Category Archives: God

Kant’s Critique of the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

 

Ironically the most notable critique of the Ontological Argument for God’s Existence comes from a theist. For Kant the argument represents a categorical error of sorts. Kant’s criticism calls “existence” into question. Kant refuted the way in which “existence” was used by Anselm in the form of a real predicate that contributed to the existence of a being. Recall, for Anselm the argument was made that a being that existed in mind only was inferior to a being that existed in mind and reality. Thus Anselm’s argument required for “existence” to be a real predicate.

Allow me to attempt at an illustration. On my desk before me sits a mug of Kona coffee that I find to have a slight to moderate floral aromatic with a fruity character. However, I can recall waking up this morning thinking about a cup of Kona coffee with these same qualities the exception being existence of course because it is only conceived of in my mind. The question is, would the former coffee be superior to the latter because it has one more quality that the latter coffee doesn’t have, namely “existence”? In other words, can we treat qualities such as “floral aromatics” and “fruity character” the same way we treat “existence” as if it is a real predicate? Kant says we kant.

Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something which is added to the conception of some other thing.2

“Being is not a real predicate.” In the same way that existence adds nothing to the qualities of my coffee, so does existence add no other qualities to God. Rather what Kant would say is that the concept of existence is now being exemplified in my coffee or God. If being is not a real predicate, then Anselm’s argument is negated. At least that is what Kant is maintaining. There have been refutations of Anselm’s claim and some who even defend the idea that existence IS a real predicate. This however is a brief explanation of Kant’s argument and any further arguments might be forthcoming.


1 Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is one of the most influential philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. His contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics have had a profound impact on almost every philosophical movement that followed him.

2 Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, tr. By J.M.D. Meiklejohn, in: Great Books in the Western World, vol. 42, Robert Maynard Hutchins edition in chief, Chicago, London, Toronto, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1952, Transcendental Doctrine of Elements,pp.181.

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Timothy George On The Trinity: From A Theology For The Church

tftcI have been reading A Theology For The Church edited by Daniel Akin and came across something that I had to share. I always find it odd the way we talk (or neglect to talk)about the Trinity. It is often treated as the black sheep of the family of essential theological beliefs. We would rather not bring it up and hope nobody else does either. So you can imagine how refreshing it was for me to come across the passage below in Timothy George’s section on the nature of God..

“Though followed by many orthodox theologians, there is a subtle danger in the former pattern (de uno deo). The danger is that it can lead to a low-grade unitarianism that reduces the doctrine of the Trinity to an afterthought. If we begin by treating the essence and attributes of God in the abstract and then come along and say, “Oh yes, this God is also a triune reality,” the latter affirmation can easily become a secondary or even dispensable element in one’s theological system…

We should introduce one further distinction before turning to some key biblical texts. The economic Trinity refers to God’s works ad extra, that is, what God has done outside himself in creation and redemption while the immanent Trinity denotes God’s relations ad intra, that is, his eternal intratrinitarian communion as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The immanent Trinity is also called the “ontological” Trinity…

The doctrine of the Trinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the biblical account of Jesus as the true story of God-and if what the Bible says about Jesus is anything other than that, we have no gospel.”

Here George discusses the tendency to discuss the one God as opposed to discussing the Trinity. On the surface this comes off like a simply error but the constant habit of doing this tends to cause one to think theologically in terms of God as a single modality instead of the Triune God that He is. For God to be a single solitary modality would mean the loss of Godlike qualities the biggest of which is his self-contained fullness, that fact that God requires nothing outside of himself for His own existence.

George also introduces the distinction between economic and immanent or ontological Trinity. The economic Trinity explains such things as how the Father creates, the Son saves, and the Holy Spirit sustains us. It’s what he means when he says that the doctrine of the Tinity is the necessary theological framework for understanding the Gospel. Foundational to everything is the ontological Trinity. The idea that from all eternity existed a personal God who loved, had volition, and created all things including us in His image.

