Apart from the traditional argument from causation, there is an alternative argument that does not even speak of the beginning of the universe. This argument is not really spoken about too often in modern contexts. Aristotle mentions it along with various medieval philosophers from Europe and the Middle East who followed his lead. This is an overview of what I’m going to call the argument from meticulous causation.
Imagine, if you will, any single event. Given any single event there is a single moment at which this event occurs. It might be difficult to define a precise moment. Assuming typical measurements of time, you would only arrive at a particular unit of time measurement in which the event would be occurring, roughly, not precisely. What I mean by a single moment is something like a point in geometry. A point has no dimensions, but represents a location in the most precise way possible. Similarly, a single moment would be the most precise point along a theoretical point on a timeline. There would be no other times across which it would span. Now, this idea is fraught with difficulty as you will soon see, but let us take it as possible to imagine a single event occurring at a single moment.
Next, imagine another event occurring at the very next moment. Imagine the event in such a way that there are no possible events in between these two events. For all intents and purposes, it appears as if the prior event causes the next event. Conceptually, there are differences between these two events. If there were not, then you could not differentiate between them. The one event is unique and the other is unique. The consequent event may be extremely similar to the antecedent event, but it is different.
Now, imagine what would be necessary for one event to change to match the second event. Clearly, you would say that time must elapse for this to happen. But, is it really time that does this or does it just happen because the subject in question is mutable? Does time really have effects or is it the other way around? Do the effects occur naturally because of antecedent states? And as they do this, does time elapse, as it were, independently of them? This may or may not be the case, but it seems odd that time actually can cause things. It seems more natural to think that prior events cause events immediately after them. We’ve already agreed that the two events are different in some way. Now, try to think of the antecedent becoming the consequent. Does the event just become the latter event instantaneously, in the strongest sense of that word? Or, does it have to go through what seems a fluid process of changing until it is completely corresponding in every way to the latter event? Now, it would seem we have to posit yet more events in between these two events that we thought were already as temporally close to each as we could conceive. At what point could this reduction be stopped? If there is no outside manipulation, these natural events must go through each and every one of these changes. But, each change can be reduced into a series of “smaller” changes.
Obviously, an infinite set of events ensues in between two discrete events, which we outlined earlier. An infinite set of events require an infinite set of single moments at which they can occur. At last, we arrive at the ugly paradox of physical reality. An infinite series cannot be traversed. There is no way for one event to “cause” the alleged next event.
Yet, we know things do “happen.” We know the world exists, and in this existence a plurality of events occurs all the time. This is another instance–the first being the beginning of the universe–in which we have two facts that just cannot be made to jive according to the naturalistic worldview. The argument from meticulous causation could be a problem for many other worldviews besides just naturalism.
I’ll propose a solution. You may not like, but you expected it. God must be involved. God must be aware of all the variables in the universe at one “time,” and then he must process them somehow and calculate what he thinks the next moment of the universe should be, given what humans and physical laws assume would be the natural outcome from the known antecedents. In doing this, God must create a finite number of events. He must, more or less, arbitrarily–from our point of view–determine a discrete number of events to occur. It is as if he must rearrange the universe at every moment and project it into the next moment, and then do that process all over. There would in fact be a finite number of moments, on this view, from the beginning of the universe. God not only created the universe, but just as amazingly he sustains it constantly and allows things to happen.