In order to understand an argument, one must FIRST understand what the CONCLUSION of the argument asserts.
Since Jeff Lowder and I disagree about what the conclusion of the kalam cosmological argument (hereafter: KCA) asserts, we also disagree about the specific content of KCA. I’m going to present my reasons for believing that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, as well as my reasons for rejecting Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
It is amazing that two people with significant knowledge and background in the philosophy of religion would have such divergent views as to what the conclusion of a well-known argument in the philosophy of religion asserts. This in itself is an argument for the view that Craig’s presentations of KCA are less than ideal in terms of clarity, which is the main point I wish to make, anyway.
It is also amazing that Jeff Lowder holds the view that Craig has mischaracterized the conclusion of his own argument on more than one occassion. This is certainly a real possibility, but to entertain this possibility seriously is to doubt the clarity of Craig’s understanding of his own argument, which again supports my basic point about there being a problem of clarity with Craig’s presentation of KCA. If Craig is himself confused about what the conclusion of KCA asserts, then it should be no surprise that others would also be confused and disagree about what the conclusion of KCA asserts.
If it turns out that my position that the conclusion of KCA is GOD EXISTS is a plausible one (and I have plenty of evidence to back up my view), and if Jeff Lowder’s position that the conclusion of KCA is THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE is also a plausible one (I suspect that Jeff Lowder will be able to provide evidence to support his view), then that means that Craig has done a poor job of presenting KCA in a way that makes the content of this argument clear.
I’m going to present evidence for my view of KCA in chronological order, based on publication dates of the books or articles that I examine. I plan to examine at least eight different publications/articles/lectures by Craig between 1979 and 2015.
The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (Here’s Life Publishers, 1979)
In Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984), William Craig tells us that:
I have defended this argument [the kalam cosmological argument] in two books, the Kalam Cosmological Argument and The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe. (Apologetics, p.73)
So, one important source for understanding the contents and conclusion of KCA is The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe (hereafter: EOG&BOU). The title alone provides significant support for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS. One of Craig’s first books about KCA contains the phrase “The Existence of God” in its title!
The Preface of EOG&BOU confirms my view that this book is a presentation of KCA for a general audience:
Those who wish to pursue more deeply some of the issues I discuss [here in EOG&BOU] should consult my technical study, The Kalam Cosmological Argument (London: Macmillan, 1979; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1979).
Assuming, then that EOG&BOU is a presentation of KCA for a general audience, the preface provides evidence for my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS. Here are the opening sentences of EOG&BOU (emphasis added by me):
This is a book for those who DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. It is my hope that this work will be the means by which some person seeking to know the truth about the universe will COME TO KNOW ITS CREATOR.
Several years of philosophical and scientific research have convinced me that BELIEF IN THE EXISTENCE OF GOD is the most intellectually respectable position available to a person today. In this work I have tried to marshal briefly and convincingly some of the evidence IN SUPPORT OF THE THESIS THAT GOD EXISTS. (EOG&BOU, p.9)
So, based on the Preface of EOG&BOU, one would reasonably infer that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS.
The content of EOG&BOU also goes against Jeff Lowder’s view that the conclusion of KCA is: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE. There are three chapters in EOG&BOU that present a unified line of reasoning: II, III, and IV. Just the titles of these chapters alone provides significant evidence for my view of KCA and against Jeff Lowder’s view (from the table of contents, emphasis added by me):
II. An Argument FOR GOD’s EXISTENCE (1):
Philosophical Proof of the Beginning of the Universe
III. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (2):
Scientific Confirmation of the Beginning of the Universe
IV. An Argument FOR GOD’S EXISTENCE (3):
The Personal Creator of the Universe
First, note that the titles of these chapters provide support for my view of KCA, because each chapter title begins “An Argument for God’s Existence…” So, the titles of three key chapters of a book that lays out KCA speak of an argument for God’s existence, implying that KCA is an argument for God’s existence. If KCA is an argument for God’s existence, then it follows that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the claim that “The universe has a cause” is NOT the ultimate conclusion of KCA.
Second, note that these three chapters do NOT present three separate arguments for the existence of God. The first two chapters present arguments for the claim that the universe began to exist. Chapter IV is the third of the three chapters, and in that chapter, Craig argues that IF the universe began to exist, THEN God exists (my summary). Thus, all three chapters work together to form an argument for the claim: GOD EXISTS.