I really appreciated the way George handles the doctrine Trinity in this section. As I read through A Theology For The Church I find many of the sections to be like this brief, to the point, and without the complexities common in other theology texts. I would recommend this volume for any level of Christian. All that the book requires is that you have an interest in the study of God.

From the publisher:

A Theology for the Church, an immense 992-page work edited by Daniel Akin, with contributions from leading Baptist thinkers Albert Mohler, Jr., Paige Patterson, Timothy George, and many others, addresses four major issues in regard to eight Christian doctrines.

What does the Bible say? Each Christian doctrine is rooted in the Bible’s own teaching in both the Old and New Testaments.

What has the Church believed? Christians have interpreted these doctrines in somewhat different ways through the centuries.

How do the doctrines fit together? Each Christian doctrine must cohere with the other doctrines.

How does each doctrine impact the church today? Each Christian doctrine must be meaningful for today’s church. It’s sure to become a widely-used resource in systematic theology study.

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Book Review: Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Benjamin H. Walton (DMin, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

Preaching Old Testament Narratives

Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Mi 49505-6020, ISBN 978-0-8254-4258-2.


 

Why a book on teaching Old Testament narratives? Mostly because it has become a challenge for Pastors in a Church culture that expects teaching that is “practical” to provide honest reflection on the Old Testament text. Rather than gleaning from the high content already provided by Old Testament narratives the popular practice is to treat the Old Testament narratives as something like Aesop’s Fables. Instead of unfolding the history of redemption, it is assumed that the Old Testament narratives are there to show us some moral or practical life lesson.  This isn’t to say that moral or life lessons aren’t helpful. However, for Pastors the primary function is to Shepard God’s people with God’s Word and here in lies the challenge.

This way of preaching is what Walton calls “Preaching with Biblical authority” he goes on to say that this type of preaching “means that our sermons accurately proclaim and apply the message of their biblical preaching text”(29). Such an understanding realizes that our conception of reality is construed by finite understanding and thus requires an infinite God to explain His will to us. Therefore, unless the message comes from the text, we run the risk of misrepresenting God. What Walton wants to speak to is preaching whose authority is not derived from the pastor but from God’s word.

Preaching Old Testament Narratives is a comprehensive treatment of its subject matter. The 254 pages are broken up into two sections, Discover The Message and Deliver The Message. In Discover The Message, Walton provides a 5 step methodology beginning with selecting a complete unit of thought  or what Walton calls CUT(47). As the name implies this is simply choosing the preaching text. This is very helpful for obvious reasons. For Walton’s approach the objective in this stage of sermon preparation is to select a complete unit of thought so that the original theological message or OTM can be identified.

Steps 2 and 3 involve identifying the theological and historical contexts (45) and plot. Here Walton observes that Old Testament Narratives teach about God, hence the theological context. However, one further important step for Walton is the historical. Since we are looking at a different time period or era the thoughts and feelings of the people of Israel are different than those in 21st century America. Thus a proper understanding of the text looks and both these contexts of theological and historical. This leads Walton into Step 3 which is to study the plot. In order to provide thoughtful reflection on Old Testament narratives one should have a thorough understanding of the plot found in the CUT.

After arriving at the proper contexts and understanding the plot the next step seems fairly logical, discover the original theological message (OTM) and craft the take home truth. Discovering the original theological message for Walton. A complete unit of thought will have an original theological message that was intended for its original audience. The tenancy is to by pass the step and fabricate a message familiar to 21st century American experience. The problem is created when we don’t first seek to find out what that message communicated to Old Testament hearers. Once the original theological message is understood we can then move on to the next step in crafting the take home truth (THT).

The second part of the book deals specifically with delivering the message. Here Walton lays out the process of sermon preparation consisting of topics such as: creating the introduction, preaching through the complete unit of thought, stating and getting listeners to “buy” the take home truth, picture painting, making the move to Christ, and the conclusion. Each of these topics are well thought out and given a thorough treatment. Walton’s goal here is to give the reader the tools to execute on what he calls the four pillars of excellent preaching: accuracy, relevance, clarity, and inspiring.

