Judeo-Christians understand God as a being that is perfect in knowledge (Ps. 147:5), power (Job 42:2), presence (Ps. 139), acts (Ps. 18:30) and has none greater (Heb. 6:13) nor equal (Ps. 40:6).
Following Anselm’s: “credimus te esse aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit“¹, God is understood to be a Being that exhibits maximal perfection. God is, borrowing Alvin Plantinga’s words, a being “having an unsurpassable degree of greatness—that is, having a degree of greatness such that it’s not possible that there exist a being having more.” (Plantinga 2002: 102 emp. removed)
God is thus understood to be a being having maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence), and is morally perfect (this is why God cannot lie or be unrighteous).
From modal logic the existence of such a being(God) is either impossible or necessary. The concept of contingent existence of God is a contradictory idea since (i) necessarily, “a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world” and (ii) necessarily, “a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world.” (2002: 111)
Thus either the existence of God is impossible or necessary. The existence of God is not impossible. Therefore it is necessary. Therefore God, as understood by Judeo-Christians, exists.
Is this a persuasive case for existence of such a Being? No. I do not think it is. It does however show that Judeo-Christians’ understanding of God is rationally acceptable.
¹ Anselmus Cantuariensis Prologion: Trans. [W]e believe that You[God] are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.
Plantinga, Alvin (2002) God, Freedom & Evil. First published by Harper and Row., 1974. Reprinted 2002.
45 thoughts on “Necessary Existence of God”
and this right here is the very reason why i am not a fan of platinga or the ontological arguement out of necessity. Because….just because something exist in concept or in ones imagination. Does not mean it actually exist. Nor does it mean it exist, if we attach the attribute of greatness. Because greatness by itself is an abstract concept that only exist in the imagination of the person.
You are correct. Ontological arguments, those which are valid and sound, are not persuasive. Plantinga also reach the same conclusion, if you have read his work. After exploring and defending the validity of modal logical ontological argument, he went to say that even if it is valid and sound, it is not persuasive. Plantinga is a reformed epistemologist, thus sees very little use in arguments for existence of God.
“WL I know what I wrote, there is no need for you quoting me. I responded to your points without quoting you.”
I do so for clarity; I don’t want you thinking I’m referring to one paragraph when I’m in fact referring to the second (or what have you). Some of comments often could refer to various points or sentences.
Part of your error consists in this:
You are taking a system, imagine it as a bubble, within which certain ideas are expressed. This you are referring to as the logic of Judeo-Christian thinking. You are claiming that this logic is reasonable or, specifically, ‘rationally acceptable’.
What I am trying to point out to you is that, outside of the bubble, people certainly do not accept this logic; and their right to weigh in on the discussion is that there are common elements to those inside the bubble and those outside: the language we use to express the ideas.
If you’re trying to claim that, within the bubble, it makes sense to those inside. That’s fine. It’s completely mad and validates absolutely any school of thought (my bubble might be that when numbers are added together and the sum exceeds 50, the answer is always, unerringly ‘5’ and gather people who agree with me). Also, by stating their line of thought is ‘rationally acceptable’, you are referencing a system (you specifically refer to modal logic), which is utilised by everyone else outside of the bubble. So what I’m left with, what I think you’re trying to express, is that ‘if what these Judeo-Christians posited were *true*, then this would be acceptable proof of its rationality.’ Which, I repeat, is madness, as it’s possible to posit an infinite number of these ‘bubbles’ that are subject to their own logic.
I also recommend that you *do* quote your original commentators more often as you often seem unclear in your responses.
“A.C. Grayling’s question is a loaded question. Do you mean I committed that errors in this article?”
Only to the extent that there are a lot of presumptions / accepted premises. One of your problems is that you could find ten Judeo-Christians from different areas of the world who would all disagree with one another on ‘the definition of God’. This causes many problems both to yourself and to Anselm’s statement, which was written in a time when the definition to this category of people was much more narrow.
