I’d like to give a big shout out Brett for posting an objection to the Cosmologial Argument. We love getting responses! I’m going to take the first crack at answering it- though I’m sure Payton will come along and yell at everyone since the Cosmological Argument is his baby.
The concern he raises rises from the misuse of “eternal” and “infinite”. They are not synonyms. Something that is eternal IS forever- it cannot change. If I am eternally turning on a lightbulb, then I can never turn it off- time is not even a relevant concept in eternity. It is forever in the present tense- it wasn’t, and it won’t be- eternity is.
Meanwhile, infinity is an inconceivably large measure, in this case applied to time. I think that infinite may not have been the best word choice, but it is the word used here, and in all other versions of this argument, so I’ll do my best to explain the difference. Infinity describes a material object or effect. Since infinite time is just an endless amount of time, the effects of time can take place on an object. It is entirely possible for all the atoms of a planet to simultaneously repel each other, or for two comets to collide and form a Bengal tiger, since there are infinite chances for these things to occur. It is also possible for all of the particles in the universe to explode.
God, or the “eternal cause”, is eternal in time, and infinite in space. Thus He (or it) is infinitely larger than the universe, but is unchanged by the passing of time.
Now, how do we know that the universe isn’t eternal? It began- something that is eternal just is , with no beginning. And I am not being a whacktacular fundie for asserting the universe had a beginning; virtually all modern science confirms the universe began to exist.
“It’s also common knowledge that the universe isn’t eternal but had a beginning ten to twenty billion years ago, and that it is expanding.” (Kitty Ferguson, The Fire in the Equations, 1994, p. 89)
“Now three lines of evidence—the motions of the galaxies, the laws of thermodynamics, and the life story of the stars—pointed to one conclusion; all indicated that the Universe had a beginning” (Dr. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 1978, p. 111) (Note: Despite his book’s title, Dr. Jastrow is an evolutionary astronomer, an agnostic, and at best a deist)
“It was apparent that matter could not be eternal, because, as everyone knows, eternal things do not run down.” (Dr. Bert Johnson, So Long Eternal Universe; Hello Beginning, Hello End!, 2001)
Therefore, since the universe is demonstratabely not eternal, even if it is infinite, arguments that apply to it cannot apply to an eternal being or cause.