Monday, February 16, 2009

More Thoughts On God's Goodness

I have noticed a trend of sorts in the discussions regarding the goodness of God that I think needs further examination. There seems to be a common agreement that if a God existed, He ought to be good. Hence, if the best candidate for God is shown not to be good by reason of His acts recorded in the Bible, His failure to end suffering in the world, or His plan of salvation is found to be flawed, then He doesn’t meet the qualifications of goodness nor Godhood.


Is this a fair assessment of the charges levied against His goodness and existence? I will continue on the assumption this is fair and I am sure you will all correct me if need be in the comments. At any rate, this is what I am hearing from all the discussion in the comments.


The idea of a “good” is resonate within us however we arrived at this construct. We value the good. We have standards for good. We differentiate good from evil. From what I see, the debate revolves around how we came to these constructs more than whether or not these constructs are part of humanity. Few argue that we don’t comprehend a difference between the two. I think most accept this dichotomy as obvious.


Can you put yourself in my shoes for a moment? Can you think about what the existence of an eternal God who is the author of all life means for the world? Is it possible for you to imagine with me a world where an eternal God created all? If such a God exists and is goodness personified eternally all He creates would naturally be good. This is the story of the Christian God. He created a good world with good people in it and He said it was all good. But we object that it cannot all be good we know there is evil, there is suffering, and there is disease and tragedy. We see natural disasters and not so natural ones. We see war, brutal violence, murder, destruction. We are appalled by what we see, so we, if a naturalist, can deduce we have evolved to have this natural indigence within us towards such cruelty. But what if there is another answer. What if when good was created, that which was not good was made possible. Man being created good, but with freedom sees what is not good and chooses to try that out for size. Man was warned not to do what is not good, but the not good was available to him, not because it was created, but because it is the absence of good or sometimes a distortion of good. The non good defiles the man who was warned it would not be a good thing to do. A course of events was set in motion to bring about the redemption of man to righteous goodness found in God that he became separated from through sin.


The evil and suffering in the world, is thence, a product of the gravity of sin causing corruption in man and in creation. But man has been on a journey ever since to become the great people of righteousness who will reign in a world where sin and evil has been conquered once and for all. God paid the debt for us, and as that reality is lived out in His Church in the world a great restoration will take place and is taking place. He waits and seems slow about bringing it to fruition so that more rather than less will find life in Him. He tarries to allow the fullness greater time to grow and more hearts and lives be brought to life through Him through the work of those who are in Him and are bringing Him to others.


I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis’s books The Chronicles of Narnia. Maybe you have seen the new movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this mystical land of Narnia the land had been subjected to constant winter weather due to the reign of the White Witch in the land. However, when four children come into Narnia they set out on a journey with the great lion Aslan who ends the curse upon the land. His presence begins to melt the snow and end the winter whilst the children lead a battle to purge the land of the Witch and her followers. Aslan journeys throughout the land with the children breathing life back into Narnia. Lewis wrote this as a fanciful supposal of the truths of Christ depicted in a semi-allegorical manner.


The longing we have for the good is thus explained as a desire to find this restoration that all for which creation longs. We know intuitively that things ought not to be like they are, that violence, and suffering seem out of place to the way things ought to be. Could it be that there is meaning in it all and that our yearning to set things to rights is because there is a right to set it to? We can give up, so to speak, on our journey and accept things are simply the evolutionary pattern of life that we may or may not evolve past. But it would appear that even in terms of evolution we still have this nagging since of “rightness” and “oughts” and “the good.” It lingers despite evolutionary theories. So much so that we know that if a God exist He “ought” to be a good one or else He’s not worth bothering about.


These charges levied against Him can only be discussed in a framework of “a good” and if we imagine a world with no God I see a world where only humans make up what is beneficial to life based on evolutionary patterns to promote the continuation of our people and yet that doesn’t satisfy me. If that answer is good enough for you, then I can’t argue with that. We can say a God that destroys life for whatever reason under the sun cannot be good because life is good. But how do we determine life is good or valuable? How do we charge this Christian candidate for God with violating morality if He is our Creator and goodness is His nature? Or how do we charge Him, if He doesn’t exist and our morality is a product of evolution? There would be no one to charge, and nothing to charge Him with.


Unless you are talking about the finite gods of the Greeks and Romans and other ancient cultures, no one believing in God posits a God who is less than good. It seems to be a prerequisite for Godhood. We use our own standards to question it, but we are obviously not a perfect standard of good. So I question our appeal to ourselves to have grounds to question Him.


I realize I have not given some awesome argument that defeats all objections to His existence or His nature. But I hope I have left you with some things to consider. I’m not offended or threatened by such questions. I think they need to be asked and the questioners deserve to be taken seriously with great time and consideration taken in forming responses. You will find I do write on the same topics repeatedly because I am trying to have something worth your time to consider and I want to keep at it and keep reading and learning and inquiring. So I give answer, and then study some more, and listen some more, and engage in conversation some more, then write once again. So for today, this is where my musing pauses for you to consider.

104 comments:

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

While you mention the monstrous acts that the Bible attributes to God, I did not see you address them. Ironically, here is a post also from today that gives an abreviated list of some of the things attributed to God. http://unreasonablefaith.com/2009/02/16/god-loves-to-kill-his-children/

Nougat said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma

Either morality is dictated arbitrarily by God, or morality exists outside of God, and God is bound by it just as we are.

MS Quixote said...

Hey Nougat,

No need to cite Wiki; we theists hear about Euthyphro every thirty-two seconds or so :)

If we locate goodness within he nature of God, it renders Euthyphro a false dilemma, in addition to the severe philosophic problems, unsustainable in my view, within the horns of the classic dilemma itself. True, you can then choose to re-formulate a "Euthyphro Part Two" dilemma around the nature of God, but I think you'll find the re-formulation fails as well if you spend the time to pursue it.

Mike,

This objection seems to be the atheist flavor of the month. I'm seeing it pop up with regularity. What's up?

Anonymous said...

"There seems to be a common agreement that if a God existed, He ought to be good."

No, that is not correct. You are arguing both that god exists and is good. There's no logical necessity that if god does exist he must be good.

"Hence, if the best candidate for God is shown not to be good by reason of His acts recorded in the Bible, His failure to end suffering in the world, or His plan of salvation is found to be flawed, then He doesn’t meet the qualifications of goodness nor Godhood."

Best candidate? Hardly.

"Is this a fair assessment of the charges levied against His goodness and existence?"

Almost.

"Can you put yourself in my shoes for a moment?"

That's what I've been doing! I've been arguing from your shoes. I've been arguing about the supposed god that you posit and the supposed morality that this god employs and pointing out that the two are contradictory. Your views are self-defeating. It is YOU who is completely incapable of stepping outside your own shoes.

"Can you think about what the existence of an eternal God who is the author of all life means for the world?"

Yes, it means that god would have brought upon himself a moral obligation to us, not the other way around.

"If such a God exists and is goodness personified eternally all He creates would naturally be good."

Here, you are assuming your conclusion. If god is indeed goodnes personified, then this would indeed be true, but that's what you are trying to show, and failing miserably at. It's not good enough to simply decree that god is goodness personified or make tautological arguments.

"What if when good was created, that which was not good was made possible. Man being created good, but with freedom sees what is not good and chooses to try that out for size. Man was warned not to do what is not good, but the not good was available to him, not because it was created, but because it is the absence of good or sometimes a distortion of good. The non good defiles the man who was warned it would not be a good thing to do."

Are you seriously going to blame Earthquakes on original sin? This also doesn't explain why god saw fit to propagate original sin on all humanity. There are still gaping holes in your story wide enough to drive large trucks through. It simply doesn't work. Is death bad? How did Adam and Eve survive without death? What did they eat? What did all the other animals eat? What about the bacteria in their stomachs? If the bacteria doesn't die off and continues to multiply, then Adam and Eve get overrun with it. The story is hokey, and the only defense you seem to have to the evil in the world is to make a tautology and simply define god as good and then blame humans for everything. This is not only self-defeating, but disgusting in its anti-human sentiment. This argument makes you sound like you hate humanity.

Let's also not forget god's omniscience. god would have known that this would all transpire. So, if god wanted his creation to be good and did not want us to be separated, but carried out the actions of creating the universe to happen as it did anyway, what does that tell you? It means that god went against his own nature in allowing evil to happen or planned on it, meaning that the evil that has happened is perfectly OK and not in contradiction to his nature.

"The evil and suffering in the world, is thence, a product of the gravity of sin causing corruption in man and in creation."

Again, I fail to see a causal connection between original sin and pain at childbirth or tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

"But man has been on a journey ever since to become the great people of righteousness who will reign in a world where sin and evil has been conquered once and for all."

Isn't that how the world started out? Are you positing that god will be able to keep sin and evil at bay in the future, but he was unable to do so in the past? Again, this makes no sense.

"He waits and seems slow about bringing it to fruition so that more rather than less will find life in Him."

This is not supported by the Bible. Narrow is the way, we are told by Jesus hisself. More people will end up in hell than will end up in heaven according to the Bible. So, it's a numbers game. The longer god waits, the more people end up in heaven, it's true, but the rate of people ending up in hell also goes up and by a quicker rate.

Let's say that 49% of people go to heaven, which is overly optimistic according to the Bible, but let's proceed anyway. Let's say that god made the determination after only 100 people had lived. Forty nine of those 100 would go to heaven and 51 would be in hell. Now, let's say that god waited until 100,000 people lived before ending the world. Now, 49,000 people get to go to heaven. Hurray, right? But, this overlooks that 51,000 people are now suffering. We may have gained 48,951 people in heaven, but we also gained 50,949 hell bound people. So, the more he waits, the more people will end up suffering!

"We can give up, so to speak, on our journey and accept things are simply the evolutionary pattern of life that we may or may not evolve past."

Give up? How does investigating reality and figuring out what has really transpired constitute giving up?

"Unless you are talking about the finite gods of the Greeks and Romans and other ancient cultures, no one believing in God posits a God who is less than good."

Satan right a bell? Besides, how do you know that this doesn't simply reflect on our culture?

"We use our own standards to question it, but we are obviously not a perfect standard of good. So I question our appeal to ourselves to have grounds to question Him."

Two problems. 1) I'm using your standard that you claim comes from god in order to argue that your views are self-defeating. 2) Once again, you can't have it both ways! If you claim that we are in no position to judge god as evil, then you similarly can't pass judgement on god as being good. You can't simultaneously argue that we have no standing to pronounce judgement on god, and then turn around and judge that god is good. Do you really not understand that? You keep making this error over and over.

"I realize I have not given some awesome argument that defeats all objections to His existence or His nature. But I hope I have left you with some things to consider."

I considered it the first time you said it, and it hasn't gotten any more compelling after the millionth time. Have you ever actually considered any of the objections? Considering that you don't address those objections, instead simply repeating yourself, I rather doubt it. Don't act as if you're the open-minded one here, when that is clearly not the case. (And, BTW, I considered it when I heard it from other apologists long ago. It's not like this is a new argument, and it was just as lacking then as it is now.)

