Episode 046: The Non-moral Goodness of God

apologetics Philosophy of Religion podcast Theology / Biblical Studies

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

What do we mean when we say that God is good? If I’m right, we shouldn’t mean that God is morally good.

In Episode 46 of the podcast, I explain why it’s best not to think of God as morally good, and why it’s also best to maintain a clear distinction between moral and non-moral goodness, and in doing so deflate some objections to divine command ethics.

 

 

Similar Posts:

If you liked this post, feel free to help support this project.

{ 125 comments… add one }
  • BenYachov July 24, 2012, 6:53 am

    Oh I am so tuning into this when I get off work!

    A topic I have been screaming about on the blogs and pissing off Atheists for years now.

    NICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nick July 24, 2012, 3:22 pm

    In the podcast you comment about ideas for future articles etc. Is this the best place to do that?

  • Glenn July 24, 2012, 6:47 pm

    Nick, if you have any suggestions, use the “contact us” button over on the right. 🙂

  • Roy July 25, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Hey Glenn!

    This was a great lil’ episode. Love your work.

    Just wanted to clarify are you moving more towards a divine command theory or away from a divine command theory of morality?

    Roy

  • Glenn July 25, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Roy, when I said that I hold a divine command theory “less tentatively” than before, I mean that I hold it more confidently than I once did.

  • Roy July 26, 2012, 5:35 am

    Listening to WLC’s Defenders podcast and it’s just on the section on the argument from evil … because of this episode of SHTMLF, listening to him is like running your fingernails on a chalkboard every time he says ‘God has a morally sufficient reason’ … I’m not sure if I should be grateful for this Glenn — I hate that sound 😛

  • Frank July 26, 2012, 12:26 pm

    I’ve just finished Podcast 46 and I can see why few will ever engage in a conversation on philosophy.

    I found your expression, “I can say whatever I wish because I’m the boss” (or words to that effect) at the beginning of your podcast most salient to your subject and I guess that characterizes what you say in the podcast itself.

    I once asked William Lane Craig whether ‘objective’ moral values originated from God. You see my argument is, if God is the originator, then moral objectivity can’t exist by virtue of the fact that objectivity can only exist outside of intelligence itself. A case-in-point would be dictators like Saddam Hussain, who believed he acted for ‘God,’ believed their actions as a whim. What you said in the podcast, therefore didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    You seem to be saying that Divine Command Theory doesn’t require morality, therefore any who would worship such a god would likely simply be under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome rather than able to make wise choices.

    When Abraham asked God whether he would destroy the innocent along with the wicked (outside Sodom and Gomorrah) God politely told Abraham to mind his own business. God knew that his friend couldn’t make a moral judgement on the inhabitants of the two cities and so God wiped everyone out including the children.

    Herein lies the problem: It is morally repugnant to execute the innocent along with the ‘wicked.’ Why? Because if the innocent are involved, the act is murder, based on the fact that babies and children are incapable of moral thought, and therefore, deeds.

    Of course, being ‘born into sin’ can be invoked as a ‘crime,’ but this makes no moral sense. In fact, we could say that if we believe in Sola Scriptura (Biblical inerrancy) then the character God’s acts were those of a psychotic.

    If a warring tribe attacks an African village and kills everyone this would be considered by most to be a psychotic act. Recently we had the ‘Batman’ killings in America. Obviously psycho killers believe they have ‘sufficient’ moral reason’ to do what they do, but society doesn’t buy into such a philosophy.

    God is not psychotic by reason that paradise is at least promised as an eventuality, but who would you prefer as your neighbour, Anders Breivik (Norway) or Abraham Lincoln?

    I find myself questioning your Christianity if you persist in stating that God is not necessarily moral when he does what he does.

    One final point, William Lane Craig argues that the children of Canaan were not hard-done-by because their death meant a ‘fast-tracking’ to heaven. The Bible, however, says this can’t be so. Taking the example of Sodom and Gormorrah’s judgement, Jude 7 says: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

    Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess, means the innocent and the guilty get their lives snuffed out forever.”

    Oh, and there is no Biblical evidence that…

  • Roy July 26, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Frank

    Just a few initial thoughts … I think Glenn was saying God is non-moral (not immoral) and morality for humans is a result of God’s commands to us. However, saying God is non-moral does not exclude his nature of love, justice and beauty, etc which would be reflected in his commands.

    Why do you say objectivity can only exist outside of intelligence itself?

    These are not answers to your questions … just some extra data to bring into the picture:
    – 2 Peter 2:4-10 talks about how God can rescue the righteous (specifically Lot and his family – presumably the others weren’t innocent as you say).
    – As far as I understand, Sola scriptura is not the same as Biblical inerrancy
    – Glenn is not an inerrantist
    – God also brings severe judgement on Israel (Numbers 25; Joshua 7:16-24). The Joshua one may have included young children too.

    Glenn I was actually going to ask you about some of these more difficult passages (eg Numbers 31). I’ve read and heard a few things on it, but haven’t heard the clear and convincing version yet (ie the Glenn Peoples version).

  • Glenn July 26, 2012, 5:32 pm

    I found your expression, “I can say whatever I wish because I’m the boss” (or words to that effect) at the beginning of your podcast most salient to your subject and I guess that characterizes what you say in the podcast itself.

    Except I didn’t say that I can say whatever I want. I said that I can use the podcast to talk about whatever issues I want because I’m the boss.

    I skim read the rest of your comment, and you seem not to have listened to the podcast. Come back only if and when you’re interested in conversing in good faith. And if you’re going to comment on what I have said, listen to it first.

  • Frank July 26, 2012, 8:26 pm

    Hi Roy, thanks for the reply. Tell me, is this not a declaration under divine inspiration as to the moral perfection of God?

    “I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
    Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
    He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
    and all his ways are just.
    A faithful God who does no wrong,
    upright and just is he.”

    Deuteronomy 32:3-4
    New International Version (NIV)

    If the writer of this blog is not saying God is moral, then what is he?

    My thought about moral objectivity is this:

    The Encarta Dictionary defines objectivity as: the ability to perceive or describe something without being influenced by personal emotions or prejudices”

    Obviously God reacts very much with his emotions when flailing against his ‘enemies’ throughout the Old Testament. There can be no doubt that the morals this character uses is not, therefore objective.

    William Lane Craig describes ‘objective morals’ as something being right or wrong whether humans believe it to be so. However, for morals as a universal concept to be truly objective they must be outside all emotion and, yes, intelligence, otherwise the actions are not objective.

    The Bible makes it quite clear that God responds and reacts according to the faithfulness or not of ‘his people.’ There can be no question of any objectivity here.

    Babies and children were ‘executed’ in sodom and Gomorrah, some Canaanite cities, Jerusalem 70CE, and later presumably in Revelation when God brings judgement on mankind. If it is moral to treat the innocent like this, how could the Mosaic laws on abortion and accidental death of unborn babies have any meaning?

    Is it any more moral to destroy a culture for sacrificing children to pagan gods and then offering up the innocent children of the pagans as spoils of war?

    Thanks again.

  • Roy July 26, 2012, 10:52 pm

    Frank. Thanks for your comments. Would you mind making amends with Glenn before we continue our conversation? It feels awkward talking when our host has been offended.

  • Glenn July 26, 2012, 11:13 pm

    Don’t mind me. I’m quite happy not to talk about the episode with anyone. I just don’t want to follow Frank down the path of talking about the same old, without him actually wanting to say anything about the podcast (and when I can tell he didn’t listen to it). This isn’t a forum to just introduce whatever a person wants to talk about, and to set the topic of the discussion. We’ve met before and I’ve seen it before. I’m not offended, I’ve just grown impatient with it, so figured it was best not to engage.

  • Sandra July 26, 2012, 11:31 pm

    You seem to be saying that Divine Command Theory doesn’t require morality, therefore any who would worship such a god would likely simply be under the influence of Stockholm Syndrome rather than able to make wise choices.

    Frank, I’m with Glenn on this. You clearly did not listen to this podcast. Glenn specifically commented on whether or not there are reasons to obey God. Your comment here shows that you just don’t know what he said, or you wouldn’t have said this. Let me guess: You pressed play, listened to the first few sentences, got sick of listening to others, and posted your canned tirade against the Bible.

  • Frank July 27, 2012, 7:39 am

    Roy, I have attempted to do so with Glenn on a number of occasions. However, our gracious host has also on a number of occasions preferred the ad hominem attack to reason. Frankly (no pun intended), I think the boot is on the other foot.

    My motive is to ask genuine questions of those I consider intelligent (there, will that do?)

    Do you have answers to my questions, Roy?

  • Frank July 27, 2012, 10:04 am

    “Let me guess: You pressed play, listened to the first few sentences, got sick of listening to others, and posted your canned tirade against the Bible.”

    Actually, yes, Sandra, you’re correct (but I did finish the podcast). Didn’t I say:

    “I’ve just finished Podcast 46 and I can see why few will ever engage in a conversation on philosophy.”?

    What do you take from this comment of mine?

  • Roy July 27, 2012, 11:58 am

    Okay Frank …

    Let me ask you a few questions first, just so I have a clearer understanding of your philosophy.

    1. What is the origin of the universe?
    2. Are there objective moral facts? If so, what makes them objective?
    3. Do we have objective meaning in life? What is it? If we do have objective meaning, then what makes it objective?
    4. What happens when we die?

    Now that you’ve listened to E46 – would you like to modify your statement at all before we talk in earnest?

  • Roy July 27, 2012, 11:59 am

    Actually, would be good to get part of your story too. What were some of your significant turning points? Were you a Christian at some point?

  • Glenn July 27, 2012, 8:13 pm

    “However, our gracious host has also on a number of occasions preferred the ad hominem attack to reason.”

    Frank, we both know there are no examples of me doing that to you. In the past I think I extended to you far more patience than many would. What is bothersome about your comments is that you don’t interact (even a little bit) with the content of the podcast episode, you just decide to commandeer the comments section for this episode to talk about whatever you wanted to. You haven’t made a single substantive observation about this episode, you’ve just launched into your “canned” (as Sandra put it) complaint about the Bible, which has nothing to do with this episode. If you feel the need to write posts on those other topics that interest you, start a blog. I recommend http://www.wordpress.com.

    If that’s the sort of observation on my part that you think is ad hominem, you’re mistaken. You coming along and telling fellow guests that I’m unintelligent – that’s ad hominem. Now you’re welcome to engage this topic, but otherwise I do ask why you’re here at all. You’ve effectively derailed actual discussion about this podcast episode at an early stage and undermined the possibility of genuine discussion on this issue in this thread. This is what happened in the past (and not “ad hominem” attacks on you by me at all). So I ask you to do one of two things: Actually interact with it in some meaningful way, or desist from commenting altogether. While you aren’t banned (nobody is), I am putting your comments into moderation to be reviewed before they appear. They will be approved if they are remotely on topic. Please exercise self control in responding to my request.

