|Peanuts, (c) Charles M. Schulz, z"l|
Now, some who believe firmly in God as Creator cite the First Cause argument.
(I find this argument unconvincing, for a number of reasons: Who says the "Cause" was sentient - maybe it was some kind of "force"? Also, if there's "one" original intelligence, who says there can't be a dozen, or an infinite number? Further, given the vastness of the universe and how relatively little we know about it, isn't it safer, and more honest, to simply say, "We don't know"? And doesn't the fact that some profess to "know" indicate more than anything their desire to justify an existing religious belief in in a single God/Creator?... I have this in parentheses because I actually don't want to focus on the First Cause argument itself, but rather on what that argument is so often used for.)
Let's assume for the sake of discussion that you accept the First Cause argument and agree that this proves there is in fact a single Creator, "God". Now what? Is that the end of the story? Hardly! Because now that we've got your attention, we're going to pull what's effectively a "bait and switch". Very cleverly, without your even being aware of how it happened, we're going to get you to move from the belief in a Creator to believing in the Biblical God - including all the "stuff" that such a belief entails. Ready? Here's the "elevator pitch" (based on a comment of mine in a prior post):
"The universe didn't come from nothing - clearly it was started by a First Cause, a Creator. Therefore God exists. Are you with me? And this is proven by science - we know now that there was a starting point, a Big Bang. Well, that's exactly what our tradition says: "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." That same tradition also states that God spoke to Abraham and later to Moses and imparted His eternal instructions. Yes, the very same God! After all, if logic dictates that the universe must have been created by God, then logic also dictates that God didn't create it just for fun - He must have had a plan. Agreed? Now if He has a plan, wouldn't it make sense that He'd want us to know about that plan? Wouldn't He reveal the plan? Okay, well that's what our religion has been saying for thousands of years: Here's the plan! We're His plan. And everything He wants us to do is written right here [points to Bible]. God is perfect, which means the plan - i.e. His commandments - are perfect, which means the Book that describes that plan - the Torah - is also, by definition, perfect. Also perfect is God's love for us. He must love us - otherwise, why else would He have created us? And all God wants is for us to love Him back. How? By having a relationship with Him, by emulating His ways, and by having the great honor of being a partner with the one and only Creator of the Universe, by keeping His commandments and thereby helping His great plan come to fruition."Whoa, hold on a second while my head stops spinning... Okay, what just happened? We started from a "logical" First Cause argument, and somehow slid (think of a "slimy" surface on which things are prone to slide) into the idea that the Torah is the word of God, and we now need to keep the commandments. Wow - neat trick!
Now, I'm not saying this is the manner that a person would necessarily be convinced of divinity of the Torah. There are all sorts of arguments that may cumulatively come to bear, from the "miracle" of Jewish survival, to the "miracle" of the near-flawless transmission of the Torah text, to the near-impossibility of a mass revelation being "made up", to the Torah's inexplicably knowing there are "exactly" four mammals with only one kosher sign and not the other, to the statistical wonder of the "Torah codes" embedded in the text, and so on. And certainly there are a myriad of emotional reasons (community, connection with individuals, families and rabbis, personal "encounters" with God, miraculously improbable events experienced personally or given over via anecdote, and simply being "told" as much, over and over again in books, classes, etc.) which help to bring a person to the conclusion that Torah must be the absolute Truth. In fact, this is a useful tactic for lulling a person into a state of suggestibility and openness - just exhaust them by giving argument after argument, anecdote after anecdote.
However, the question I have is why even bring up the First Cause argument at all? It has nothing whatsoever to do with the proofs for the Biblical God or the divinity of the Torah! After all, even if "logic" dictates that a Creator (God) must have kick-started the universe, the "First Cause" argument is exactly that - arguing for a "first" action which set everything into motion. It says nothing about any subsequent action taken by the Creator. It says nothing about the "purpose" of Creation. It says nothing about whether the Creator "loves" us or not, whether He has any expectations of us - or whether He's a "He" for that matter! And it certainly says nothing about the "authenticity" or "authoritativeness" or "perfection" or "binding" nature or "divine" nature of a book written/compiled some 2500-3300 years ago that alleges that God spoke to certain individuals and issued a set of commands.
The only reason to bring up the First Cause argument (like we said above about inundating people with words) is to lull listeners into a state of "openness". By having to "concede" to one argument, the listener now has her/his guard down and is expecting that the next things which are stated have equal argumentative, "logical" force (especially when the person incorrectly uses the word "logic" to describe their arguments!). But the truth is, everything subsequent to the First Cause argument is pure speculation, based on what seems "reasonable" to us. There is no "logic" dictating that simply because a text cites the existence of a Creator of the world (again, assuming that is derived by logic) that this text must also be "right" about everything else it says - or indeed anything else it says. And the ideas of "love" and a "plan" are exclusively and transparently human categories, and it's just as (actually, I would say "far more") reasonable to say that what this book chronicles is man creating God in his image, not the other way around.
That is the "bait and switch" of the First Cause argument. So caveat emptor - let the buyer beware!