““a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world””
‘Maximal excellence’ opens another can of worms; let alone, as I mentioned above, the implications of ‘omniscience’, ‘omnipotence’, etc..
WL I know what I wrote, there is no need for you quoting me 😉 I responded to your points without quoting you.
It is true that you can find ten or more people who hold different notion of God, but I doubt, and please correct me by directing me to ten Judeo-Christians’ scholars, who does not hold that there is no being greater or equal with God. They may be differences expressing what that implies, no doubt.
You asked how necessary existence followed from God being the greatest conceivable possible being and I answered: because having maximal excellence in every possible world means the being necessarily exists in every possible world. There is no possible world that that being is not.
Now throwing in a red herring of the implication of such idea is irrelevant. Its implication is another topic for another debate.
Mistake “‘abuse’ is a greater quality to posses for a society that values equality, not tyranny.”
Abuse into kindness.
Daniel, I’ll refrain from quoting.
Your CM and LM example is interesting but it still doesn’t escape my scrutiny. What are the pasts of the LM and the CM? What achievements did they offer to society? Is the CM’s fault only in this? What if the CM was horribly abused during childhood. What if the LM only takes care of her child because she was brought up this way. Do we judge these people based on a specific time in their life or after their life? The CM wasn’t always a child molester, the LM wasn’t always a mother.
Then, we need to address the option of relativistic morality. In some cultures incest and arranged marriages at young ages was normal. To us, this is appalling, but the people at the time it was normal. Even the Bible deals with slave trading and marriage disputes pretty horrifically.
Therefore, everything else being equal, I cannot say that the LM is greater than the CM. Do I like the CM? No, of course not. In my opinion the CM has no place in our society. However, the use of greater here is to somehow differentiate two human beings on one quality, in a particular time in their lives without evaluating any of the circumstances.
What would be more productive in this argument would be to ask if the act of ‘abuse’ was good moral? I would say no, I cannot subjectively picture a good society that takes this type of action as good. Therefore, the perfect society and the people in this society would not abuse other people. However, to say that abuse is greater than kindness would be a claim that’s purely subjective and determined by our empathy. Abuse is relative, and another society that divides and classifies its people as different will not consider it abuse – slaves are made of such things. Therefore, to be specific as possible, abuse is a greater quality to posses for a society that values equality, not tyranny.
I will not use ‘perfect’ or ‘greater’ in such an imprecise and vague way that you do.
I have no doubt that god has every right to change reality to his will. Even the use of the word ‘right’ becomes redundant, as if god needs to defend his position. However, when you use analogies, you cannot use one that doesn’t make sense for both aspects, and if you do, you need to be specific. So, for the Christian god, you need to find an analogy like the potter, who gets angry at the very object he’s creating, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense.
I quote you so I can differentiate and focus on particular arguments. No offence in this intended.
So, tell me then, everything being equal or not, in what way is Mother Teresa greater/better than Stalin? Please be as specific as possible; use as many words as possible.
“Scoring less is a liabity not ability”
You are wrong here, as you can see, quotes are good. I directly refuted you for this analogy and proved you wrong, then you say this – “Jane lowering herself to fit into society shows that you also failed to understand the point made.”
“God does and can not fit into his creation.God fitting into creation would mean God not being omnipotent(since the society is not omnipotent), which I pointed as a liability.”
Yet, the Christian god shows anger and interferes a whole lot; Unfortunately at a time when man was extremely superstitious and without recording devices. What you said here does not infer a liability, it just means, if this is what god is, he just can’t do it. Preferably, don’t use the word liability in this sense, especially when using analogies with human beings.
“You missed again the potter-clay illustration. The aim was to show that if God is the creator of the whole cosmos and everything in it, then God can do as He sees fit. If it is Him who gives life, who are human to stop Him from taking back. Do you think because God gave human freedom of will, whatever that is, then He lost His propagative over them?”
You didn’t seem to understand that your potter analogy is horrendous. The potter analogy works somewhat for a deist god, not the Christian God. In reality, the potter who molds his clay is apathetic to the clay(among many other things that conflicts with a personal god). It seems strange to me that I need to explain this to you, especially since you appear to be very intelligent. The clay potter would appear to be psychotic.
