Seems like a question that a 5-year-old would ask, doesn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what it is. Christians have been getting this question lately from the readers of New Atheist books (books by Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and so on). The atheists seem to think this is an irrefutable argument. They’re nuts.
Here’s the story:
Before the early 20th century, there was a dispute between atheists and theists (Muslims and Jews as well as Christians) over the beginning of the universe. Theists argued that if the universe had a beginning, then there would have to have been somebody there to begin it. Atheists agreed for the most part, but argued that the universe had no beginning; it had always been there.
The argument theists were using here is a form of the cosmological argument called the Kalam. The basic argument is
- Anything that begins to exist must have a cause;
- the universe began to exist;
- therefore, the universe must have a cause.
Here in-line, I’ve pasted in a helpful, 4-minute video that explains at a slightly more granular level of detail. It was produced by Reasonable Faith, the ministry of a Christian philosopher named William Lane Craig. (If you want to visit this video at their web site for some reason, here’s the link.)
Atheists were comfortable defending “the universe has always been there” until scientists in the 20th century determined that the universe had a definite beginning, nicknamed “the Big Bang.”
With Big Bang cosmology in the picture, though, atheists can no longer hide behind a past-eternal universe. The scientific evidence says that the universe did very definitely have a beginning.
So they’ve taken to a logical fallacy instead: they misread the first premise of the Kalam argument, taking it as…
- Everything must have a cause.
And then they ask, “What caused God?” Or, more simply, “Who made God?”
Of course, nobody made God. God has always existed. The first premise of the Kalam is not “Everything must have a cause,” it is “Everything that began to exist must have a cause.” God did not begin to exist, so God does not need a cause. The universe, on the other hand, did begin to exist; therefore the universe needs a cause.
The question, “Who made God,” is a logical fallacy called a category fallacy. A category fallacy occurs when an argument attempts to give an object attributes that that object does not possess. We do it whimsically all the time, like when we say “My car did not want to start this morning.” It’s cute; we’re attributing a will (and stubbornness) to a car, which is inanimate. Cars don’t really want things. If we were to use “My car does not want to start” in a formal argument, that would be a category fallacy.
The fallacy in “Who made God” occurs because “eternal” is a characteristic of God, by definition. If God began, then God is not God. So “who made God” violates the definition of God.
So the right answer to “Who made God?” is “Don’t be silly. God is eternal by definition.”
Also, don’t let the atheists insist that the argument for the existence of God is refuted until you can answer “Who made God.” That’s even more silly; every scrap of knowledge obtained by the sciences has unanswered questions behind it, but we never discount findings of fact pending further discoveries about background questions. It would be like saying that we can’t say “storm clouds produce rain” until we know what causes storm clouds to form. Sure, a good scientist will continue to dig into what causes the clouds to form, but it’s still appropriate to say “storm clouds produce rain” even before we figure out cloud formation.