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All that is created, however, is preceded by a cause. This fact, in itself, establisheth, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the unity of the Creator. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162.
Know of a certainty that every visible thing has a cause. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 107.
“To me, God just isn’t sensible,” a very rational friend told me once.
“I agree,” I said.
“But I thought you believed in God?” she asked.
“I do,” I told her. “But I don’t believe God is sensible—using the old definition of the word. We can’t see or touch or hear our Creator—which means we can’t use our senses to know God.”
“How can you be sure that God exists, then?”
“The same way we know lots of things exist that our senses can’t perceive–logic and reason,” I said.
“Okay, prove it,” my rationalist friend said. “Convince me.”
So here, in these next few essays, I’ll try to reproduce the main elements of the longer conversation my friend and I had, which continued for some time and ultimately resulted in my friend finding a way to believe in that Supreme Being she couldn’t sense.
I doubt our discussion was unique, because people have talked intensely about this subject for thousands of years. Ultimately, those conversations led most of history’s great thinkers to the conclusion that they could only address the existence of a Creator through philosophical proofs—and not by relying solely on scripture. After a few centuries of discourse on the subject, we wound up with some very persuasive and penetrating philosophical arguments for God’s existence—generally called cosmological, moral, ontological and teleological–not to mention several creative new philosophical proofs (which we’ll address in a later series). Let’s take a look, one by one, at these philosophical explanations for the existence of God, and see what the Baha’i teachings have to say about them.
To truly understand the cosmological argument, you need to know three major “A’s” of philosophy: Aristotle, Avicenna and Aquinas. They all had reasoned, logical rationales for the existence of what Aristotle called “the unmoved mover”—the First Cause or prime mover of all creation. Both Thomas Aquinas and the Islamic philosopher Avicenna generally agreed with Aristotle when he said that something must explain the existence of the Universe. Aristotle basically argued—and I’m oversimplifying his very powerful rationale here—that everything which exists must have a cause.
Essentially, Aristotle’s argument preceded and predicted the scientific law of causality—each effect is preceded by a cause—which forms the basis for the scientific method. Here’s how that logic path works:
If something exists, it had a cause
The cosmos and everything in it exists
Therefore it had a First Cause—an “Unmoved Mover,” a Supreme Being.
The cosmological argument, you’ve got to admit, has a pretty air-tight rationale behind it. Einstein’s version is famous: “When I see a piece of toast, I know that somewhere there’s a toaster.” The universal law of cause and effect must have a First Cause, in other words. Philosophers and theologians have grappled with this argument for centuries, and it continues to fascinate and challenge them today.
The Baha’i teachings explain the cosmological argument this way:
Science teaches us that all forms of creation are the result of composition; for example, certain single atoms are brought together through the inherent law of affinity and the result is the human being… If we declare that construction is accidental, this is logically a false theory, because then we have to believe in an effect without a cause; our reason refuses to think of an effect without a primal cause. …the constituent elements of life enter neither involuntarily nor accidentally, but voluntarily into composition–and this means that the infinite forms of organisms are composed through the superior will, the eternal will, the will of the living and self-subsistent Lord.
This is a rational proof that the will of the Creator is effected through the process of composition. Ponder over this and strive to comprehend its significance, that you may be enabled to convey it to others; the more you think it over, the greater will be your degree of comprehension. Praise be to God that he has endowed you with a power through which you can penetrate mysteries. Verily, as you reflect deeply, ponder deliberately and think continually, the doors of knowledge will be opened unto you. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, pp. 103-106.
When my friend and I went over the cosmological argument and the Baha’i writings on the subject, she said “I’m going to have to reflect deeply and ponder deliberately over this one…”