    EDIT: For those who wish to see the thread that Frank refers to, in which he alleges that I was engaging in ad hominem attacks on him, here it is.

  • Private July 28, 2012, 4:37 am

    Glenn, thank you so much for the show! I hadn’t heard anything from you in so long. I imagined that you had given up on podcasting and that would be tragic. I imagine that there are tons of people who have enjoyed, were challenged, learned and been turned on to new ideas by your show who are like me and aren’t big on talking about it. So, for the silent majority of listeners out there let me say… Thanks! Also, congradulations on stiring up those atheists. It means that you are enough of a threat for them to complain about! One more thing Glenn, I wonder if you ever debate, other then on Unbelievable? I’m not sure whether to put another question mark now… I would really love to hear you debate on conditionalism or on dualism which are two topics that I have found very interesting and have had trouble finding debates on. I did hear some of Chris Dates debates though on conditionalism and have found them to be extremely edifying. I also noticed that physicalism has been an issue in at least one of his debates. Perhaps you could do a podcast on how those issues intersect or a blog post maybe? I don’t know. Just a thought. Keep up the good work and God bless.

  • Glenn July 28, 2012, 9:55 am

    Private, I’ve had a few discussions on Unbelievable. I discussed God and morality with Arif Ahmed, I discussed physicalism and dualism with John Haldane, and more recently I discussed the evil God challenge with Stephen Law. I’m pleased you liked this episode. 🙂

  • Kevin July 28, 2012, 11:05 am

    Glenn, I liked the episode, but I’m still left with a question.

    You drew on Brian Davies to explain why the Bible uses evaluative terms to speak about God even though God isn’t strictly moral (he has no duties, a point I think you made inescapable).

    Could you say just a bit more about that? Davies said that all such language was about God’s covenant faithfulness towards Israel, but that doesn’t seem right to me. “Shall not the judge of the earth do what is right?” for example wasn’t even spoken in an Israelite context, and there just seem to be too many examples where God’s absolute righteousness is being exalted in a way that doesn’t obviously have only covenant keeping in mind.

    Thanks 🙂

  • Glenn July 28, 2012, 9:02 pm

    Kevin – fair comment. I think Davies goes a bit far in saying that all the biblical talk of God’s “righteousness” is bound up with God’s covenant with Israel, even though some of it clearly is.

    But apart from the response Davies offers to the observation about God being called righteous, I think there are a couple of others.

    First, even though the biblical writers (so say I) conceive of all morality (not that they would have used that term) originating in God’s commands and desires, they would nonetheless often have conceived of God, in his actions, as exemplifying what it looks like to live in accordance with those commands (whether God was required to or not). If God’s commands do reflect his good character as I have said, this makes sense. As a result, much of God’s “conduct” (I use that term loosely) will indeed conform to revealed standards of righteousness (e.g. telling the truth, upholding justice). So God can still be called “righteousness” (and not merely good) in that sense.

    Secondly, I think it would be a mistake to hold the biblical writers accountable to linguistic conventions that they in all probability weren’t familiar with. The enterprise of modern meta-ethics with all the distinctions it makes simply didn’t exist in biblical times (obviously), so to call God good, righteous, excellent, wonderful or any other number of things, could quite plausibly be done interchangeably. They weren’t as anal as I’m being about which word they might have used. What really matters is what they would have thought about God being subject to a higher law, and as far as I can see, there is no good indication that the biblical writers thought this.

  • Kevin July 29, 2012, 1:53 pm

    Thanks Glenn – I think that does make the case better than Davies’ argument alone. In fact I think that’s probably enough to answer the concern about biblical talk of God’s righteousness altogether. I think I’ve just changed my mind on this issue!

  • John Quin August 5, 2012, 11:46 pm

    Simply loved this episode. It cleared a lot of stuff up for me.

  • Cal August 6, 2012, 12:28 am

    Kevin & Glenn:

    Well in a sense, He is being faithful to Humanity by being the Good Judge. If one, in a bit of a Barthian way, understands that God’s Divine Council and Eternal Will was to be Christ and be for man (Mediator) then when God gives the promise (proto-evangelion) for Eve to crush the head of the serpent He is being faithful to His initial free choice. When He says He is judge of the whole earth, the right-setter, He is still faithful to that initial promise.

    His non-moral goodness and freedom was in, out of His excessive love, to create and be for His good creation. In that same way He is faithful and His moral goodness comes through in fulfilling the promise and covenants He makes.

  • Jim McNeely August 14, 2012, 4:36 pm

    I loved this episode, it happens to be something I’ve been thinking about. I think the nature of the fall is that our sense of the good is split, into the moral good and the aesthetic good. This is because we have acquired a taste for the forbidden, and so there is a world of required good that we don’t want. This is life under the rubric of the knowledge of good and evil! Much much more on this here if you are interested: two-kinds-of-good.

    We read this duality into God’s concept of the good, but God does not have this false dichotomy. This is the real solution to the ancient question of the Euthyphro Dilemma; we do not need to worry whether God does what is right because it is lawful or if what is lawful is right because God says so. God always acts from love with a singular and pure desire and this is always aesthetic AND moral at once. Much more here if interested: the-euthyphro-dilemma

    (I read your posting policy and I’m posting these two links because I think they sincerely add to the dialog, and I didn’t want to post a book-length post into the comments!)

  • Buzz Moonman August 15, 2012, 4:19 pm

    Roy says:

    July 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Let me ask a few questions…..

    1. What is the origin of the universe?

    2. Are there objective moral facts? If so, what makes them objective?

    3. Do we have objective meaning in life? What is it? If we do have objective meaning, then what makes it objective?

    4. What happens when we die?

    1. No one knows. At least not yet. Roy certainly doesn’t know. Current physics uses maths to tell us that Einstein’s equations should work on the other side of the big bang, where time is another dimension of space. Timeless space has energy and can create matter using methods described by those equations. Why does space have energy is the question. How does space manipulate energy? These are much better attempts at explanation than your goat herders’ wishful thinking in their understandably limited understanding of just about everything. At least everyone experiences space the same. It’s real. It’s not wishful thinking. It doesn’t require ifs and givens. And it’s far out and wondrous. Been outside and looked up recently?

    2. Yes there are. They are objective because they are measured against an objective natural foundation.

    3. We make the meaning in our life and we do it every day and that is the objective. As far as existence is concerned, Roy is of no matter (boom tish) to existence. To ask if you have a meaning in the scheme of the universe and existence is to wallow in the most extreme egomania. You are star dust Roy, you came from a star gone nova and you will return to dust to start the solar building process all over again. This recycling will happen until the universe is too cold to do this anymore. It’s no big deal. It’s not going to happen for a very long time. You won’t have to worry about it. Heck, our species won’t have to worry about it.

    4. We will cease to exist. It will be just like it was before we existed.

    Let me ask some questions

    1. What happened and what was it like before you existed?

    2. Why can’t you live with uncertainty? Have you tried philosophy? It will teach you how to live with uncertainty as that is one of its purposes.

    3. Why are you so special?

    4. What is eternity?

    5. What is morality?

    6. What is the purpose of morality?

    7. Ethics is not quite the same as morality. What’s the difference?

    8. Did morality exist before your god allegedly told Moses about it?

    9. Where did, for example, the Confucians get their (secular) morality from? Where did the Mayan, or the Mesopotamians, or the indigenous people of Australia, or Maori get their morality from?

  • Matthew Flannagan August 17, 2012, 3:55 pm

    “8. Did morality exist before your god allegedly told Moses about it?

    9. Where did, for example, the Confucians get their (secular) morality from? Where did the Mayan, or the Mesopotamians, or the indigenous people of Australia, or Maori get their morality from?”

    Why do skeptics always confuse the question of the basis of people’s knowledge or right and wrong with the question of the ontological foundations of moral obligations. Its not like the distinction isn’t spelled out in every philosophical discussion on the subject and widely appreciated in every other philosophical discipline.

  • Buzz Moonman August 22, 2012, 5:56 pm

    Part 1
    Matthew Flannagan says
    “Why do skeptics always confuse the question of the basis of people’s knowledge or right and wrong with the question of the ontological foundations of moral obligations. Its not like the distinction isn’t spelled out in every philosophical discussion on the subject and widely appreciated in every other philosophical discipline.”

    Oooooh. I’m devastated and haven’t been able to eat for minutes. Sounds like you’re saying we’re not intelligent enough to be impressed with the vagaries of your metadrifting speculating on speculations. Stupid secularists, its not as though it hasn’t been spelled out to us countless times and widely accepted by clever people all over the place. Golly gosh. You’ve really put me in my place. We do know what widely accepted means. Just like it’s widely accepted that Mohammad is the last prophet of god and also widely accepted that Islam is the only true religion and Christians should convert. Now get on your bike and head on down to the mosque. What other choice do you have? Mormanism? 🙂

    It looks like you’ve nailed a trifecta of fallacies in one short post. Well done.

    But I’m not confused, nor am I impressed with your speculations, because I have solid natural objective foundations for morality and moral obligation and you only have “ifs” and “givens” for your dodgy ontological foundation of wishful thinking.

    But back to the unanswered questions.

    Even if what you say was without dispute, which as you know, it isn’t, it is still no excuse for avoiding the questions the normal people who think ontology is something that happens at the dentist, have to face. Did the Dreamtimers 50,000 years ago have morality? How did they aquire it? What did they know of ontology and could they have had morality while being confused by the Rainbow Serpent banging on about ontological foundations. I reckon RS and the clever men would’ve got a wack with a nulla nulla if they’d fronted up at a corroboree with your academic excuse instead of dealing with the nuts and bolts of life.

    To say nothing of the other species of homo. Care to explain how Neanderthal aquired their morality as they clearly lived in society and you know you can’t have society without morality.

    Why do Asecularists think that the way to answer a question is to ask a different one and shift the topic in the hope that no one will notice they are avoiding the nuts and bolts?

  • Buzz Moonman August 22, 2012, 5:58 pm

    Part 2

    So why don’t the people who hit the dislike button, substantiate their dislike by having a go at answering some of those straight forward questions. They extra ones were

    1. What happened and what was it like before you existed?

    2. Why can’t you live with uncertainty? Have you tried philosophy? It will teach you how to live with uncertainty as that is one of its purposes.

    3. Why are you so special?

    4. What is eternity?

    5. What is morality?

    6. What is the human purpose of morality, particularly in a non Theist society.

    7. Ethics is not quite the same as morality. What’s the difference?

    And for failing to answer any questions so far, you get bonus questions.

    10. What was the purpose of morality in Neanderthal society and in Homo sapiens prior to three thousand years ago?

    11. How can you have duty to something you have no comprehension of?

    It doesn’t take any thinking to hit the dislike button, so why not stretch yourselves.

