Why must there be a First Cause?

Chickens and eggs (and chickens, and…)

In LDS theology, all people begin existence as “intelligences.” A god, as part of the process of begetting spirit children, makes these into spirits. Then they receive bodies, and if they are good enough, they end up becoming gods themselves, and the cycle starts over.

These intelligences are thought to be infinite; that is, they have always existed. So, according to LDS, we existed eternally as intelligences until our God made us into spirits. He, too, had existed as an intelligence until being made into a spirit by his god. And that god had to be made a god.

The question that comes immediately to mind for a non-LDS is “Who made the first god?” The answer from LDS apologists is that there was none. The Doctrine and Covenants says that intelligence cannot be made. LDS say that it simply goes backward infinitely in time.

Non-LDS philosophers see this as an impossibility so intuitive that it’s hard to put it into words. And indeed, in my experience, it’s been hard to explain to LDS why there must be a first cause. In general they simply see no need for it. In their mind, asking who made the first God is like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg.

However, that’s not accurate. In the chicken/egg example, all eggs come from chickens and all chickens come from eggs. In LDS theology, all gods come from intelligences, but no intelligence comes from a god. Let us illustrate. In the classical chicken/egg example, it doesn’t matter which comes first. It’s an infinite chain both ways (possible only in theory, of course):

Classical Chicken/Egg System

In LDS theology, however, we must remember that all gods began as intelligences. Therefore, there must have been a point in the past at which all gods were in their original form:

Mystery Chicken

Intelligences cannot make themselves into spirits, let alone gods. There had to be a catalyst, a Prime Chicken, something to get the entire system started:

Prime Chicken

In other words, there had to be a First Cause. This entity had to be transcendent of the intelligence/god system, viz. it is not a being such as we are according to LDS theology. It had to be personal, for an inanimate being like matter cannot simply act itself; it must be acted upon. As long as we have gone this far, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that the First Cause created the whole system. If not, then something else created it and caused it to cause the whole thing, by the same logic used above. In which case that being would be the First Cause.

In other words, it’s a lot like the God of Catholic Christianity. This is the God in whom we believe: He is not one of us who has already advanced to chicken form. He isn’t on the same plane as we are; our plane of existence comes entirely from Him. He came first, before the chicken and the egg.

If there is no such First Cause in LDS theology, then we couldn’t be as we are right now, because nobody would ever have been created. If there is, then it is the single being to whom we ultimately owe our existence. Put another way, it should be our god. Yet, if LDS are correct, we know nothing about it, our own God never mentioned it, and in fact He used language pretty strongly denying it even exists. LDS say God is “the only god with whom we have anything to do,” and yet we have a lot to do with this super-god, as it and it alone is the reason we are able to exist as we do.

Fortunately, it’s not so. God is the only God there is. He wasn’t fibbing when He said, “I AM.”

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