Objections to the First Cause Argument

The first cause argument is the argument that everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause, that the universe has a beginning of its existence, and that the universe therefore has a cause. This cause, unless it too has a cause, must be without a beginning; it must be eternal. If successful, this argument proves the existence of an uncreated Creator.

Who Created God?

Critics of the first cause argument often try to rebut it by asking a question: Who created God? This question is supposed to present the theist with a dilemma.

If the theist concedes that God does have a creator, then isn’t it God’s creator that we should should be worshipping rather than God? And who created God’s creator? The danger of an infinite regress of creators, each postulated in order to explain the existence of that subsequent to it, looms. If there is an infinite regress of creators, though, then there is no first creator, no ultimate cause of the universe, no God.

Perhaps, then, the theist should maintain that God doesn’t have a creator, that he is an uncaused cause. If uncaused existence is possible, though, then there is no need to postulate a God that created the universe; if uncaused existence is possible, then the universe could be uncaused.

However the theist answers the question Who created God?, then, what he says will undermine the first cause argument, and he will be forced to abandon it. So, at least, runs this common objection to first cause argument.

Responses

This objection is much less powerful than it first appears. In fact, it rests on a simple misunderstanding of the first cause argument.

If the first cause argument were the argument that everything has a cause, and that the universe therefore has a cause, and therefore that God exists, then the question Who created God? would indeed present the theist with a problem.

That, though, is not the argument. The first cause argument is the argument that everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause, that the universe has a beginning of its existence, and that the universe therefore has a cause of its existence. The theist can therefore confidently answer the question Who created God?, "No one created God", without fear of compromising the first cause argument.

The theist’s position is that everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence. If something comes into existence, then there must be something else able to bring it into existence. Nothing comes from nothing.

God, though, unlike the universe, did not begin to exist. God is eternal. He exists outside of time, and has neither beginning nor end. The theist can therefore admit that uncaused existence is possible in the case of God, without being forced to admit that uncaused existence is possible in the case of the universe. God and the universe are two entirely different sorts of thing.

Not Everything Has a Cause

A second line of attack on the first cause argument is to deny that everything that has a beginning has a cause. In fact, scientists have observed some events that have no apparent cause, that appear to be entirely random. Subatomic particles behave very strangely indeed. This, it is sometimes suggested, confirms that it is possible that the universe, strange though it may seem, came into existence without any cause of its doing so.

Responses

It is important to remember that much science is provisional. What may seem to be an uncaused event may be an event the cause of which is unobserved. We should therefore not be too hasty in agreeing that uncaused events are possible on the basis of observations of subatomic particles.

Just as important, however, is the fact that the apparent randomness of the behaviour of subatomic particles is not also found in larger structures. Randomness, if randomness there be, is confined to the microscopic. The behaviour of everything else can, at least in principle, be explained.

The first cause argument is an argument from the mere fact that a temporal universe exists to the existence of an eternal creator of it. The next argument, the argument from design, takes a much more detailed look at the universe in search of evidence for God’s existence.