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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Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Richard A. Taylor, Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

Kregel Publications, 2016, 205pp., ISBN 978-0-8254-2761-9.

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature is sixth in the Handbooks For Old Testament Exegesis series by David M. Howard Jr. Taylor’s book is a step forward in the right direction for Old Testament exegesis. Avoiding the pitfall of assuming that all text should be interpreted in very same way Taylor opens the book by giving some foundational insight in to the type of literature the apocalyptic genre is.  He writes,

The expression apocalyptic literature refers to a type of writing that adopts to a significant degree the outlook of apocalypticism and portrays those themes through a vivid use of symbolic language.

Taylor spends the entire first chapter explaining the foundation of apocalyptic literature, defining terms, and talking method for understanding apocalyptic literature. In so doing he has established a solid start point for the discussion.  From here he explains seven major apocalyptic themes (chapter 2), basic guidelines for apocalyptic interpretation (chapter 4), teaching apocalyptic literature (chapter 5), and ends by providing sample apocalyptic texts (chapter 6).

Interpreting Apocalyptic literature is a well written and very necessary introduction to the topic of apocalyptic literature. At 205 pages it isn’t going to delve into every instance of apocalyptic literature found in the Bible. However the strengths in the volume is it’s easy to read style providing the pastor, seminarian, or laity with a solid resource for reading and understanding this particular genre.

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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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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Quote Of The Day: Baptist Faith & Message on Humanity

“The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image,… therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love”.

 

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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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Glory To God In The Highest,Peace Among Those With Whom He Is Pleased

Image result for luke 2

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

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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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