I was recently discussing whether the universe was created by God or Nature with an atheist friend and he seemed surprised when I said I believed that God was a simpler explanation for the existence of the universe than Nature itself. He then said that even if I could prove the existence of God there would be no reason to suppose He was personal. Here is the question as I was asked:
“Why would it have personality, something only observed in highly complex evolved biological creatures?” To which I replied…
The Uncaused Cause, simply because it is the origin of time, space, energy and matter must transcend each of these by being timeless, non-spatial, and neither composed of physical energy or matter. Being timeless it would be changeless, being changeless it must be non-physical and immaterial (all physical objects in time undergo constant change at the molecular and atomic levels). This Entity would also need to be incredibly and unimaginably powerful since it created the Universe without any material cause.
This transcendent First Cause is also plausibly personal. That this Entity is personal is implied by two things: 1. Because it is immaterial and timeless. Only an unembodied Mind or an abstract object has these properties. But abstract objects like the number three cannot create anything. So it follows logically that it is plausible to consider this Uncaused Cause an unembodied Mind. And, 2. man has established through both philosophy and modern science that the universe has a beginning in time and will have an end, it is finite. The Uncaused Cause, on the other hand- being uncaused- is necessarily eternal. Further, since it is transcendent (timeless, non-spatial, and neither composed of physical energy or matter), it is plausible to believe that the act of this Causal Agent to begin the universe was a free act of its Will. There is simply no other reason for an Uncaused Cause which is completely changeless by nature to create a finite universe composed of so many things unlike itself (time, energy, matter, space) other than by a choice to do so.
My conclusion is that this eternal Uncaused Cause which is timeless, non-spatial, and neither composed of physical energy or matter, which is unimaginably powerful and is reasonably understood as a Mind with Free Will is what we mean by God.
Another question reasserted the atheist position that saying Nature created itself is a far simpler explanation than that God did it:
“The simplest explanation BY FAR is that the natural laws of the universe are the most basic, uncaused existence, themselves. This is incomparably simpler than positing a maximally powerful, personal deity as being the uncaused cause.”
My reply: I do not see how saying that “the natural laws of the universe are the most basic, uncaused existence, themselves” is simpler than reasoning that the Uncaused Cause is a simple spiritual transcendent Being.
Stephen Hawking said the same thing you have in his book The Grand Design: “Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can, and will, create itself out of nothing”. But this idea does not hold up to scrutiny since it is self-contradictory and logically incoherent in three ways:
One, it is saying that the universe came from a nothing that turned out to be a something.
Second, it says the universe creates itself. If we say “X creates Y” we are presupposing the existence of X in order to bring Y into existence. This is the theistic formula. But if we use the atheist formula we are saying, “X creates X”. That is, we are presupposing X in order to bring X into existence. To suppose the existence of the universe in order to account for the existence of the universe sounds like a bigger fairy tale than anything we find in the Bible.
Third, consider the first part of what you and Hawkings have said. He attributes creation to the “law of gravity” and you said the “natural laws of the universe are the most basic, uncaused existence, themselves”. Hawkings starts by saying, “Because there is a law of gravity…… the universe will create itself out of nothing.” But surely neither you nor he really mean the laws themselves created anything, the laws are only abstract mathematical formulae that describe the something they represent. Gravity is not a “nothing” but a “something” so the logic of his something falls apart when he says “the universe can and will create itself out of nothing.”
But if the Big Bang was the beginning of time, space, energy, and matter then there was no “something” to create itself from, you are back to the logically incoherent self-contradiction: “x creates x”.
I personally find “x creates y” to be a much simpler and more reasonable explanation for the origin of the universe.