An argument for, and definition of God.

I have started reading Anselm; interesting stuff. Not sure I’ve really got my head round it yet, but nevertheless let me try to paraphrase my understanding of his argument so far in a modern context:

We are all aware that there are ‘non-material’ things: love, justice, purpose, hope, belief, to name a few.  An act of love is carried-out through ‘love’, and an act of justice is carried-out through ‘justice’.  If love did not exist then one could not carry-out an act of love. And it is through ‘goodness’ that we are able to carry-out an act of love; without goodness we could not carry-out an act of love, or of justice, or…  Apart from goodness, all other non-material things are carried-out through goodness, and therefore goodness is the ultimate non-material thing, or ‘essence’ and it exists through itself.

We can also perceive that some acts are express more love than others; there can be great love, or great justice, or great goodness.  And we can imagine that for any great goodness there could be a goodness that is just a little greater … until we reach infinite goodness.  And so everything that is good in any way is within that infinite, or supreme goodness.

Everything exists through something, and we have seen that of things immaterial everything exists through supreme goodness.  But everything must exist through one thing.  If we imagine that there were more than one thing, then either there would be one thing through which the more than one thing were able to exist – which would then be the one thing, or they might exist through a ‘power to exist through oneself’ – which would then be the one thing, or they would exist mutually through each other – which defies reason.

The universe exists, and so it exists through something. Non-material things exist, and they exist through supreme goodness.  Therefore either the universe exists through supreme goodness, or supreme goodness exists through the universe.  But can supreme goodness exist through the universe?  We can conceive that there are other universes, but it is inconceivable that those other universes exist without supreme goodness; being non-material supreme goodness cannot be constrained within a material context.  Therefore it is impossible that supreme goodness exists through the universe, but the universe must exist through supreme goodness, and there can only be one supreme goodness –  which we define as God.

Related posts

https://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/proof-of-god/

https://philhemsley.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/the-god-of-science/

 

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
This entry was posted in Philosophy, Science and Christianity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to An argument for, and definition of God.

  1. Robert Moores says:

    “If love did not exist then one could not carry-out an act of love.”

    I’m not sure what that means. Name any act of love. Then explain to me what ‘immaterial thing’ is required to make that act possible. Suppose, for instance, that you name self-sacrifice to save another person’s life an ‘act of love’. “If love did not exist then one could not carry-out an act of love.” But what ‘immaterial thing’ would have to ‘not exist’ to prevent you from running into a burning building to save your child? You still *could* absolutely carry out that same act. No love required.

    I think it’s more like, “If love did not exist – whatever that even is – then we would not *call* an act of love an act of love. It would simply be an action.” The material action is in no way dependent upon an immaterial thing. The immaterial thing we call love, rather, is dependent upon the material acts that we categorize as ‘acts of love’.

    Many religions – not even just theistic but even non-theistic ones – take the stance that immaterial concepts such as love and justice exist independently of material existence, but I am more inclined to believe that they are simply by-products of material existence. They would not have any meaning without material existence – which is why they are so difficult to define independently of materialism. An ‘act of love’ is one of any number of very material actions. ‘Love’, per se, is simply an abstract concept we extrude from a set of very specific material behaviors, and would be nothing without the behaviors themselves. In other words, immaterial things do not exist except through material existence.

    If you remove an animal’s capacity to love, you do not remove its capacity to act. If you remove its capacity to act (including thinking), then you remove its capacity to love.

    Like

    • The action of running into a burning building is the physical movement of matter from one place to another. It is an act which in theory could spontaneously happen. But there is an ‘immaterial’ motivation behind the act that makes it the act of love. Love itself is the immaterial thing. So I think that it’s a little like the modification that you make in the second para, but the other way round – love (immaterial) causes action (saving the child).

      What material action leads your ‘belief’ that love is a byproduct of material action? (ref the thoughts on free will). I think that your belief (immaterial) led to you typing the words (material).

      I agree with your last paragraph except that I don’t know whether animals have the capacity to love, or whether they exhibit ‘material’ behaviour that we construe as love.

      Like

      • Robert Moores says:

        “I agree with your last paragraph except that I don’t know whether animals have the capacity to love, or whether they exhibit ‘material’ behaviour that we construe as love.”

        I also just realized that this is exactly what I’m saying about humans. We “exhibit ‘material’ behaviour that we construe as love”. No different from animals.

        Like

  2. Robert Moores says:

    I don’t know if I quite represented my view correctly, but let me try again.

    The motivation for the act of running into a burning building might be any number of immaterial things. If there’s a reward, it might be greed. If it’s your own child, it might be love. If you hate the child with all your heart but were ordered by your boss to rescue it anyway, it might be respect for authority.

    But what is greed, if not the transmission of material impulses across material particles within your brain, causing physiological behaviors? If you remove matter from the picture, there is no capacity for greed – greed does not exist except in a material sense. Without matter, immaterial things are not real.

    But if you remove greed, you can still act out of what we call love. If you remove love, you can still act out of respect for orders. And if you remove all possible psychological motivation, it could still, as you say, happen spontaneously.

    I think these abstract immaterial things like love are just names we give to certain categories of material behavior. It’s like saying, would ‘December’ still exist if there were no Gregorian calendar? December doesn’t depend upon any particular calendar, but without calendars, what is December?

    This is also the basis for my problem with free will. But I am not here to prove or disprove anything – just to figure it all out. 😉

    Like

    • I see what you are saying, and perhaps it all comes down to ‘feeling’ – you feel that love is an emergent property of matter, I feel that love is an inherent ‘essence’ even if there is no matter. I would argue that since the same act can have different motives (as you demonstrated) then the act itself cannot represent ‘love’ or anything else. So I would call it ‘an act of LOVE’ rather than ‘an ACT of love’ – the differentiator is the motive – the act itself is meaningless. Similarly I ‘feel’ that mathematics exists before it is discovered, an ideal design exists before it is achieved. We conceive actions in our mind before carrying them out, but the conception is not material..
      So I feel that love existed from the start of time (and is outside of time), whereas the act of love can only be carried out once material exists.
      A question of which is chicken and which is egg I guess…but at least Anselm has got us thinking!

      Like

  3. Pingback: God, miracles and the laws of physics. | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  4. Pingback: Brian Cox’s “Wonders of life – what is life?” .. a review | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  5. Pingback: Richard Miles – Archaeology: A Secret History | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  6. Pingback: Goodness – me! | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  7. Pingback: I think I might be a panentheist – I hope it’s catching! | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  8. Pingback: Two shirts at Christmas? | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

  9. Pingback: Time to repent. | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

Please leave a reply and I will try to get back to you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s