Overall this is a pretty important book. This is an area that many pastors struggle with and Walton provides more than a foundation from which to build. Rather he walks the reader carefully through each step. There are some sections that have more to do with personal style which isn’t necessary for preaching Old Testament narratives. However the section on making the move to Christ is very well done and would prove to be helpful . I highly recommend this book for those still trying to navigate Old Testament narrative preaching or even for those who are quite comfortable with preaching Old Testament narrative and would just like a different perspective on the matter.

RATING 4 out of 5


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Ontological Argument For God’s Existence: Anselm of Canterbury

“AND so, Lord, do you, who do give understanding to faith, give me, so far as you knowest it to be profitable, to understand that you are as we believe; and that you are that which we believe. And indeed, we believe that you are a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. Or is there no such nature, since the fool has said in his heart, there is no God? (Psalms xiv. 1). But, at any rate, this very fool, when he hears of this being of which I speak –a being than which nothing greater can be conceived –understands what he hears, and what he understands is in his understanding; although he does not understand it to exist.”

“Therefore, if that, than which nothing greater can be conceived, exists in the understanding alone, the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived. But obviously this is impossible. Hence, there is doubt that there exists a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, and it exists both in the understanding and in reality.”
Anselm of Canterbury Proslogium II

In his Monologium Anselm offers up 65 chapters of technical argumentation giving his reasons for faith in God. Interestingly Anselm -for what ever reason- thought the essentials could be delivered in a more succinct way which was the motivation for writing Proslogium. In the preface to Proslogium Anselm writes, “I began to ask myself whether there might be found a single argument which would require no other for its proof than itself alone; and alone would suffice to demonstrate that God truly exists, and that there is a supreme good requiring nothing else, which all other things require for their existence and well-being; and whatever we believe regarding the divine Being.” So it is with this goal in mind to provide a single argument to prove that God exists.

This argument which has come to be known as the “ontological argument” isn’t like most arguments in that it calls upon reasons that are a priori or apart from experience. He explains that God is a being that none greater can be conceived of. The key here is to prove that God cannot exist in the mind only, but also in reality. For this we must pay close attention to the second quote from above. At this point the argument looks as follows:

  1. if that which nothing greater can be conceived exists in the understanding alone
  2. then the very being, than which nothing greater can be conceived, is one, than which a greater can be conceived because it exists in reality also
  3. obviously 1 is impossible because nothing greater can be conceived from that which nothing greater can be conceived

Thus Anselm argues from a reductio ad absudum, that it is absurd to conclude that something can be conceived that is greater than that which nothing greater can be conceived because it exists in understanding and reality. Thus that which nothing greater can be conceived not only exists in understanding but in reality also. Therefor God must exist in reality as well as in understanding.

I have attempted to simplify Anselm’s argument; however its challenge comes in its conceptual nature. But in spite of Anslem’s argument being challenging we find that it isn’t long after that his argument confronts opposition. In fact some of its strongest criticisms come from those who believe in God. This will have to be content for another post.

 

 

 

 

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A Review of “Why I Am Not A Christian” by Bertrand Russell: Part V The Moral Argument For Deity

 

The moral argument for God’s existence. This is a popular one among contemporary Christian apologists such as CS Lewis in Mere Christianity. Although different variations of it can be seen as far back as Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) in the fourth of his Five Ways. Ironically the German philosopher Immanual Kant (1724 -1804) argued that if you come across a man who tells you he has five proofs for the existence of God, you can be sure he doesn’t have any, because if he had any it would only take one. So which argument did Kant chose? The moral argument for God.

Kant’s version of the moral argument becomes very influential in the history of theology and philosophy. He held that moral beings will “the highest good” if they can have confidence that within the causal structure of nature the highest good can be achieved by moral means. Thus belief in God is the guarantor that the highest good is achievable. And from this you might be able to detect the dilemma Russell will present us with. Because if one were to remove God from this equation you can see how the whole moral project implodes.