“Now, Charlie, I think it was not fair of you to point out that my presupposition and dogma influence my rationality(genetic fallacy) because the same could be said to you or any one.”
Indeed, I have no doubt that I have suppositions, however, I do not hold any dogmas. In Louis Althusser Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, from which I derive this conclusion. You defend not only your ideology but the god that judges you. You and I are different, I am not bound by such commitments and influences.
“What we are to seek is whether something is true or false, whether it is presuppositions or dogmatic influenced is irrelevant.”
I can hold the middle ground, the third option. you seem to need a truth as if your life depends on it(E.G. Sin), therefore, judging prematurely.
“Charlie, I do not know how to answer your question because it appears that you failed to understand the idea of maximum perfection being.”
The perfect being seems to be subjective and completely dependant on the psychology of the individual and socio-cultural influences. It is a stance that is incoherent. A person who follows a pagan religion may conceive a different outcome. A person who leads a despotism may conceive a different outcome. Morality, especially morality, which I focus on, is an incoherent perfect maxim.
I can no more say any thing or person is greater without being extremely specific; religion seems to hold no such coherency. Greater and perfect used in the general sense is just that, general, and not worth contemplating. Irrational thought, such as racism, are the very foundation of generalizations.
Charlie, I think quoting makes comments long and redundant. Your comments become longer than my article. If you read my responses, you can see that I do address your points without quoting you. This is to be concise.
It seems we are speaking two different languages. It could be because you are not familiar with perfect being theology and(or) I am doing a terrible job explaining it to you. With Mother Teresa and Stalin: I am was after their moral conducts. I will use another example. Think of a child molester (CM) and a loving mother(LM) . Everything else being equal, LM is greater than CM, because moral perfection is a property that makes a person great. Outside moral, is knowledge and power. Think of LM whose IQ is less than 55 and LM whose IQ is greater than 145, everything else being equal, LM is greater than CM, because knowledge is greatness-making property.
I will not go into Jane’s example. It seems you misunderstood what it means for a being to be omnipotent. I will have to direct you to works I gave you before or you are to wait for a short post that I will do to cover that topic. You are also reading to much into Potter-Clay example. My aim was to show that God has every rights to do according to His will with humans. If He gives life, then He has the right to take it away.
Mother Teresa love with all her heart and mind and soul, ( though she could be a bit stern with her Sisters from time to time ).
Stalin’s ‘sternness’ went to the ‘enth degree – as so many can testify from the heavens. However, he was a remains a Child of God.
On the cross, Jesus did not turn to the ‘bad thief’ and say, “Today you shall not be with me in Paradise.”
The “LAW OF GOD”, observable in his independent self-revelations, is conclusively demonstrated in Jesus Christ’s unique death on the cross. The characteristics include a critical mass of Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical deeds, a.k.a., “God’s powerful weapons”, capable of destroying strongholds, false argument and proud obstacle raised against the knowledge of God.
(1 Cor.1: 17-31; 2 Cor. 10: 4-6)
“Think of being A that tells a lie every second sentence out of 10, and being B that tells 1 lie in 10. Being B is said to be greater than A, everything being equal, because moral perfection is a greatness-making property.”
Why is A greater than B. it seems to be a subjective point of view. A businessman who earns vast amount of wealth may tell his children that lying is a virtue and that’s how he’s had a life of quality.
Again, how do you infer lying has any less value than telling the truth, especially on a cosmic scale?
“Another way to put it Mother Teresa is greater than Stalin”
This is just too vague. Stalin would probably be stronger in physical strength. Teresa may have more empathy towards some groups of people, which then is even dubious because she ‘wanted’ people to suffer for her own faith – very strange women if you research up on her.
You are using this greater, perfect, idea in a very vague way.
“If God is greatest conceivable being, then God must be morally perfect.”
Again, I assume you don’t even know how to reply to my question. I have no doubt that your presupposition and dogma’s are influencing your objective rational in this.
