The question ‘Who made God’ is one of the first questions a young child asks. It is an obvious question with a difficult to comprehend answer. The problem is when adults get stymied. Worse is when grown men who ought to know better and claim they do get it wrong. For example, this little bit from Christian turned atheist Dan Barker says:
The mind of a god would be at least as complex and orderly as the rest of nature and would be subject to the same question: Who made god? If a god can be thought eternal, then so can the universe.
While rejecting the premise of his statement, it does help us bring it to the point. In the first place, Christians themselves create the initial problem. To their kids or in a carefree moment they’ll say “Everything is made by God.” The kid quickly sees that everything ought to include God, so now they want to know what made God. When the parent says “Everything except God” it seems ad hoc. The ‘everything’ needs to be qualified, and Christians worth their salt typically have. For example, William Lane Craig issues the Kalam Cosmological Argument with something more like “Everything with a beginning has a cause.”
One of the reasons I find Dan Barker to be *ahem* not very… *ahem* worthy of my time generally is because he is perfectly comfortable presenting the view that Christians argue ‘Everything has a cause.’ It is very disingenuous if he knows better… and if he doesn’t know better… well… at any rate you will see on the page I mentioned above down by ‘First Cause’ he does exactly this.
Still, it is not my point here to argue the Kalam or go after Dan Barker. I am directing my argument against those who feel that it is ad hoc to infer or deduce that something has always existed, uncreated. Many newly minted skeptics thump their chests smugly about the absurdity of believing in an uncaused cause and then uncritically go on to posit their own- only they call their choice the ‘universe’ whereas the theist calls theirs, ‘God.’
The value of the Barker quote above is to corroborate my assertion that it is not inherently inferior to say that there is a God, eternally existing, because no matter what, we posit something eternally existing, without a cause. We can turn Barker’s quote around: “Who made the universe? If a universe can be thought eternal, then so can God.”
There are two modern objections to the ‘no matter what’ but I’ll get to them in another blog entry without dealing with them in this one.*
So now we come to the crux of the issue. If we must agree that something is causeless and there is no inherent absurdity in believing that ‘thing’ is God rather than the universe, how exactly do we come to settle on either option? The rest of Mr. Barker’s essay goes on to regurgitate the essential argumentation of David Hume, whose arguments William Lane Craig astutely recognizes forms the basis of the arguments of today’s ‘free thinkers.’ David Hume basically said, “So if we must believe in something uncreated why go the extra step and posit that this thing is something apart from the universe? Why not just stop the ‘chain’ at the universe itself?”
Well, there certainly seems to be one embarrassingly pragmatic reason: according to scientists today the universe had a beginning. Even a six year old sees the problem: in our list of candidates for things that have always existed or have no ‘higher’ cause, things with beginnings would seem to eliminate themselves from consideration.
If one cares about evidence and likelihoods, that observation is enough to reasonably infer that ‘God’ is the better option… at least, the universe would seem to be off the table as a candidate.
So how does one decide the question? The atheist answers it basically this way: “Naturalistic explanations are to be preferred first and foremost and any other kinds of explanations require an extraordinary amount and kind of evidence to be considered at all, let alone accepted as grounds for reasonable belief.
Craig answers Hume on this, as have many others. I will say only that Hume himself was relying strictly on ‘natural revelation‘ arguments for the existence of God, and many of his detractors meet him on the same grounds, whereas his objections, and the objections of philosophical naturalists today, summarily discount arguments from ‘special revelation.’
Here is why this is important. There is no way one can wake up in the morning and suddenly know without a doubt that the universe and not God is the thing that is ultimately noncontingent. The only way you could hope to know such a thing is to investigate without presupposing you already know. If there is a God, for example, it is reasonable to suspect that he might have revealed himself. You’d go looking for evidence that he had but if you are pursuing the matter honestly, you wouldn’t take a prejudicial view on claims of revelation. And this is where newly inquiring seekers of truth should take warning: ever since Hume, skeptics have assumed that one must prefer naturalistic explanations.
It would be one thing if this assumption could be justified, but alas, by the very nature of the assumption it could only be justified by knowing already that there is no God. And that would mean making up your mind on the question (‘what is eternal, God or the universe?’) before investigating (ie, begging the question). I contend that without this assumption to muck up the works, the evidence will lead one to believe in the existence of God.
*the two objections are basically 1. we don’t have to believe something has always existed without a cause. Maybe things can ‘pop’ into existence uncaused. 2. but we don’t have to choose between God and the universe. We now can also include the ‘multiverse’ as an option, bringing to 4 the available options- God, the universe, ‘popping’ into existence, and multiverses.