Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perfect being Theology and Eastern Orthodoxy

In this post I will look at a modified Anselmian model of the Divine Essence. I will argue that this modified version is more reasonable than not and that it is wholly incompatible with the Eastern view of the Divine essence, thereby showing that Eastern Orthodoxy is necessarily false.

Here are some ontological arguments and then after I will briefly show how these are incompatible with the Eastern view of the Divine Essence:

The Three strongest ontological arguments:

The one that is falsely attributed to Anselm, but it is still valid and sound:

1) I can think of the greatest possible being (or I define God as the greatest possible being)

2) It is better to exist in reality and in thought than just merely in thought

3) Since the greatest possible being is the greatest then he will have everything that is better to have rather than not to have those great things

4) If the greatest possible being does not exist in reality and in thought then he is not the greatest possible being

5) The greatest possible being would not be the greatest possible being which is a contradiction

6) Therefore, The greatest possible being exists in reality and in thought and this is what we call God

Answering the most popular objection: It is often objected to this argument that just because I can think of the greatest possible thing doesn’t mean that it exists because I can think of the greatest possible Island, animal, house, or girl but that doesn’t mean that those things exists. The problem with this counter argument is it over looks the definition of God as being the greatest possible being. If God is the greatest possible being then he would have only those attributes that would be great to have rather than not have those attributes. One of those great making attributes is that God is entirely unique from the creation which is his creation is lesser than God in many ways. One of those ways in which his creation is lesser is that God is the only being that in his definition or nature there contains a claim of existence. In other words God would be better if he was the only being that could be shown to exist merely by contemplating him rather than not. Since God is the greatest possible being then he is the only being that could be shown to exist merely by contemplating him since this displays a great making property of God, namely his utter uniqueness from the lesser created things.

Here is my version of the argument:

P1: I can think of the greatest possible being (G*)

P2: It is better to be necessary iff one were G* rather than not

P3: G* entails that he will have every property that is better to have rather than not

P4: G* is necessary

C: Hence, G* exists and exists necessarily and we call this being God.

Here's Moreland’s formulation of the ontological argument:

1. A maximally perfect being possibly exists.

2. If a being is a maximally perfect being, it exists
in all possible worlds.

3. The actual world is a possible world.

4. Therefore, a maximally perfect being exists in the
actual world.

Now let's get to the incompatibility with this reasonable and ontologically robust view of the Divine Essence's with the Eastern view of The Divine Essence.

P1: A Essential feature of Eastern Orthodoxy is the rejection of God's existence

P2: Anselmian Perfect being theology demonstrates that God exists necessarily

C: Hence, Eastern Orthodoxy is essentially and necessarily false

The Divine Essence in Eastern Theology does not exist but it is not true that it doesn't exists (the way of negation), but in Anselmian perfect being theology God's essence exists because this is true by definition thus the eastern view is necessarily false since they believe that God's essence doesn't exist. Furthermore, The East doesn't think the Divine Essense is contigent or necessary, but on perfect being theology and philosophy (the second and third argument) the divine essence exists necessarily thus if one holds to perfect being theology he would be most reasonable in thinking that the conception of the Divine essence in Eastern Orthodoxy is necessarily false. From these conclusions it is more reasonable than not that eastern orthodoxy in necessarily false if one wants to think that God is the greatest possible being.


  1. Nate--

    I don't accept the ontological argument, (though Plantinga's might be useful as a piece of natural theology) but am still interested in whether or not it is compatible with Orthodox teaching.

    How sure are you that the concept that you have in your mind is of the divine *essence* as perfect and necessarily existing, and not the divine *energies*? Why think the argument must conclude to "God's essence is exemplified in all worlds" rather than "God is active (energetically present) in all possible worlds"?

  2. Hello Michael,

    I have not heard from you in awhile. I hope you are doing well.

    I would say that it is pretty clear to me that it is God's essence and his actions. It is better for energies to exist in every possible world and his essence, so it is not one or the other it is both that exist and exist necessarily.

    I will be praying for you man!

    God Bless,


  3. Nate--

    Okay, I get your response.

    I am concerned that this argument is in some sense question-begging, because it assumes that if God's existence were possible then this would mean "the existence of both essence and energies". You seem to be assuming a specific notion of divine perfection from the outset, and then arguing that it implies that this notion of divine perfection actually obtains.

    But it seems like if there are reasons to reject your understanding of divine perfection, then this means we should reject your conclusion about your view of divine perfection necessarily obtaining. Which is just to say "if your view is true, its true; if your view is false its false".

    Now I suppose that if you have really powerful intuitions about the existence of the divine essence, that are stronger than any arguments for God's essence as beyond being, then maybe that would constitute evidence against the Eastern view of God for you. But then why not cut out the middle man? It seems more economic to skip the ontological argument and just say "My intuitions overwhelmingly tell me that it doesn't make any sense to claim that the divine essence is beyond being."

  4. Hello Michael,

    All my argument simply assumes is that it is better to exist rather than not. I would say this premise is justified intuitively. If you do not see it then you do not see it, if you do you do. From this intuition I think one can argue necessarily that eastern orthodoxy is false, if one doesn't then obviously they are not warranted in this conclusion. I would infer that God existence and energies exist in every possible world because it's better to exist with energies in ever possible world. Again, these premises are justified intuitivly so they are not question begging, if they were then any argument that rest on fundamental intuitions are question begging, but clearly this is false, therefore my argument is not question begging. I do think the Eastern view of the divine essence is incoherent for other reasons, but those reasons would be distinct for the reasons given in this post. I hope that clears things up. I hope you are well.

    God Bless,