The Kaläm Cosmological Argument, Vol 1 & 2

Philosophical Arguments for the Finitude of the Past

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Editor(s): 
Paul Copan, William Lane Craig
Bloomsbury Studies in Material in Philosophy of Religion
  • New York, NY: 
    Bloomsbury Academic
    , November
     2017.
     700 pages.
     $120.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781501330797.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The debate between philosophically-inclined theists, agnostics, and atheists, among others, is a discussion about the possibility of developing sound arguments for or against the existence of the theistic God. Atheists argue that we have (sufficient) reason to conclude that there is no entity that is adequately referred to as “God.” Agnostics argue that we neither have (sufficient) reason to conclude that God exists nor have (sufficient) reason to conclude that God does not exist. Theists, on the contrary, maintain that we have at our disposal sound arguments for the conclusion that God exists. In their inquiries, theists, agnostics, and atheists claim to base their arguments on a priori metaphysical reasoning and a posterioriscientific evidence, but a huge amount of the dialogue amongst them consists in the struggle for an adequate understanding of the power of human reason and the metaphysical presuppositions and implications of scientific evidence. 

There are two prominent types of argument against the existence of God. Arguments of the first type try to show that the existence of God is inconsistent with, or at least highly improbable, in light of the huge amounts of apparently gratuitous evil in the world. Arguments of the second type attempt to prove that the traditional concept of God leads to conceptual contradictions. There are also two popular types of argument for the existence of God. A priori arguments for the existence of God are eager to establish the conclusion that for purely conceptual reasons, God, as a perfect being, has to exist of necessity. A posteriori arguments for the existence of God, at least in one of their premises, are based on features we know about in and through our experience of the physical universe. They try to show that the existence of God is a necessary condition for the possibility of these empirical features of the universe.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument, edited by Paul Copan with William Lane Craig, focuses excluaively on one of the a posteriori arguments for the existence of God: the Kalam cosmological argument. This argument, which historically goes back at least to the Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali, can be stated as a deductive argument as follows: (1) For all x, if begins to exist, then there is a that is the cause of the beginning of x’s existence; therefore (2) if the universe begins to exist, then there is a that is the cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe. (3) The universe begins to exist; therefore (4) there is a that is the cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe. (5) The cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe is adequately referred to as God; therefore (6) God is the cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe.

This argument is deductively valid, which is to say that the truth of the premises entails the truth of the conclusion. The philosophically interesting question is whether the argument is also sound, that is, whether the premises in fact are true. If they are, then the Kalam cosmological argument provides sufficient reason to conclude that God is the cause for the beginning of the existence of the universe. If they are not, then we cannot use this argument to show that God is the cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe. Of course, even in this case, God could still be the cause for the beginning of the existence of the universe, but we could not deploy the Kalam cosmological argument to show this.

The two volumes of The Kalam Cosmological Argument contain twenty-nine essays of high quality that are divided into three parts, each of which critically examines a central premise of the Kalam cosmological argument by analyzing the philosophical and scientific evidence for and against its truth. Part 1—“Whatever Begins to Exist Has a Cause”—is the smallest section including only two papers. Part 2—“The Universe Began to Exist”—is the largest section, containing twenty-four papers. Here the authors grapple with the philosophical arguments and the scientific evidence for and against the assumption that the universe in fact had a beginning. The last part—“Conclusion”—contains three essays that focus on the potential of the Kalam cosmological argument as an argument not only for the existence of some kind of cause of the beginning of the existence of the universe, but quite specifically as an argument for the existence of the theistic God. 

The two volumes of Copan’s The Kalam Cosmological Argument, without a doubt, constitute an excellent collection of essays that for years to come will be the place to start for those interested in a profound analysis of the problems and merits of the Kalam cosmological argument. 

About the Reviewer(s): 

Benedikt Paul Göcke is on the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at the University of Oxford.

Date of Review: 
September 10, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Paul Copan is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University, USA. The author or editor of thirty books, including Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration (with William Lane Craig, 2004), The Rationality of Theism (with with Paul K. Moser, 2003), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion (with Chad V. Meister; 2007; 2nd ed. 2012) and Philosophy of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Issues (with Chad V. Meister; 2007). He has contributed essays and written reviews for journals such as The Review of Metaphysics, Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi, and Trinity Journal.

William Lane Craig is a Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and at Houston Baptist University, USA. He has authored or edited over forty books, including Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (1995), God, Time, and Eternity (2001), and God Over All (2016), as well as over 150 articles in journals such as The Journal of Philosophy, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy, and British Journal for Philosophy of Science.

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