The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

Had an ah ha moment the other day praying Lauds concerning, strangely enough, that old ontological argument for the existence of God. It goes:

God is that which nothing greater can be thought. If that which is greatest lacks existence, than God would no longer be the greatest (because He would lack existence). Point: The greatest, therefore, has to exist.

On the surface, this is a rather heady and philosophical idea that doesn’t really touch our minds and hearts, living, as we do, in a culture that has no innate connection to universal ideas.

In fact, it never really moved me until a few days ago when I was reading Psalm 92:15 “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” Here I am, in a life-death struggle with my “old man,” trying to do as the Apostle tells me “do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies” (Rom. 6:9). I am besieged with fears and anxieties, and anger arising from attachments to transient worldly things, in short, wallowing in my imperfections, and the Psalmist directs my attention to the perfection of God. Ahhhh, peace! Where did we ever get an idea of perfection to strive for? Where did it come from? My soul longs for perfection, the perfection of God! God is that perfection, and the fact that He is perfect proves that He exists. My longing soul demands that there be a perfect mate for it. The ontological argument therefore is not only directed to the intellect, but also to the existential part of us that longs. Praise is the natural outcome of the ontological argument.

Does this make sense?

4 Responses to “The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God”

  1. I’ve been occasionally checking your site to see what’s going on and was thrilled to see it up and running! So here’s my comment!
    I remember a catholic scholar who came to my college back when I was an undergrad explored the idea of how our longings for the ultimate (joy, beauty, perfection, depth etc.) is evidence of the presence of God. That has stuck with me and flows beautifully with out creation testifies to his handiwork as well. The more we learn about he universe, the more fine-tuned it seems for human life to exist!
    Thanks for the reminder of taking time to “live in eternity” which is our home- to dwell in his perfection, to allow the thought of him to overwhelm our fallness and out us to know his peace!
    Many blessings. I’m looking forward to reading many more of these!

    • Thanks Paul for your comment,

      You know, the funny thing about the ontological argument is that it appeals to those who are comfortable with universals (more of a platonic orientation; what is real is the world of ideas above and beyond us) than those who are more comfortable with particulars as our western culture is (more of an Aristotelian orientation; what is real is the material world before us), where the teleological argument makes more sense (arguing from the beauty and order of the universe). However, your comment makes me think that in our subjective culture shot through and through with existentialism (what is real is how I experience life), the ontological argument can slip in the back door substituting “longing” for “thought/thinking.” I’m not a philosopher, but does this make sense? The import of this would be in evangelism.

      • I think many people do operate on two different levels of existence- in brief, they might be by conviction materialists, but by practice switch to a spiritual orientation in order to make sense of their existence. I have become more comfortable of late with thinking of experience as a primary means of connecting people with God rather than reason alone. “You can only possess what you experience” (Tozer) It must be your influence from OT of how the physical has a spiritual origin and is a copy of the immortal (e.g. the temple).

        There is certainly a need for rigorous rational methodical intellectual argument for the faith while at the same time presenting a comprehensive tangible and available connection with the divine- “come taste and see that the Lord is good.” I love how Jesus often helped people see their own hearts by first addressing tangible issues- water, money, lands, food, healing.

        Sorry for the scattered nature of what I wrote, but there’s so much here and my brain is going in many different directions. Need to further think through some of these things. Thanks.

  2. Paul, I am struck by the fact that St. Paul tells his story about his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus 3 times in the book of Acts. Luke would affirm that experience is the starting point in all of this; it cannot be argued, and it rings with reality.

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