There is a great benefit to reading the ancient writers of Christianity. As I come from a Protestant background, I feel I have been robbed of quite a bit by not being introduced to the Fathers and that in my recent exploration of the Patristics I have come across an ancient treasure trove. Unfortunately, as I share what I have learned with my Orthodox and Roman Catholic brethren, they too seem ignorant of these writings. While such great writings are mimicked in their liturgies and catechisms, few have actually taken the time to read these great thinkers. I believe that modern philosophy and theology have suffered greatly for their neglect of Patristic study.
In reflecting on how ancient knowledge helps modern philosophical and theological understanding, I think of the modern apologist William Lane Craig, who is famous for bringing back the Islamic Kalaam Cosmological argument. The argument goes:
Everything that begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore, the universe has a cause
Such an argument is quite brilliant and simple. During the time of the Muslim philosophers, it was quite difficult to prove the second premise. In our own day, however, the second premise is all but given due to the cosmological explanation of the “Big Bang.” The name “Big Bang” might be a bit of a misnomer, but the event is still just as spectacular; we now know that approximately fourteen billion years ago our universe began at a specific point in time. The discoveries of the modern age have confirmed the wisdom of the ancients.
While some have attempted to offer an explanation for how the material world is still eternal despite the Big Bang (most notably the scientist Stephen Hawking), it appears that all theories have come up short both logically and evidentially. Craig has done an excellent job arguing against such explanations and showing them to be wrong.
With the success of the Kalaam Cosmological argument some might question why we need another ontological argument. Does presenting St. John’s cosmological argument lessen the impact of the Kalaam argument? Am I saying that while I like the Kalaam argument I view it as inadequate and therefore in need of another cosmological argument? I answer the above questions with a resounding no. The Kalaam argument is adequate and sufficient by itself, but being adequate and sufficient does not mean it is the only cosmological argument out there. I can see three reasons why we should still study St. John’s cosmological argument in light of the Kalaam argument: Continue reading