Anonymous said...

Sorry MS, but Euthyphro is still an issue. Relocating the issue is like piling one turtle on top of the other. In the end, it's turtles all the way down.

Anonymous said...

From Ebon:

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/carrot&stick.html#part5

"Granted, some apologists have posed a solution to this dilemma. They argue that there is an objective standard that grounds God's moral decisions, but that this standard is not external, but internal to God - God's own perfectly good and immutable character. Therefore, God's decisions are not based on whims, but neither is there an external standard that has power over God.

However, this approach does not solve the dilemma; it merely relocates it. If theists say God's character is intrinsically good, we can ask the same question again: What does it mean to say God's character is good? Is God's character good because it measures up to some external standard, or is good itself defined by whatever way God's character is? If the former, again, what is this standard and where does it come from? If the latter, again, it is meaningless to say that God is good; whatever way God was would determine what was good. If God's character had been cruel and unjust, then those traits would be good and desirable. Unless apologists show that God could not have been other than he is morally, and none I know of have even attempted to do this, the Euthyphro dilemma stands and divine command ethics falls. Atheism, by contrast, has no problem with this: as already explained, an atheist can readily believe that there is an independent, objective standard that is not subject to change by divine fiat."

This is as good an explanation of why relocating god's goodness doens't answer Euthyphro as any I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Epicurus:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Johnny said...

Interesting write-up. Personally, I see arguing evil as the absence of good to be flawed, if you believe the Bible. Starting in Genesis, it was not "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Absence of Good" - it was "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil." From that first illustration they were two forces, on opposite sides of the coin.

Also by this definition it is God who created evil; and God who allowed man to choose evil. In my opinion a perfect God would have created perfect humans and never created evil. Thus how can I believe that God is perfect; by the very definition that he created flawed beings, he cannot be a flawless creator.

Eve's choice to eat from the tree was not evil, because she did not know evil. By the simplest translation it was then not even wrong, because she could not distinguish between right and wrong. She was punished for being curious and seeking knowledge (a theme repeated through the Bible, and throughout history).

God setup Eve for failure; and thus planned to condemn humanity before he even created them. If you had a puppy only a month old, and leave some fresh baked cookies within its reach; but you tell it specifically "don't eat those cookies." That puppy doesn't understand what you mean, it sees those as something new that smells good. You are setting up that puppy for failure, in the exact same way God setup Eve.

@MS Quixote, I'm not sure why it has surged as the 'flavor of the month.' I think though that it has come about as a response to many endless proselytizing about how good God is. So often in that proselytizing only the good things in the Bible are presented; and many non-theists are amazed at how theists can gloss over the atrocities committed by God. Not to mention the theists who haven't read their Bible enough to even be aware of those atrocities. So I think it has possibly surged in popularity because non-theists have been looking for a consolidated list to show theists who deny or are unaware of it.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

MS Quixote, it is an old objection, that I have never seen satisfactorily answered.

"God is good,
all the time,
All the time,
God is good."

How does one believing the Bible is 100% literally true think that murder is only wrong if humans do it, but it is good when God did it?

If I started a flood that killed millions of men, women (some I'm sure with child), and children, including infants, I'd be a mass murderer. Now, if God exists, and he did those things, by his own standards he is not good.

Matt S said...

I'm an atheist, so obviously biased, but these arguments when I was a catholic would still have struck me as infantile wishful thinking. Throughout history god and gods have been viewed as good and bad. Your simplistic analysis skips a number of details that I see other commentators have picked up on.
A closer study of your own god's actions would reveal someone more human-like, because like all other gods he represents those who created him. Biblical scholars have even found (in a recent PBS doc) that at some point the ancient Israelites stopped believing in multiple gods and only worshipped one. As such, the number of references to other gods in the bible went down as well, if I recall correctly. The only thing 'unique' about Christianity and Judaism and the like is that they were one of the first faith lineages to believe in only one god, for better or for worse.

MS Quixote said...

"Sorry MS, but Euthyphro is still an issue. Relocating the issue is like piling one turtle on top of the other. In the end, it's turtles all the way down."

Ironically, this is what one horn of your dilemma suffers from, since an outside standard of goodness will not seem to provide grounding. The theist position of locating goodness within God's nature does provide an ultimate grounding of goodness, which is then expressed to us in the form of divine commands.

"This is as good an explanation of why relocating god's goodness doens't answer Euthyphro as any I've seen."

No need to cite, Ebon. I've read it previously. I agree it's as good an explanation as I've read as well, I just don't think it's correct. Tell you what, in order to "do euthyphro", I'm going to have to write a formal account. I'll let you know when it's posted.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough MS.

So, you have a blog now?

MS Quixote said...

"How does one believing the Bible is 100% literally true think that murder is only wrong if humans do it, but it is good when God did it?"

Hey Mike,

There's an underlying assumption in this question that claims that when God kills, it's murder. I wouldn't agree.

"If I started a flood that killed millions of men, women (some I'm sure with child), and children, including infants, I'd be a mass murderer."

If you did it intentionally with malice aforethought, yes, but I'd agree you be culpable somewhat even if you did it out of negligence or by accident.

"Now, if God exists, and he did those things, by his own standards he is not good."

Once again, the hidden assumption that if God kills, he's a murderer. This one has the added assumption that God's actions are indentical in form, fit, and function to a human's. Given the Christian worldview, which your comments seem to indicate that you are assuming for the sake of argument, this is simply not the case.

The obvious difference is that according to Christianity, humans are sinners, God's not, so when He executes judgment, it's with regard to people who deserve it by a morally blameless judge. If they deserve it, God can hardly be morally culpable for executing judgment.

With that said, I fully understand where y'all are coming from with your objections, and if I believed that people weren't deserving of judgment, I'd say the same thing.

I followed your link earlier, and it got me to thinking perhaps I should take the time to present a formal treatment of this question too, just like with Euthyphro, or as I like to say ED :)

MS Quixote said...

Yeah, I know...what the world needs is one more blog :)

MS Quixote said...

Johnny,

"and many non-theists are amazed at how theists can gloss over the atrocities committed by God."

I don't blame them, although there's that smuggled in premise again (atrocities). It's only consistent for the theist, IMO, to own up to the acts, or to reject the Bible, at least in its inerrancy.

"non-theists have been looking for a consolidated list to show theists who deny or are unaware of it."

Interesting. Does this list actually exist somewhere, or is it more of a word of mouth thing. I realize of course you may have to keep silent to maintain the evil atheist conspiracy :)

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"There's an underlying assumption in this question that claims that when God kills, it's murder. I wouldn't agree."

That answered my question. I used to make the same rationalization, but I haven't a clue how I could have done it.

Then again, I only pictured the folks dying in the flood as truly wicked, evil, despicable people. I never thought about the children, not to mention all the people in other parts of the world who had no clue who Noah was.

CyberKitten said...

MSQ said: The obvious difference is that according to Christianity, humans are sinners, God's not, so when He executes judgment, it's with regard to people who deserve it by a morally blameless judge. If they deserve it, God can hardly be morally culpable for executing judgment.

Now that's a *sweet* justification.... Which means that God can do anything to anyone at any time with a 'get out of judgement free card'. Brilliant.

End of discussion I think....

Anonymous said...

MS,
If god's actions are not murder, what are they? What about those actions of sending us to hell? What about the determinism that is implicit in all of this?

Also, if god foresaw that the flood would be needed (let's skip whether it was indeed needed for now) before he created the world, then isn't he at least in part responsible for the flood by going ahead and creating a world where the flood would be needed? You can't escape god's culpability in all this. The best you can argue is that god is somehow blameless for it, which it seems like you are trying to do. But, that simply doesn't hold up, since he knew all before creation. This puts god in the position of causing everything that has happened. When we fail morally, it is a reflection on god's failure, and he is punishing us for his failures.

Anonymous said...

"Now that's a *sweet* justification.... Which means that God can do anything to anyone at any time with a 'get out of judgement free card'. Brilliant."

What CK said.

I'll also add that by creating us, god took on a moral responsibility to us, which is completely counter to the argument being made here. god does not have the moral right to treat us like lumps of clay that he can smash at any time.

Karla said...

Mike, I addressed the philosophical foundations of accusing God of evil.

Nougat, welcome. I have in the past addressed the Euthphro dilemma in full you can find that post in my subject list. However, in short I concur fully with Quixote's response.

Karla said...

Quixote said "Tell you what, in order to "do euthyphro", I'm going to have to write a formal account. I'll let you know when it's posted."

I'd be greatly interested in that too, let me know when it's posted.

Karla said...

Accusing God of evil is meaningless if there is no good standard by which to judge God. We are not a good standard. Men fail all the time. This is why I don't discuss the fine tunes of accusations against God's character without first seeing that you have valid grounds by which to produce ANY judgment against God. The grounds are not repeating the "list of atrocities" but actually philosophical grounds for having the ability to make any charges. If the Supreme Court wants to say that the Legislative branches have passed an unconstitutional bill they do so on the grounds of the Constitution being the standard that gives them the right to judge the bill. If they did not have such a standard and they kept saying the bill was unconstitutional that would be meaningless.

Anonymous said...

"Accusing God of evil is meaningless if there is no good standard by which to judge God."

You still don't get it.

I can use the standard that you continually tell me that you get from god and turn around and point out that god does not live up to that standard.

He also certainly doesn't live up to the standards that we as human beings have developed, which would pale in comparison to a perfectly good standard. If he can't even live up to human standards, then how could he attain an even higher standard?

"We are not a good standard. Men fail all the time."

And yet, most of us would not cause a global flood that wipes out most of humanity. Look at the story of Lot, for instance. god is going to wipe out the whole area and it's Abraham (IIRC) who convinces him to at least investigate and figure out if anyone righteous lives there.

"This is why I don't discuss the fine tunes of accusations against God's character without first seeing that you have valid grounds by which to produce ANY judgment against God."

Once again, if we don't have valid grounds to judge god, then we similarly can't judge god to be good.

"The grounds are not repeating the "list of atrocities" but actually philosophical grounds for having the ability to make any charges."

If you contend that we can't make charges, then you can't charge that god is good. If you agree that we can make determinations based on whatever standard we set, whether it is evolutionarily based or divinely based, then we can use that standard to judge god. Either way, your argument fails and seems like nothing more than an evasion.

Either way, you are presenting a standard by which to judge god, and we are using it to do so. Your only escape is to tautologically say that god is good by definition, but that doesn't get to the heart of what "good" is. Once you define "good" in a non-tautological way, we use that standard to see if your god lives up to your standard. He doesn't. He doesn't live up to the standards that most humans have.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Accusing God of evil is meaningless if there is no good standard by which to judge God."


God set the standard himself, of course that was post flood so maybe killing was ok before Moses came down with the tablets.