  • Glenn August 22, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Sounds like you’re saying we’re not intelligent enough to be impressed with the vagaries of your metadrifting speculating on speculations. Stupid secularists, its not as though it hasn’t been spelled out to us countless times and widely accepted by clever people all over the place. Golly gosh. You’ve really put me in my place. We do know what widely accepted means. Just like it’s widely accepted that Mohammad is the last prophet of god and also widely accepted that Islam is the only true religion and Christians should convert. Now get on your bike and head on down to the mosque. What other choice do you have? Mormanism?

    It looks like you’ve nailed a trifecta of fallacies in one short post. Well done.

    So let’s get this straight – somebody points out that a basic error has been made, namely the confusion of moral epistemology (how we gain moral beliefs) and moral ontology (the basis of moral truths). You respond with what is no more than ridicule, you do not address the objection, and then you quickly say “But back to the unanswered questions.”

    In other words – you get to ask a whole bunch of questions that are not related to this blog post (apparently you have no interest in the blog policy that you agreed to by commenting here), and you repeat them all if people don’t follow you down the rabbit hole and answer you, but when it is pointed out that you make fundamental mistakes, you just brush it off, mock the person who pointed it out, don’t answer the objection, and insist instead that people answer your long list of irrelevant questions?

    So it’s hypocrisy then.

  • Glenn August 22, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Buzz, amidst all the other stuff, there was actually something relevant in your multiple comments, so I’ll only comment on that.

    Did the Dreamtimers 50,000 years ago have morality?

    No doubt.

    How did they aquire it?

    In spite of your claim to not being confused, the question here suggests that really you are. Even if they acuired it without any reference to God, this is only an epistemic matter (the question of how beliefs are formed). This does not even scratch the surface of what makes those beliefs correct (or not). So let’s say that the dreamtimers acquired their belief through moral intuitions, which unbeknown to them were brought about via an evolutionary process. But the real issue hasn’t been touched yet.

    What did they know of ontology and could they have had morality while being confused by the Rainbow Serpent banging on about ontological foundations.

    I don’t know how much they knew about ontology, but they certainly knew about it without using that term (for example, they knew that things existed). And yes, of course they could have had moral knowledge while being confused about the rainbow serpent. But this shows nothing.

    So again, your declaration notwithstanding, you’re confused.

  • Zia August 23, 2012, 9:35 am

    Buzz,

    “It looks like you’ve nailed a trifecta of fallacies in one short post. Well done.”

    Would you oblige us by pointing out these fallcies and expanding on them?

    “But I’m not confused, nor am I impressed with your speculations, because I have solid natural objective foundations for morality and moral obligation and you only have “ifs” and “givens” for your dodgy ontological foundation of wishful thinking.”

    Outline this objective natural foundation for morality please.

  • Ben August 27, 2012, 12:37 am

    Glenn,

    Interesting podcast. It seems like you devoted your time to expounding your view and answering certain challenges to its consistency/coherency. However even if your view is meaningful and coherent, it still remains to show that your view is warranted. So I am curious, what is your motivation for holding to DCT? That is, assuming DCT is coherent, why do you think that DCT is true?

    Moreover, do you agree that we understand the meaning of our moral vocabulary independently of DCT? If so, then it seems to follow that, in order for DCT to be true, it must accord with what we already mean by our moral vocabulary.

    (I realize these questions are not entirely on-topic, but hopefully not so much that you mind me asking here.)

    Regards,
    Ben

  • Frank August 27, 2012, 7:41 am

    What do you think of this sentence, Glenn?

    “Of course, it would be illogical to try to argue against the existence of God on the basis of the conquest of Canaan. In fact, the moral values that make what the Israelites did seem so objectionable to atheists are grounded in God.”

    http://bible.org/article/yahweh-war-and-conquest-canaan

  • Glenn August 27, 2012, 7:02 pm

    Frank, it certainly is illogical to argue against the existence of God on the basis of the conquest of Canaan. I can think of no plausible deductive or even inductive argument that starts out with “The Bible records the conquest of Canaan” and ends up with “there is no God.” That would be a truly goofy argument.

    But the argument you quoted can be tidied up a bit. I don’t think anyone really attempts to use the conquest to argue that there’s no God (or if they do, they’re just silly). Maybe the quote would better reflect the actual sceptical arguments if it said:

    “Of course, it would be illogical to try to argue against the idea that a perfectly good God exists on the basis of the conquest of Canaan. In fact, the moral values that make what the Israelites did seem so objectionable to atheists are grounded in God.”

    This seems to better reflect the arguments that non-believers use when appealing to the conquest of Canaan. There are two versions of the argument that non-believers us, roughly for these two different claims:

    i) The conquest is morally evil, hence if you believe in a God who commanded the conquest, while he may still exist, he is not good.

    or

    ii) The conquest is, by the standards of the religion you profess, morally evil. Hence it creates an inconsistency in what Christians believe: That God is perfectly good and loving, AND that God conmmanded the conquest. Whether the conquest is really evil or not is not my claim, but it’s certainly inconsistent with the character of God as Christian claim it to be.

    I think the above response works only against i). After all, many Christians believe that God is the basis of moral facts and if God doesn’t exist then nothing is objectively right or wrong. Hence, so this argument goes, you cannot simultaneously deny that God is real and yet also appeal to moral facts to show that there is no God. In order to reject this argument, the sceptic must fully address the meta-ethical argument for theism and show that objective moral facts can exist in a godless reality.

    Because of this, ii) is the more promising argument. It’s not an argument against theism, and it’s not an argument against all forms of Christianity. It’s an argument that some of the things God is said to have done in the Old Testament are inconsistent with other things that the Bible says about God. Obviously, anyone who makes this argument must be claiming to exercise some competency in the study of the Old Testament (although this doesn’t stop plenty of people with no such expertise rushing into the fray). Here I think the best remedy is a good education – even just a decent undergrad education, or just a good breadth of reading for that matter – in Old Testament studies. From Old Testament scholars like Walter Kaiser to philosophers and theologians like Nicholas Wolterstorff, Paul Copan, and also my fellow blogger and friend Matthew Flannagan. There, the focus is on encouraging people to grasp what the accounts actually mean before appealing to them.

  • Glenn August 27, 2012, 7:07 pm

    However even if your view is meaningful and coherent, it still remains to show that your view is warranted. So I am curious, what is your motivation for holding to DCT? That is, assuming DCT is coherent, why do you think that DCT is true?

    Ben, you’re a mind reader. )

    Lately I’ve been mindful of just this question: OK, OK, so DCT can fend off objections about it being implausible or problematic. But why believe it?

    It would take up more space than a mere comment in this thread really permits, but an answer is certainly deserved. I’m currently writing an article for publication called “Why traditional monotheists should be divine command theorists.”

  • Zia August 28, 2012, 5:47 am

    Will the article adress the objection from arbitrariness, also will we be able to read the article via theis blog?

  • Frank August 28, 2012, 12:22 pm

    “Maybe the quote would better reflect the actual sceptical arguments if it said:

    “Of course, it would be illogical to try to argue against the idea that a perfectly good God exists on the basis of the conquest of Canaan. In fact, the moral values that make what the Israelites did seem so objectionable to atheists are grounded in God.””

    Thanks for your reply, Glenn.

    Would it therefore be a reasonable argument against the existence of God on the basis of the Joshua Wars if there is no archaeological evidence to support the Bible accounts? After all, the incredible claim is made of a wall falling down at the sound of trumpets, and the sun standing still.

    In their book, “The Bible Unearthed,” Finkelstein and Silberman, although expecting to find evidence of the Bible’s claims, found little to substantiate the accounts; that the Kingdom of David was very small, that there were minor skirmishes between Cannaanite strongholds and that ‘Yahweh’ may have actually been a minor deity.

    Does this evidence cancel out any philosophical claim?

    As a Christian you must surely believe that God is consistent in his morals (even in the light of DCT) (James 1:17)Does God practice situational ethics depending on divine will or were his executions of the ‘wicked’ a matter of whimsy?

    I think this is an important issue because Christ was the ‘perfect reflection/representation of his father’ and as such would act and teach in a way perfectly consistent with his Father’s actions, would he not? So then how should be process the principle to ‘love our enemies’?

  • Glenn August 28, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Zia, this podcast episode addresses the arbitrariness objection, as does a previous episode, “parodying Plato.” I’m sure i have blogged on it before too, and in the articles section I address it in an article called “Is there an echo in here?” The article I am now writing is a positive case, not a response to objections. (I haven’t provided links as I am on a mobile device)

  • Glenn August 28, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Would it therefore be a reasonable argument against the existence of God on the basis of the Joshua Wars if there is no archaeological evidence to support the Bible accounts? After all, the incredible claim is made of a wall falling down at the sound of trumpets, and the sun standing still.

    There’s no “therefore” here. What you are now bringing up is an entirely unrelated argument. Up until now the issue has been the relationship between God and goodness. The argument about the conquest was a moral objection. But what this new comment of yours introduces is simply the argument that the conquest didn’t really happen, or at least not the biblical conquest. So this is a whole new subject.

    But setting that aside, no of course this isn’t “a reasonable argument against the existence of God.” It would be a crazy argument against the existence of God. The very most that could be concluded is that 1) the conquest is exaggerated, and 2) Yahweh wasn’t widely worshipped outside the Israelite community (no shock there). So of course this doesn’t help atheism.

    As a Christian you must surely believe that God is consistent in his morals (even in the light of DCT)

    As I explain in this podcast episode – “The non-moral goodness of God,” God doesn’t have morals (did you listen to it?). So of course I can’t think that God is consistent in his morals. This is why it is meaningless to imply that God lives in accordance with situation ethics. Besides, as I have pointed out before, even if morality is dependent on God’s commands, that’s not situation ethics. Situation ethics is at odds with the claim that “If God commands X, then I ought to X.”

    I think what you probably want to say is something like “Isn’t God’s character unchanging?” Now, that’s not a moral question, and the answer is yes. God is non-morally good, and this doesn’t change. What this implies is that if God commanded the conquest (something you don’t believe), he had a reason to do so that was consistent with his goodness.

    OK, now I have a question for you. As you have an interest in the conquest, I’d like to know what you make of the thesis of Copan, Kitchen, Wolterstorff, Matt Flannagan and others. What do you make of the meaning of the conquest narratives, Frank? They argue that many moderns misunderstand the conquest narratives, which are actually intentionally hyperbolic, using a well known convention of battle chronicling of the time. If their case is plausible, this does address the bulk of your concern. But if you think they’re wrong – what makes you think so? And which of those people have you read?

  • Frank August 29, 2012, 12:28 pm

    I think it is time for me to come clean on where I’m coming from, Glenn.

    A couple of months ago quite by accident I came across a photo unrelated to my actual search of a grisly scene involving the beheading of what I judged to be a 13-year-old girl. The remains of the two separated parts of her little body were laid out in an open coffin in front of an assembled crowd and flanked by a grieving woman, presumably her mother.

