“Infinite regression” is a topic that doesn’t come up in regular conversation, unless you are speaking to a fan of cosmological arguments. The basic premise of this apologetic is that everything is ultimately an effect of a first cause, which they believe must be God. An often sighted reason why there must be a singular first cause is because an infinite series of causes is impossible. I don’t know which apologist made this claim first, but it stuck. This post will show why the apologist must either acknowledge that an infinite series of causes is possible or that their god is arbitrarily limited in his ability.
Though experiment: Imagine God creates a bouncy ball in motion, a flat plane for it to bounce, gravity, and an otherwise frictionless environment. The impact from the ball’s bounce is the cause of the next bounce.
This is pretty straightforward for a theist to imagine, but they probably will only accept a segment of this series of bounces at first. The ball lands and takes off again under it’s own power for 5, 10, 100 bounces. The spoken or unspoken assumption being that God, as the first cause, set the ball in motion. But in this thought experiment, God never intends that to be the case. Can the cause for every new bounce be the impact of the last?
The apologist may say “no, an infinite series is impossible, even for God.” Let’s explore this. If impossible, that means there is a finite number that limits God. That is to say, some arbitrary number of this pedestrian act is beyond God’s ability. God is sometimes called omnipotent or all-powerful. The more modest and reasonable claim is that God can do anything logically possible. A limit on God here shows an inability to sustain another instance of an event that he’s proven is logically possible. If there is a limit, God can’t go one further than that limit. If there is no limit, it is an infinite series.
It begs the question: can a being incapable of bouncing a ball once more qualify as God? I think not.
The apologist may admit, “Fine, infinite regression is possible, but it still requires God to occur.” Does it though? This thought experiment results in a ball bouncing infinitely on a surface in a frictionless environment with no force ever acting on it but consistent gravity. It is a few physical elements that have always existed in an eternal cycle of cause and effect. If this is possible with God, with no moment of creation or novel event setting it into motion, then there is no reason why it is impossible without God.