The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

Continuing this short series on arguments for the existence of God brings us to the Ontological Argument. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being. Therefore, the Ontological Argument deals with the nature of God.

This argument was formulated by Anselm (1033-1109 CE) who wanted to find a single argument to prove God’s existence. He not only wanted to prove that God existed but also that he has all the superlative attributes (i.e., omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent) that Christian doctrine ascribes to him (Reasonable Faith, 95). This argument attempts to prove God’s existence from the very concept of God. If God is conceivable, then he must actually exist.

Just as the video provides a summary, the argument can be formulated as such:

1. It’s possible that a maximally great being exists.

2. A maximally great being exists in some possible world.

3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

5. A maximally great being exists in the actual world.

6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

God is the greatest being conceivable. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. If there was anything greater than him in any way, then he would no longer be God and this better thing would be God.  This is not subject to subjective thinking such as pizza or a unicorn. Just because we can think of a unicorn or the greatest pizza does not mean they actually exist. A unicorn may be fun to think of, but it is not a maximally great being. We all have different preferences on a great pizza. My wife loves a good Chicago pizza, friends of mine enjoy thin crust, and I enjoy an amazing pan crust pizza from Pizza Hut. Even if we struggle with comprehending a maximally great being it does not necessarily mean that it does not exist. We can begin to have an idea of what an objectively maximally great being would be like, especially when it comes to goodness.

One thing we need to remember about a maximally great being is that it necessarily exists. Isn’t existence better than non-existence? Craig states Anselm’s example of a painter this way, “Which is greater: the artist’s idea of the painting or the painting itself as it really exists?” (Reasonable Faith, 95). We would answer the painting itself. It would not only exist in the painter’s mind but also in reality then. If it is better to exist in reality, then wouldn’t a conceivable maximally great being exist in reality? Yes, because a maximally great being would not be so if it only existed in the mind.

God is a maximally great being because he is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipresent. If we can conceive a maximally great being, then even the skeptic must admit that it’s possible that God exists.

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One thought on “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Pingback: Conclusion of Arguments for the Existence of God | Thomas Hoch

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