    In the few seconds I could disrupt the dignity of this victim I asked myself: What could this girl have done to deserve this? Then I realised it was the wrong question; it should have been, not what DID this girl do, but What COULD this girl do to deserve this?

    I am not an atheist as has been suggested, but I do have a legitimate claim against a ‘morality’ that only could have brought this grisly sight about. Surely only a ‘theocratic’ authority could have done so, not a secular one that has consistently moved away from ‘eye for an eye’ to possible rehabilitation – not that a 13-year-old could have been guilty of anything that could deserve death.

    Two questions, therefore, I would like to ask regarding the Joshua Wars:

    1 Even positing that the Canaanite adults were guilty of ‘sins’ against the Almighty, were their future interests served by first sending in a prophet to proclaim their imminent doom so as to give them a chance to repent of their sins? (this is not even to mention the women/mothers who were culturally-required to follow the will of their husbands)

    2 Knowing that the girl in my illustration could not have been responsible for her action (a Western view), surely this was a murder victim and not a justly executed person. Could it EVER, therefore, be just to execute children and babies on the basis that they could not know/are inexperienced/ the difference between good an bad?

    Even the title of your podcast is: The Non-Moral Goodness of God. This presupposes that there is a ‘non-moral badness,’ surely.

    Isn’t DCT simply taking sides in Euthyphro’s Dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”

    The Dilemma also makes statements about the so-called ‘objective morality.’ If it is God’s goodness that is presumed then the goodness is not objective – it is the standards of the deity.

    Copan’s attempt to minimise DCT by suggesting hyperbole is not a satisfactory answer either. It fails to speak to the ‘morality’ of child-killing. After all, what’s the moral difference between destroying a culture that practiced child-sacrifice, then offering the fallen children as the spoils of war?

    Glenn, I am not an atheist, merely someone who has questions that need to be answered. Sorry, so far I have drawn a blank.

  • Glenn August 29, 2012, 8:33 pm

    Frank, with respect, it looks like you had that post canned, ready to write no matter what has previously been said.

    You’ve basically just said: Given how clearly terrible it is to wipe out children/babies/women (with an anecdote thrown in for a bit of oomph), how about that terrible conquest?

    But this is just to side step my previous reply to you as though I had never made it. So here’s where I try to get you to about-face, go back and address it. Had you actually read it and interacted with my question (and remember, I have already answered your earlier questions), we could progress things, because the question deals with exactly what you’re raising here. So, back to the previous post with you. Here’s the question again:

    OK, now I have a question for you. As you have an interest in the conquest, I’d like to know what you make of the thesis of Copan, Kitchen, Wolterstorff, Matt Flannagan and others. What do you make of the meaning of the conquest narratives, Frank? They argue that many moderns misunderstand the conquest narratives, which are actually intentionally hyperbolic, using a well known convention of battle chronicling of the time. If their case is plausible, this does address the bulk of your concern. But if you think they’re wrong – what makes you think so? And which of those people have you read?

    (PS, the suggestion that secular minded people don’t believe in proportional justice is nonsense, but that’s a red herring. Let’s focus on my question to you first.)

  • Frank August 30, 2012, 12:25 pm

    “What do you make of the meaning of the conquest narratives, Frank? They argue that many moderns misunderstand the conquest narratives, which are actually intentionally hyperbolic, using a well known convention of battle chronicling of the time.”

    Actually, presently I tend to gravitate towards Copan’s assertion’s, but what would Copan say about the story of Achan who, along with his family, was stoned for not taking Moses’ words literally (Joshua chapter 7)?

    Copan’s got a point, though. In his interview with Justin Brierley (9 April, 2011) he makes the claim that if the Israelites had wiped out (genocide) the Canaanites, then where is the archaeology?

    Karen Armstrong (familiar with that name, Glenn?) in her book, The Bible, an Autobiography, points out that ancient Israelites would not have questioned the stories being told them as they saw them as exegesis and growing in poignancy and inspiration as they changed in the telling, rather than in reading the written history. This view is corroborated in Bruce Feiler’s book Walking the Bible – A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses.

    Finkelstein and Silberman seem to have a point – that what we read in the Old Testament may very well be that the Israelites were in fact themselves Canannites who became monotheists. There is at least one other historical precedent for this in the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, father of Tutankhamen. The ‘Israelites’ may well have been rebelling against the atrocious cultural crimes of their fellow tribes, much like the secular West rebelling against the excesses of present religion in the formulation of charters.

    So perhaps Copan’s broad-context musings are right.

    Morally, as it stands, though, taken literally, there is no distinction between Hitler’s annexing Poland and the Israelites forced occupation of Canaan.

    The trouble is that we 21st century ethicists expect at least a higher quality of evidence that would our forebears. Since archaeology began in Napoleon’s time we can now examine that past in far better ways.

    A question for you Glenn, how does Copan’s thesis progress the moral argument?

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 9:50 am

    Zia says “Outline this objective natural foundation for morality please.”

    Sure, refer to the thread of Jan 1st – The rise and fall of the moral argument. Of course that was in the days when posters could respond to a long post with a long post.

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 9:53 am

    Part 1
    Glenn says “So it’s hypocrisy then.”

    No. I wasn’t thinking hypocrisy at all.

    But now that you’ve mentioned it. 🙂

    I can see when I’m being ridiculed and having the mickey taken out of me and have no problem with that so I responded in kind, which is why there was a smiley face at the end, which you removed in your cut and paste.

    As put downs go, Matthew produced a good one and it would have stopped some people bamboozled by the unsubstantiated claims of DCT.

    There were serious points in there as well. And as I pointed out, being widely accepted doesn’t make something totally accepted or true or worthwhile. And there’s the ifs and givens that your argument requires. Like you said – you did not address these objections.
    I’m pointing out that it is you who has the error regarding the basis of moral truths, so your confusion comment is meaningless. You forget that we have different world views and yours is wrong.There is only a technical error if I use your Theism as an ordering principle. I don’t. Matthew points out what Theists see as my error by taking the mickey. I point out your error by taking the mickey. I know you think you are not in error but that is another error you make.

    Focusing discussion on what beliefs are based on when we are still looking at how they aquired beliefs without any alleged input from your god is a red herring from Matthew. Lets focus on my questions to you first.

    Its another point that your ontology basis for morality does not have legs, I don’t use it so I don’t need to create a category for it. People can work out morality for themselves as you acknowledge our distant ancestors did, without being given any divine commands.

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 9:57 am

    Part 2
    I have not brushed off the topic, I had dealt with the issue (as far as could be without going into a serious unpacking), so I turned back to Roy’s questions. I’ve heard you use a similar technique in your podcasts. We can’t unpack everything fully all the time.

    On the other thread your negative comment was about me unpacking ideas. On this one your negative comment is about me not unpacking ideas. You have got me confused on this approach of yours.:)

    If you wanted me to deal with it better, it would have taken a multiple post. I see no reason for you to have a problem with multiple posts. At times it is required. On other blogs I contribute to, it is common practice for people to make 4 to 10 part multiple posts as a common post is – substantiate that claim.

    Can’t wait for your three minute podcast and 300 word blog post. 🙂

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 10:00 am

    Part 3

    As to my questions being off topic. Roy asked some good questions that stumped Frank, which was Roy’s intention. They didn’t stump me as I’ve picked up the answers from wide inquiry and thinking and Frank now has some answers to use next time these cliches are rolled out at him by an Asecularist. Since Roy asked some interesting questions, I did the same as they were part of what Roy asked.

    There is a case to be made that under your guidelines, Roy was off topic asking those questions and you should have cautioned him and he shouldn’t have asked them as he technically dragged the thread off topic. But I think he made for the start of an interesting discussion. Hats of to Roy for asking questions.

    And in his next post Roy really went off topic inquiring into Frank’s personal life. Does that fit your guidelines? Just asking, as its not clear, but it must as you didn’t read the riot act to him. Reading the riot act in the public square requires a public square response.

    Roy’s initial questions link into the thread topic of moral goodness as do my answers and the questions that flow from them. If I can paraphrase Roy – Now that you’ve thought about the questions – would bloggers like to modify their statements at all before we talk in earnest?

    I observed that a number of people hit the dislike button on my questions. It is quite reasonable to ask them to explain their dislike. Is it not? This is a public square. I’m prepared to put my views out there, the people who hide behind a dislike button should be prepared to do likewise. How am I to know what they think there is to dislike if all they do is blow raspberries.
    As a Secularist, I was asked questions. I answered them and asked some follow up questions which have not been answered except by use of a put down which is fine, but it doesn’t answer the questions very well.

    Hello Roy, could you follow Glenn’s example and have a go at answering some of the questions. I answered yours. Try # 1,2 4 and 6 if all of them is too much.

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 10:06 am

    Part 4

    Glenn, we are agreed that Maori and Dreamtimers had morality before they met Pakeah. Of course they had morality going back 200,000 years I expect, ever since humans have had society.

    We also agree that they worked out this moral code without any alleged intervention from your god. That is, your alleged god did not reveal anything to them as there is nothing in their culture to indicate that your god communicated with them.

    So far so good. I don’t dispute that the acquiring of a moral code is different from knowing the basis for telling right from wrong. Perhaps150,000 years ago people had worked out a name for this natural basis and explained the process. Unfortunately, since then, clerics have got a grip on this area and confused the heck out of people with the wishful thinking of their ontological vagaries.

    Where we diverge is how they acquired these values and then the basis for them. You say it was acquired from intuition. I think you are short selling your species and big noting the recent culture that you are part of.

    Our distant ancestors did not acquire their ideas through intuition. They used reason. They are of the same species as us. We have the same brains as our ancestors. They had the same reasoning power as us. They observed their relationships with others and reasoned conclusions that afforded them society because humans are absolutely hopeless at self sufficiency.

    That they hadn’t invented the wishful thinking of ontology is of no matter in their creating the practical social rules of living (morality). There would be aspects of their morality that we consider wrong. There were probably people in their society who considered those things wrong too but didn’t have the political clout to change the moral standard. Having ontology wouldn’t have helped them work out why those aspects were wrong as ontology’s foundation is false. People have been faffing about with this issue ever since the clerics starting insisting on a supernatural basis for morality.

    But that’s another long post that will probably result from listening to your latest podcast when I get around to it.

  • Buzz Moonman September 1, 2012, 10:08 am

    Part 5

    Morality is the rules of social living and moral obligation is found in society – its about political ideas. Your ontology doesn’t drill down far enough. Actually it doesn’t drill down at all, it lets balloons go up in the air til it can’t see them and then makes pronouncements on whats happening to them.

