Atheist Objection #2: If God Created the Universe, Who Created God?

Bob takes us to the second atheist objection to the Christian claim that God is the creator of the universe. Bob seems to think this objection is more plausible than it actually is, which is mind-bloggling to me. (Totally intended) Here is his initial remark regarding this objection:

No, I think we’re all on the same page here. The issue is simply that your claim that everything had a cause must apply to God as well. By your logic, he must’ve had a creator.

The first problem with this objection is that it is a straw man. Christianity does not claim that everything had a cause. So, let’s dissect this objection. First, if God created the universe, who created God? Well, every created thing has a cause. The universe is a created thing. Therefore, the universe has a cause. That’s pretty simple. Next point: Christianity affirms that the universe had a cause because it was created. And that cause was God. So the causal relationship exists where there exists the created category. Something that was created was obviously caused by something else. But what about things that exist outside the created category? If they were not created, in the sense that at time x they were not as they are now at time y, then in what sense can they be said to be in the created category? And if they are not in the created category, then there is no causal relationship. If x was not and then it was, there is necessarily a causal relationship. But if x has always been just as it is now, then there can be no sense of causality in x.

Aquinas put forth this argument as well as anyone in the history of Christian apologetics. It is found in his Summa Theologica, and is the second of five ways in which Aquinas believes that God can be proven.

The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.[1]

 This is the argument to which Atheist Objection #2 is being applied. It is only proper, if one wants to critique an argument, that they represent it accurately. Clearly Aquinas, by referring to the world of sense, and by referring to a thing being prior to itself, did not place God in this same category. What this means is that Christians are perfectly justified in ignoring this objection because it is not a valid objection after all. It attempt to apply the concept of causality to uncaused properties. The objection simply misses its mark by either intentionally or ignorantly misunderstanding the argument.

Now, should Christians continue to use this argument? Personally, it may be useful in some circumstances, but it should never be used as a basic or core proof of God’s existence. There is a rational chasm between a first efficient cause and the conclusion that that cause is rightly called God. I find this argument to be unhelpful in most circumstances. Moreover, the argument itself only demonstrates that there is a first efficient cause or ultimate cause of all things caused. It does not prove that this cause is the Christian God revealed in Scripture. In order to demonstrate that the first cause is the God of Scripture, you have to turn to Scripture. My point is simply, if you are going to have to get to Scripture anyways, why not just begin with Scripture. This way, instead of pretending that logic or human reason is your authority and proof for God, you can turn to the real source of authority and proof for God, the Scriptures. There is no better place to answer skeptical questions about Christian beliefs than Scripture itself.

God, being uncreated, being self-contained, absolute, eternal being, does not require a cause. Nothing that is uncaused requires a cause. The Christian claim is that only God is eternal and therefore, only God is uncaused. Everything outside God is caused. It seems rather elementary then to say that every caused thing must have been caused. Indeed, it is a tautology. It should also be kept in mind that part of Aquinas argument was to show that universe was created, not eternal as some opponents believed.

The Christian then can dispense with this silly objection. It is wide of the mark and one of the easiest arguments to dismiss. In fact, I am surprised to see Bob offer a defense of it. This just goes to show you that men are desperate not to believe that Christianity is true.

[1] Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).

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