• Resurrecting Victor Stenger’s Ontological Pizza

    In a debate1 with physicist Victor Stenger, the Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig decided to go out on a limb and add the Ontological Argument for God’s existence to his usual arsenal2.  This argument3 was originally put forth by St Anselm of Canterbury, and argues for the existence of a Maximally Great Being, starting only with the assumption that such a being is logically possible.

    Stenger amusingly countered that if the logic was valid, then the argument could be tweaked to prove the existence of a Maximally Great Pizza.  Craig objected, saying “A pizza can be eaten, and therefore can fail to exist, and therefore cannot be metaphysically necessary.”  In a hilariously titled video4, Eating Victor Stenger’s Ontological Pizza, Craig argued that “the idea of a metaphysically necessary pizza is just a logically incoherent idea,” again relying on the observation that “a pizza is something that can be eaten, and digested.

    Well, I just don’t think Craig has thought hard enough about this pizza!  I contend that the Maximally Great Pizza has the property that when it is eaten, it is instantly resurrected, ready to be eaten again!5  After all, if you conceive of a pizza, then a pizza with this Resurrection Property would be at least as great as the one that exists in your imagination; therefore, a Maximally Great Pizza must have this property!6

    Of course, this idea of parodying Anselm’s Ontological Argument is not new.  Gaunilo of Marmoutiers famously argued7 for the existence of a Maximally Great Island.  In the same video, Craig responds to Gaunilo’s objection by saying that “an island cannot be maximally great because there aren’t really any objective great-making properties of islands.  What you might think is a great island would be one that’s loaded with the top resort hotels and lots of things to do, but for me, maybe a maximally great island would be one that is a desert island where I can be alone and secluded from civilisation, so that what makes for a great island is very subjective, and dependent upon a person’s personal interests and tastes.”  The problem for Craig, however, is that if this contention adequately refutes the concept of a Maximally Great Island,8 then it works equally well as a refutation of the concept of a Maximally Great Being.  What you might think is a great being would be one that forgives anyone all their sins, regardless of whether they believe it exists, but for me, maybe a maximally great being would be one that “does not leave the guilty unpunished, [but] punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18).

    Now I don’t know about you, but all this thinking is making me hungry…….  Who wants some Pizza?!


    1. Victor Stenger vs William Lane Craig.  Live debate: Does God Exist? 
    2. The Cosmological Argument, the Fine Tuning Argument, the Moral Argument, appeal to the Historicity of Jesus’ Resurrection, appeal to the Witness of the Holy Spirit.  Interestingly, Craig decided to leave out the Fine Tuning Argument in this debate, a pity, since Stenger is an expert in this area.
    3. See the wikipedia entry on the Ontological Argument.
    4. Video: Eating Victor Stenger’s Ontological Pizza.
    5. I also contend that the Maximally Great Pizza has one slice of every flavour imaginable, and regenerates lost slices the instant one is removed.  It never goes cold, and is never more than a metre away from a never-ending jug of beer.
    6. And Craig should have thought of this!  After all, in I Kings 17, the Bible records the curious story of the Never-Ending Jar of Flour and Never-Ending Jug of Oil.  (I know, I know – it only lasted until the rain came.)
    7.  See the wikipedia entry on Gaunilo’s objection to the Ontological Argument.
    8. As it happens, I don’t think Craig’s contention is adequate.  Whether or not two people agree that a certain property is a great-making property of an island has no bearing on whether that property is indeed an objective great-making property of an island.

    Category: GodHumourOntological argumentWilliam Lane Craig


    Article by: Reasonably Faithless

    Mathematician and former Christian
    • Make mine a pizza from the Black Dog Pub where I eat from time to time. They’re the best!

    • Actually, the pizza analogy is more prefect that Stenger may realize. Like with the choice of pizza toppings, no group of people can agree on what is God is or what he/she/it wants. So Baptists want pepperoni, Pentecostals want mushrooms, Catholics want stuffed-crust, and the Unitarians let everyone to make their own.

      OK, now I am hungry!

    • Copyleft

      If you can imagine it, it must exist–because reality is always greater than imagination! …umm, or something like that.

      I wonder if this is behind the notion that “somewhere out there must be my perfect soulmate.”

    • Craig seems a little strained with that objection. An infinite could be eaten (the parts of it, anyway) but all of it could never be eaten, at least not if a finite being started on it at some definite point in time (i.e. he hadn’t been eating away for eternity past).

      One of the more interesting objections to the ontological argument is this: it may not entail that God (a bodiless person) exists. After all, who ever decided that the most perfect possible person would fail to have a body? You’d think he, or *she* (wink, wink) would have an excellent body.

      • Reasonably Faithless

        Thanks for your post, Ryan. In fact, your last paragraph is another example of Craig’s own Island-refutation being used against him. For you, maybe “having an excellent body” is a great-making property for a being. You might be tempted to say that a God with a body would be better than a God without a body, and so a God without a body could not be a maximally great being. I suspect someone might be tempted to say “Jesus had a body”. But the truth is that Jesus could be conceived to have been just 1mm taller, and this might be considered (all other things held equal) to be an improvement. I mentioned in the footnote that I don’t think this is a decisive objection though, because we might all have our opinions as to what the greatest being is going to be like (if it exists), but we might all be wrong. However, what these objections do is remind the proponent of the argument that the burden of proof is on them to prove that there really does exist an objective great-making property for beings. The kind of objections we’re talking about here show that it is clearly not enough to simply claim that these properties “obviously” exist.

    • pinochetguevara

      Is it too obvious to point out that an awful lot of Christians believe that a “perfect” god is one who can, among other things, be eaten infinitely? Perhaps rather than an instantly resurrecting pizza, the maximally great pizza would be one that could transubstantiate into pizza from other foods. Hummus, for example.

    • What would God consider to be a maximally-great island, or pizza, one wonders.

    • Franklin Nin

      You talk about “”Maximal Great Being” to point out that can also be taken as subjective but this is for a specific God, “such as the Christian God,” that still does not take away the idea or refutes the idea of ​​a God per se, just for a particular God .

      Am I right?