Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ontological Argument

I studied Anselm's 'Ontological Argument' as part of my Religious Philosophy component of my Religious Studies A' Levels and it's always fascinated me.  How do you explain the nature of being in relation to God Who does by nature dwell in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16), Whose judgements are unsearchable and His ways past finding out (Romans 11:33), Whose ways and thoughts are way above earthly thinking (Isaiah 55:9)?  This is pretty much Immanuel Kant's reasoning in his objection to Anselm's Proslogian - we cannot experience God in the same way that we can physical objects in the natural world.  But this is the beauty of Jesus Christ, in Him we can actually know God.  We can have a relationship with God.  In Christ, God is our Father, Who will never forsake His children and will never leave us.  We are protected in His love.  We won't on this earth fully understand God - for whose mind is big enough for that? - but one day we will meet Him face-to-face.

Having said all that, as far as I am aware, Anselm's meditation was not an argument put forward to convince the atheist of the existence of God but rather a meditation on the incontrovertible knowing that God exists.

From Proslogian:

Chapter 2: That God Really Exists

Therefore, Lord, you who give knowledge of the faith, give me as much knowledge as you know to be fitting for me, because you are as we believe and that which we believe. And indeed we believe you are something greater than which cannot be thought. Or is there no such kind of thing, for "the fool said in his heart, 'there is no God'" (Ps. 13:1, 52:1)? But certainly that same fool, having heard what I just said, "something greater than which cannot be thought," understands what he heard, and what he understands is in his thought, even if he does not think it exists. For it is one thing for something to exist in a person's thought and quite another for the person to think that thing exists. For when a painter thinks ahead to what he will paint, he has that picture in his thought, but he does not yet think it exists, because he has not done it yet. Once he has painted it he has it in his thought and thinks it exists because he has done it. Thus even the fool is compelled to grant that something greater than which cannot be thought exists in thought, because he understands what he hears, and whatever is understood exists in thought. And certainly that greater than which cannot be understood cannot exist only in thought, for if it exists only in thought it could also be thought of as existing in reality as well, which is greater. If, therefore, that than which greater cannot be thought exists in thought alone, then that than which greater cannot be thought turns out to be that than which something greater actually can be thought, but that is obviously impossible. Therefore something than which greater cannot be thought undoubtedly exists both in thought and in reality.

Chapter 3: That God Cannot be Thought Not to Exist

In fact, it so undoubtedly exists that it cannot be thought of as not existing. For one can think there exists something that cannot be thought of as not existing, and that would be greater than something which can be thought of as not existing. For if that greater than which cannot be thought can be thought of as not existing, then that greater than which cannot be thought is not that greater than which cannot be thought, which does not make sense. Thus that than which nothing can be thought so undoubtedly exists that it cannot even be thought of as not existing. And you, Lord God, are this being. You exist so undoubtedly, my Lord God, that you cannot even be thought of as not existing. And deservedly, for if some mind could think of something greater than you, that creature would rise above the creator and could pass judgement on the creator, which is absurd. And indeed whatever exists except you alone can be thought of as not existing. You alone of all things most truly exists and thus enjoy existence to the fullest degree of all things, because nothing else exists so undoubtedly, and thus everything else enjoys being in a lesser degree. Why therefore did the fool say in his heart "there is no God," since it is so evident to any rational mind that you above all things exist? Why indeed, except precisely because he is stupid and foolish?

~Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109)

How awesome is that?

I'll bet you're thinking I'm a bit of a saddo, but I don't care! :)

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