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Monday
Jan212008

Theological Term of the Week

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For two more weeks, the theological terms will be the names of some traditional arguments used to justify belief in the existence of God. As you might imagine, there is disagreement about the validity and usefulness of these proofs.
 
Ontological Argument
An argument for the existence of God that, unlike the teleological and cosmological arguments, does not start with evidence from the natural world, but rather, begins with a definition of God and tries to deduce from that definition the existence of God.
 
  • From Anselm of Canterbury, who first developed the ontological argument, in Prosologium (and nabbed by me from here):
    God is that, than which nothing greater can be conceived.… And [God] assuredly exists so truly, that it cannot be conceived not to exist. For, it is possible to conceive of a being which cannot be conceived not to exist; and this is greater than one which can be conceived not to exist. Hence, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, can be conceived not to exist, it is not that, than which nothing greater can be conceived. But this is an irreconcilable contradiction. There is, then, so truly a being than which nothing greater can be conceived to exist, that it cannot even be conceived not to exist; and this being thou art, O Lord, our God.    

Learn more

  1. The Ontological Argument from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. The 4 Primary Arguments for God’s Existence from TheologicalStudies.org.
This series of theological terms was suggested by Kim of Hiraeth. The graphic at the beginning of the post was also done by Kim. See more of her work at Bookworm Bookmarks.
 
Have you come across a theological term that you don’t understand and you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

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Reader Comments (4)

I like the ontological argument. I heard R. C. Sproul explain it very clearly. I'll try to relate it and hope I can do it justice.

Can an being create itself? No.

Self-creation is logically impossible. So, logically there must be at least one entity that is eternally self-existent. We deduce that this entity is God.

It doesn't prove much about God, but I think it is useful in sharpening logic skills and nailing down "item number one" in a series of proofs of the existence of God.

BTW, my pipes didn't burst! :) They thawed. Yea! :)

January 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Addison

Yep, that's a version of the ontological argument. Thanks for contributing that to the discussion.

A lot of people do seem to really like this argument. I'm still thinking on it... :)

And I'm sure glad your pipes are okay!

January 22, 2008 | Registered Commenterrebecca

I guess I should pipe in here. . .if I was pinned down, I'd go with the ontological argument.

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKim from Hiraeth

I'm thinking that in my limited personal experience talking to people who believe in God, but don't necessarily believe scripture, it's usually the existence of creation that convinces them that there is a God of one sort or another.

January 24, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca

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