Is Christianity the Best Possible Story?
by Paul Gould
I’m currently reading Alvin Plantinga’s excellent book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, & Naturalism, when in offering a possible reason for sin and suffering, Plantinga suggests that Christianity is not only the greatest story ever told, but the greatest possible story ever told.
This is a step beyond Anselm. Anselm argued that God is not only the greatest being (a theme I’ve discussed here and here), but God is the greatest possible being. So, God is the greatest possible being, and He has created a world in which we can enter into the greatest possible story (note: I’ve not committed myself here to the Leibnizian claim that this is the best possible world, but more modestly—the claim that of all of the best possible worlds that God could create, no other great-making property can match the Christian story). As Plantinga puts it:
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. . . perhaps all the best possible worlds contain incarnation and atonement, or at any rate atonement. But any world that contains atonement will contain sin and evil and consequent suffering and pain.
Thus, we have a reason why God allows sin and suffering—for in allowing the human freedom that is a precondition for self-determination and genuine relationship with God and fellow man, we also find the possibility of sin, of evil—and the need for atonement. In the atonement we see God’s overwhelming love and mercy on display as He enters into His own Creation and pursues us—what an unmatchable story…
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