Unfortunately, I hear this argument quite a bit from bubblegum atheists: “Who created God?” This is indeed a popular argument for the new atheist movement, but according to real atheist philosophers it is the worst argument against God’s existence. I want to make it clear that I don’t expect this article to convince atheists that God created the Universe. What irks me is that atheists think they’re being clever, and outsmarting philosophers like Aristotle, with such a banal point. The Prime Mover is still very much a relevant philosophical issue today, even if we accept the Big Bang theory, and atheists are doing themselves and philosophy a disservice by not taking it seriously.
The Prime Mover is an idea originated by Aristotle, although a later interpretation by St. Thomas Aquinas would be more relevant to Christians today. Aristotle understood that every event is preceded by a chain of events, and that chain must be sustained or set in motion by something which itself remains unchanged. It is by necessity eternal, and it is a final cause, not an efficient cause. Aristotle referred to it as God.
This is where bubblegum atheists’ ignorance of philosophy begins to show. Atheists will then respond, “what created God?” It’s not that this is a bad question. Atheists are asking this rhetorically, as if to say ah-ha! They are wrong, and arrogant, asserting Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas weren’t clever enough to address such an obvious error in their logic.
The question written another way sounds like this: what caused the uncaused cause?
I understand the point is that it is special pleading to say the Universe needs a first cause, but God doesn’t. Aristotle saw the error in this, and so did St. Thomas Aquinas; matter of fact, it is that very fallacy that makes a Prime Mover necessary. The Prime Mover is not the first cause, like I said, but rather the “final cause”.
The error atheists make is thinking that Aristotle meant the Prime Mover was like the person who pushes the first domino, setting off a series of events. The person in this analogy had a cause, her parents created her, therefore God must have a creator as well. God, according to Aristotle and St. Thomas, did not set the Universe in motion by giving it a push; God is the teleology (the purpose served by change rather than by postulated causes) of the causal Universe.
If a Prime Mover nudged the Universe into motion, the act of pushing would have an affect on the Prime Mover and therefore it would not remain unchanged, and if that were the case atheists would be right to ask “who created it?” Aristotle, however, likened his Prime Mover to a saucer of milk attracting a cat. The milk is in no way changed in the process of attracting the cat, likewise the Prime Mover attracts things to move but remains unaffected.
Beginning to sound a lot like gravity? It should. Aristotle believed the stars and planets move in eternal circles because of a desire to imitate God. Not a desire like how atheists desire Mountain Dew, this was just a way of connecting the underlying cause of motion to the nature of mass and gravity 2050 years before Newton. Stephen Hawking says it himself:
“Because there is a law of gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Stephen Hawking
Hawking takes gravity for granted in this quote, so it is easy for him to go on to say this means God doesn’t exist, when in fact he has only validated God’s existence so far as Aristotle is concerned. The Prime Mover is that which attracts all motion, while remaining unchanged, and when we examine that attracting force empirically we come to the theory of gravity. What did you expect? A bearded man?
I’ll leave you with this quote from atheist philosopher, Michael Ruse.
“You know, Philosophy 101 undergraduate respond ‘what caused God?’, you know we’ve all done it, we’ve all been there. And you know it’s a good question. Dawkins triumphantly says ‘there you are’, bad argument. You know, and I know, that Christians, St. Augustin, St. Thomas, spent a helluva lot of time—I mean, they knew this. What they were trying to do was articulate a notion of God who would be first cause. God as a necessary being, God’s essence is his existence.” Michael Ruse