CyberKitten said...

Interesting though this discussion is.....

Isn't it all a bit like arguing over Sherlock Holmes's cocaine habit?

Mogg said...

Doesn't the Bible itself tell us that what we as humans see in the world reveals the power and nature of God? Romans 1:20 springs to mind. If that is the case, God's standard of good must have some correlation with man's, and human reasoning and standards of good must have some validity when looking at claims of God's goodness.

So why don't we all see it? Why do people agonise over God's morality in the face of natural disaster, and claim that they can't believe in a god that allows, to take a recent example, around 300 random people to die in bushfires in Australia? Why do Christians need to resort to the argument that we can't understand God's reasons for doing some things that appear evil to us, if God's power and nature are self-evident?

I don't see much evidence for God being powerful or good according to human standards.

Johnny said...

@MS Quixote, 'the list' just being a consolidation listing of all the scriptures where the Bible attributes the killing to God.

I truly do not understand how you can think God killing is not wrong in anyway. Murder is murder, for God to give laws to humanity and then say, "oh, but they don't apply to me" - that is the original and ultimate hypocrite.

Even if you believe that he only killed sinners, there is contradiction. Because he says that children are innocent, but then time and time again kills or orders the death of children. What kind of God kills children?

MS Quixote said...

"I never thought about the children, not to mention all the people in other parts of the world who had no clue who Noah was."

Excellent. Then you're really going to enjoy it when I contend that it's also an act of grace on God's part, in the midst of judgment.

MS Quixote said...

"Which means that God can do anything to anyone at any time with a 'get out of judgement free card'. Brilliant."

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cyber, but I wouldn't agree with this.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

An act of grace? Are you the poster child for cognitive dissonance?

CyberKitten said...

MSQ said: Thanks for the vote of confidence, Cyber, but I wouldn't agree with this.

That's OK. I was being sarcastic.... [laughs]

MS Quixote said...

"I truly do not understand how you can think God killing is not wrong in anyway. Murder is murder, for God to give laws to humanity and then say, "oh, but they don't apply to me"

Do you think it's always wrong for people to kill? I don't, nor do I think it's always wrong for God to kill.

But when you say murder, you've equivocated. Murder's a different act, and one God is not guilty of, unless you have an example I'm not aware of.

"Because he says that children are innocent, but then time and time again kills or orders the death of children. What kind of God kills children?"

I'm not aware of a passage that claims children are innocent, so you'll need to provide that citation before I acknowledge a contradiction. And let's suppose for a moment that the great majority of Christians that teach children go straight to heaven upon death are correct. How is this a bad thing?

So in your view, you'ld rather have them live 70 years and go to hell? What a deal. It would seem under these asssumptions that the merciful thing would be for God to take children when they're children, all emotionalism aside.

MS Quixote said...

"That's OK. I was being sarcastic...."

I know, Cyber, but come on, Sherlock's real.

MS Quixote said...

"An act of grace? Are you the poster child for cognitive dissonance?"

Rational atheists value reason, not insults; however, your response indicates that you have not thought clearly through the entirety of this issue as of yet, or you would already know what I'm referring to.

MS Quixote said...

Anon,

"If god's actions are not murder, what are they? What about those actions of sending us to hell? What about the determinism that is implicit in all of this?

Killing is not equivalent with murder, correct? I'm confident you recognize situations where this equivalence is false. For the rest of your questions, I acknowledge their validity, and their gravity, but they're a bit off the topic of the genocidal god objection.

Briefly then, and I trust you'll agree that your questions require deeper consideration than an off-the-cuff blog comment, I partially agree with you:

"But, that simply doesn't hold up, since he knew all before creation. This puts god in the position of causing everything that has happened."

Yes, and no. In some sense, you have to be correct, unless we pursue some sort of open theism, which I would reject. All possible worlds, however, are not feasible.

We'll have to leave it there for now. After all, you're requiring from me explanations of Euthyphro, the genocidal god objection, hell, determinism, and God's relation to possible worlds, creation, and his moral capability thereto, all at once!

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Rational atheists value reason, not insults; however, your response indicates that you have not thought clearly through the entirety of this issue as of yet, or you would already know what I'm referring to. "

My response was one of exasperation, hence the sarcasm, but it's a serious question. After all, you are the one rationalizing away the horror of killing millions of men, women and children.

Karla said...

Anon said, "I can use the standard that you continually tell me that you get from god and turn around and point out that god does not live up to that standard."

And Mike said,"God set the standard himself . . ."


The standard is God Himself. God is always living up to Himself. He isn't following a standard He created. Good is His DNA so to speak. He isn't creating the standard of good. He IS good. So you cannot be judging Him by His standard if you were you would not have anything to hold against Him.

Gog wrote "God's standard of good must have some correlation with man's, and human reasoning and standards of good must have some validity when looking at claims of God's goodness.

So why don't we all see it?"

Gog, Romans tells us that we do know good from evil but it is our fallen nature that creates the wrestling between the two. The law given in the Old Testament was further evidence given to us to help us see how our sin causes us to fall short of His Nature of goodness. He was showing us the problem so He could give us the solution. So while we do have this nature of knowledge in us already He made it even more evident by giving it to Moses written down. Not to compel us to live a life of rules to earn His favor, but to set us up to receive His grace and mercy so we don't have to live by rules but our nature can be changed to be like His knowing goodness and being righteous.

Karla said...

Hey everyone, I just wanted to mention that I cannot possibly provide a line by line response to each comment nor a direct response to each and every comment. I will try and respond to the similar things as a whole and to unique questions directly as best I can. I can't possibly respond to 30 comments a day. But I welcome the interchange to continue and I will respond when I can as thorough as I can.

However, after tomorrow I will be busy until Monday so any comments I get between Wed and Sunday I will do my best to respond as mentioned above the following week.

As always, I appreciate the questions, comments, thinking things out, and even disagreements as long as they are respectful to each and every commenter.

Karla said...

Hey everyone, I just wanted to mention that I cannot possibly provide a line by line response to each comment nor a direct response to each and every comment. I will try and respond to the similar things as a whole and to unique questions directly as best I can. I can't possibly respond to 30 comments a day. But I welcome the interchange to continue and I will respond when I can as thorough as I can.

However, after tomorrow I will be busy until Monday so any comments I get between Wed and Sunday I will do my best to respond as mentioned above the following week.

As always, I appreciate the questions, comments, thinking things out, and even disagreements as long as they are respectful to each and every commenter.

MS Quixote said...

"My response was one of exasperation"

After one or two posts you're exasperated? Or perhaps it's the subject matter, but then again, freethought is supposed to free and thoughtful, not exasperated, right?

"After all, you are the one rationalizing away the horror of killing millions of men, women and children."

Again, rational atheists use reason to counter arguments, not accusations. Mike, I'm OK if you disagree with me, but we should do it pleasantly. And here's another thing I don't understand from you. The contention usually is that Christians run and hide from this objection, or act like it's not there. I'm fully embracing it, and contending that reason supports my conclusion. I'd think you would be less exasperated by that, not more. Show me why I'm incorrect logically, not emotionally, and I'll agree with you.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

The exasperation comes from you wanting me to make a rational argument that killing is wrong, when we both know it is, you just think it's ok for God to do it.

Imagine someone came to you and started rationalizing why it was ok for Hitler to kill all the Jews he did. The fact that you are embracing the slaughter of millions is abhorrent to me. Forgive my emotional response.

MS Quixote said...

"The exasperation comes from you wanting me to make a rational argument that killing is wrong, when we both know it is, you just think it's ok for God to do it."

I don't know that all killing is wrong. In fact, I thinks it's obvious to any rational observer that all killing is not wrong. You menioned, Hitler. Are you suggesting that it was wrong for the allies to kill to prevent him from committing further atrocities? So yes, I would like a rational argument that demonstrates all killing to be wrong before I believe it.

"Imagine someone came to you and started rationalizing why it was ok for Hitler to kill all the Jews he did."

Do you honestly not recognize the logical fallacy in your comparison?

"The fact that you are embracing the slaughter of millions is abhorrent to me."

Excuse me, I'm pro-life. I'd have to assume you are too, from what you've disclosed.

"Forgive my emotional response."

I'm OK with it, but the atheosphere must be cringing to have one of their own reject reason in favor of emotion.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Are you suggesting that it was wrong for the allies to kill to prevent him from committing further atrocities?"

Certainly not, killing in defense of others or self is fine.

"Do you honestly not recognize the logical fallacy in your comparison?"

I wasn't comparing God to Hitler, I was comparing the two slaughters, and trying to help you understand why I would have an emotional response.

"Excuse me, I'm pro-life. I'd have to assume you are too, from what you've disclosed."

The term pro-life is a misnomer, since most support the death penalty.

The atheosphere, cute. Believe it or not, my atheism doesn't define me, I am not part of the atheosphere, I do not speak for other atheists. I've gotten into arguments with atheists, even on this very blog in fact. I'm sure a lot of atheists aren't very happy with my blog.

MS Quixote said...

"I'm sure a lot of atheists aren't very happy with my blog."

So I go and check out both of them, and one says something to the effect of a "place where atheists and Christians can discuss rationally without bashing each other." Amen, brother. Now I kinda feel guilty about arguing with you:)

No hard feelings on this end, and if we happen to engage again, let's try to keep it from getting personal.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Sorry, I just love to say cognitive dissonance, and saw an opportunity. ;-)

I'm afraid the argument between atheists and Christians always comes down to one believing the other is guilty of cognitive dissonance, so different are the foundational beliefs involved.

Quixote said...

"I'm afraid the argument between atheists and Christians always comes down to one believing the other is guilty of cognitive dissonance, so different are the foundational beliefs involved."

Mike, I almost wrote those exact words, or something close to it. It's so very true.

"Sorry, I just love to say cognitive dissonance, and saw an opportunity. ;-)"

No worries, mate. I'm cool with it, and I'm sure I have enough cognitive dissonance somewhere for the both of us...

Mogg said...

"Gog,..."

Just thought I'd point out that it's Mogg, not Gog.

"...Romans tells us that we do know good from evil but it is our fallen nature that creates the wrestling between the two."

Paul says that men are able to discern God's nature from the world. Nothing about whether we wrestle with it - at least not here. My question is not why do we wrestle with it, but why do so many not see it. That's not just atheists, but followers of every other possible spiritual belief system, which includes most of the people who have ever lived. If God's nature is so evident, there should be far less diversity of religion, and those religions should be basically similar, with a belief in one good god. That is plainly not the case.

(The Mosaic Law was) "...Not to compel us to live a life of rules to earn His favor, but to set us up to receive His grace and mercy so we don't have to live by rules but our nature can be changed to be like His knowing goodness and being righteous."

