Anselm and the necessity of God

When I was in college, I did some studies on St. Anselm (handsome fella wasn’t he?), particularly his book Proslogion, where he develops the so-called Ontological Argument for God’s existence. Its very difficult for me to state how much this little book has meant to me – all I can say is that it taught me the intense pleasure in thinking about God. Anselm showed me that God is not only actually beautiful as a person, He is also intellectually beautiful as an idea.

It was Anselm’s Proslogion that also helped me begin to see God as the answer to the greatest and most perennial problem of philosophy, namely, the question why does something exist rather than nothing? After reading Anselm in the library one evening I came home and wrote this in my journal:

“Why does anything exist at all? This is the great mystery, says Wittgenstein. Why is there something rather than nothing? Where did the the universe come from? Where did being come from? Where did thought come from? How is that the question exists to even be asked? What is the Beginning which stands behind all other beginnings, the Reality which gives ground to all other realities? At every level, at every angle, we find ourselves confronted with the necessity of what Barth calls “the Wholly Other.” The very fact that we are here to ponder the question is already the greatest miracle, the greatest improbability. Unless theism is presupposed, all thought and action becomes absurd – without purpose and suspended over nothingness. Unless the infinite exists, the finite would never have come to be. What sense does the painting make unless there is paper on which it is drawn? God is the great truth, we are his dream.”


  1. ErinOrtlund

    That’s a beautiful journal entry, Gavin. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Well said, my good man. I suppose that you might say, “If something exists, then something has always existed.” I am in the throes of my seminary studies and I am fixing to (I have been in Mississippi a bit too long) begin my Anselm studies. I am looking forward to it now. Thanks.


  3. Ray Ortlund

    Another Anselm lover??? Ah, soul brother!


  4. Dane Ortlund

    Facinating. I’d like to hear more sometime.


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