A Maximally Great Fight!

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

March 15, 2021

Question: 

Dr. Stratton,

In your book Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism, you discuss perfect being theology. With that in mind, I have a question that seems impossible to answer: 

Is it possible for more than one maximally great being to exist?

– Dan


Tim’s Response:

I enjoy dwelling upon perfect being theology and what it means to be a maximally great being (MGB). Indeed, I spill much ink in my book discussing the fact that God is a MGB.

With your question in mind, consider the following: If two supposed maximally great beings faced off in the cage, who would win? If one loses, the other is greater. If neither can defeat the other, then neither are maximally great.

As a former MMA fighter/coach, this analogy weighs heavy upon my intuition. I have seen enough “draws” to realize that if only one fighter had been just a little bit quicker, stronger, or more skilled, then he/she would have been the “greater fighter.” I can conceive of one of the fighters being slightly quicker or stronger or more skilled, thus, it does not seem inconceivable to apply this thinking regarding two so-called maximally great beings.

My intuition is also influenced by the irresistible force/immovable object paradox. Suppose one claims that they both exist necessarily without beginning. The question is raised: “What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?” The paradox arises because it rests on two mutually exclusive premises—that there can exist simultaneously such things as unstoppable forces and immovable objects. The “paradox” seems to be defective, however, because if an immovable object actually exists, then it follows logically that there cannot be any such thing as an irresistible force and vice versa. Similarly, it seems to me that if a maximally great being really does exist, then another maximally great being cannot exist.

One might counter with the following: “Surely defeating a maximally great being would be logically impossible (otherwise they would not be maximally great).” But surely a maximally great being would be a being who can defeat all other beings (otherwise they would not be maximally great)! 

Perhaps this next thought experiment will clarify . . . 

Suppose it is claimed that two maximally great beings exist apart from any created reality (think of the Kalam state of affairs logically prior to creation). Next suppose that creating a universe is neither better or worse than not creating at all, which is the view of many theologians — including mine.

Next, suppose one maximally great being chooses to create a universe and the other maximally great being chooses to remain in existence apart from creation. That is to say, one MGB wants a universe to exist, and the other MGB does not want a universe to exist. Since a universe cannot exist and not-exist simultaneously, one so-called “MGB” is going to fail. Indeed, the MGB who cannot actualize its will is “maximally great” in name only. 

Thus, there can only be one maximally great being.

Finally, as Jacobus Erasmus explains in “Why It Is Difficult To Defend the Plantinga-Type Ontological Argument,” a maximally great being has the property of being a self-existent source of everything outside itself. But it is logically impossible for two or more beings to have this property, since such a state of affairs implies that they all are both self-existent and not self-existent.

Thus, there can be only one maximally great being.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18), and remember, if a Maximally Great Being is for you, none can be against you (Romans 8:31). 

Dr. Tim Stratton


Notes:

The question was edited for the sake of clarity and formatting purposes. 

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Timothy A. Stratton (PhD, North-West University) is a professor at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary. As a former youth pastor, he is now devoted to answering deep theological and philosophical questions he first encountered from inquisitive teens in his church youth group. Stratton is founder and president of FreeThinking Ministries, a web-based apologetics ministry. Stratton speaks on church and college campuses around the country and offers regular videos on FreeThinking Ministries’ YouTube channel.

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