In my experience, relying on God to change my nature, even when desperately desired and fully backed by my own and others' prayer, was a complete failure. I tried it for several years, with plenty of advice to read Romans 8 and "have faith". Nothing changed until I took a different route, at which time change occurred quite quickly. I know what Romans says, but my experience says that it is considerably less effective than the combination of understanding and action on my own part.

How can the laws of Moses be helpful to those who never heard of them? That is an explanation that is not relevant to most of the human race who have lived so far.

CyberKitten said...

Mike said: I'm sure a lot of atheists aren't very happy with my blog.

Never bothered me... [grin]

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"If God's nature is so evident, there should be far less diversity of religion, and those religions should be basically similar, with a belief in one good god. That is plainly not the case."

Unless God is greater and more diverse than conservative Christians will allow. I know liberal theologians who believe that all the world's religions, despite their sometimes distinct differences, are all equal attempts to commune with the divine, some perhaps more successful than others.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Mike said: I'm sure a lot of atheists aren't very happy with my blog.

Never bothered me... [grin]"

Thanks! The atheists who wouldn't like it are those who think we should give Christians no quarter, and always go for the jugular. So far none of them have actually posted any comments, but I know they are out there.

CyberKitten said...

mike said: The atheists who wouldn't like it are those who think we should give Christians no quarter, and always go for the jugular.

I can't really see the point of Attack-dog Atheism. It's not like it'll win any converts (if that's the reason behind it) and there's little point in getting angry with people just because they're deluded. I do understand the frustration of conversing with theists who won't give an inch... but Hey. It's their life!

Karla said...

Mike said "Imagine someone came to you and started rationalizing why it was ok for Hitler to kill all the Jews he did. The fact that you are embracing the slaughter of millions is abhorrent to me. Forgive my emotional response."

That's just it. If you want to decry the actions of Hitler you need something greater than human standards. What grounds do you have to judge Hitler? What grounds can you appeal to that says Hitler ought not to have done what he did. What grounds do you have to say that life ought to be treated with dignity and ought not be destroyed?

Mike said, "Certainly not, killing in defense of others or self is fine."

So if God was killing some people to save the world in defense of the whole that would be okay wouldn't it? I mean if we sent troops in to kill and I am sure civilians were killed to to end Hitler's reign of terror and we can see the rightness of that then why can't you see God's rightness in killing some to preserve the rest? Also remember that these incidents are few compared to all of history. And God gave them time to repent and we saw in Jonah how God relented his destruction because they repented showing He wasn't bent on harming them.

Karla said...

Quixote, I can vouch for Mike. He is typically very calm in discussing these matters. As you've seen his blog is designed for a similar purpose as mine just for the opposite worldview. It's cool. I know you guys have already gotten past your exchange about all that, I just wanted to add my two sense.

Mike, I can vouch for Quixote too, he's cool.

Karla said...

Mogg, I'm sorry you had that experience. I think we all go through that at times. The thing is we are made righteous when we are in Christ. All the work was finished with Christ. It isn't something we have to earn before or after entering relationship with Jesus.

I heard this preacher give an awesome illustration one day about how it's really about belonging, believing, and behaving. And often times we, as Christians, want to reverse that and make our actions more important than our resting in Him when our actions cannot follow unless we are first rested in Him. We have to understand our sonship or daughtership and His complete acceptance and that there is no condemnation against us before we can begin to really understand how to live that out supernaturally. It something that comes by His power and not by our strength. Gogg, you didn't fail. He still loves you and He still is there for you when you and if you are ready to rest in Him and just sit and belong. His burden is easy, not hard. If we have a burden that is hard, it's not His, He didn't give it to us.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"The standard is God Himself. God is always living up to Himself. He isn't following a standard He created. Good is His DNA so to speak. He isn't creating the standard of good. He IS good. So you cannot be judging Him by His standard if you were you would not have anything to hold against Him."

You've reduced the definition of "good" to a meaningless tautology. By this definition, god may very well be "good" but what that means for our actions, we can not say...at best.

At worst, it would mean that we are not good, since we are not god. Everything that is not god would be not good. So, your statement that what god created was all good would be incorrect, because what god created was not god.

Further, instead of using the word, "good" you may as well use any combination of letters, symbols, etc. since you aren't talking about what we have defined as "good" in the dictionary. You've equivocated the definitions.

Karla said...

It's because there is a real that there is so many counterfeits that show a similarity of truth-- a desire to connect to the divine. It is a human creation to our God need that creates religion. God is meeting people despite their religion and showing them the pure way to Him devoid of all these religious entanglements. All of nature shines the reality and that is why people see glimmers of truth and turn it into a religion.

But God is saying I have come to you. I have made the way. I don't need you to sacrifice, and toil, and preform ceremonies to earn my favor. I am here and I accept you just as you are without any hoopla without any rules. Come. Come and experience my love and let my love transform you. That's the bare bones of the Gospel message.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"If you want to decry the actions of Hitler you need something greater than human standards."

No I do not. This is simply absurd.

"What grounds do you have to judge Hitler? What grounds can you appeal to that says Hitler ought not to have done what he did. What grounds do you have to say that life ought to be treated with dignity and ought not be destroyed?"

From our shared evolutionary history...for the umpteen millionth time. Because we are social animals and killing whole groups of peoples upsets social orders and removes diversity from the gene pool - diversity that helps us to adapt to changing environmental selection pressures that could wipe us out if we become too genetically homogenous.

How do you rationalize it with a god that orders genocide?

"So if God was killing some people to save the world in defense of the whole that would be okay wouldn't it?"

Not when other methods are available. Killing others in self-defense is a LAST resort. god should never have to resort to it.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"It's because there is a real that there is so many counterfeits that show a similarity of truth..."

Who are you responding to with this proselytizing?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Karla,
"It's because there is a real that there is so many counterfeits that show a similarity of truth..."

Who are you responding to with this proselytizing?"

I think to my post about liberal theologians believing that God is the inspiration for all religions.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"So if God was killing some people to save the world in defense of the whole that would be okay wouldn't it?"

I'll answer with a quote from the Character Mr. Spock from Star Trek The Wrath of Khan. "...logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

In the Biblical narrative God did the opposite with the flood.

Genesis 6: 1-8

"1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. 2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women[e] and took any they wanted as their wives. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with[f] humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”

4 In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.

5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.” 8 But Noah found favor with the Lord."


Everyone but Noah and his family were wicked. The Nephillim, or giants, were wreaking havoc. It's fantastic details like giants that make most people believe these stories are not true, some Christians even. They glean meaning from the stories, but do not take them literally.

You really believe that everyone on earth, aside from a small handful, were so depraved, along with the animals, that they all needed destroyed?

This chapter has one of the most interesting verses in the Bible, verse 6 "6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart." Emphasis mine.

But God is omniscient, he knew he was going to be sorry, right?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"I can vouch for Mike. He is typically very calm in discussing these matters"

Thanks!

Karla said...

Mike, humanity had been corrupt, God saved humanity by the Flood by rescuing Noah and his family and the animals. We have to remember there wasn't a world wide population at this time in history. But the people had been corrupted to a great degree in great depravity and God was adjusting the course for all of humanity. So even if fewer were saved at that time than lived at that time, we are talking about 4500 years of people since then surviving versus the whole race caving in on itself due to its chosen depravity.

Anon, your evolutionary theory of why we can judge Hitler as wrong doesn't hold up as having to do with morality rather then what is beneficial to survival. You are assume we "ought" to value life because it benefits us to do so. But Hitler saw it differently so what makes one human standard greater than another. Apparently he didn't agree with all this history you cite that supports your position. You have nothing higher to appeal to, so Hitler's view of it and others who have shared his view of exterminating based on prejudice or whatnot are equal to those who think it "wrong."

You lose grounds to be appalled by it. You can say it wasn't good for society to kill so many people, but you lose grounds to be morally appalled by his actions.

Karla said...

Mike, your welcome. I like having you here.

Anonymous said...

MS,
"Killing is not equivalent with murder, correct?"

Correct. I find it, however, hard to argue that the wholesale slaughtering of a people (and their livestock and salting the Earth - genocide) is somehow not murder.

This leaves you in the position of claiming that all those lives destroyed by god were judgement on evil people and mercy on good people. This is a rather difficult position to hold, and one that I probably can't fully object to in the space of a comment.

Briefly, one argument is that god should have no need to kill at all, since god has every other means at his disposal (omnipotence). Another is the inherent unfairness of granting mercy at certain points in some lives and not in others, which would seem to speak against god's perfect justice that Karla seems to think exists. Another is that it runs smack dab into Karla's argument that god had to kill all these people in defense of others (which is a bit absurd in the flood story). This would indicate that all the people killed were necessarily evil and being judged, not given grace.

BTW, do you support capital punishment?

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"Anon, your evolutionary theory of why we can judge Hitler as wrong doesn't hold up as having to do with morality rather then what is beneficial to survival."

They are tied together! The reason we have developed morality is because it HELPS OUR SURVIVAL. Really, this is a pretty elementary concept.

"But Hitler saw it differently so what makes one human standard greater than another."

The empirical evidence.

"You have nothing higher to appeal to, so Hitler's view of it and others who have shared his view of exterminating based on prejudice or whatnot are equal to those who think it "wrong.""

I don't need anything higher to appeal to than reality.

"You lose grounds to be appalled by it."

Apart from the fact that (had I lived then) my livelihood was also on the line? Are you for real? You can't be serious and be this absurd. I'm ready to call Poe's Law.

"You can say it wasn't good for society to kill so many people, but you lose grounds to be morally appalled by his actions."

No, I don't, because our morals are tied up in our evolutionary heritage and our cultural heritage. Whether one culture agrees with another or not, we can't disregard the fact that it's a real phenomena, nor the fact that we have the evidence of our evolutionary history. You can stick your fingers in your ears and yell, "I can't hear you," all you like, but you can't deny the facts.

And, I still have yet to see you demonstrate that "Xian morality" is not riddled with the same problems that you accuse me of having. Where did god say not to kill the Jews? If you read Mein Kampf, you'll note he talked about his god-ordained duty to kill the Jews. How can you be outraged if someone kills someone else? You simply appeal to what you think you've interpreted your god to want, but you don't know whether you are correct or not (you aren't omniscient) so at best you're guessing.

Karla said...

"No, I don't, because our morals are tied up in our evolutionary heritage and our cultural heritage. Whether one culture agrees with another or not, we can't disregard the fact that it's a real phenomena, nor the fact that we have the evidence of our evolutionary history."

That is a theory of what could be. I supplied a different proposition. I am not ignorant that you or others believe that, I just don't think it works for the reasons I have already given.

Anonymous said...

"That is a theory of what could be."

Which is supported by empirical evidence. I mean, c'mon. You can go out and look at other animals and see the social orders. You can read studies about how other animals act in moral and/or altruistic behavior.

"I supplied a different proposition."

Which you need to support.

"I am not ignorant that you or others believe that, I just don't think it works for the reasons I have already given."

