The ontological argument appealed to me when I was an adolescent, not because I thought it was valid—even then I did not think that you could merely define something into existence—but because it was clever. Youth is, above all, the age of sophistry, not, as is sometimes optimistically alleged, of idealism. There are few things more delightful to an immature and insecure youth than to irritate his elders with his brilliant, insincere dialectic. I have, however, retained an affection and admiration for the argument ever since and, in the meantime, have developed something of a taste for theodicy (having in my life had much to do with evil). This, perhaps, explains why I recently bought a copy of God, Freedom and Evil, by the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga, which is both a theodicy and a partial defense of the ontological argument.

The place in which I bought it, however, was...