    Since morality is a human creation, our cave dwelling ancestors could work out what to do to create society and since then we’ve been slowly evolving our response to this obligation we call society. Society naturally uses this natural process. Not always successfully but the basis is there whether people are aware of it as a concept or just get on using it as it works. Note that morality doesn’t evolve, whats absolute is absolute but other areas are conditional (this is not the same as relative) but society’s moral standards do evolve, eg slavery is wrong but most Christians used to think it was not wrong till, some liberals and agnostics and Quakers started agitating and changed the moral standard. Slavery was still wrong back then but it took a while to get it to change. That required another political idea to start to come of age. Equity.

    But that’s a separate long post for another thread.

  • Zia September 2, 2012, 9:08 am

    Roy said:

    Okay Frank …

    “Let me ask you a few questions first, just so I have a clearer understanding of your philosophy.”

    Buzz said:

    “Roy asked some good questions that stumped Frank, which was Roy’s intention.”

    I didn’t know you were a mind reader. It seems pretty clear that Roy just wanted a better understanding of Frank’s position before addressing/debating him. I dont know where you got the whole intention thing. And maybe Frank wasnt stumped, maybe he just didnt care to get into that discussion.

    “Our distant ancestors did not acquire their ideas through intuition. They used reason.” A citation on this would be nice to move the discussion forward.

    Succinctly state if you believe objective moral values exist or not, if they need an ontological foundation or not, and why. The why part is the most important. Then state why you think a divine foundation is not sufficient. Calling it wishful thinking is an argument from ridicule which is a fallacy. That wont do anything. I know it might be hard, but give us the cliff notes and then perhaps Glenn will respond, try to keep it to one post.

  • Glenn September 2, 2012, 1:40 pm

    Buzz, stop it. You’re not being persecuted or insulted when people point out that you’ve grasped the wrong end of the stick. My comment about hypocrisy seemed on the mark: Someone pointed out that you had made a basic error and you did indeed brush it off, labeling it a trifecta of fallacies (which fallacies, we may never know), and yet you insist that everyone seriously engage your own questions and objections.

    But now let’s look at what you’re saying:

    We also agree that they worked out this moral code without any alleged intervention from your god. That is, your alleged god did not reveal anything to them as there is nothing in their culture to indicate that your god communicated with them.

    This constitutes confusion. I’m not saying that you feel confused, but you’re muddling up different issues. You’re assuming that if the Maori (or other people) didn’t believe that God was responsible for their moral knowledge, then it’s a fact that God wasn’t responsible for it.

    This just perpetuates the confusion between the ontological basis of morality (i.e. what makes the moral facts what they are) with the epistemological grounds of moral belief (i.e. what people know, how they came to know it, or what they know about this process).

    I put it to you that the Maori didn’t know anything about why gravity works. Nobody intervened to tell them. Certainly the universe didn’t tell them. But it doesn’t follow that Maori were not subject to gravity, or that the cause of gravity was somehow different back then. Similarly with God and morality. If moral facts only exist because of God, then this would be the case regardless of whether or not people are aware of the fact. For more discussion of this, you might be interested in my article “The Epistemological Objection to Divine Command Ethics,” Philosophia Christi 13:2 (2011), 389-401. If you don’t have access to the journal, I covered it in the podcast, episode 41.

    And one last request: Up until now I have been most lenient with you Buzz, and I have not enforced the blog policy. Please read it, and understand that by posting here you have asserted that you will follow it. By commenting here and not following it, you have made a false declaration understanding that I may enforce the policy. Read it.

  • Zia September 2, 2012, 2:17 pm

    “Note that morality doesn’t evolve, whats absolute is absolute.”

    “Slavery was still wrong back then but it took a while to get it to change.”

    This seems like moral objectivity to me.

    How can you know that our morality wasnt some lucky result of biological evolution? For example, imagine we rewound the evolutionary clock back to the beginning, on naturalism we have no guarantee that human society will once again arise in the same manner.

    “Since morality is a human creation, our cave dwelling ancestors could work out what to do to create society and since then we’ve been slowly evolving our response to this obligation we call society. Society naturally uses this natural process.”

    You state that morality is a human creation. The only thing thats bamboozling here is how you make the connection between human invention and objectivity.

    You also claim that ancestral humans used reason to derive morality. As I mentioned before you need to support this claim. But just for a second I’ll grant your assumption, how do we know human reason is infallible? How can fallible minds possibly establish an objective standard?

  • Glenn September 2, 2012, 3:48 pm

    OK Frank, so you have some sympathy with the view of Copan and others, that in fact the conquest narrative as written was fairly hyperbolic. This means that you should scale back your objection to the character of the biblical God based on what we find in the conquest narrative.

    You do raise an important question, however: “how does Copan’s thesis progress the moral argument?”

    Strictly speaking, it doesn’t. Not the moral argument for theism, anyway. But there are many confused responses to the moral argument that do appeal to the conquest narratives. For the sake of giving a full answer to those objections (apart from simply pointing out why they are misguided objections from the outset), this discussion over the literary form used in those narratives is certainly worthwhile.

    The flow of argument goes like this:

    Part 1: The moral argument for theism. Here it is argued that unless God exists, there are no moral facts. The conquest narrative is simply not relevant to this part, as the moral argument does not specify that the God who exists is the God who commanded the conquest. It is merely an argument that atheism is false and theism is true.

    Part 2: Some critics respond to the above argument by pointing to the conquest narratives and saying that they are harsh and unjust. Of course, this does nothing to address part 1, and so it is a red herring. It’s an interesting issue that draws our attention away from the moral argument. A proponent of the moral argument could simply dismiss this argument in one of several ways. We could say that the Old Testament misreports things (i.e. the Bible is errant). We could say that the Old Testament is being misunderstood (this is Copan’s point). We could say that the Bible’s account is fully and literally true, but deny that the actions are immoral even though they are harsh and arguably cruel. We could accept the criticism and reject the Old Testament God. And so on. Obviously some of these options are very unattractive to Christians, but the point is that the objection in part 2 is not an objection to part 1.

  • Glenn September 2, 2012, 9:32 pm

    “maybe Frank wasnt stumped, maybe he just didnt care to get into that discussion.”

    For the record, Frank posted a number of comments that he knew to be in violation of blog policy, and which he knew would be moderated (which they were). This happened in spite of my reaching out to Frank via email urging him to reconsider what he was doing because I wanted him to remain in good standing and for things to not get out of hand. I don’t like situations like that.

    Things have improved since then, thankfully, and I’m pleased that Frank has re-joined the discussion.

  • Jim McNeely September 3, 2012, 4:13 am

    There is a lot of traffic on this thread! I don’t think anyone should be surprised that it gets a bit vitriolic, right? It does bring a question which I hope is judged a legitimate one. I am going to preempt this by saying that I am an amateur armchair philosopher, and in particular when we start throwing in the word “ontological” I start to enter a zen koan.

    I’ve been thinking that we need to rehash the way we think about doing apologetics a bit, because a lot of the guys I listen to, such as William Lane Craig, seem to argue to the ultimate point that morals are based on the existence of God. This is surely true. However, it is not really the ultimate point of apologetics. I think we need to try to develop a grace-based apologetics. This does not mean that we should be nicer! It means that we take any means of moral revelation, whatever its source, as a means to lead people to the understanding that they need mercy. Paul says,

    “14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:14-16

    So according to the scripture, it is the law written on their own hearts, without regard to their official belief systems, that alternately accuses or defends people. Maybe they think morals come from the flying spaghetti god, but they know that they should be faithful in not offending their mate or that it is wrong to steal. Morals may come from God ultimately, but even if people disagree about their source, they have them. As I think you point out in your podcast, casting God as primarily moral makes Him subject to morals, tipping the scales on the Euthyphro dilemma for such apologists to the side of making God subject to morals, which means He isn’t really sovereign.

    However, the unique offering of Christianity isn’t better or more stringent or deeper morals. It is justification. You can go anywhere on earth to breath air, but if you want to go to the moon, you have to go through space. Similarly, if you want morals you can go to virtually any system to get them. I could dream up new moral codes all day long, I suppose. However, if we want justification, justice AND mercy, no other religion or system of thought credibly offers this besides Christianity. Grace, not morals, is the crying need of every human, we all have morals coming out of our ears. Romans 2 is clear that the non-religious have lots of morals without acknowledging they are from God. Every atheist I have ever talked to claims to be 10 times more moral than any Christian. Their problem is that they must do so to self-justify, and it is never enough. The whole line of argument is just barking up the wrong tree.

  • Frank September 3, 2012, 10:06 am

    “..guys I listen to, such as William Lane Craig, seem to argue to the ultimate point that morals are based on the existence of God. This is surely true…“

    14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:14-16”

    Jim, did you cut and paste this quote? Did you notice that ‘law’ here has a capital L? This signifies that the Law is the Law of Moses given to the Israelites.

    It does not follow then, necessarily, that ‘law’ is directly connected to God.

  • Frank September 3, 2012, 12:20 pm

    “Part 1: The moral argument for theism. Here it is argued that unless God exists, there are no moral facts. The conquest narrative is simply not relevant to this part, as the moral argument does not specify that the God who exists is the God who commanded the conquest. It is merely an argument that atheism is false and theism is true.”

    Glenn, Are you as a Christian seriously arguing that there’s a possibility that the god of the Conquest was not Jesus’ father? Do you yourself accept Paul Copan’s premise? If so, are you saying the Bible is errant, or at least in need of decoding? If so, then error can enter at any given moment of reading the Scriptures, at least in the form of misinterpretation. If this is true, can we pronounce the New Testament error-free?

    Could you please make a comment or two on my contention that your title: The Non-moral Goodness of God presupposes that there is also a ‘non-moral badness’ in existence. Actually, psychopaths specialise in the latter. Their actions betray a total ignorance of morality as they express their obsession with scratching an itch.

    In Part 2 you say: “We could say that the Bible’s account is fully and literally true, but deny that the actions are immoral even though they are harsh and arguably cruel.”

    This option surely expresses what the majority of Christians must believe if they accept the ongoing revelation of the glory of God. Of course, it also raises the many questions, some of which I have raised. Which of your options do you accept, Glenn; all, some, or none?

    Jeremiah 31:33New International Version, says:
    “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

    Paul refers to this scripture in 2 Corinthians 3:3:
    “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

    What is the law being spoken of here, Glenn?

  • Glenn September 3, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Glenn, Are you as a Christian seriously arguing that there’s a possibility that the god of the Conquest was not Jesus’ father?

    No, of course I did not argue that. I was simply explaining why the moral argument for theism doesn’t stand or fall on questions about the conquest.

    So you’ve served up a fresh batch of questions.

    Do you yourself accept Paul Copan’s premise?

    Yes, it certainly seems plausible that the conquest narratives employed a fairly well known hyperbolic way of writing.

    If so, are you saying the Bible is errant, or at least in need of decoding?

