Philosophy Magazine

Must the Cause of the Universe Be a Person?

By Stuart_gray @stuartg__uk

Must the Cause of the Universe Be a Person?

In my previous posts here and here, I’ve outlined the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and I explained some of the scientific evidences that support its philosophical premises and conclusion.

1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2 – The universe began to exist.

3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.

I also said it is reasonable to infer that, because the universe must have a cause, that this cause must have different properties from the universe itself. It must be a cause which is external from the universe itself, timeless (eternal), immaterial, powerful, and because it is eternal, it must therefore exercise agency in order to bring about a non-eternal universe. This inference points to what mono-theistic religions, like Christianity, describe as “God.”

The thing is – God is always understood by religious people to be personal. But, is it reasonable to infer from the Kalam that the cause of the universe is personal, as the religions claim God is?

Here are three reasons why we can infer a personal first cause to the universe from the Kalam:

FIRST – Because we can describe a CAUSE in TWO Different Ways, but ONLY ONE is Appropriate

We can describe a cause in terms of natural law, and we can also describe cause in terms of the actions of an agent. Here’s an example:

I come into the kitchen and the kettle is boiling. Why? Here’s the two different ways to describe this cause:

Natural Law – the flame’s heat is being conducted by the metal kettle bottom, increasing the kinetic energy of the water molecules. They break the surface tension and are thrown off in steam.

Agent Action – My wife Janet put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

Both of these explanations are legitimate in describing why the kettle is boiling.

But in the case of the beginning of the universe, a scientific explanation is not necessarily legitimate. Craig explains, saying “there is nothing before (the universe), and therefore it cannot be accounted for in terms of laws operating on initial conditions. It can only be accounted for in terms of an agent and his volitions, a personal explanation.”[1]

SECOND – The Cause’s Personhood is LOGICALLY IMPLIED by its Timeless and Immaterial Properties

A logical implication is where, “if p is true then q must also be true. So, p implies q.” Its important to notice that p and q are not the same, but they ARE logically equivalent.

The only entities we know that are timeless and immaterial are abstract numbers and minds. But numbers cannot cause anything while minds can. So, this IMPLIES that the transcendent cause of the universe is a MIND. And only personal agents have minds.

But can a mind, and so a person, be timeless? Don’t we exist as people and therefore think during the passage of time? I sure did that as I was writing this blog – it took a while to think thru and write it down. But why must an eternal person be that way?

Personhood involves self-consciousness, intentionality and freedom of the will. That’s what all persons are like. None of these properties demands existence “in time.” An eternal being could know everything without having to gradually discover it. As long as there is no change in this eternal being, we do not need to ascribe temporality to the person. A changeless self-conscious can be an eternal mind.[2]

So, I’m saying the conclusion of the Kalam, that the universe has a cause, IMPLIES that the transcendent cause of the universe is an eternal MIND. And only personal agents have minds.

p is the conclusion of the Kalam – “Therefore the universe has a cause.”

q is the personhood of the cause of the universe.

So, p implies q.

THIRD – An Eternal Cause Producing a Finite Effect Requires the Volition of an Agent

If the universe was a natural phenomenon, then we would expect it to be timeless. The cause cannot be different from the effect under natural law. Yet, the scientific evidence points to a finite universe, not an eternal one.

So, a personal agent has freely chosen to create a universe in time. There’s a complex philosophical argument for this. But basically, if there’s no agent causing the universe, it is incoherent that we have a temporal and not an eternal universe.


The Kalam concludes that the universe has a first cause. The logical inference that follows the Kalam’s conclusion is that this cause is personal, “uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful. This, as Thomas Aquinas was wont to remark, is what everybody means by ‘God.’”[3]

[1] Willian Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2008), edition 3, 152.

[2] Terrance L. Tiessen, Is God timeless or temporal apart from creation?, Thoughts Theological, posted October 31st, 2013,

[3] Craig, 153.

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