Third, note the claim implied by the title of Chapter IV: “The personal Creator of the Universe”; this suggests that KCA supports the conclusion that there exists exactly one personal Creator of the Universe; such a claim clearly goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE. So, if Chapter IV represents part of KCA, then the conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of KCA, then KCA can be summarized this way:
1. The universe began to exist. (Chapters II & III)
2. If the universe began to exist, then God exists. (Chapter IV)
3. God exists. (end of Chapter IV)
Another indication that these three chapters of EOG&BOU work together to form a single argument is that in the opening pages of Chapter II, we find a diagram that summarizes the logic of these three chapters and how they work together (EOG&BOU, p.38):
If we assume that contents of these three chapters of EOG&BOU represent the contents of KCA, then it would be reasonable to interpret the diagram on page 38 as a representation of the logic of KCA. But in that case it is clear that the ultimate conclusion of KCA goes beyond the simple claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE. The ultimate conclusion of KCA must (at least) be something like the conclusion mentioned immediately following the diagram (emphasis added by me):
By proceeding through these alternatives, I think I can demonstrate how reasonable it is to believe that the universe is not eternal but had a beginning and was caused by a personal being; therefore A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS. (EOG&BOU, p.38)
Such a conclusion clearly goes beyond the claim that THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
Chapter IV can be divided into two main sections corresponding to the last two sets of alternatives in the above diagram. Pages 83-85 correspond to the choice between the alternatives of “caused” or “not caused”. About 2/3 down the page on page 85 Craig concludes the discussion of those alternatives:
Any unprejudiced inquirer ought to agree with me, at this point, that the universe was caused to exist. (EOG&BOU, p.85)
At the bottom of that same page, Craig begins his discussion of the choice between the third set of alternatives:
Now let’s turn to our third set of alternatives, and I will explain why I think the cause of the universe is personal rather than impersonal. (EOG&BOU, p.85-86)
So, the discussion of the third set of alternatives occurs for the remainder of Chapter IV, on pages 85-89.
If we look at the very last paragraph of Chapter IV, we find further confirmation of my view that the conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS (emphasis added by me):
Thus we reach our conclusion: A PERSONAL CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE EXISTS, changeless and timeless prior to creation and in time subsequent to creation. This is the central idea of what theists mean by “GOD.” (EOG&BOU, p.89)
Craig is here spelling out the final step in this argument for the existence of God. Although he does not use the words “God exists,” it is clear that what Craig has in mind is the following inference:
A personal creator of the universe exists.
Furthermore, even if I’m wrong that “God exists” is the ultimate conclusion of the argument in EOG&BOU, it is clear that the explicit conclusion that “a personal creator of the universe exists” (EOG&BOU, p.89) goes beyond the simple conclusion that “the universe was caused to exist.”(EOG&BOU, p.85).
Assuming that the content of EOG&BOU represents the content of the kalam cosmological argument, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise just from reading this book, then it seem abundantly clear to me that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is: GOD EXISTS, and that the ultimate conclusion of KCA is NOT the simple claim that: THE UNIVERSE HAS A CAUSE.
This view of KCA is supported by (a) the title of the book, (b) the statement of the purpose of the book in the Preface, (c) the titles of the chapters, (d) the logical structure of the argument presented in Chapters II, III, and IV, (e) the structure of the diagram of logical alternatives given on page 38, (f) the correspondence between the apparent logical structure of the overall argument with the logical structure represented in the diagram of logical alternatives on page 38 and (g) the explicit statement of the conclusion at the end of Chapter IV.
In Debating Christian Theism (Oxford University Press, 2013), Craig has an article titled “The Kalam Argument”. In that article Craig lays out a systematic argument that follows the exact same structure (the three sets of logical alternatives) that we have seen above in EOG&BOU. So, some 34 years after the publication of EOG&BOU, Craig is still presenting KCA in a form that closely matches the logical structure of the argument found in EOG&BOU. I will go into the details of this more recent article when I work my way up to the year 2013 for publications by Craig about KCA.
Next, I will take a look at:
Apologetics: An Introduction (Moody Press, 1984)