    Thjat’s a strange thing to say! Firstly, saying that something written in the Bible employs a certain style of writing has no implications for whether or not it is errant. Are you sure you’re not muddling up the different possibilities I listed? Copan’s thesis is not the that accounts are errant. And as for the need to be “decoded,” I can’t understand why you’d ask whether the Bible is errant or at least in need of decoding, as though the need for decoding is a soft version of being errant.

    If by “decoded” you mean understood, then of course every piece of literature needs to be decoded. Otherwise it wouldn’t be comprehensible.

    If so, then error can enter at any given moment of reading the Scriptures, at least in the form of misinterpretation. If this is true, can we pronounce the New Testament error-free?

    If I understand you (and I may not), you seem to be making much of the fear that if a passage needs to be interpreted, then all is lost, we can never be confident that we know what it says, and it may as well be full of errors.

    But such a radical scepticism seems to me wholly unwarranted. In the first place, it’s an obvious truth that some passages of Scripture are more straightforward than others, so even if you fear was founded for some passages, it certainly wouldn’t be founded for all. And secondly, this is why it’s important to study the passages carefully before making confident declarations about what they mean. This is why I and others get so frustrated when a fairly ignorant sceptic picks up the Bible, points to something like the conquest and says “Ah HA! Gotcha!”

    As for what law Jeremiah refers to, Jeremiah can only have understood it to refer to the Torah, the Mosaic law. But to get a good understanding of the implications of that too, an investment of time and effort is required.

  • Jim McNeely September 3, 2012, 6:28 pm

    Hi Frank,

    There is no capitalization in the original Greek. Various translators handle this different ways. Even so, the text itself makes the point:

    “14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, a according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:14-16 ESV

    Notice, according to the scripture, we are talking about Gentiles WHO DO NOT HAVE THE LAW. They don’t have it. They are a law to themselves, the work of the law is WRITTEN ON THEIR HEARTS. If they are adhering to or transgressing anything, it can’t be the law of Moses, because they are, according to the scripture, gentiles who do not have the law. They are being accused or excused by their conscience, despite the fact that they do not have the law of Moses. This is in fact Paul’s exact point, that they know right from wrong without knowing the Mosaic law at all. Perhaps you should actually read the text before you make such confident assertions.

  • Glenn September 3, 2012, 7:10 pm

    Jim, if the text says that it’s talking about the Gentiles who don’t have “the Law,” that phrase is referring to the law of Moses. And yet, the text also says that the Gentiles by nature do the things required by “the Law.” Surely the phrase means the same thing each time.

    I think the way to see it is that the Law of Moses was the moral law of God applied to a specific situation. The way this moral law might be properly applied in various situations might change, but it surely cannot change radically to the point where the moral principles are not the same.

  • Frank September 4, 2012, 8:05 pm

    Glenn: “I think the way to see it is that the Law of Moses was the moral law of God applied to a specific situation. The way this moral law might be properly applied in various situations might change, but it surely cannot change radically to the point where the moral principles are not the same.”

    Most revealing, Glenn. So, then, what’s your answer to my contention that if there is moral goodness then the diametric opposite must exist? To me, if an entity is without morals, there is no goodness or badness, only amorality. Is this the nature of God?

    Here’s my point: One cannot have a ‘non-moral’ God as goodness itself is a property of morality, as is badness. If God therefore, applies ‘objective morals’ then those morals must be outside God for the morals to be truly objective – otherwise if we choose say they are the Deity’s values, then they are not objective.

    Glenn: “Copan’s thesis is not the that accounts are errant. And as for the need to be “decoded,” I can’t understand why you’d ask whether the Bible is errant or at least in need of decoding, as though the need for decoding is a soft version of being errant.”

    I’m cool with this, but then the issue is thus made easier: Were the lives of the children and babies of the Conquest spared? If so, can you show me where this is indicated in the Biblical account.

    Of course, we still have the problem of Godly-inspiration. Paul said “all scripture” was inspired of God.” Presumably he meant the scriptures he frequently quoted from. He even said that the scriptures were for our upbuilding and encouragement and they gave hope. His sources were the Old Testament. So…

    Would he have taken the accounts literally? Remember he was inspiring the congregations to a great measure of courage in the face of Christian persecution, so he must have believed in an avenging God (1 Thessalonians 1: 6 – 10).

    Do you agree that, in no circumstances, that it is morally-repugnant to speak of “executing” babies and children? Do you agree that when it comes to the vulnerable among us at any time in history, those who have neither the natural capability nor the experience to distinguish between right and wrong, are murdered when their lives are taken?

    A simple yes or no will suffice, though explanatory notes would be appreciated.

    I hope my reasoning doesn’t shout “Ah ha! Gotcha!” to you, Glenn. I don’t have a doctorate, but I’m sure you agree that I have a right to an opinion.

  • Frank September 4, 2012, 8:42 pm

    “Do you agree that, in no circumstances, that it is morally-repugnant to speak of “executing” babies and children?”

    This sentence should read: Do you agree that it is morally-repugnant in any circumstances to speak of “executing” babies and children?

  • Glenn September 4, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Frank: “Most revealing, Glenn.” Oh? What does it reveal?

    “So, then, what’s your answer to my contention that if there is moral goodness then the diametric opposite must exist?” Well, your comment is reversed now, so I’m not sure what you’re after. Earlier you said “The Non-moral Goodness of God presupposes that there is also a ‘non-moral badness’ in existence.” But now you are asking about the opposite of moral goodness, so it’s not clear what you’re asking.

    I’ll assume your most recent question was typed in error. Your previous comment about non-moral badness was followed up with a comment about psychopaths who are “ignorant” of morality. The innuendo is that this is what God is like. As I explained in the podcast (did you listen to it?), yes there is such a thing as moral badness. This is badness that has nothing to do with a violation of moral duty. So for example, being in pain is bad, but not because it is evil. Likewise, there are bad apples, but these are not morally wicked. And so on. Now of course it would be ludicrous to think that these are somehow examples of psychopathy. No, these are merely examples that illustrate that there are other kinds of goodness and badness than moral goodness and badness.

    One cannot have a ‘non-moral’ God as goodness itself is a property of morality, as is badness.

    Frank, this is clearly not the case. Many things are good, even though moral duty doesn’t even enter the picture: A good painting, a good apple, a good runner etc. The same applies to badness. So the fact that God is non-morally good does not pose a problem for the reason you suggest.

    Were the lives of the children and babies of the Conquest spared? If so, can you show me where this is indicated in the Biblical account.

    Frank, you led me to believe 1) that you had actually read what Copan had to say about the conquest narrative, and 2) you thought that what Copan had to say was plausible. And yet you now ask a question that is clearly answered in what Copan has to say.

    So here is where things stop. I was led down the garden path previously by you when you implied a familiarity with textual criticism, and when pressed by me you finally admitted that you knew nothing about it. I don’t want a repeat of that fiasco, so things must grind to a halt until you can clarify: Have you in fact read what Copan had to say about the conquest narrative, and do you find it plausible? Because if your answer is yes, you would not now be asking me whether or not the children were spared/killed.

    Let me know, Frank. Thanks.

  • Frank September 4, 2012, 8:49 pm

    Jim, do I do you a dis-service by presuming that you were trying to establish that God’s law is the objective law that is so commonly espoused by religious philosophers?

    Obviously there is a problem in assuming not to “cook a goat in its mother’s milk” and the mandate to stone an old man for picking up sticks could today be seen as moral. Even the Commandment not to kill/murder was only given to the Israelites as the accounts of the Conquest show.

    Glenn and I agree that the passage you quote is the Mosaic Law and that those without it have the ‘law of the conscience.’

    Bear in mind too, though, that conscience can be overridden by such things as war and adrenaline.

    Thank you for your comments.

  • Glenn September 4, 2012, 9:02 pm

    “Glenn and I agree that the passage you quote is the Mosaic Law and that those without it have the ‘law of the conscience.’”

    Just as a reminder of what I affirmed – I noted that, according to the passage being quoted, the Gentiles without the Law still did the things in that same Law out of conscience. It’s not that the “law of conscience” is an entirely different law.

  • Jim McNeely September 5, 2012, 3:07 am

    Nice conversation guys, thanks for the feedback. A couple of thoughts:

    1. It is a secondary point, but I wanted to address the issue of Paul’s conception of law, particularly as informed by this passage. How could someone instinctively perform the Mosaic law by pure conscience? My conscience has never said, “once a year, set up a booth made of leaves and have a feast.” Nor has it ever compelled me to follow the specific directions for a burnt offering or a grain offering. Yet he is saying that, whatever he means by the word “law”, it is something that the uneducated and uninformed conscience could dictate. This would seem NOT to be the Mosaic law. If he does mean the mosaic law, you are going to have to substantiate that with another text that is relevant to the stream of thought in Romans. You can’t just assert that it is the Mosaic law in this passage without any corroboration from the text somewhere, or at least some kind of evidence.

    2. Far more importantly, even if it does mean the Mosaic law or not, it does mean that the conscience itself dictates law. It does not matter that people believe it is from God or the flying spaghetti monster, it matters that the conscience intuits true things about right and wrong whatever the means, and that there is not one person alive, whether Jew or Greek, that does not know they they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Instead of quibbling with people about the source of this intuition of moral law, we should be running with it to lead people to the message of justification and grace. The main point is, if our apologetics leads only to the reality of God as the source of morals, we have not made the case for the gospel, we have made the case for legalistic religion. If our apologetics leads to the message of the free gift of justification, the satisfaction of justice in Christ and Him crucified, it leads to the gospel.

  • Glenn September 5, 2012, 8:57 am

    “You can’t just assert that it is the Mosaic law in this passage without any corroboration from the text somewhere”

    Jim, but we do have such corroboration. When Paul says that the “Gentiles” don’t have the law but do it out of conscience anyway, he must be talking about a law that the Jews have but the Gentiles don’t. This indicates that he is indeed talking about the Mosaic law.

    And as for “quibbling,” I would say this: It is no good “running” to people with justification and grace using this law if they don’t believe it even comes from God in the first place. Grace for what? Justification with whom? So it’s important to use the law known by conscience (not “dictated” by conscience,but dictated by God) to point to the lawgiver as far as evangelistic concerns go (and those do seem to be your concerns here).

  • Jim McNeely September 5, 2012, 9:21 am

    That’s true, but is it necessary for one to have perfect knowledge of God in order to come to Him? Must one even have a perfect understanding of the trinitarian Godhead? Under the law, yes, we must. However, none of us have that. Must we have a perfect understanding of every nuance of systematic theology in order to be justified? Yes, we must. This is the purpose of the law, Mosaic or conscience or whatever:

    “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20 ESV

    The law, regardless of its source, does its work when it shows us that we are wrong. We worship idols we invented ourselves, we make ourselves to be God, we steal, lust, covet, and lie, and the written law AND our conscience tells us it is an injustice.

