Hello Dr. Stratton,
I just finished reading the section about the Kalam Cosmological Argument in your article about various arguments for the existence of God. I have been doing some very serious soul searching the past few months and have been questioning the validity of my own non-belief.
While I wasn’t surprised to find plenty of attempts to prove God’s existence (many of them quite ridiculous, such as Anselm’s original ontological argument), I was shocked by the remarkable level of sophistication within the Kalam argument. It is, without a doubt, the most convincing argument of its kind.
That brings me to a question I had for you and the main purpose of this email. Even if we accept the Kalam argument and consequently that there is a God, how do we know anything about the nature of this God with any certainty? More specifically, how do we A.) Know that this God is personal and not more like the Deist conception of God, and B.) know that this God is the God of the Bible as opposed to any of the other numerous world religions?
Dr. Tim’s response:
This is the epitome of a fantastic and well-written question, Cameron! Thank you for sending it my way. I also commend you for questioning the validity of your own beliefs. This is something that I encourage everyone — including Christians — to do!
I agree with you that Anselm’s original formulation of the Ontological Argument is not persuasive, but the Kalam Cosmological Argument is quite attention-getting. Indeed, it is one of my favorite arguments for God’s existence (for those who would like a brief introduction to the Kalam, click here). The cool thing about the Kalam, although the word “God” is nowhere to be found in the syllogism, is in what can be rationally inferred from the deductive conclusion.
In the final chapter of Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, it is noted that from the Kalam’s conclusion, we can infer that the cause of the universe is a supernatural, spaceless, immaterial, timeless, eternal, beginningless, enormously powerful, volitional personal being who is free in the libertarian sense.
From this I surmised:
If the cause of the universe is personal, then it is at least possible that “It” can have a personal relationship with other personal beings. Humans are personal beings. Therefore, it is possible that humans can have a personal relationship with the cause of the universe. (No special revelation or biblical data required!)
With this in mind, we can rule out a non-personal cause of the universe. Indeed, it is possible to have a personal relationship with the cause and creator of the universe.
Be that as it may, just because it is possible to have a personal relationship with the cause and creator of the universe, it does not necessarily follow that this being desires to have a personal relationship with us. As I have noted elsewhere, although people have bought into thousands of worldviews and religions throughout history, the Kalam leaves us with basically only four alternative options from which to choose. After considering the Kalam, atheism is ruled out as a viable option. The Mormon view of God is also ruled out. Buddhism does not make sense either. What options are left on the table?
- Deism (the view that God creates but does not interact with His creation)
It is nice to have our options narrowed down to four. But are we really left with a multiple choice guess and a 25 percent chance of getting eternity right? How would we know what worldview is true?
It all comes down to Easter and the historical evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus.
If Jesus actually did rise from the dead, then reality becomes clear. This is because Deism claims that God does not interact within creation or with His creatures. If God raised Jesus from the dead, this view of Deism must be false. Islam not only rejects the historical resurrection, Muslims claim that Jesus was never crucified in the first place. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then Islam must be false. Judaism denies the historical resurrection of Jesus as well. Thus, if God raised Jesus from the dead, then Judaism is false.
The Kalam, if it could be combined with historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, would provide us with what C.S. Lewis described as “Mere Christianity.” Or, as I like to say, “some flavor of Christianity would have to be true!”
It’s quite amazing to examine the historical evidence of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Historians seek independent sources, such as, eyewitness accounts, both positive and embarrassing. These sources are plentiful when it comes to the life of Jesus and his resurrection. Mike Licona states that we have as much evidence of the resurrection, if not more, than we have of Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC. Even the harshest skeptical and atheistic historians admit several things as historical fact about Jesus. For example:
- Jesus existed.
- Jesus died by crucifixion.
- Jesus’ disciples (at least) really believed that Jesus rose from the dead, and appeared to them.
- The church persecutor, and Christian hunter, Saul was radically transformed into the Jesus preaching Paul.
- The skeptic James (the brother of Jesus) was suddenly changed into someone who was willing to die for the gospel.
- The tomb of Jesus was found empty by his women followers.
Licona makes his case even stronger by utilizing a “minimal facts” approach that does not even reference the Gospels, meaning that even if the Gospels did not exist these facts about Jesus remain:
- Paul was an eyewitness (hostile).
- Paul knew Jesus’ disciples.
- Paul taught what the disciples taught.
- They taught appearances to individuals and groups, to friend and foe alike.
- They and Paul taught (and believed) Jesus was physically raised from the dead.
Points one through four are accepted facts regarding Jesus and the fifth, although not accepted by many skeptics, remains unrefuted. So, when it comes to the historical method we need to ask the following: What hypothesis best accounts for all of these facts? The resurrection hypothesis accounts for all of these facts; no other naturalistic hypothesis offered accounts for all of these together. The best explanation of the facts is the hypothesis which makes sense of all of them together. The resurrection hypothesis is the only one left on the table.
Licona once told me that,
“The main objection to the resurrection, is not a lack of historical evidence (we have that); rather, it’s a matter of worldview, because the resurrection of Jesus requires a supernatural being to exist.”
But remember the Kalam — we have evidence of a supernatural cause and creator of the universe! So, there is simply no reason to reject the evidence of the historical resurrection of Jesus. And if the cause and creator of the universe raised Jesus from the dead, we seem to have a divine stamp of approval regarding everything that Jesus said, taught, commanded, and exemplified.
I encourage you to study the teachings of Christ. They have changed my life.
Dr. Tim Stratton
 Although Anselm’s original formulation of the Ontological Argument is not persuasive, others have stood on his shoulders and really tightened up some loose ends. I recommend considering a more modern version of the Ontological Argument (click here).
 Mike Licona is a historian who rigorously demonstrates the historical resurrection of Jesus. Subscribe to his YouTube channel.