The Case for a Creator: Cosmological Arguments and Explanation

I am now reading Hugh McCann’s Creation and the Sovereignty of God.[1] He begins the book by making a case for a creator by advancing an inductive version of the cosmological argument.

Cosmological arguments seek an explanation for the existence of the world. According to McCann, an explanation for the existence of the world would account for two facts: (1) that we have a world at all, and (2) that we have this world instead of another. The best way to achieve such an explanation is to utilize what amounts to an inductive method of reasoning, a method familiarly employed by science.

Hypothetico-inductive arguments are in essence very simple: they state first that if the hypothesis under study were true, then certain phenomena ought to be observed. If they are in fact observed, then the existence of those phenomena counts as confirming evidence—that is, evidence that favors the truth of the hypothesis. (8)

Thus, our cosmological argument runs as follows:

(1) If a creator with divine attributes undertook to produce to this world, then it would surely exist. (hypothesis).

(2) The world does exist.

(3) Therefore, probably, a creator with divine attributes produced this world.

Of course, for the cosmological argument to be successful,  (1), the godly-hypothesis, must explain better than any competing naturalistic hypothesis. And according to McCann, any naturalistic explanation for the existence of the world is a nonstarter. Standard cosmology suggests that the universe began a finite time ago with the Big Bang. At the ‘point’ of the beginning, there literally was nothing—no time, no space, no matter, no energy—and no naturalistic reality to explain the world’s coming into existence (nor is there any naturalistic reality on the other side of the Big Bang to explain the universe coming into existence). To make matters worse, McCann argues that the naturalistic hypothesis can’t even explain how the world, or anything that belongs to it, can survive another instant via natural processes alone. Thus, there is no serious competitor to (1), the hypothesis that the world is best explained by the activity of a creator with divine attributes.

But, what sort of creator? What kinds of attributes? The most important property the creator must have is that of aseity—that is, the creator must exist of his own nature; there is no external explanation of the creator’s existence.  What else can we learn about the creator? Such a being is a person—having an intellect and a will. Why? The world this being created is a structured world, with orderly principles of operation. McCann observes: “it has to be [structured with orderly principles]: the idea of a universe utterly without formal organization is an idea of nothing at all” (13). Even more basic, in our experience, only rational beings (that is, persons) can be truly creative. Surely, there are more attributes than aseity and personhood, but these are enough to get us started.

At the end of the day, from the viewpoint of the naturalist’s enterprise, we now have an “ontologically haunted universe.”[2] A universe that is the result of the creative activity of a being that can properly be called God.

McCann’s book is off to an excellent start; still many questions and problems remain once we admit a creator. For example: how did God create? What (exactly) did God create? Why did God create? How does the reality of a creator comport with the natural processes described by science? And so on. Look forward to future posts where we will wrestle with these questions and many more!





[1] Hugh McCann, Creation and the Sovereignty of God (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012). Page numbers above will refer to this text.

[2] Dallas Willard, “The Three-Stage Argument for the Existence of God,” in Doug Geivett & Brendan Sweetman (eds.), Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 216.

2 Responses to The Case for a Creator: Cosmological Arguments and Explanation

  1. Pingback: The Problem of the Divine Micromanager | Paul Gould

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