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William Lane Craig: Personal Cause

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4/6/2012 8:23:57 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Craig believes he is justified in jumping from a cause of the universe to a personal cause with the following argument:

"If the cause were simply a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions existing from eternity, then why would not the effect also exist from eternity? … The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who freely chooses to create an effect in time." – William Lane Craig

Craig argues that a non-sentient cause automatically gives rise to its effect, so if the universe had an eternal non-sentient cause then the universe would have to be eternal (and that won't do). There is no way for it delay the exercise of its causal powers. Only a personal agent can do that because sentient beings have "will" and "intent" instead of just causing something to happen automatically. This logically demonstrates a sentient cause of the universe, right? Not exactly.

Craig must either believe one of two things:

(i)There was no temporal gap between God's choice to create the universe, and the universe beginning to exist

(ii)There was a temporal gap between God's choice to create the universe, and the universe beginning to exist

If Craig subscribes to (i), and God timelessly maintained the choice to create the universe, then this means that his argument against a non-personal cause applies to his personal cause hypothesis as well. This would render his argument for a personal cause invalid.

Craig could subscribe to (ii), but a temporal gap cannot exist if God is in a timeless state. This would render his argument for personal cause invalid as well.

There are three steps it seems for Craig, in order for our universe to exist:

(i)God has the will to cause an effect with a beginning
(ii)God causes an effect with a beginning
(iii)An effect with a beginning exists

Craig believes in simultaneous causation of the universe, so he believes in no temporal gap between (ii) and (iii). However, If there is no temporal gap between (i) and (ii), and God has had this will to cause an effect that had a beginning timelessly in an eternal domain then this implies that this universe with a beginning that God intented, always existed because there was never a temporal gap between his will and the cause, and the will was eternal. Of course this is an incoherent implication I'm sure Craig didn't plan on making (A universe with a beginning, could not have always existed), so one of Craig's propositions obviously has to go.

Either "The universe God intended to create has a beginning" (1) has to go, or "Eternal sufficient conditions would result in an eternal universe"(2) has to go. (1) is essential because without will there is no personal cause and without a beginning there is an eternal universe , yet (2) is essential to the Kalam Cosmological Argument to demonstrate that a non-sentient/ personal eternal cause wouldn't give rise to a temporal universe.

Craig's only option would be to deny (2), because he could go back to the drawing board to show a personal cause a different way but without the cause itself, he has nothing. Thus, this argument for why a personal God is necessary compared to a non-personal cause fails.