    In fact, under grace we acknowledge that we have it wrong, we agree with the law. We place the onus for correctness upon God:

    “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

    It is not our perfection of understanding of the nature of God which is prerequisite. It is God who manifests His reality to us in Christ, and Him crucified. AND, this is my exact point: we must clarify what the exact end of our apologetics is. Is it to prove everyone wrong? Yes, in great abundance, including ourselves, but only as it leads to justification. The flying spaghetti monster example is extreme, but really how far off are any of us in our conception of God from being so wrong? I think that until we concede the ownership of God’s nature to God Himself and come under grace, we make intellectual idols and worship them. Christ came as a savior, because we need a savior more than a perfect intellectual conception of God as the source of morals.

    I am putting this out there as an honest question, a real talking point. What is the point of apologetics? Are we leading people to Christ? Does it lead to salvation, or does it lead to a set of important points of intellectual assent? Does it offend orthodoxy to ask such a question? I really don’t think so.

  • Frank September 5, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Glenn: “Your previous comment about non-moral badness was followed up with a comment about psychopaths who are “ignorant” of morality. The innuendo is that this is what God is like.”

    I thought you’d bring this one up, Glenn, that’s why I was careful to word my statement correctly as to what I meant. Actually, with respect, by suggesting that goodness can be ‘non-moral,’ it is you who is implying that that some of the Conquest claims imply this about God. By this I don’t mean that you meant to, rather that that is how some people would take it based on your claim. I was merely challenging your implication.

    Glenn: “This is badness that has nothing to do with a violation of moral duty. So for example, being in pain is bad, but not because it is evil.”

    This is why Humanism has transcended Christianity. Humanists believe that UNNECESSARY pain is evil. Would slowly drowning children during the Noachian Flood be an example of this?

    Glenn: “Frank, you led me to believe 1) that you had actually read what Copan had to say about the conquest narrative, and 2) you thought that what Copan had to say was plausible. And yet you now ask a question that is clearly answered in what Copan has to say.”

    I never claimed to have read Is God a Moral Monster?; I was citing what Copan had said during a podcast made about the book in which Copan makes his claims.

    Secondly, I only agreed that Copan’s claims were consistent with Finkelstein and Silberman’s findings. It is a theory, but one well-worth considering as getting us closer to the truth – the parsimonious truth, that is.

    Glenn: “Have you in fact read what Copan had to say about the conquest narrative, and do you find it plausible? Because if your answer is yes, you would not now be asking me whether or not the children were spared/killed.”

    My objection to your view of God’s ‘morality’ is purely based on history bloodied by misinterpretations of what Copan claims were exaggerations, and an ancient paradigm. Religious thinking has been one of the major caused for unnecessary pain whether or not it was intentionally caused by the Old Testament God.

  • Frank September 5, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Glenn: “Just as a reminder of what I affirmed – I noted that, according to the passage being quoted, the Gentiles without the Law still did the things in that same Law out of conscience. It’s not that the “law of conscience” is an entirely different law.”

    Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law and taught the spirit of the law as summed up (1) Love your God with your whole mind, soul, spirit and (2) to love your fellow man as yourself. What was left were the principles and gone was the ceremonious parts (Acts 15).

    What this passage shows too is that morals come from within and law from without.

    An example:

    A drug-addled teenager breaks into a house, rapes and kills an elderly lady, stealing her purse with $30 dollars in it. When the police call to arrest him does the youth act dazed and confused or does he cut and run?

    Even if this person had no religious or Bible training, had not been taught by his parents the difference between right and wrong, why does he run? His instinct tells him what he did is wrong and punishment is imminent.

    Our human moral-instincts are inward. Law reminds us of the consequences should we decide to act in a way of what we know instinctively to be wrong.

    Yes, the Bible can help us here, but gathering at the foot of Mount Sinai did not establish what was right and wrong, it merely solemnised it.

  • Glenn September 5, 2012, 5:24 pm

    Christ fulfilled the Mosaic Law and taught the spirit of the law as summed up (1) Love your God with your whole mind, soul, spirit and (2) to love your fellow man as yourself. What was left were the principles and gone was the ceremonious parts (Acts 15).

    Well, when Jesus said that he wasn’t self consciously doing away with anything. Remember that in that same passage he said that those two commandments summed up the whole law and the prophets. This takes us off on a bit of a tangent (my Master’s thesis in theology was written on the role of the Old Testament law in the New Testament era), but it’s important to see that in context Jesus is explicit that “I did not come to abolish the law,” and that “not the least stroke of a pen” of the law would pass away until all things were fulfilled.

    But I do agree that there is a coherent distinction between types of law – specifically to laws that were ethnic markers for the covenant people of Israel (the most obvious example being circumcision), and laws that were not such markers but reflected moral precepts (e.g. don’t steal, don’t kill etc). This becomes more relevant in the Pauline literature where he explains that the law is holy and good, but the change is that there is no longer an ethnic covenant people of God, we are all one in Christ whether Jew or Gentile, so the laws that related to the marking of that distinction simply have no further application.

    “Yes, the Bible can help us here, but gathering at the foot of Mount Sinai did not establish what was right and wrong, it merely solemnised it.”

    Quite correct. The Old Testament law is not the basis of morality. God is.

  • Glenn September 5, 2012, 5:31 pm

    This is why Humanism has transcended Christianity. Humanists believe that UNNECESSARY pain is evil. Would slowly drowning children during the Noachian Flood be an example of this?

    Frank, please don’t see this as combat: You’re not listening.

    I said that pain is not a moral evil, and so we would never say that it is morally wrong to be in pain. When you fall over and skin your knee, and it hurts, are you being wicked? Of course not. The pain is bad, but it is not bad because you’re doing something immoral. So there just is such a thing as non-moral badness. It’s badness like a bad apple, a bad painting, etc. If you are genuinely proposing that every instance of pain is an instance of immorality, then you are proposing something manifestly absurd.

    I never claimed to have read Is God a Moral Monster?; I was citing what Copan had said during a podcast made about the book in which Copan makes his claims.

    Secondly, I only agreed that Copan’s claims were consistent with Finkelstein and Silberman’s findings. It is a theory, but one well-worth considering as getting us closer to the truth – the parsimonious truth, that is.

    OK, so you haven’t read a defence the view that we’re discussing. It would be time consuming for me to give you a background knowledge of the subject, so what I will do instead is refer you to some reading to fill you in (after all, why reinvent the wheel?). If, after reading up on it, you still have these questions as to whether or not the Old Testament text itself justifies the theory, let me know.

    Matt Flannagan has given some good coverage of the issue, so that would be a good place to start:

    Part one
    Part two

  • Glenn September 5, 2012, 5:37 pm

    “That’s true, but is it necessary for one to have perfect knowledge of God in order to come to Him?”

    Jim – no, certainly not. And even though the Gentiles have a basic knowledge of the moral law and so do it – even based on their moral knowledge, they fail to live up to that law.

    As for the point of apologetics – of course we can’t know in advance how God might use what we say or do. My own intentions when I engage in what people call “apologetics” is simply to defend that which I take to be true and to give reasons for why I don’t believe otherwise. That’s it. That means commending God as revealed in Christ to represent the most important truth that there is, our response to which makes all the difference in the world. What goes on in people’s hearts and minds in response is outside of my control.

  • Frank September 5, 2012, 8:47 pm

    Glenn, you remind me that the Mosaic Law was not a set of perfect laws; perfect in the sense that they could not be amended depending on circumstances. Israel was an agrarian, nomadic, people at the beginning of their history. When they ‘took possession’ of another People’s land the Mosaic law continued to be a ‘teacher leading to Christ.’ Many of the laws were ceremonial and some were dietary, both of which were abolished with the sacrifice of Jesus. Love was to remain.

    It is interesting that when we wax like this, it so much sounds like philosophy. N.T. Wright in his book Paul – In Fresh Perspective, himself refers to the ‘apostle to the nations’ as a “Christian philosopher” like his Greek counterparts like Plato, Aristotle etc.

    Is it because God is so complex that the Bible is such a complex piece of literature? You had to do a master’s thesis in theology to get your head around it (and very impressive too. I only have a lifetime of being a Bible student to match that unfortunately. Obviously I can only stand in your shadow).

    Your conclusion on moral badness confuses me. Perhaps I should have made myself clearer. I wasn’t suggesting that pain is evil. Humanists, though, have progressed at least to the point where they will reasonably question the morality behind 6,000 years of agonising loss of loved ones in death, endless torturings from the exquisite pain of loathsome diseases, pointless earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions; centuries-long inquisitions, misogyny, witch-burning (notice little mention of warlocks as burn-victims in history)…shall I go on?

    It would be indeed small-minded of me to concern myself over the pain from the scratchings of one’s knees as ‘evil pain’ when simple logic tells me that this is the body’s own defence mechanism against doing more damage to itself.

    I wonder if you could help me with two more things:

    (1) Can you explain to me why Christian apologists can’t frame a simple answer to my questions why God kills the innocent with the guilty?

    (2) Can you tell me where I can get Paul Copan’s unabridged audiobook. I would like to consider the whole thesis. However, I got the gist on the JB show.

    I’ll read Flanagan’s information, ta.

  • Glenn September 5, 2012, 9:12 pm

    “It is interesting that when we wax like this, it so much sounds like philosophy.”

    Well certainly not like the kind of thing you find in most philosophy books! But in the wider sense, sure, because it’s a species of serious reflection, which is what philosophy is.

    “Is it because God is so complex that the Bible is such a complex piece of literature?”

    I think mostly the Bible is complex because it represents a thought world very different from the one you and I grew up in. It takes time and effort to get familiar with that. I don’t think it’s true that I “had to do a master’s thesis in theology to get [my] head around it.” I did a master’s thesis because I love the subject matter. But I think just having the patience to spend time with it and the will to get to understand it sympathetically is generally enough.

    “Perhaps I should have made myself clearer. I wasn’t suggesting that pain is evil.”

    Excellent. That, Frank, is the sound of us agreeing: There is such a thing as non-moral badness after all. It seems like we can agree that being inpain is not morally bad (i.e. evil), and hence while pain is bad in some important sense, it’s not morally bad. Now, for one of us to needlessly inflict pain on another, that might be morally bad, but that’s not just pain in itself.

    Humanists, though, have progressed at least to the point where they will reasonably question the morality behind 6,000 years of agonising loss of loved ones in death, endless torturings from the exquisite pain of loathsome diseases, pointless earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions; centuries-long inquisitions, misogyny, witch-burning (notice little mention of warlocks as burn-victims in history)…shall I go on?

    Frank, that’s hardly progress. Religious people have been reflecting on those same questions for thousands of years. The biblical writers did it frequently.