You'll have to refresh my memory, because the only "reasons" I seem to recall are you simply asserting that we can't have any morality without god.

Quixote said...

"Quixote, I can vouch for Mike."

I agree. You never really learn about folks on the internet until things get heated up a little. The way we finished up, I've got plenty of respect for him.

@ Anon,
"This leaves you in the position of claiming that all those lives destroyed by god were judgement on evil people and mercy on good people."

I would claim the ones who received mercy were just a evil as the ones who received judgment.

"Briefly, one argument is that god should have no need to kill at all, since god has every other means at his disposal (omnipotence)."

Perhaps, but I think this sidesteps the critical issue. It's rather simple, IMO. Either people are deserving of wrath, death, and judgment, or they're not.

If they are, it makes no logical sense to say "God is wrong for giving me or anyone else what they deserve." It's nearly tautological: if you deserve it, you deserve it.

If they are not deserving, the Bible's false.

"Another is the inherent unfairness of granting mercy at certain points in some lives and not in others, which would seem to speak against god's perfect justice that Karla seems to think exists."

This one is actually a very common argument within Christian circles, and your use of it creates a humorous situation. It would seem that you are yoked with Karla on this one against me!

Briefly, though, all deserve justice. Some receive justice, others receive mercy, but none receive injustice. Construct a Venn diagram and I think you'll see my point.

"BTW, do you support capital punishment?"

My stance against the Church's involvement in politics precludes me from commenting on politics, or taking sides on political issues. I'm confident you won't have a problem with that :) The book of Romans does say, however, that the authority does not bear the sword in vain.

Anonymous said...

Quixote,
"I would claim the ones who received mercy were just a evil as the ones who received judgment."

My fault. I had forgotten this was your stance. I still find it to be appalling, and like Ebon, I can't believe that someone that seems to be pretty gentle-natured could believe in such a thing.

"Perhaps, but I think this sidesteps the critical issue. It's rather simple, IMO. Either people are deserving of wrath, death, and judgment, or they're not."

No one is deserving of god's wrath (especially if it means eternal torment, as no one is deserving of hell). This puts god in the position of having made critters for the sole purpose of demonstrating his wrath and providing mercy for only some in an arbitrary fashion.

"If they are, it makes no logical sense to say "God is wrong for giving me or anyone else what they deserve." It's nearly tautological: if you deserve it, you deserve it."

If we deserve it, then it does make sense, but no one deserves that. This is especially true because god created us "deserving of hell" in the first place. It's like if I have a puppy that I forbid from getting on the couch. Then, I reach down and place the puppy on the couch. Then, I get wrathful and thrash the puppy to death and claim, "Well, that puppy was on the couch, so it deserved the punishment it got, since I told it that it was not to be on the couch."

"If they are not deserving, the Bible's false."

The Bible is false then.

"This one is actually a very common argument within Christian circles, and your use of it creates a humorous situation. It would seem that you are yoked with Karla on this one against me!"

You take that back, right now! J/K.

I'm not yoked to Karla, I still arguing that both of your views on justice don't work.

"Briefly, though, all deserve justice. Some receive justice, others receive mercy, but none receive injustice. Construct a Venn diagram and I think you'll see my point."

If justice is "getting what you deserve," then it is unjust to "get what you don't deserve." If we don't deserve mercy, but we receive it anyway, then god is acting unjustly and those that receive mercy have received injustice. Simply because one receives something good that is undeserved does not mean that an injustice has not occurred. Would we think that justice had been done if a judge decided for no reason to simply show mercy on a murderer and let that person go?

"My stance against the Church's involvement in politics precludes me from commenting on politics, or taking sides on political issues. I'm confident you won't have a problem with that :)"

It's your prerogative, but surely you're allowed to have a personal opinion.

MS Quixote said...

"I still find it to be appalling, and like Ebon, I can't believe that someone that seems to be pretty gentle-natured could believe in such a thing."

I appreciate the backhanded compliment :) I understand your sentiment fully, and it's nothing new. It comes with the Christian territory so to speak. One thing's for sure, wherever and whenever the Gospel is truly preached, there's strife.

This is one area, however, where I think you could concede that there's actually some observable evidence for the Christian claim, unless people are radically different where you live.

With that said, I would think that atheist "fire brands" such as Ebon and yourself would at least concede that, although in your opinion wrongheaded, the fact that the logical conclusions and uncomfortable claims of Christianity are being embraced fully here is preferrable to pusilanimous evasion. You should give Karla a tip of the hat as well. She puts it out there like she sees it, and does not hide from the criticism.

Frankly, Anon, M(t), the primary difference between you and us, not disregarding some minor issues of style, personality, and such, is that you're an atheist. Were you a Christian, I predict you would argue just as vigorously in the other direction. That makes you interesting, and worth knowing, IMO.

Regardless, I'm open to the humanist claim that perhaps through science, education, technology, and cultural and economic development that humanity can overcome its nature. It's the great hope and faith of your side, and you'll notice that it was one of my criteria for deconversion. If humanity achieves this--admittedly probably not in our lifetime but there might be an indication trending one way or the other in the near future--it would seem to indicate that Christianity is wrong about human nature. However, I would expect you to acknowledge the opposite if this great experiment we are involved in fails.

"If we deserve it, then it does make sense, but no one deserves that."

Which is one reason why you're an atheist. Your logic here is valid, and thanks for acknowledging mine. Piggy-backing on Mike's comment, this sense of sin on the part of the Christian, and the lack of it on the part of the atheist is a genuine impediment to rational discourse.

"I'm not yoked to Karla, I still arguing that both of your views on justice don't work."

Your argument is a carbon-copy of a common Arminian objection to Reformed Theology. You're yoked, my friend :)

"If we don't deserve mercy, but we receive it anyway, then god is acting unjustly and those that receive mercy have received injustice."

This is a strange statement. I thought you were arguing that those who received justice also received injustice because others received mercy.

"Would we think that justice had been done if a judge decided for no reason to simply show mercy on a murderer and let that person go?"

If your argument is predicated on there being no reason, I would agree with you. But, then, you wouldn't be arguing with me, because I would reject the proposition that some are shown mercy for no reason.

"It's your prerogative, but surely you're allowed to have a personal opinion."

I don't have a moral complaint against it as an institution, if it's administered properly and justly. The system we have now is highly questionable for a variety of reasons you're certainly well aware of. There you have it. See if you can set the hook :)

I may be able to find the time tonight to get you something on ED.

Anonymous said...

Quixote,
"...the fact that the logical conclusions and uncomfortable claims of Christianity are being embraced fully here is preferrable to pusilanimous evasion."

I do appreciate it when Xians acknowledge the gory logical conclusions of their faith.

"You should give Karla a tip of the hat as well. She puts it out there like she sees it, and does not hide from the criticism."

That is not what I have observed.

"If humanity achieves this--admittedly probably not in our lifetime but there might be an indication trending one way or the other in the near future--it would seem to indicate that Christianity is wrong about human nature. However, I would expect you to acknowledge the opposite if this great experiment we are involved in fails."

This doesn't seem like a bet that anyone will win any time soon. And, I hardly think that Xians making the observation that people do bad things sometimes is some sort of evidence for Xianity.

"Piggy-backing on Mike's comment, this sense of sin on the part of the Christian, and the lack of it on the part of the atheist is a genuine impediment to rational discourse."

I don't think there must be an impediment there.

"Your argument is a carbon-copy of a common Arminian objection to Reformed Theology. You're yoked, my friend :)"

Sorry, but I think they're both wrong.

"This is a strange statement. I thought you were arguing that those who received justice also received injustice because others received mercy. "

That would be called unfairness, which ties into the idea of justice. If god is unfair, then he is not just.

"If your argument is predicated on there being no reason, I would agree with you. But, then, you wouldn't be arguing with me, because I would reject the proposition that some are shown mercy for no reason."

You've claimed that we all deserve hell. Whether there's a reason or not, it is still unjust to give mercy to someone who doesn't deserve it.

"I don't have a moral complaint against it as an institution, if it's administered properly and justly. The system we have now is highly questionable for a variety of reasons you're certainly well aware of. There you have it. See if you can set the hook :)"

Honestly, I don't remember why I asked anymore...mostly out of curiosity. You were nice enough to comment, so I will give you my stance as well and then we can drop it. I'm opposed to capital punishment as I think it makes murderers of us all.

MS Quixote said...

"I don't think there must be an impediment there."

And you're right. Shame it has to be that way so often, but there again is that human nature problem.

BTW- I posted an introductory treatment of Euthyphro as promised.

Karla said...

"You've claimed that we all deserve hell. Whether there's a reason or not, it is still unjust to give mercy to someone who doesn't deserve it."

It is not unjust when justice was fulfilled in Christ. We become Justified in Christ and Justice gives us life instead of death because we are in Christ. Even in the Old Testament it wasn't their fulfillment of the laws that gave them righteousness it was their relationship with the living God. They looked forward with hope to the promise of the coming Messiah and trusted in God for their life and we look backward at the work of Christ and find our life in Christ. Justice is met in Christ.

You keep claiming it isn't just for our sins to lead to separation from God. Why don't you think this is just? Ought not goodness to prevail over evil? Moreover hell wasn't created for people, it was created for the demons it is a place for evil to be locked up and cast away from God's presence. Humans were created good. We are not designed for hell. We are designed for life with God and in God.

Anonymous said...

"It is not unjust when justice was fulfilled in Christ."

Then all should go to heaven. This is not the state of things according to the Bible, however.

"You keep claiming it isn't just for our sins to lead to separation from God. Why don't you think this is just?"

No, I'm claiming it's unjust for one to suffer eternal damnation/torture/suffering. You're equivocating by trying to call it "separation from god." It's not just for many reasons, which I've outlined many times.

1) We are finite creatures, so infinite punishment is infinitely unjust since the supposed crimes can not fit the punishment meted out.
2) We are being punished for crimes against a god that can't be harmed in any way, so what damage can be done?
3) We are punished for being human, which is something we have no control over.
4) We are held to impossibly high standards.
I have more, but you'll not answer even these.

"Moreover hell wasn't created for people, it was created for the demons it is a place for evil to be locked up and cast away from God's presence."

1) Then why send people there?
2) Why create it at all when god could simply make evil/demons/etc. not exist?
3) Why is it necessary to a good god to have a place where one is tortured and suffers for all eternity?

"Humans were created good."

If that were so, then you would not also be telling me that people are rotten and deserving of hell. You blame it all on us, of course, and claim that once we were created "good" the capacity for evil was also created, which we chose, but this is not correct. "Good" does not entail the necessity of evil, as you concede by claiming that heaven exists and that the world will not have evil in the future. Further, god would have known that evil would have existed and did nothing to prevent it. Instead, he made sure that it propagated to all of us through original sin, a condition that he placed on us and could have easily lifted in the interests of fairness and justice (so that we would not be judged according to the sins of our forebears). (I know that you will claim it's simply a "consequence of Adam and Eve's actions," but you never get around to explaining just how it became a consequence of their actions - the obvious answer being that god set it up that way, meaning he is responsible for that state of affairs.)

