Originally posted by C Hess
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
2. The universe began to exist
3. Therefore the universe has a cause
What's wrong with this argument?
Initially, nothing seems wrong with it; it looks impregnable But "the cause of the universe" is not equivalent to "the God of Scripture"; not unless you already accept the Biblical account of God AS the creator of the universe. If you don't already, then this argument wouldn't do the trick, because the cause of the universe could, logically, be a blind Law of Physics or an evil demon or sheer chance or something else (see next paragraph). It requires an additional argument to show that the cause of the universe is one and the same as the God of Scripture exclusively and not any of the other logically possible causes.
In the Greek pantheon, although Zeus was almighty, he was not the creator of the universe. The universe was created out of Mother Night (or Chaos), and almighty Zeus came later. Zeus was eternal in future time, but he had a beginning. It would therefore require another argument to establish that the God of Scripture was not (self-)created at some time subsequent to the creation of the universe. Again, if you already accept the Biblical account, you don't need any argument for this; but if you don't already accept the Biblical account of God as having had no beginning (as Zeus did), then the argument you cited above won't do the trick. There are too are many logical gaps between that argument and the God of Scripture.
It is interesting to note that, for the Hebrews, the concept of "almightiness" included the concept of "having had no beginning", whereas for the Greeks it included only "limitless power (including the power to persist forward in time)." or the Greeks, having had a beginning was no diminution of limitless power.
Bear in mind that Buddhism does not accept the second premise. Neither does Buddhism deny the second premise. In Buddhism, the beginning of the universe is undefined.
One might also dispute the conjunction of the first two premises on the grounds that the universe is not a "thing" and that causes apply only to things within the universe, not to the whole universe. Just as time applies only to events within the universe, not to the whole universe. There is no such thing as "before the universe" just as there is no such thing as a point more northerly than the North Pole. Analogously, there is no such thing as "a cause of the universe;" causes occur only within the universe. "The universe began to exist" is as nonsensical as "a point more northerly than the North Pole."
Furthermore,... an event may have multiple causes. This complicates the argument you cited by orders of magnitude, for it introduces the logic of "necessary and sufficient conditions" (technical terms in logic; google that, if uncertain).
ASSUMING one had produced all the additional arguments noted above: a) that the "cause of the universe" is identical with "the God of Scripture"; b) that the God Scripture had no beginning; c) that the concept of cause applies to the whole universe; d) that the universe had a beginning (i.e., that the concept of time applies to the whole universe)... one would NOW have to add the following logical qualifiers:
In order to prove that the God Scripture was the cause of the universe, one would have to prove either:
e) that the universe had only one cause and that God was both the necessary AND sufficient cause, excluding all other possible multiple causes;
or e' ) that the God of Scripture constituted all of the multiple causes of the universe, again both necessary AND sufficient. If any necessary cause could be shown to be NOT identical with the God of Scripture, the whole chain of arguments would have been fruitless.
There are, therefore, upon closer inspection, multiple chinks in the logical armor. Conclusion: logic is inadequate to the task of proving either the weak conclusion that the universe had a cause, or the strong conclusion that God is/was the creator of the universe.