Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Argument from Efficient Causality

In their short book the Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli share the following argument:

We notice that some things cause other things to be (to begin to be, to continue to be, or both).  For example, a man playing the piano is causing the music that we hear.  If he stops, so does the music.

Now ask yourself: Are all things caused to exist by other things right now? Suppose they are.  That is, suppose there is no Uncaused Being, no God.  Then nothing could exist right now.  For remember, on the no-God hypothesis, all things need a present cause outside of themselves in order to exist.  So right now, all things, including all those things which are causing other things to be, need a cause.  They can give being only so long as they are given being.  Everything that exists, therefore, on this hypothesis, stands in need of being caused to exist.

But caused by what?  Beyond everything that is, there can only be nothing.  But that is absurd: all of reality dependent- but dependent on nothing!  The hypothesis that all being is caused, that there is no Uncaused Being, is absurd.  So there must be something uncaused, something on which all things that need an efficient cause of being are dependent.

Existence is like a gift given from cause to effect.  If there is no one who has the gift, the gift cannot be passed down the chain of receivers, however long or short the chain may be.  If everyone has to borrow a certain book, but no one actually has it, then no one will ever get it.  If there is no God who has existence by his own eternal nature, then the gift of existence cannot be passed down the chain of creatures and we can never get it.  But we do get it; we exist.  Therefore there must exist a God: an Uncaused Being who does not have to receive existence like us- and like every other link in the chain of receivers.

So what do you think of the argument?  If you are still scratching your head, you can watch J.P. Moreland unpack it here

Please feel free to share your comments below!

Courage and Godspeed,

1. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p. 20.

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