would need to be crossed to get to us. But, it's not possible to cross an infinite distance of dominos; otherwise, it is not infinitely long. See the problem?

Let me summarize. It is impossible for an infinitely long sequence of causes to lead to the present because it would mean that we would have to cross an infinite amount of time to get to now. But it's not possible to cross an infinite amount of time to get to now; otherwise, it's not an infinite amount of time. Therefore, there cannot be an infinite number of causes. If there is not an infinite number of causes, there must be a finite number of causes. If there is a finite number of causes, then there is a single, uncaused cause. That uncaused cause is God. He had no beginning."

The Universe Was Caused to Exist

Since the universe is not infinitely old, it was caused to exist. But, what caused the universe to exist? Two options could be offered. It caused itself to exist or was caused to exist by something other than itself. However, if the universe caused itself to exist, it would have needed to exist already in order to perform the action that brought itself into existence. But that makes no sense. Therefore, it cannot be that the universe brought itself into existence. The only other option is that something else brought it into existence.

Personal and Impersonal Cause

There are only two possibilities to account for the cause of the universe: personal and not personal. If we can show that the impersonal cause could not have brought the universe into existence, then it is removed from the only two options available, and the other one (personal) is automatically verified as the cause. After all, you can't remove both of the only two possible options. So, the personal cause would be God. But, before I begin, let me say that the following outline is aimed at the philosophically untrained person so he or she can grasp the argument. Let's take a look.

  1. The cause of the universe is either personal or is not personal.  There is no third option.
  2. An impersonal cause is not alive, has no will, and cannot decide to do anything. 
  3. If the cause of the universe is not the result of a decision, then it is the result of natural action.
  4. An impersonal cause must have already, naturally possessed the necessary capability to create the universe as part of its existence.  Otherwise, it could not have caused the universe to exist.
  5. If the impersonal cause already had what was necessary to create the universe, then the universe would have been created automatically, since the cause could not decide to create at any particular time, but it would create as an automatic result of its natural characteristics.
  6. The impersonal cause of the universe existed forever.
    1. Note:  someone might ask if the cause of the universe itself had a cause. But then we would be asking what caused that cause, and the one before it, etc. We would then be back to the problem of an infinite regression of uncaused causes. For the sake of this argument we are saying that the initial cause, in this case the cause of the universe, is a single initial cause that always existed since an infinite regression of causes is not possible.  Therefore, see section "The problem with an infinite set of causes" above.
  7. If the nonpersonal cause of the universe existed forever, then it always possessed what was necessary to create the universe as part of its nature, it would have brought the universe into existence automatically, an infinitely long time ago.
  8. But the universe is not infinitely old.
  9. Therefore, it cannot be the case that there is an impersonal cause of the universe.
  10. Since there is no impersonal cause of the universe, there must be a personal cause:  God.

God caused the universe to exist

Since an impersonal eternal cause is not possible as an explanation for the existence of the universe, the only other option available to us as a personal, eternal cause of the universe. The personal, eternal cause of the universe decided at a particular point in time to bring the universe into existence.

Of course, biblically we would say that God, the God of Scripture brought the universe into existence.

  • Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

 

 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.