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The Ontological Argument for God

Many people have thought deeply about God, and the scholastics of the Middle Ages would be amongst them.  They wanted to be able to analyze every aspect of God, including being able to prove God's existence through logic.  The definition is called the Ontological Argument for God.

The first step is to define "ontologically." Ontology refers to proving Godís existence through reason and without using experience or the Bible. In searching out the ontological argument for God, we will go to the person most closely associated with it: Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Anselm was Archbishop of Canterbury, and one of the greatest minds of his time.

In doing this right, Anselm had to start with a statement which was logical and obvious. So here we go (do you have your seat belt on?): God is "that than which nothing greater can be imagined." Got it? In essence he says that the human mind cannot conceive of anything greater than God. Whatever you think God is, he is greater than that. Imagine the greatest good, the greatest creator, the greatest giver of mercy, the greatest love, the greatest compassion. Whatever you can imagine, God is greater than that. (The next four steps I take from philosophyofreligion.info/anselmontological.html.)

Step two: If God is that which is greater than anything you can imagine, then nothing you can imagine can be greater than God. See? So whatever you can imagine, the greater of that must be God.

Step three: Therefore it follows that nothing greater than God can be imagined.

Step four: Suppose God does not exist. Then there is something greater than God that can be imagined. This causes a problem, because Step Two proved that nothing greater than God can be imagined.

Step 5: Therefore God must exist.

Convinced? If not, perhaps Anselmís own words from his book the Proslogium will: "Therefore, Lord, who grants understanding to faith, grant me that, in so far as you know it beneficial, I understand that you are as we believe and you are that which we believe. Now we believe that you are something than which nothing greater can be imagined. . . . For when a painter imagines beforehand what he is going to make, he has in his understanding what he has not yet made but he does not yet understand that it is. But when he has already painted it, he both has in his understanding what he has already painted and understands that it is. . . . And certainly that than which a greater cannot be imagined cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is at least in the understanding alone, it can be imagined to be in reality too, which is greater. Therefore if that than which a greater cannot be imagined is in the understanding alone, that very thing than which a greater cannot be imagined is something than which a greater can be imagined. But certainly this cannot be. There exists, therefore, beyond doubt something than which a greater cannot be imagined, both in the understanding and in reality."

©2005, 2012 Mark Nickens

Questions/comments contact Mark at drnickens@triad.rr.com.

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