Karla said...

I recommend you all check out Quixote's post on the Euthyphro dilemma.

The problem you all are having in using God's actions to defeat arguments for His goodness, is that you have no adequate substitute standard of good by which to judge Him.

We really must keep this discussion to the higher level of where does good come from and how can we know what is good? Because without that we can not look at these things being brought up as not good with any clarity.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"you have no adequate substitute standard of good by which to judge Him."

Actually, the standard we use most frequently when arguing with Christians is the one he set up in his book.

I've got Quixote's article bookmarked and will read it when I have more time and can give it the attention it is due.

Anonymous said...

"The problem you all are having in using God's actions to defeat arguments for His goodness, is that you have no adequate substitute standard of good by which to judge Him."

This makes no sense. You're saying that you set up a system, let's call it A, that supposedly comes from god. When I use that system A to impeach god as not good, you claim that I can't do that unless I propose a system B that I don't use and has no bearing on whether god lives up to system A? Do you realize why that's a bad argument?

Karla said...

"Actually, the standard we use most frequently when arguing with Christians is the one he set up in his book."

Not so. He is the standard. I've explained that He didn't create a standard of good. He is good. He is Himself all the time as Tozer puts it.

And Anon, yes if you want to say that goodness is not found in God then you do need to produce where it is found or dispense with the idea of goodness existing.

Anonymous said...

"Not so. He is the standard. I've explained that He didn't create a standard of good. He is good. He is Himself all the time as Tozer puts it."

Then you should answer the objection that I brought up that this is tautological and meaningless.

"And Anon, yes if you want to say that goodness is not found in God then you do need to produce where it is found or dispense with the idea of goodness existing."

No, I don't, not to show that god doesn't live up the standard that you have put forth. Either way, you've been informed multiple times that there can be and are standards of good that are external to god, or did you forget already? We could look at the dictionary definition and notice that it doesn't reference god. In fact, in 48 separate definitions, god is not mentioned once:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/good

Or, you and I can agree on a standard and see if god fits the bill. Generally, I would point to society and claim that we have indeed agreed upon a standard and impeaching god by that standard is no big task.

Anonymous said...

"And Anon, yes if you want to say that goodness is not found in God then you do need to produce where it is found or dispense with the idea of goodness existing."

BTW, can I just point out that this is a strawman? After having the absurdity of your argument pointed out, you've shifted the goal posts and attributed to me arguments that I haven't made in order to what? Simply admit that if you put forth a standard that we can use that standard to judge whether your conception of god lives up to it sans having a different standard on hand.

Karla said...

"No, I don't, not to show that god doesn't live up the standard that you have put forth."

This is meaningless. How can He fail to live up to Himself? You are not measuring Him by Him you are measuring Him by something external and are thus not judging Him by the Christian standard.



"Either way, you've been informed multiple times that there can be and are standards of good that are external to god, or did you forget already?"

I have been so informed, but you haven't backed that up sufficiently. The best you have come up with is that the standard is whatever humanity agrees upon and that is arbitrary. By what do we judge that standard as being good?

"We could look at the dictionary definition and notice that it doesn't reference god. In fact, in 48 separate definitions, god is not mentioned once:"

That doesn't mean anything. You would have to demonstrate that the dictionary was the measure of truth.


"Or, you and I can agree on a standard and see if god fits the bill. Generally, I would point to society and claim that we have indeed agreed upon a standard and impeaching god by that standard is no big task."

You have not demonstrated how that is a valid standard. The best you seem to come up with is that man is the measure of all things. But this is unsupported and an arbitrary standard. You can't create the standard by which to judge another. Unless a good exists there can be no judging something as not good or good. You can only say something is true if it lines up with what is true, not if you simply decide upon it as true no matter how many people may agree on the matter.

Anonymous said...

"This is meaningless. How can He fail to live up to Himself?"

No, what's meaningless is the tautology that you've set up that god = good. This does not tell us anything, and you keep avoiding this point. You may as well say that god is "huytrulel" for all the good it does us. Setting up a tautology is meaningless and tells us nothing.

Now, when you point to the Bible as some sort of guide, well there are moral rules outlined in it, and those are outdated according to out standards and god doesn't even live up to those.

"I have been so informed, but you haven't backed that up sufficiently. The best you have come up with is that the standard is whatever humanity agrees upon and that is arbitrary. By what do we judge that standard as being good?"

By evolutionary history and societal benefit. It's really not that hard. And, yes, it's a lot better backed up than your tautologies and begging the question vis a vis god. You simply assert that god exists and is good, but you certainly can't back that up. I, on the other hand, have empirical evidence.

"That doesn't mean anything. You would have to demonstrate that the dictionary was the measure of truth."

The dictionary is the standard by which we use words...most of us anyway. You have chosen not to use the dictionary. When we all use a common idea of what the word "good" means and you don't, it makes it incumbent upon you to define your words. You have chosen to do this by relying on tautologies that are meaningless. If you aren't using the agreed upon standard of the dictionary definition of the word, then you will have to define what you mean when you say that god is good. Additionally, you should inform us all as to why we should abandon the dictionary definition in favor of the one that you seem to be advocating.

"You have not demonstrated how that is a valid standard."

It is valid if we agree that it is valid. You live in this society/culture and have implicitly given approval to it for the most part - the part we are concerned with at least. I think we both agree that murder, genocide, indiscriminate killing, rape, etc. are wrong?

"The best you seem to come up with is that man is the measure of all things."

You haven't been listening, have you? Reality plays a part in it, as does society/culture and evolutionary histories. If we didn't have a conception of not killing each other being a good thing, then our clans would have fallen apart and we would not have survived as a species. Fortunately for us, group dynamics have been in play for mammals for a long time and we've inherited that idea of keeping the herd/pack intact.

"But this is unsupported and an arbitrary standard."

Sorry, but empirical reality is not arbitrary or unsupported. Appeals to an unevidenced god or tautologies, however, are.

"Unless a good exists there can be no judging something as not good or good."

So you keep saying, but that is simply not the case. I'm sorry that you are not able and/or willing to actually view the evidence and line up your beliefs in accord with reality. Even if everything is relative and arbitrary, I can still judge god.

BTW, this brings up something that you've not answered, and that is the objection that you throw around that we can't judge god as evil because we lack the knowledge that he has. I've pointed out that you similarly can't judge god as good if you use that argument, and you've ignored that point. Care to address it now?

Anonymous said...

Karla,
Way back on February 17, 2009 7:15 AM I raised the observation of your tautology. You never answered that. Before you claim that you did, I invite you to go back through the subsequent comments and show me where you "answered" it. If you concede that you didn't answer the objections raised, then perhaps you could answer them now. I noted how your definition is tautological and how it doesn't define anything, and I noted how your assertion that humans were good before the fall would be erroneous due to your own tautology.

Karla said...

”No, what's meaningless is the tautology that you've set up that god = good. This does not tell us anything, and you keep avoiding this point. You may as well say that god is "huytrulel" for all the good it does us. Setting up a tautology is meaningless and tells us nothing.”

Ah, are you asking for a concrete set of rules that outline “the good” instead of a personal divine nature of “goodness?” If so, it would seem you are asking for something that cannot exist unless rooted in an ultimate goodness.


”Now, when you point to the Bible as some sort of guide, well there are moral rules outlined in it, and those are outdated according to out standards and god doesn't even live up to those.”

The rules in the Bible were for two purposes. 1) An external guideline for protecting our hearts and physical selves and 2) an external measuring stick to show that we are not living up to the good and are thus in need of God’s divine grace/salvation

All that He says and decrees is good because of His goodness. He cannot decree something un-good, because He would be ceasing to be Himself to do so. All that He does is the right thing to do because He is righteous.

Is it not good for good to win over evil? If God wiped out an evil people, would this not be good triumphing over wickedness. If God metes out what is deserved, is this not good? If God in His goodness gives mercy is this not good? You must have an anchor for goodness. God is that anchor. His nature is where goodness is found and anything that is good is good because it is in Him. We are made righteous not by any works, but by being in Him because that is where righteousness is found. We cannot find it anywhere else. We cannot find the anchor for goodness anywhere else. The only reason we have any moral compass is because it is rooted in Him and we are made in His image.


”By evolutionary history and societal benefit. It's really not that hard. And, yes, it's a lot better backed up than your tautologies and begging the question vis a vis god. You simply assert that god exists and is good, but you certainly can't back that up. I, on the other hand, have empirical evidence.”

You can show that all throughout history we have been people who have morality, but you cannot show how that came to be so scientifically. You can show that we made what is beneficial the good and what is not beneficial to our survival the bad, but you cannot show why we ought to choice the good. Or why some sacrifice their own survival for another. Nor does this explain why so many people do what is not good. If we have evolved to know what is good for society why do so many people only do what is good for themselves and many people do what is not good even for themselves.

"That doesn't mean anything. You would have to demonstrate that the dictionary was the measure of truth."

”The dictionary is the standard by which we use words...most of us anyway. You have chosen not to use the dictionary. When we all use a common idea of what the word "good" means and you don't, it makes it incumbent upon you to define your words. You have chosen to do this by relying on tautologies that are meaningless. If you aren't using the agreed upon standard of the dictionary definition of the word, then you will have to define what you mean when you say that god is good. Additionally, you should inform us all as to why we should abandon the dictionary definition in favor of the one that you seem to be advocating.”

I accept that the dictionary is the agreed standard of the meaning of a word. I just don’t see the dictionary as infallible. However, since you bring it up as a standard you should consider the following:

It seems you overlooked the etymology of the word “good.”

[Middle English, from Old English gōd; see ghedh- in Indo-European roots.]

Also it’s first definition “morally excellent; virtuous; righteous”

God would be the only one that would qualify as “morally excellent, virtuous, and righteous”


”You haven't been listening, have you? Reality plays a part in it, as does society/culture and evolutionary histories. If we didn't have a conception of not killing each other being a good thing, then our clans would have fallen apart and we would not have survived as a species. Fortunately for us, group dynamics have been in play for mammals for a long time and we've inherited that idea of keeping the herd/pack intact.”

That would only explain why we have laws and rules based on what is beneficial to society. It does not explain morality and the nature of good and evil. It doesn’t explain guilt and the internal understanding of morality. It doesn’t explain why we need counseling when we have things messed up in our lives and the depths of emotional and heart pains that we deal with when we do wrong or when we have been wronged.


”Sorry, but empirical reality is not arbitrary or unsupported. Appeals to an unevidenced god or tautologies, however, are.”



Karla Said "Unless a good exists there can be no judging something as not good or good."

Anon said ”So you keep saying, but that is simply not the case. I'm sorry that you are not able and/or willing to actually view the evidence and line up your beliefs in accord with reality.”

Dito.

