St. John of Damascus
For those unfamiliar with philosophical terms, “cosmological” simply means “an explanation of the beginning.” So to say something is a “cosmological argument” merely means, “It’s an argument about why everything exists.”
I have been reading bits and pieces of St. John of Damascus’ book The Orthodox Faith. I’m currently re-working my way through Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic mostly so I can read the first part of St. John’s book Fountain of Knowledge (I’m rusty on my terms). In reading over the third chapter of The Orthodox Faith, St. John presents a solid cosmological argument:
All things, that exist, are either created or uncreated. If, then, things are created, it follows that they are also wholly mutable. For things, whose existence originated in change, must also be subject to change, whether it be that they perish or that they become other than they are by act of will. But if things are uncreated they must in all consistency be also wholly immutable. For things which are opposed in the nature of their existence must also be opposed in the mode of their existence, that is to say, must have opposite properties: who, then, will refuse to grant that all existing things, not only such as come within the province of the senses, but even the very angels, are subject to change and transformation and movement of various kinds? For the things appertaining to the rational world, I mean angels and spirits and demons, are subject to changes of will, whether it is a progression or a retrogression in goodness, whether a struggle or a surrender; while the others suffer changes of generation and destruction, of increase and decrease, of quality and of movement in space. Things then that are mutable are also whollycreated. But things that are created must be the work of some maker, and the maker cannot have been created. For if he had been created, he also must surely have been created by some one, and so on till we arrive at something uncreated. TheCreator, then, being uncreated, is also wholly immutable. And what could this be other than Deity?
St. John had a classical education, so he puts the argument in the form of a syllogism. If we were to break that syllogism down it would read something like this:
(1) All things are either created or uncreated
(1a) If they are created then they are changeable
(1b) If they are uncreated then they are unchangeable
(2) All beings that fall within our experience are changeable
(3) All of these things have therefore been created and require a creator
(4) The creator, by logical necessity, would have to be uncreated and therefore unchangeable (we can’t have an infinite regression of “p created q who created r, ad infinitum“).
(5) By definition, such a creator would be called God
Logically, this is a solid argument. The premises follow one another and therefore provide a proper conclusion. If something is changeable, then it is created and requires a creator. If something is unchangeable, then it is not created and therefore does not require a creator.
Though the argument is valid, the question then becomes if the premises and conclusion are true. In a valid argument, the conclusion logically follows the premises, thus if the premises are true and the argument is valid, then the conclusion is also true.
So let us look at the premises: