Line of Questioning #3 – Causality, Principle of

First Word

In this installment of our series, let’s consider a technique which will keep the Apologist off the witness stand in an atheist’s kangaroo courtroom.

1.) Take charge of the dialogue by picking the topic and [refusing] to allow digression. Belligerent unbelievers may refuse to engage on your terms and immediately derail a good thread with insults and off-topic remarks. That’s okay. Bid them peace and send them to this link -> The Gospel Message

2.) Make sure you have your Line of Questioning and relevant data at hand. Fortune favors the prepared mind.

3.) Take notes on each dialogue you have and add to your list of questions and sub-topics for future use. Every dialogue ought to be a learning experience; don’t ignore your own dialogue history or you’ll keep making the same errors.

4.) Refuse to move forward while there is unfinished business. For example, let’s say you engage a skeptic on the topic of “absolute truth”. Can such a dialogue even get off the ground until both participants agree that truth even exists? Would it make sense to delve into the various theories of truth with someone who dishonestly claims that no form of truth can be known? We should NOT waste a lot of time on someone like that. Expose their silliness for the sake of silent, honest readers and move on.

Now . . . on to the questions:

Causality, Principle of

cau·sal·i·ty (kô-zal’i-te)
n. pl. cau·sal·i·ties

  1. The principle of or relationship between cause and effect.
  2. A causal agency, force, or quality.

Reference: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

The principle of causality is a first principle and . . .

A first principle is:

  1. (Logic) one of the fundamental assumptions on which a particular theory or procedure is thought to be based
  2. (Logic) an axiom of a mathematical or scientific theory

Reference: Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. S.v. “first principle.” Retrieved February 5 2017 from

To clarify, all first principles are self-evident or reducible to the self-evident. That is, first principle are not theories but self-evident fact upon which theories and postulates are built. But not everything that is self-evident in itself appears to be self-evident to everyone.

NOTE: That is where we may run into trouble explaining things to an obtuse skeptic. We can also expect dishonest skeptics to pick and choose regarding what is self-evident. There are none so blind . . . so, just forge ahead and don’t let it fluster you.

1.) Does every effect have a cause? If not, why not? Has anyone ever observed an uncaused effect?

2.) What is your understanding of the principle of causality and do you believe it applies to the Universe and nature itself?

3.) In other words, is the Universe an effect? If the Universe [is] an effect, it must have been caused, correct? When we look at the beauty, grandeur, and complexity of the Universe, wouldn’t you say that it bears the mark of a “designed effect”? If not, why not?

4.) Let’s examine this question from another angle: Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, correct? Moreover, the corresponding term for animal life is fauna. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Now, let’s place all of these things under the name “nature”. Do you have any problems with this concept before we move on?

5.) Now, would you agree that nature had a beginning? If nature had a beginning, how can the cause be natural? After all, nature didn’t exist prior to itself and, therefore, could not possibly create itself. Do you agree with those thoughts? If not, can you tell me how nature could cause itself or be accidental?

6.) If nature is an effect and cannot be its own cause, mustn’t the cause be something beyond nature?

7.) Isn’t science, by definition, a search for causes? If you deny the principle of causality, aren’t you, thereby, negating the very purpose of science itself?

8.) What would you say is the difference between ‘necessary’ being and ‘contingent’ being?

9.) I ask that question because I believe that every contingent being is caused by another. Do you agree with that?

10.) Every thing that comes to be is caused by another. Do you agree? If not, are you then arguing that nonbeing can cause being? If so, can you please explain that?

11.) If the principle of causality is stated, “Every effect has a cause,” would you agree that it is undeniable?

12.) Would say that the principle of causality is self-evident, since by an “effect” we mean what is caused and by “cause” we mean what produces the effect? If not, why not?

13.) If you don’t agree that the principle of causality is undeniable as thus far stated, perhaps we can try another form. Consider: “Nonbeing cannot produce being.” Is this not a self-evident truth?

14.) What is your understanding of the nature of being and nonbeing?

15.) So, would you agree that ‘nonbeing’ is nothing, non-existent? If you do, how then can non-being possibly cause being? Isn’t it true that what does not exist has no power to produce anything?

16.) Would you agree that the very concept of “cause” implies that [only] some existing thing has the power to effect another? If someone were to say, “Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.”, would you concur or disagree?

17.) All contingent beings need a cause, don’t they? If that question isn’t clear, a ‘contingent being’ is something that doesn’t ‘necessarily’ exist but that might exist under the right circumstances.

18.) If something can possibly [not exist], can it then account for its own existence? To reiterate by example, if the Universe could possibly [not exist], mustn’t we look for external cause for it? Or, do you deny that the Universe is contingent? If you do, can you explain how it’s a ‘necessary’ entity?

19.) Would you agree that there is no reason why the Universe exists, in and of itself? To clarify, it was once nonbeing (non-existent), correct? That being the case, mustn’t it be true that the reason (purpose) for the Universe’s existence lies in its external cause? If we admit that ‘contingent being’ can only be caused by necessary being, what would you say caused the Universe to exist?

20.) Do you agree that many philosophers hold that, “Nothing cannot cause something.”? Moreover, are you aware some also hold that this principle is known to be true intuitively and is, therefore, self-evident? What, if anything, does this mean to you?

21.)  If the Universe is indeed caused, let’s consider the four (4) dimensions of causation.

1.) Material cause: The Universe is arguably made of baryonic matter

2.) Formal cause: The Universe is constructed with a certain form

3.) Efficient cause: The primary source of change which effected the formation of the Universe.

4.) Final cause: The end for which an effect is caused. This speaks to purpose.

A good theory of existence ought to:

1.) Be consistent with and have an explanation of what does and does [not] exist.

2.) Be consistent with and explain what [could] exist but either doesn’t exist or is not believed to exist (perhaps falsely) by one advocating a given view of existence.

As an example: It [could] be a fact that ‘x’ does not exist, but ‘x’ also [could] exist. So, while the Physicalist denies the existence of the soul, exist is such that the existence of the soul is indeed possible.

3.) Allow the existence of existence itself; it cannot be self-refuting.

Example: If someone claims that to exist is the same thing as being inside space and time, existence itself must be spatiotemporally located.

If existence itself does not exist, can anything at all exist?

4.) Not violate the fundamental laws of logic: the laws of identity: P is identical to P. Non-contradiction: P cannot be both true and false and in the same sense.

5.) Allow for the existence of acts of knowing. Since a theory of existence is indeed a theory, its rational acceptability will depend upon the what is known by the persons to which it is conveyed. A theory of existence cannot deny to existence of conscious persons who know things.

Reference source:
Moreland, James Porter, and William Lane. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003, pg. 188-189. Print.

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