“Even if everything is relative and arbitrary, I can still judge god.”

You keep claiming that.

”BTW, this brings up something that you've not answered, and that is the objection that you throw around that we can't judge god as evil because we lack the knowledge that he has. I've pointed out that you similarly can't judge god as good if you use that argument, and you've ignored that point. Care to address it now?”

No I said we can’t judge Him by any other standard than Himself, and He is always good. When we see something He does, and think it is not good, we can realize we don’t see the whole picture and trust that He knows what is best. I don’t judge God as good. I posit that God must be good to be God and for us to have an anchor of goodness. I don’t need to see the whole picture to know He is good.

Karla said...

Anon stated: You've reduced the definition of "good" to a meaningless tautology. By this definition, god may very well be "good" but what that means for our actions, we can not say...at best.

At worst, it would mean that we are not good, since we are not god. Everything that is not god would be not good. So, your statement that what god created was all good would be incorrect, because what god created was not god."

Yes anything separate from God would be not-good. However, when things are restored to being properly aligned in Him it becomes good and righteous whether we are talking about the natural creation or humans. We don't become good by following rules of goodness. We become good be being in God. All of creation was created good and was in God in every meaning of "in" not just spatially positioned but spiritually aligned. Then when humanity chose to do what is not of God we fell from that spiritual alignment. Jesus provided not only for mankind to return to our rightful place spiritually in God, but He provided for all creation to be redeemed and restored to goodness.

"Further, instead of using the word, "good" you may as well use any combination of letters, symbols, etc. since you aren't talking about what we have defined as "good" in the dictionary. You've equivocated the definitions."

Good is not defined as a system of rules, but as a nature of righteousness.

Anonymous said...

"Ah, are you asking for a concrete set of rules that outline “the good” instead of a personal divine nature of “goodness?”"

No, I'm asking for a non-tautological definition. Saying that good is defined as "god" means nothing. We have a definition of good as outlined in many sources, so I suggest we use that, yet you keep saying that we shouldn't use that and should abide by your tautology instead.

"If so, it would seem you are asking for something that cannot exist unless rooted in an ultimate goodness."

This is just nonsense. I don't need an ultimate source of soccer in order to devise rules for the sport.

"The rules in the Bible were for two purposes. 1) An external guideline for protecting our hearts and physical selves and 2) an external measuring stick to show that we are not living up to the good and are thus in need of God’s divine grace/salvation"

So, are they rules guiding moral behavior? Yes or no.

"All that He says and decrees is good because of His goodness. He cannot decree something un-good, because He would be ceasing to be Himself to do so. All that He does is the right thing to do because He is righteous.:"

That's what you continually assert, but you always fail to take the next step to actually see if that works in practice. If god decrees that we should commit genocide, then that should be "good" right? According to you it is. So, is genocide ever good? You've become a moral relativist.

"Is it not good for good to win over evil? If God wiped out an evil people, would this not be good triumphing over wickedness."

The ends do not justify the means. This is especially true for a being that has no need to resort to violence.

"If God metes out what is deserved, is this not good? If God in His goodness gives mercy is this not good?"

I have yet to see you resolve the dilemma about us receiving what we don't deserve (mercy) and how that fits with perfect justice which would demand that everyone receive exactly what they deserve.

"You must have an anchor for goodness. God is that anchor."

You keep saying that, but simply repeating yourself doesn't make it any more true. You have to demonstrate why your tautology makes sense.

"The only reason we have any moral compass is because it is rooted in Him and we are made in His image."

Except that we have empirical evidence that it evolved in us and no evidence that it came from this god of yours.

"You can show that all throughout history we have been people who have morality, but you cannot show how that came to be so scientifically."

This is more nonsense, because it is science that we use to show such things. We can also show that other animals have similar tendencies and moral behaviors, which is empirical evidence for our morality evolving. What evidence do you have?

"You can show that we made what is beneficial the good and what is not beneficial to our survival the bad, but you cannot show why we ought to choice the good."

You might want to think about this sentence...

Thought about it yet? OK, if what is beneficial is good, why not do that?

"Or why some sacrifice their own survival for another."

Um, evolution does explain it. We see this behavior in other primates and mammals. Ditto for the rest of your list.

"I accept that the dictionary is the agreed standard of the meaning of a word. I just don’t see the dictionary as infallible."

I'm not saying it's infallible. What I'm saying is that using our agreed upon standard, we can say that god is not good, unless you can find an entry in the dictionary that says that genocide is good.

"It seems you overlooked the etymology of the word “good.”"

As it turns out, language also evolves...or were you unaware of that fact as well?

"Also it’s first definition “morally excellent; virtuous; righteous”

God would be the only one that would qualify as “morally excellent, virtuous, and righteous”"

This would be called begging the question, as you're simply asserting that which you are trying to show.

"That would only explain why we have laws and rules based on what is beneficial to society. It does not explain morality and the nature of good and evil."

Yeah, actually it does. I've led you to the water, now it's time for you to drink. As a society, we see what works and what doesn't and we attach labels such as "good" and "evil" to certain actions, behaviors, etc.

"Dito."

Wow, what a great retort that completely wowed me and made me say, "Wow, that Karla really got me there." If you wish to ignore empirical evidence in favor of your imagination, you'll continue to make ignorant statements that are nothing more than non sequitor.

"No I said we can’t judge Him by any other standard than Himself, and He is always good."

IOW, you're relying on your tautology that god = good, so you aren't judging so much as expressing a "truth" that you have defined as such. Unfortunately that is a logical fallacy. You still have this human concept of "good" that you are throwing around (hence the reason I'm pushing you so hard on this tautology) that you are conflating with your made-up definition. If you resort to any non-tautological means of saying that god is good, you're making a judgement just as much as if I say that god is not good. This is the sense you are speaking of when you say:

"When we see something He does, and think it is not good, we can realize we don’t see the whole picture and trust that He knows what is best."

Yet, the problem with this is that you are trying to use a non-tautological sense of "good" and arguing that we can't say god is not good due to a lack of information. But, you can't cite a lack of information as grounds to excuse all of god's actions while simultaneously saying that you have enough information to know that god is good. You're trying to have it both ways times two now! Not only are you claiming that you can judge god as good but I can't make a judgement of god, but also that you can define the word "good" as you see fit for the situation that you find yourself in.

"I don’t judge God as good. I posit that God must be good to be God and for us to have an anchor of goodness."

And, this leads you back to meaningless tautology. There's also an additional problem in that it's a non sequitor. There's no logical necessity that god be good in order to be god.

"Yes anything separate from God would be not-good."

Then, when god created humans they were not good, since they were not "god." That's where your tautology gets you. You can talk about "aligning" with god, but the problem is that even if you are aligned with god, you are not "god" therefore you are not "good." Which brings up an interesting contradiction, as you earlier said:

"All that He says and decrees is good because of His goodness. He cannot decree something un-good, because He would be ceasing to be Himself to do so. All that He does is the right thing to do because He is righteous."

This creates an untenable situation. If god can not do anything that is not good, how did he create creatures that are not good? And, remember, by your own definition that god = good, not god = not good, so anything that is not god is not good.

"We don't become good by following rules of goodness."

You seem confused because I'm not talking about rules of goodness, I'm talking about definitions of words. Please define the term "good" in a way that has meaning.

"Good is not defined as a system of rules, but as a nature of righteousness."

Meaning what? What is a "nature of righteousness?"

Karla said...

Check this out. Also be sure to read Quixote's post on "the good."

William Lane Craig

Anonymous said...

I thought of something that might help clear up your confusion.

When you make the statement that there can be no good without god, what you are really trying to claim is that we need to have an absolute standard of goodness in order to define anything as good, as the supposed alternative would be moral relativity. So, you're not really arguing to god so much as you are arguing for moral absolutes with god as the source.

This, however, ends up being self-defeating in your case, however, because god does not live up to those moral absolutes. You end up positing a moral relativity that doesn't jibe with your moral absolutism.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...you keep saying that "science can't explain X" without telling us how religion explains it. This reduces to a god of the gaps argument whereby you default to god in the absence of a satisfactory explanation. This, is logically fallacious, however, in that you can only conclude god if you can give reasons for that conclusion or if you can rule out everything else. Since it is impossible to rule out everything else, simply taunting (erroneously, but whatever) that we don't have a current explanation doesn't get you any closer to proving that "goddidit" is actually viable or correct.

Karla said...

"I thought of something that might help clear up your confusion.

When you make the statement that there can be no good without god, what you are really trying to claim is that we need to have an absolute standard of goodness in order to define anything as good, as the supposed alternative would be moral relativity. So, you're not really arguing to god so much as you are arguing for moral absolutes with god as the source."

First I must say I have never philosophized so deeply on this topic so I am learning both your argument and my response to it as I go along. I appreciate your clarification.

I am arguing that there necessarily must be "a good" by which to measure anything as good or not good and that good is the nature of God. If there was a good greater than God, God would not be God. Though I don't think I am arguing for moral absolutes, because once again that suggests an external standard of goodness outside of God. What I mean is that I am not arguing that we determine morality as conforming to a law or system of laws, but that we determine what is right by that which conforms to God's nature. He has provided us some external precepts in Scripture and He has given us an internal moral compass to know that we are falling short of Him. The Bible is clear that "falling short of the glory of God" is what constitutes sin. Thus "all have sinned." (Let's hold off on the "this is unfair" and just consider it aside from that at this point, we can come back to that later). It's not a relative standard, because He is always Himself. He is the absolute. If He needed to change, He wouldn't be God.

Mostly I starting with the assertion that God exist and that He must necessarily be the standard of good. However, on the flip side, to argue to His existence we have this understanding of good and evil and we can differentiate between the two and that needs explaining. I don't posit God because of anything science says or doesn't say. It isn't a God of the gaps thing. It is a logically plausible explanation. I do not think all other explanations need to be exhausted to consider it. I have given far more support than "God did it" in my explanation. Surely you see that even if you think it all rubbish.


"This, however, ends up being self-defeating in your case, however, because god does not live up to those moral absolutes. You end up positing a moral relativity that doesn't jibe with your moral absolutism."

Again, He is the absolute. The only absolute He must live up to, is Himself. He is not relative, He is unchanging. He is always good. Always Himself.

I have some more thoughts on this subject, but I need to think them out a little more before articulating them further. So I'll stop here for now.

Anonymous said...

"I am arguing that there necessarily must be "a good" by which to measure anything as good or not good and that good is the nature of God."

That's what I said, yes. Only you've skipped over the steps.

"If there was a good greater than God, God would not be God."

A la Euthyphro, Epicurus, etc. I'm not convinced, however. The god that you posit would not exist, but there's no reason to say that god must be good in order to be god.

"Though I don't think I am arguing for moral absolutes, because once again that suggests an external standard of goodness outside of God."

You are, unless you are saying that god can decree that rape is good.

"What I mean is that I am not arguing that we determine morality as conforming to a law or system of laws, but that we determine what is right by that which conforms to God's nature."