Does god include all morals or just some. If god only includes some, then it seems, judging your prior remarks, you negate all other morals based on our desires of what is better. I might be a faster runner than you, you may be a better chess player than me; how does this equate to perfect or in the general sense, greater?
“Does that diminish Jane’s ability in math that she cannot score less than 100%? No, if she could score less, that diminishes her ability. Scoring less is a liabity not ability.”
Yes, she may lessen her score in order to fit in socially. We can be very specific in this without using words like greatness or perfect when ‘comparing’ E.G. Jane is currently better than John in their tests. John might not be interested in mathematics. John might be better than Jane but doesn’t care, therefore, it is not reflected in their tests.
“God, unlike man, has right to make life and take life as He sees fit to His plan.”
Not if you want to argue any deontological ethics, which it seems Christianity is full of.
“As the potter has rights to mold as so wishes. Human does not have that propagative.”
This example sits well if you do not examine it. The clay is not given freedom, the clay doesn’t purposely rebel against the potter. The potter can’t tell the future, in that, the potter doesn’t get mad at the clay if he could tell the future(supposedly).
Charlie, I think your question rose from failing to understand what it means to be a maximally great being. As for Mother Teresa and Stalin, I was pointing to A and B, “everything being equal”. So pointing that Teresa was good to this and Stalin was good to other, misses the point of “everything else being equal”.
Jane lowering herself to fit into society shows that you also failed to understand the point made. God does and can not fit into his creation.God fitting into creation would mean God not being omnipotent(since the society is not omnipotent), which I pointed as a liability.
You missed again the potter-clay illustration. The aim was to show that if God is the creator of the whole cosmos and everything in it, then God can do as He sees fit. If it is Him who gives life, who are human to stop Him from taking back. Do you think because God gave human freedom of will, whatever that is, then He lost His propagative over them?
Now, Charlie, I think it was not fair of you to point out that my presupposition and dogma influence my rationality(genetic fallacy) because the same could be said to you or any one. We all hold certain presupposition and dogma. What we are to seek is whether something is true or false, whether it is presuppositions or dogmatic influenced is irrelevant.
Charlie, I do not know how to answer your question because it appears that you failed to understand the idea of maximum perfection being. I will have to develop it here on my blog. Until then you could read: The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings by Michael J. Almeida or Our Idea of God by Thomas V. Morris.
Remember that this is a blog, and the main goal is to direct my readers to read further on these issues. This is why I include bibliographies in my posts.
You do not have to quote me in your responses. I know what I wrote 😉
Hardly an answer to my question. I assume it’s either because, you did not understand my question, or, this topic is already so convoluted that trying to understand it created paradoxes.
When you say morally ‘perfect’ of course this inclines that there is something that is not morally perfect. So, we can assume the absence of morality is something that is not morally perfect, or something that lacks a certain quality of moral perfection(if the latter is the case then I’d like an inference to the conclusion).
Therefore, for the case of god, we can assume that moral perfection includes all morals. I cannot see how then you come to the conclusion that god is righteous and cannot lie. All morality would include things like slavery and torture.
Then we come to another problem; if you say that god cannot lie or do something, you are assuming it is outside its ability. In this case, then, god is not omnipotent. God would need the choice to do one thing over the other.
This Deontological argument has, again, another problem. God in the Bible says that Murder is forbidden, yet god himself murders. For instance, it’s okay to kill numerous children for teasing a bald man or kill a brother for spilling his seed on the ground.
Back into inference. You haven’t explained why we need to even include morality within god. It would be the same for any concept, and equally, trying to pick one or the other: We could, respectfully, add chaos and order within god. Then god is both equally chaotic and orderly. Or even mathematical concepts, like a sphere and a square.
You seem to be nitpicking answers to conform to what’s best for your personal theistic belief of what god is – I have no such luxury. The Judeo-Christians understanding of god is no more rational than I thinking the abstract spherical square exists.
