Conversations About God: Ontological Vs Cosmological Approach (Essay Sample)
-Is it better to approach conversations about God through a cosmological or
ontological approach? Why?
Conversations About God: Ontological Vs Cosmological Approach
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Conversations About God: Ontological Vs Cosmological Approach
The debate between ontology and cosmology has been going for a long time, with both sides arguing as to which is the best approach. In this essay, I will argue that it is better to approach conversations about God through an ontological frame, as cosmology does not yield any more knowledge than what we already know. I will give an overview of the two approaches before explaining my reasoning for choosing one over the other.
The ontological approach addresses God by asking what God is. The cosmological approach uses science to answer the question, asking what the universe is. The main difference between the two approaches is that the ontological approach only asks questions about God's nature, whereas the cosmological approach includes questions about how God creates, sustains, and influences reality. Many thinkers argue that these questions can be answered in conjunction with each other using a single model. My position on this issue will be explained in detail in my conclusion.
The cosmological and ontological approaches to the discussion of God's existence are both valid. However, the ontological argument is stronger than the cosmological argument because it starts from a foundation of empirical knowledge. It is also easier to understand because it relies on axioms and definitions. On the other hand, the cosmological argument is not as robust because it has to rely on certain assumptions about God's nature. Furthermore, because it has to make use of a series of definitions that are not as readily accepted by people as other definitions (e.g. space and time), its application will be limited in scope. As such, those who are unable to accept the validity of the cosmological argument will find it difficult to accept the ontological argument for God's existence.
Scholars have differed in their opinion about the utility of the cosmological and ontological arguments. Some scholars see the cosmological argument as more useful because it can prove God's existence in a deductive manner (Hyvärinen, 2018). However, others such as Alister McGrath (2020) do not find the argument as powerful as it was created to be. They argue that the concept of God is a conceptualization that is based on axioms. and definitions and thus cannot be proven by deductive means. Therefore, they think that the ontological argument is more useful in the discussion of God's existence. As I will demonstrate below, my viewpoint is closer to McGrath (2020) after giving an overview of the arguments.
The first person who ever mentioned the ontological argument for God's existence was Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century (Rushby, 2013). He developed his argument intending to prove that God is greater than any other being. He first outlined the theoretical description of a perfectly good being, known as the 'ideal person or 'G-theory ' (Rushby, 2013). This ideal person has everything that a human needs to have and nothing that humans do not need. The G-theory is omniscient because he knows all that he needs to know, omnipotent because he can do everything possible, and morally perfect.
The flawless existence of this person would mean that every aspect of his existence would be good, which implies the existence of God. Anselm states that God, or the perfect person, must exist in the following way: "For if it is possible for the greatest possible being to exist, then a greater one cannot but exist; and if this is so, no other being can be conceived which is greater: and this all men know to be God" (Rushby, 2013). Anselm then proceeds to justify his explanation of God's existence based on detailed logical reasoning.
Anselm's argument starts with the simple premise that everything cannot have always been in existence. He then argues that the universe cannot have always been in existence either because there would be no point to anything existing if it was. This implies that either the universe or God had a beginning and had to exist before everything else did. Since we know that everything must have a cause, Anselm argues that it follows that God must be its cause as well (Rushby, 2013). He then concludes that the universe could not have always existed because it was contingent upon the existence of God.
If it is true that everything must have a cause, then by necessity, everything must have a cause. Anselm's argument now comes down to showing why God is more necessary than anything else. Anselm shows that God is more necessary than anything else by defining God as being the greatest possible being. He argues that a being cannot be greater in power, wisdom, or goodness than another without there being a difference between the two (Rushby, 2013). Thus if there is a difference between two possible beings, then one must be greater. For example, if one being has all the qualities that the other lacks and vice versa, then there cannot be a comparison between them.
Anselm proceeds to argue that God is greater than any being that can be conceived by humans. He argues that moral perfection is a necessary quality of a great being because "anyone who lacks this is, from the perspective of human experience, worthless" (Rushby, 2013). Anselm then contrasts the quality of human existence with the quality of God's existence. In doing so, he states that God must possess infinite goodness if we are to consider him perfect. For this reason, God must be perfect and omniscient as well. Since God is perfect and omniscient, his existence is greater than any other possible being (Rushby, 2013). Thus Anselm's argument concludes that since everything has a cause whether it is a human, a physical property of nature or indeed the universe itself; then there must exist a perfectly good being to bring it all into existence. Therefore, this being must be God (Rushby, 2013).
A cosmological argument for the existence of God starts with the premise that God is not only necessary but also a sufficient being. It then goes on to argue that something must have caused the universe, and thus there must be a cause for the universe (Mazo, 2008). The cosmological argument states that if it was not for some reason, something in nature would not exist at all. For example, if nothing caused events to occur, as in chaos theory, they would never happen at all (i.e. the universe would never be created). This proves that the universe was created by an intelligent designer, who must be God.
The cosmological argument, however, is not as popular as the ontological argument. The reason for this is that the question "why does anything exist?" cannot be proven by either deductive or inductive reasoning. In deductive reasoning, you must prove that God exists without relying on anything else. This would mean providing a logical explanation of why the existence of God is more probable than an omnipotent and omniscient being without God causing it to have these properties (Mazo, 2008). While this could be resolved by making a counter-argument, there is no question of its strength.
The concept of God being eternal, spaceless, and immaterial emerged from human reason rather than from divine revelation, as was often the case in historical times. Thus, it is difficult to explain God's existence without using human concepts. Since the human mind is limited in its ability to comprehend what lies beyond the universe, it may not be able to grasp the concept of a three-dimensional God completely (McGrath, 2020). Based on this limitation of reason, Deity is conceptualized as an "Immaterial Being" who has no location or position in space and time. The concept of God may have been imperfect originally, but it has remained unchanged as it is now.
The cosmological argument has always been criticized because of its inability to prove the existence of God in a way that people can comprehend. The problem with this argument is that it assumes that every aspect of the universe must be explained in terms of the concept of God. As such, the argument takes for granted that God must be a necessary being. Since the researchers who use this argument are unable to prove its truth, it is harder for them to prove that God must be a necessary being than it is for others. This makes the cosmological argument less effective in their eyes.
On the other hand, the ontological argument has always been praised because it does not assume anything about God's nature or attributes. It states that existence itself is evidence of an Ultimate Being. Therefore, people can understand without having to rely on human concepts. This makes the ontological argument easier to understand than the cosmological argument.
There are various misconceptions about both approaches to the discussion of God's existence. O
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