Let’s begin in the beginning; the beginning of the universe, that is!
(This article will attempt to explain in simplified terms the Kalam Cosmological Argument, so that it can be easily relayed to young children. Quick conversation examples and resources can be found at the bottom of the article.)
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” Isaiah 45:12
The Bible is very clear about the universe’s origin: God made it. The Bible also teaches us that God didn’t make the universe out of pre-existing matter, but instead “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”(Hebrews 11:3) For people who don’t believe in God, they must try to find other ways to explain the universe’s existence.
Some of the ways that you have probably heard people try to explain the universe may include:
- The universe has always existed; it didn’t have a beginning.
- The universe sprang forth from nothing without any intelligent cause.
Each of these explanations have shortcomings that keep them from being good explanations of how the universe exists today.
The Universe has Always Existed; It Didn’t Have a Beginning
This first explanation requires the universe to have existed for an infinite amount of time. Infinity is a difficult idea to understand, and that is probably why a lot of people think this explanation is possible. The difficulty of our universe existing for an infinite amount of time can be illustrated in the following way.
Imagine there is an infinite amount of train tracks extending through time. The tracks have neither beginning nor end and they go on forever and ever. You are in a train car riding along the tracks, but for every track you may travel over there is always another in its place. No matter how many train tracks you cross there are always just as many train tracks ahead of you. You can travel over an infinite number of tracks and still have an infinite number of tracks ahead of you. Do you see how it is impossible to cross infinity? Similarly, we would never have been able to cross the infinite amount of time that it took for mankind to exist if the universe has always existed because there would always be an infinite amount of time left to cross.
(That is very complex, though this book, Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford, may be an engaging way to start the conversation with your K-5th children. However, keep in mind this book doesn’t *quite* define infinity with precision, and you will need to guide the conversation, but for black and white thinking youngsters this might help create a category for infinity.)
So, if an infinite universe is not a reasonable explanation, the universe had to have had a beginning. Naturally, the universe shows numerous signs of its beginning. It is widely accepted by mainstream scientists that the universe originated with a Big Bang and is ever expanding. This is good for Christians because we can point to the Big Bang and explain that it was caused by God.
The Universe Sprang Forth from Nothing Without Any Cause
Now, of course, if the universe had a beginning, those who do not believe in God would like to believe that the beginning of the universe had no purposeful cause, or was somehow just a happy accident. It is to this argument, that we can use a useful tool called the “Kalam Cosmological Argument.” The Kalam was thought up long ago by Islamist philosophers, proposed by Aristotle, and has more recently been defended by Dr. William Lane Craig as a way to clearly show that the universe required a cause, and that a creator like our God makes the most sense.
The Kalam goes like this:
1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
3. The universe has a cause of its existence
Go ahead and take a moment to try to think of anything in the world that has a beginning but doesn’t have a cause. Once you have done that, try to think of anything in the universe that has a beginning but doesn’t have a cause. Can you think of a single thing? (You may have heard people talk about virtual particles; that is beyond the scope of this article, but if you would like to learn why that is yet another unreasonable proposal, read this article from the Institute of Creation Research.) By now, you have probably realized that no, there isn’t a single thing that can be called to mind that begins to exist without a cause. Everything is made by something else, whether on purpose or accidentally. Otherwise, we might live in a world where puppies and ice cream suddenly *pop* into being out of thin air.
While that may be fun, it is not reality, and it is likewise silly to reason that despite the fact that everything IN the universe has a beginning and a cause that makes it begin, the universe ITSELF is somehow different. To say that the universe suddenly began from nothing because of nothing for no reason, seems a bit irrational in light of everything we know about the contents of the universe. Our human experience shows us that nothing never makes something, and something never comes from nothing.
So is God the Answer to the Question?
We can’t have an infinite universe. The universe couldn’t have been caused by absolutely nothing. So we know that we live in a finite universe that was caused by something. Where does that leave us? It leaves us needing a cause that is itself causeless (otherwise we will end up with an infinite chain of caused things causing each other, which is also unreasonable) and that is able to exist completely independent of what we know to be the finite universe. This cause sounds an awful lot like our God, doesn’t it?
The Bible tells us about the nature of our creative God:
“No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” 1 Corinthians 2:7
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.” Psalm 90:1-4
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:17
So what do we see again and again in the Bible? That God is timeless because He created time. That God existed before the universe began and is able to transcend infinity in a way that the universe and everything in it cannot. That God made the universe and everything in it. This is our reasonable answer to the question. It is logical, it plays by the rules of everything that we know about the universe, and it doesn’t need to presuppose that there is a God for it to work. A purposeful creator is the natural conclusion drawn by the evidence displayed by the universe.
How to Talk about the Creation of the Universe with Your Children
- Ask your children to try to think of anything in the world that begins without something making it begin. Explain how each thing they may mention actually begins so that they can see that nothing comes from nothing.
- Bake cookies(or some other prepared treat) and place them on a plate in the middle of the table. Ask your children to sit around the table and guess where the treat came from. Did it come from nowhere? Did someone make it? How do they know someone made it? Explain to them how the universe is like that treat: it is impossible for it to have appeared out of nowhere, made by no one. Enjoy the treat together!
- Explain infinity using the train track illustration if they ask why the universe had to have a beginning.
- If they ask who made God, or about God’s beginning, read to them the verses provided, or other verses of your choosing.
- Pick up a copy of “James & Ruth in Pig and the Accidental Oink!” a Picture Book Apologetics book that tells the story of two children learning to use the Kalam Cosmological Argument to defend their belief that God made the universe!
Resources and Further Reading:
Reasons to Believe has a wealth of resources related to the beginning of the universe. Find articles about the harmony of Scripture and nature here.
A fairly simple explanation of Dr. William Lane Craig’s explanation of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.
This article was originally published on July 9, 2013, but was updated and revised on May 13, 2015.