How did you come to the conclusion that god is moral and that god is ‘perfectly’ moral?
Charlie by greatness-making property I mean the property that a greatest conceivable being must essentially possess. Think of being A that tells a lie every second sentence out of 10, and being B that tells 1 lie in 10. Being B is said to be greater than A, everything being equal, because moral perfection is a greatness-making property. Another way to put it Mother Teresa is greater than Stalin. If God is greatest conceivable being, then God must be morally perfect. Anything less, means that there could be a greater being which is greater than the greatest being, which is absurd.
God not being able to lie does not entail lack of power, quite the contrary is true. Think of Jane and John. John is not good at math, and always scores less than 60%. Jane is perfect in math and always scores 100% Say Jane cannot score less. Does that diminish Jane’s ability in math that she cannot score less than 100%? No, if she could score less, that diminishes her ability. Scoring less is a liabity not ability.
God, unlike man, has right to make life and take life as He sees fit to His plan. If He is the creator of all, then creatures have no say. As the potter has rights to mold as so wishes. Human does not have that propagative.
Can you explain why god is morally perfect? I failed to see the inference. Also, why would lying or being unrighteous count within this argument?
Because moral perfection is greatness-making property.
A great analysis, my friend. I think the problem, however, is assuming the case is closed at this point. Even if we were to grant that modal logic can help us situate God in a logical framework (a debated topic, of course), we would still have trouble situating God in our own lives. I’m reminded of Wittgenstein’s preface to his famous work on logic, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, wherein he says that once we have solved all logical problems we will see how little we have actually accomplished. Once we affirm God exists, we then have to square that affirmation with problems of evil, feelings of abandonment, God’s hiddenness, etc.
As such, I’m skeptical about the value of finding a logical ground for a God who does not seem to be too worried about it himself. Instead, I think we should turn our energies to discovering what God has to say about suffering in the world, rather than what logic has to say about God.
‘As such, I’m skeptical about the value of finding a logical ground for a God who does not seem to be too worried about it himself. Instead, I think we should turn our energies to discovering what God has to say about suffering in the world, rather than what logic has to say about God.’
I wholeheartedly agree, and one should not lose sight of the fact that our Creator God is doing just that, every second of every day – creating, ( and, if you like, re-creating ). I think Prayson, while I like the foundation of your thoughts, you risk slotting God into an impossible situation.
Gray, I follow your concern. As I learn more, I find that argument for God’s existence persuasive to some. I for one think these arguments are only good to show that belief in God is rational not that God exists.
I hold reformed epistemology which deems existence of God as a proper basic belief. Thank you for your comments.
Faith is belief in inspiration, revelation or authority, and reason or evidence!
Faith and rationality are two ideologies that exist in varying degrees of conflict or incompatibility.
Rationality is based on reason or evidence. Faith is belief in inspiration, revelation or authority. The word faith generally refers to a belief that is held with lack of, in spite of or against reason, logic, or evidence.
The word faith occurs 247 times in 231 verses in the KJV version, and for good reason.
The Bible declares that, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) This reveals to us that faith is believing beyond what we can see at the moment. Faith is, trusting God and what He has to say about something, regardless of what is seen or felt in this natural physical world.
There are two types of men, those who are afraid to lose God, and those who are afraid that they might find Him…–Blaise Pascal, philosopher and scientist
The first type has no use for logic, the second will cling to false logic til his dying breath.
Faith is holding on to what God says and refusing to let go. It is standing firm upon His Word. It is understanding that God’s Word is Ultimate Truth to which everything will have to bow and come in line. If I have faith in God and His Word, then His Word will always be the determining factor in my decision makings. What is faith? It is believing in God and daring to act upon His Word. Without action there is not real faith.
John, i dont think Prayson is playing word games. He is simply stating that God either is impossible or necessary. And since the concept of God is a being beyond our limited human understanding… Then it is possible that God exists. I don’t know why you refused to answer a simple question, and what does a unicorn have to do with an omnipotent being.
John, I see no point in your argument.