Let's not worry about laws or systems of laws...I haven't been talking about that at all, so you can stop bringing it up.

"The Bible is clear that "falling short of the glory of God" is what constitutes sin."

If we can not be god, then we can not be good enough in this sense, meaning the standard is impossibly high. Do you agree with that?

"Mostly I starting with the assertion that God exist and that He must necessarily be the standard of good."

And, I dispute both of those.

"However, on the flip side, to argue to His existence we have this understanding of good and evil and we can differentiate between the two and that needs explaining."

We also have this understanding of "up" and "down" and we can differentiate between the two and that needs explaining. Don't forget that we differentiate between "light" and "dark" or any number of other things. That we, as humans, make words and concepts that describe the world doesn't actually need explaining. That we have moral ideas does, which is easily explained by looking at evolution. Again, we can see moral behavior in other animals. How would you explain that in your religion?

"I don't posit God because of anything science says or doesn't say. It isn't a God of the gaps thing. It is a logically plausible explanation."

Then, what do you use to put forth god as an answer? And, yeah, it's possible, but so are an infinite number of other possible explanations up to and including FSM, invisible, pink unicorns, leprechauns, etc. I see no reason to preference your supposed fanciful notion over any other god or supernatural critter or anything else that anyone can dream up. And, I don't see why we should resort to supernatural explanations sans evidence for the supernatural and in spite of evidence for natural causes.

"I do not think all other explanations need to be exhausted to consider it."

Actually, without positive evidence for your god, you would necessarily need to rule out all other possibilities in order to conclude god.

"I have given far more support than "God did it" in my explanation. Surely you see that even if you think it all rubbish."

No, honestly I don't. Give me an example. All I've seen so far is you denying that I've explained where morality comes from and saying "therefore goddidit" which is god of the gaps. I've also seen you make assertions that god must exist or else we wouldn't have concepts of good and evil, but nothing to back it up. Where is the positive evidence as opposed to arguments from incredulity?

"Again, He is the absolute. The only absolute He must live up to, is Himself. He is not relative, He is unchanging. He is always good. Always Himself."

Is genocide good? god has commanded genocide, so it must be, unless you are not an moral absolutist, but you seem to indicate that you are by saying that murder and rape are always wrong. Can we place genocide in that category? Besides, god has ordered that his children "take" the young girls of some of the tribes they conquered, which is basically an order to rape them. This, according to your tautology, must be good, but you also contend that rape is bad. So, which is it?

"I have some more thoughts on this subject, but I need to think them out a little more before articulating them further. So I'll stop here for now."

What you should do is give me a non-tautological definition of god and good. As I keep saying, it's meaningless to say god = good and then start talking about how god is good because he's defined that way. The way you define your terms is still very much in the dark, because you've essentially made both the terms meaningless in a conversation with anyone outside of your head. As I said before, the way you define things, god may very well be good, but it doesn't seem to line up with how the rest of humanity uses the word "good." So, you need to clarify your definitions and show how they align with how we generally use the terms you are using (in the dictionary sense). Otherwise, I propose you stop using the word "good" (thus preventing you from conflating) and make up some other word to use instead.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"We also have this understanding of 'up' and 'down' and we can differentiate between the two and that needs explaining."

You nearly made me spit tea all over my screen. ;-)

The light comparison is particularly appropriate given that God is described as the light.

Anonymous said...

Evolution and morality:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB411.html


Mike,
I'm glad someone else found it amusing.

Karla said...

Anon, you use evolution to explain why we do things beneficial to our survival, but how does it explain why we don't do things beneficial to our survival? How does it explain the existence of evil? How does it explain how mankind often does the thing we believe to be wrong?

Karla said...

"If we can not be god, then we can not be good enough in this sense, meaning the standard is impossibly high. Do you agree with that?"

Correct. Only God elevating us to be in Him and divinely removing our unrighteousness can we become good again. We must be in Him relationally to be righteous. This is good news, because we do not have to meet the impossible standard, He met it for us, because He is the only one who can. He paid the price for us, so we do not have to.

Karla said...

"Is genocide good? god has commanded genocide, so it must be, unless you are not an moral absolutist, but you seem to indicate that you are by saying that murder and rape are always wrong. Can we place genocide in that category?"

I don't believe killing is always wrong. I believe all that God has done, is doing, and will do is good. That does not mean that indiscriminate killing or the annihilation of a people group is justifiable by man. But that God would not have done it if it was not the right thing to do in the context of the situation.



"Besides, god has ordered that his children "take" the young girls of some of the tribes they conquered, which is basically an order to rape them. This, according to your tautology, must be good, but you also contend that rape is bad. So, which is it?"

That does not mean they were raped. That means they were spared and integrated into their society. This does not suggest rape at all.

Karla said...

One last thing, it's meaningless not to have an absolute/ultimate standard of good.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, you use evolution to explain why we do things beneficial to our survival, but how does it explain why we don't do things beneficial to our survival?"

Did you actually read the link?

"Correct."

How is holding someone to a standard that you know is impossible at all just? Would you find it just if you were to take a class and the professor said, "The only way to pass my class is to be able to read my mind?"

"This is good news, because we do not have to meet the impossible standard, He met it for us, because He is the only one who can. He paid the price for us, so we do not have to."

How is that good news? OK, let's say that I tell you that I'm going to judge you and torture you unless you can correctly identify the number that I'm thinking of. When you (most likely) get it wrong, I now claim that I'm justified in torturing you for eternity. This is what god is doing.

Ah, but you claim that it's OK, because god gave us an out, right? First off, it's immoral to put us in that situation of needing an out to begin with. Second, it's not an out that is available to all, else all would use it to avoid eternal torture (no one would choose eternal torture). IOW, it would be like me saying, well, I am completely justified in torturing you for eternity, but I guess I won't because I decided not to afterall, but I am going to torture all these other people. This you would praise? Is it really praise-worthy to ultimately decide NOT to do horrible things to someone? Should I be praised for every day that I don't go on a killing rampage?

"I don't believe killing is always wrong."

I didn't say killing. Please don't make strawmen of my arguments. I said genocide, which is exactly what god has done and ordered done. There is no escaping that.

"I believe all that God has done, is doing, and will do is good."

Using what definition?

"That does not mean that indiscriminate killing or the annihilation of a people group is justifiable by man."

Moral relativity. What is moral for god is also moral for man if morality is absolute.

"But that God would not have done it if it was not the right thing to do in the context of the situation."

If you claim that I don't have enough information to make the statement that god was wrong to commit genocide, how do you justify saying that god was right to do it?

"That does not mean they were raped. That means they were spared and integrated into their society. This does not suggest rape at all."

How low you must sink to defend god's actions when you have to pretend that that's not what happened or when you have to use euphemisms like "integrated into their society."

"One last thing, it's meaningless not to have an absolute/ultimate standard of good."

Does this mean that you aren't going to clarify your definition of good to something that has meaning? And, no, it's not meaningless if one does not have an absolute standard of good. Do you think it is meaningless to talk about the flavor of something unless there is an absolute standard of flavor? How about stinkiness? Is god the absolute standard of stink in order for you to talk about how much something stinks? (I imagine that you will claim that god is the absolute standard of pleasant aromas and anything that stinks is removed from god or not "in alignment" with him?) Do we need an absolute standard of "red" in order to describe the redness of an object? Please spare me your tired assertions that are full of holes and actually address the fact that you are using a tautology.

Karla said...

I have not posited a moral absolute outside of God.

All are able to find salvation in God. All have the same free choice to accept His free salvation. There is no injustice in this.

I did follow your link and I didn't see that question addressed of why man doesn't do what is good. Maybe I missed something?

Your use of the word good doesn't have a root in anything concrete and yet you say my use of it is meaningless. This doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

"I have not posited a moral absolute outside of God."

You've posited moral absolutes and also argued for relative morality. You need to make up your mind.

"All are able to find salvation in God. All have the same free choice to accept His free salvation. There is no injustice in this."

Sigh. Do I have to go over this again? If that were true, we would all be in heaven after we die. The Bible says otherwise. In fact, it says that most will go to hell. Does that sound like justice to you?

"I did follow your link and I didn't see that question addressed of why man doesn't do what is good. Maybe I missed something?"

Because evolution doesn't say that you will always do what is "good." It says that forming group cohesion for survival purposes gave rise to moral behavior in societies. This is pretty well shown. You're tilting at windmills to deny it.

"Your use of the word good doesn't have a root in anything concrete and yet you say my use of it is meaningless. This doesn't make sense."

IOW, instead of clarifying your position, you'll simply insist that no clarification is needed, even though I've pointed out that it obviously is. And, yes, I do have a grounding for the use of the word, "Good." It's called the dictionary. When I use the word "Good" you can assume that I mean what is written in the dictionary as the meaning.

OTOH, you are claiming that the meaning of "Good" is "god." That is what is meaningless, because no one but you knows what that means, and you refuse to define your terms. Instead you continue to blather that we need an absolute standard to define words, etc. We don't need an absolute standard to form a word and define it. Do you think that every word in the dictionary has some sort of absolute standard? That's preposterous, yet it's what you are claiming here by claiming that we must have absolute standards before we can define our terms.

And, to make matters worse, even if we accept that we have an absolute standard for good in god, we still don't know what that means! Unless you are willing to actually define your terms in ways that are understandable to someone who is not you, then all you are doing is jabbering mindlessly. That is why I called you out on your tautology, which you still have yet to answer to or face up to.

Karla said...

No, I am not saying we need an absolute standard to define words in general. I am saying that goodness needs to be grounded in something solid. Not the word "goodness" but goodness itself.

You mentioned our understanding of "up" and "down." A compass always points north, correct? If it sometimes pointed south or west we would not be able to find our way by it. If the stars moved they could not be used for directional purposes. Someone relying on the stars for directional points would be lost at sea if they were not fixed points. Someone relying on a compass in the woods would loose their way if that compass was not pointing north.

We have fixed standards and points in many things. Why is it so odd to posit a fixed standard of good?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Because good is not an object?

Karla said...

No, it's rooted in a Being. I expound on this in my new post.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"No, I am not saying we need an absolute standard to define words in general. I am saying that goodness needs to be grounded in something solid. Not the word "goodness" but goodness itself."

IOW, you're just special pleading. Why does "up" not need to be grounded, or does it? How about "stinkiness"?

"You mentioned our understanding of "up" and "down." A compass always points north, correct?"

No, actually it doesn't. Stand on the North Pole and you'll notice that it doesn't point to North unless you turn the thing so that the "N" is pointed to magnetic north, which is actually south of the North Pole.

"If the stars moved they could not be used for directional purposes."

From our point of view, they do move.

"We have fixed standards and points in many things. Why is it so odd to posit a fixed standard of good?"

We have "fixed" standards based on reality, nature, and what we observe, not on some supernatural agent. You're conflating here.