Last week I suggested that making a cumulative case for something is like a lawyer trying to convince a jury that a man–call him Smith–committed a certain crime. The lawyer “accumulates” small arguments and adds them together to make a persuasive case:
Weapon + motive + opportunity = case made. Case proven? Probably not. Still, very convincing. Smith is most likely convicted by a jury of his peers.
In conversation, I usually launch my cumulative case for Christian faith via the topic of origins (cosmology). Generally, there are three main possibilities:
- The world always existed.
- The world came into existence by itself (e.g. The Big Bang).
- God made the world.
We could conceive of other possibilities as well. These are probably the big 3.
#1 assumes a stream of cause-effect relationships that stretch back into eternity. One rightly wonders where the whole series came from, however. Why is there anything at all? Something rather than nothing?
#2 assumes that “everything came from nothing.” Philosophically problematic. You don’t get anything, let alone everything, from nothing.
#3 is the simplest explanation. The world was made by a loving, powerful God. In fact, when we look around at the world and see human beings, animals, the order of stars and planets, the DNA molecule, the laws of nature–it’s just the type of world we’d expect to find if an infinite loving God exists.
And, says British philosopher Richard Swinburne, we wouldn’t expect to find such a world on a purely materialist explanation (which says that matter and energy are all that exist).*
Unfortunately I’m already up against my time limit with you.
But it’s OK. In real conversations I usually don’t have the luxury of long hours with a skeptic. I have to move fast.
There’s at least a summary of step 1 in cumulative case-making.
Next post: The “design” argument in the cumulative case.
* Richard Swinburne, Is There a God? Oxford, 2010 ed. See esp. ch 4.
graphic credit: http://goo.gl/nupR83