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The Usefulness of the Kalam When Witnessing to Theists (Yes, you read that right)

What is the Kalam?

The Kalam, one version of the cosmological argument, can get a lot of Christian apologists all giddy! Whether a seasoned apologist or new to the space, the Kalam is one of the most popular arguments for God. It follows a formal Aristotelian syllogism as such: 

1. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause. 

2. The universe began to exist. 

3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause. 

Why the Kalam?

The great thing about the Kalam is how simple it is to explain and how universally helpful it is. Many Christian apologists only pull out this gem when witnessing to atheists; however, I have found the cosmological argument helpful in witnessing to Latter-Day Saints and other theists. For now, let’s break down each premise and their common objection to show that the Kalam is one of the most logically sound arguments for God.

The first premise: “Everything that begins to exist must have cause” follows the law of causality. The universe and everything in it is confined by time and consists of matter; therefore, it falls subject to cause and effect. The effect (something’s beginning) must have a cause. Of course, this is quite easy to witness in our everyday life. We know if a rock fell from the sky that there was a cause that made it so. No logical conclusion includes a rock forming from “nothing,” creating itself, and then falling from the sky. The only logical conclusion is that there was a cause.  

You may have heard a skeptic ask “Who made God?” There is a rather simple correction to make regarding their question. The premise is everything that “begins” to exist has a cause. As Norman Geisler puts it in I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, there is no “origin of the origin.” Origin denotes first. God has no beginning and no end, he is timeless. Therein lies the distinction. There may also be a follow-up objection after this correction: “How do we know the universe isn’t the one thing that doesn’t need a cause?” but this is a special pleading fallacy (like a double standard–no justification is offered as to why there would be a special exception to the general rule). That is not the logical conclusion. What if this one time the rock really did come from nothing and fell from the sky with no cause? Of course, we should never accept that because it is completely irrational.

The second premise: “The universe began to exist” is an easier premise to defend because it is commonly accepted among prominent scientists. The expansion of the universe is believed to be one of the greatest scientific discoveries that Edwin Hubble usually gets the credit for. Because the universe is expanding, it has to have expanded from a point of beginning. As the Friedmann-Lemaitre model shows, as time proceeds, the distance separating the galaxies becomes greater.

Even though this premise is easy to defend, it is not always easily comprehended when it comes to infinite regression (because infinite regression is nearly impossible to grasp!). Both the theist and skeptic need to put their thinking caps on for this one! We can conclude that the universe and everything in it had a beginning because it cannot, within time, have an infinite past. Infinity in this explanation refers to no beginning, an actual infinity, not a potential infinity or a really large number. Following this logical conclusion, if there is an infinite past, there are an infinite number of events in the past, meaning we cannot arrive to this current event. There is no “half” of infinity, it is still infinity. So because our universe exists in time, it cannot have existed infinitely in the past, as we can clearly see we’ve arrived at today. 

The Conclusion: Unlike most theistic arguments where the objections occur within the premises, there is still dissent amongst skeptics with the conclusion of the cosmological argument, “Therefore, the universe has a cause.”Of course, I think this is because the first two premises are so logically sound that skeptics feel that third time may be the charm. So, if everything that begins to exist must have a cause, and the universe began to exist, then the universe must have a cause. But what is that cause? The argument doesn’t necessarily end there, or we can be accused of the God of the gaps fallacy, which is when someone asserts that there is evidence for the existence of god merely from gaps in scientific knowledge.  Rather, let’s summarize all we’ve learned from the first two premises to see what we can deduct from the “first cause.” 

  1. The first cause must be outside of time per the problem of infinite regression.
  2. The first cause must also be spaceless and immaterial as something can’t come from nothing.
  3. The first cause must also have a mind to choose to cause the universe into existence.  
  4. The first cause must be powerful to create the universe.

The Kalam cosmological argument shows a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful being with a mind as the first cause of the universe. God (and specifically the God of the Bible) is the best explanation for the causeless creator and the first cause of the universe because he best meets all of the criteria established above.

Another Way to Use the Kalam

The cosmological argument, and its individual premises, is a solid argument that can be used in a variety of circumstances. Though this argument doesn’t scream ‘evangelism’ and ‘gospel,’ I’ve surprisingly used the Kalam in witnessing to Latter-Day Saints (LDS). LDS theology teaches that their “Heavenly Father” has a father, who has a father, and so on. See the issue? Their god is not the first cause, nor a maximally powerful being. Rather, he is a created being who worked his way to godhood just as his “heavenly father” (our grandpa father) did. So, who or what is the first cause? They also believe that their “Heavenly Father” created the world from “unrefined matter” which isn’t actually “matter” as their go-around for defending the infinite existence of matter. Again, where does this matter come from? As we’ve learned through the cosmological argument, something (unrefined matter) can’t come from nothing and it couldn’t have always existed. There’s that pesky infinite regression again! Their god is not the uncaused first cause, and they have all the same issues our atheist friends have.  

I’ve mentioned the Kalam, or at least parts of it, when witnessing to Latter-Day Saints over a dozen times, but it doesn’t stop there. Many theistic religions have a god who is a created being, made of matter themselves, lacks power or intellect, or holds to a timeless universe. Many pantheists believe the universe itself is divine and has always existed (insert the Kalam here). Many Hindus believe there are eternal cycles of universes that support their view of reincarnation and a universe with no beginning or end (insert the Kalam here, as well). Other Hindus follow mythical stories of Vishnu’s belly button growing a lotus flower that birthed Brahma, their ultimate reality. Other Hindus believe Brahma came from a golden egg or that Brahma is a created God and made of materials (insert even more of the Kalam here). 

The use of the Kalam continues, though. Consider, for example, Native Americans. Although there are a vast number of variants, the majority of Native American religions hold to a creator, a “Great Spirit,” but they do not distinguish the material world and spiritual world from each other. Since the material world and spiritual world are intertwined, with some prodding, you’ll learn that many Native Americans believe that the “Great Spirit” is made of both spirit and matter, or that they believe that the material world has always existed with the spiritual world. That’s right, the Kalam works for either of those, too! Whether monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, or other, simply ask if their opposing view of god/gods is within time, within space, made of materials, not the first cause, not powerful, or unable to choose to create. After examining any of these flaws, you’ll see that the Kalam can be helpful!

Conclusion

For all my giddy apologist friends who are enamored with the Kalam already, add these tips to your tool belt and start sharing the timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful God of the Bible with your lost, theistic friends. The Kalam is so much more than an argument for God. It’s an argument for who God is. It shows not only that there is a God, but some of his distinct attributes.


Geisler, Norman L., and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist. Good Seed Publishing, 2009.

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