Hi Graham. Just checking out your art. Gorgeous.
You’re exactly right, though. There is no point to my argument. I wasn’t even presenting one, merely using the ontological word game which Prayson was deploying to demonstrate just how silly (and ultimately meaningless) it is.
Thank you for your comments about my artwork. It’s something I don’t do enough of, but should, because it’s very relaxing and meditative.
Anyone who uses orange in their art is a champion in my eyes. You’ve also succeeded in texturing your work better than i ever could hope for. Nice job.
‘better than i ever could hope’ – does that mean you too are an artist?
Artist, no… dabbler in splashing paint around on canvases, sure.
Dabbling and splashing is art. Many have made fortunes from dabbling and splashing.
True, but they typically also have egos the size of continents 😉
If we make contact with the depths within us we discover that we are not just autonomous, isolated persons. Each of us, in this mystery of Christ dwelling in our hearts, is called to love and to be loved beyond all division.
Of course! There are a few angles that could be taken.
The problem with trying to frame an argument in terms of ‘modal logic’, or any form of logical system, for that matter, here raises all kinds of issues. Using the word ‘god’, for instance, will have different connotations and different meanings to various people from various cultures in various times etc. (like a very many of our words). As such, the basic proposition suffers: ‘God exists’; ‘God does not exist.’ What exactly is being claimed and denied in each instance?
“The existence of ‘god’ is either impossible or necessary.”
How would it be necessary from what you said beforehand? I could see impossible; I mean, omnipotence has, typically, caused a lot of Apologetics a lot of problems over the centuries. I didn’t see how ‘necessary’ followed?
Unless, what you mean to say is that there either HAS to be a ‘god’ or there CANNOT be a god. One of the two. In which case, I refer to my first paragraph above and ask if you could say the same of any word.
There either is an abacde or there is not. There either is an abacdeab or there is not. There either is an abacdeabc or there is not, etc. Where an infinite number of words can refer to an infinite number of concepts our language is capable of stringing together.
I have always liked, and oft quote, A.C. Grayling’s question:
Have you stopped beating your wife?
Because either you have, or you haven’t.
Or, actually, the speaker could have been talking nonsense in the first instance.
WL, half on the article is on the definition of God as understood by Judeo-Christians. That is the Being I showed exists.
Necessary follows from the idea that “a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world” (2002: 111). If a being is in every possible world, then that being is a necessary being. That is simply S5.
A.C. Grayling’s question is a loaded question. Do you mean I committed that errors in this article?
There are two fundamental errors contained within this:
“From modal logic the existence of such a being(God) is either impossible or necessary.
Thus either the existence of God is impossible or necessary.”
One, being the application of modal logic to the subject matter; two, related to this, is the conclusion.
On this latter point: the proposition doesn’t necessarily have a bi-valent outcome and, further, ‘necessary’ does not follow from the description above.
I am not sure I am following. Could you be kind to expound more?
“The existence of God is not impossible.” Really? Why not? Because you wrote the sentence? Is “I can think of god, therefore god exists” the entire depth of the argument?
John, is it possible that God exists?
Is it possible rainbow-farting unicorns exist? 😉
John, does that mean yes or no?
Maybe, maybe not. You’re the one playing the word games, so i just played back. So, is it possible rainbow-farting unicorns exist? Yes, or no?
BTW, is this your promised description of your god? If so, thanks.
It is interesting that you wish me to answer your question with yes or no while you do not.
I assume by maybe and maybe not you mean “yes” existence of God is possible?
The argument doesn’t follow from modal logic per se, but from the modal logical thesis peculiar to the S5 lewis system: If x is possible, then necessarily x is possible, and if x i possibly necessary, then it is necessary. Without these thesis, like S3 or S4, then the argument will not follow from modal logic. That said though, the two particular thesis are rather persuassive when one ponders what necessity and possibility is.
Thanks DJ. What I wanted to say, and probably did poor job, is that from modal logic we are left with only two choices: impossible and necessary. The contingency-existence-of-such-being’s choice being eliminated.
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