The reason I mention Kant is because Russell mentions him in his rejection of this argument. He writes,

“Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say that there would be no right or wrong unless God existed.”

You might have heard Christian apologists who argue the way Russell is explaining. It seems compelling since many non-believers have not consider the nature of morality. As a result some will confess that they don’t know where morals come from. There are some in “new atheist” literature who aren’t amused by the question in the slightest. Some of them will say that morality is the utilitarian standard of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Others might give a pragmatic response but one thing they are sure of is God is not a necessary condition for morality. Granted I believe these points can be refuted successfully by the theist and in fact should be. However, when you think about it, are these individuals being consistent with their own perspective on reality and the world? They are after all doing what Paul describes and suppressing the truth in unrighteousness. Thus for them to insert the idea of God as evidence for morality is like putting the square peg in the round hole.

Moving on, Russell continues by arguing:

“The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat [command or decree] or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that He made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God.”

Once again Russell offers one of his arguments of dichotomy. The dichotomy is either right and wrong are irrelevant to God, or God must appeal to moral laws which are “anterior” or outside of God. I hope you see the dilemma he is making here. Leave me a comment if you would like more explanation. My response would be that if God was a finite being, such as you and me are finite beings, this argument would have some traction. God however is an infinite Being so that when He says what Right conduct is He is simply reflecting on His own Being. Therefore we say that God is good and is the standard of goodness.

There is no dilemma as Russell is suggesting. Rather Russell is working from the assumption that God is finite and operates at this finite level. Such an assumption gives Russell the impression that he can stipulate standards for himself and impose them upon God from his finite realm of experience. Once again this isn’t the Christian conception of God and therefore Russell hasn’t made his case for not being a Christian.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus

Product Details

40 Questions About The Historical Jesus by C. Marvin Pate (PhD. Marquette University) is a very useful resource on this very important topic. There have been books published that are somewhat similar for a more popular audience, but 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus is written in a no nonsense straight forward way sparing the reader from the type of sensationalism that commonly characterizes such topics in exchange for solid well researched answers about the historical Jesus.

 

The recent advent of many popularized books and specials on the Discovery channel warrant such a work to vindicate the historical Jesus from revisionists attempts to downplay our Lord’s historical significance. What makes this book so reader friendly is that Pate deals with individual issues in a question answer format, hence the title. The book is broken down into four parts. Part one begins with background information about the historical Jesus to lay a foundation if you will for what comes in parts 2, 3, and 4. This portion of the book might be found to be slightly academic as Pate deals with topics like the reliability of the Gospel books, Biblical criticism, the role of the Old Testament and its relationship to the New, and more. In this section I found his discussion of the apocryphal gospels to be very helpful and informative.

 

Part 1 lays the foundation for what follows.  In part 2 Pate answers questions about Jesus and His childhood. Such questions had to do with the virgin birth, why the virgin birth is even relevant, did Jesus have siblings, and what language did Jesus speak. Part 3 answers questions pertaining to Jesus’ life and teaching. Here Pate discusses Jesus’ teaching, His central message, and an interesting discussion of Jesus’ prediction of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 as well as His eschatology. Part 4 is a very well written treatment of the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the questions that Pate answers have to do with the Triumphal Entry, who was responsible for Jesus’ death, why did Jesus die, where did Jesus’ Spirit go while He was in the tomb.

 

The book has some great features. It includes an ancient source index as well as a Scripture index. Pate also uses many charts to help the reader internalize data. What I also found helpful is each question ends with review questions making it ideal for group reading. The question answer format give the reader the liberty to read questions independently or it can be read cover to cover. Either way it’s a great reference tool have.

Personal rating is 5 STARS out of 5.

  • Series: 40 Questions & Answers Series
  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Kregel Academic (April 27, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0825442842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0825442841

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Easter Meditation: Zechariah 3

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

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