    “(1) Can you explain to me why Christian apologists can’t frame a simple answer to my questions why God kills the innocent with the guilty?” I think “frame” is the appropriate word there. Try framing the question in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re just trying to antagonise them. For instance, you earlier asked me in a much more civil manner if the Old Testament actually does suggest that the conquest targeted women and children or spared them. Much better! My response was to point you to what Copan and Flannagan have offered. See if that helps. And no,sorry, I don’t know if there’s an audiobook.

  • Buzz Moonman September 6, 2012, 8:49 am

    Zia

    In post 45, I directed you to a lengthy discussion between myself and others on these questions.

    I now direct you to post 45. Like Glenn says time and again, please read what I’ve written.

    There is a reason why Glenn takes 1,500 words or 40 to 50 minutes to unpack ideas. What you are asking cannot be answered adequately in 500 words. If I did that, you would only ask for clarification and substantiation etc etc etc, like everyone else has always done and like others do on the thread I’ve directed you to.

    Calling something wishfull thinking is the short answer you claim you want, but you want an expanded one too. You have asked for both so I have given you both.

    So check out the earlier discussion which was held not that long ago in the days before Glenn unilateraly withdrew from the Trans Tasman Free Trade Agreement On Ideas. 🙂

  • Buzz Moonman September 6, 2012, 8:59 am

    PS

    Thanks to the person who took a dislike thumb off my initial post in that thread and made it easy to find again.

  • Frank September 6, 2012, 12:26 pm

    Glenn: “Excellent. That, Frank, is the sound of us agreeing: There is such a thing as non-moral badness after all. It seems like we can agree that being inpain is not morally bad (i.e. evil), and hence while pain is bad in some important sense, it’s not morally bad. Now, for one of us to needlessly inflict pain on another, that might be morally bad, but that’s not just pain in itself.”

    Having listened again to podcast 46, I would like you to convince me why the arguments you raise are not a groundless tautology (‘God is good because God is good because God is good’). I think the above is evidence of this. You seem to have changed the rules of engagement, Glenn. I have not ‘agreed’ that no pain is evil. As I explained in an above comment, so much of the world’s misery is not down to human involvement. This becomes the basis for my argument. In Romans 8:20 Paul is putting this sort of pain at its point of origin. This is the pain that most, especially those who suffer it, call evil.

    The point is that humanists do all in their power not to cause this sort of pain to others. I think this is a better way to live. Of course God only ‘permits’ such pain (although the Bible contains accounts where God causes the pain: Conquest, Flood, etc). God’s wisdom is found in Proverbs 3:27, but apparently this only applies to humans. If humans don’t deserve this, then are we being held in contempt by him who has the power?

    I didn’t have to read long into Flanagan’s thesis to realise that it hardly intrudes on to the issues I raise. It was reading The God Delusion (I’ve gone through it at least 18 times) that I first found the view that the Conquest was an attempt at genocide. I have never held that view; but only in the sense that Hitler wasn’t attempting genocide of the Polish. I see this also in your insistence that there is such a thing as ‘non-moral’ goodness. Non-moral goodness and non-moral badness are merely mirror images of each other. When juxtaposing ‘non-moral’ with a moral property it becomes an oxymoron.

    My charge is not that Joshua was attempting genocide, but that even making children (I haven’t mentioned women only because they are fully-grown humans) casualties of war and even intentionally taking their lives can NEVER be seen as Just war or execution. This remains pretty much my only present stumbling point in my search for truth.

  • Glenn September 6, 2012, 4:52 pm

    Having listened again to podcast 46, I would like you to convince me why the arguments you raise are not a groundless tautology (‘God is good because God is good because God is good’).

    The argument you just gave is indeed a tautology – “God is good because God is good because God is good.” But I never made that argument – or any similar argument – so I do not know why you are asking me this.

    You seem to have changed the rules of engagement, Glenn. I have not ‘agreed’ that no pain is evil.

    I didn’t claim that you said no pain is evil. But you clearly did agree that the mere existence of pain is not evil in itself. Recall the example of skinning your knee. You even said that it was a helpful bodily function. So we have agreed together that pain is not evil in and of itself. And yet there is also something bad about being in pain. But since it is not evil, it must be a non-moral badness. Ergo, we agree that non-moral evil exists. I’m not sure what you seek to gain by claiming otherwise. There are bad apples. There are bad paintings (maybe). Being in love is good. Warm sunshine when you are feeling cold is good. But these are not instances of righteousness or wickedness. They are not mora goods and bads (which just means that they are not cases of righteousness or wickedness). They are non moral goods and bads. Why deny this?

    The point is that humanists do all in their power not to cause this sort of pain to others. I think this is a better way to live.

    Clearly by “humanists” you must mean people who try to do good for humanity. In this sense there are many Christian humanists. If you mean “people who are not religious believers” then what you say is clearly not true, since many such people do not do everything in their power not to cause pain to others.

    Now that you have avoided some of the more obvious pitfalls when it comes to the conquest, your objection appears to simply be this: You don’t call it genocide, and you’re willing to grant Copan’s and Flannagan’s point, but you think that anything that has the potential to bring about collateral damage by harming children is always wrong.

    Before I proceed, can you confirm: Is that what you’re now saying?

  • Frank September 6, 2012, 9:02 pm

    Glenn, you seem to be trivialising what I’m trying to say. If you quaintly wish to suggest that a cut knee’s pain is not evil in itself, why should I not agree with that? What has this to do with the alleged self-contradictory notion of the actions of a ‘non-moral God?

    Do you hold to Richard Swinburne’s implication, then, that God permits evil so that good (presumably moral good) can be done to alleviate such evil?

    I’m not quite sure why it is that you can’t give me a non-ambiguous answer to the question why Biblically God kills the innocent with the guilty. Are you leading to this event in some way?

    Let’s try it this way:

    In Genesis 18 Abraham (not a Jew but the progenitor of the race and not familiar with the 10 commandments) questions God on his judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Will you sweep away the wicked with the Good?” he asks God. God both answers Abraham and doesn’t answer at the same time.

    God fails directly to answer by politely telling him that he is the judge of the Earth and to leave things to him.

    God answers the question directly by destroying ALL the inhabitants of the twin cities. Taking into account that the male, and possibly, though not probably, the females, were accountable for their error (where were the prophets, so zealous to preach imminent doom to the House of Israel?), what were the crimes of the children? Was it being born in the wrong place at the wrong time? How about ‘the sins of the parents being visited upon the children’? Please tell me how to process that God acted with non-moral goodness in this situation.

    Are you aware that matter such as this is why, despite much taunting, Richard Dawkins refused to debate with ‘professional debaters’ like William Lane Craig. Swinburne earns the word ‘scandalised’ by Dawkins in The God Delusion. Can you please explain to a 21st century ethical world why such attitudes contain a healthy modern zeitgeist?

    Do you have to be a Christian to be a humanist? Probably not, then there are further questions to be asked. These ‘Christian humanists’ you talk of…would these be the ones who look forward to the extinction of everyone on Earth who do not share their viewpoint?

    What has Flanagan’s and Copan’s thesis to do with child-murder, Glenn? I await your reply.

  • Glenn September 6, 2012, 9:13 pm

    “Glenn, you seem to be trivialising what I’m trying to say.”

    No Frank. I’m forcing you to be clear about what you’re saying, and I’m also trying to get you to see where you have actually agree with me, even though you’re resisting seeing it.

    “If you quaintly wish to suggest that a cut knee’s pain is not evil in itself, why should I not agree with that?”

    Indeed, why shouldn’t you? And yet, provided you think there is any sense at all in which the feeling of pain is bad, you should now be agreeing with me that there is such a thing as non-moral badness. But you just can’t seem to say it. It’s really basic, actually: Some things are bad (like a bad apple or a bad feeling) but they’re not immoral. Some things are good (a good pie, something being good for you) but they are not thereby righteous. What you have just said confirms that you should be nodding in agreement, based on what you already believe.

    But for some reason, maybe because it’s me making a point about God, you go all rigid and just won'[t concede this. I don’t get it. This is not combat, and it’s not your sworn duty to disagree with me at every turn, Frank.

    So you really have no good reason to think that the idea of the non-moral goodness of God to be so odd. God is good, but not as a matter of moral duty. There, simple!

    “I’m not quite sure why it is that you can’t give me a non-ambiguous answer to the question why Biblically God kills the innocent with the guilty.”

    Frank, are you being obtuse on purpose? You already asked why Christians don’t give you a straight answer to that. I told you why they don’t. I then suggested some reading. You came back and told me that the reading material is irrelevant to your concern, and you asked the question a bit differently. So that we can avoid going around and around and around forever, in my last comment I said:

    Now that you have avoided some of the more obvious pitfalls when it comes to the conquest, your objection appears to simply be this: You don’t call it genocide, and you’re willing to grant Copan’s and Flannagan’s point, but you think that anything that has the potential to bring about collateral damage by harming children is always wrong.

    Before I proceed, can you confirm: Is that what you’re now saying?

    But instead of just saying “Yes, that is what I am asking” or “No, that’s not it,” you set the conversation back a few steps by asking the original question – the one where I have already told you why Christians wouldn’t answer it! Why do this, Frank? Seriously… If it’s your aim just to wear me down until I get fed up so that you can chalk me up as another one who’s afraid to answer your tough questions, enjoy the hollow victory. If you change your mind and decide to come back to the genuine back and forth, and actually answer my closing question in the last comment so that things can go forward, be my guest.

  • Frank September 7, 2012, 12:28 pm

    I’m happy to trade admitting that the pain felt in a knee is ‘non-moral’ for a genuinely unambiguous explanation of the profound non-moral morality behind the “execution” of innocent children to further the purpose of God.

    Of course, it is not the pain the is non-moral, any more than is alcohol in a bottle. Rather, it is the motive behind a sentient being’s/deity’s inflicting such on another being.

    Your attempt to apply a ‘get-out-jail-free’ card to ‘explain’ such appalling acts as moral (non-moral) reminds me of the attempt to ‘scientise’ the existence of God by having him exist ‘outside time.’ The Bible states that God is ‘from everlasting to everlasting,’ thus suggesting a timeline.

    Glenn: “So you really have no good reason to think that the idea of the non-moral goodness of God to be so odd. God is good, but not as a matter of moral duty.”

    Do not fathers have a moral duty to ensure their children have the advantages they need; education, healthcare, and security, etc to thrive? Is God the father of humanity?

    Glenn: ” Now that you have avoided some of the more obvious pitfalls when it comes to the conquest, your objection appears to simply be this: You don’t call it genocide, and you’re willing to grant Copan’s and Flannagan’s point, but you think that anything that has the potential to bring about collateral damage by harming children is always wrong.

    Before I proceed, can you confirm: Is that what you’re now saying?”

    Things are getting twisted, Glenn. My objection is that what I read did not impinge directly on the question(s) I was asking. You know this to be so. Removing child-abusers is today considered moral (if handled judicially) but can it EVER be moral to “execute” members of the community that have not been able to develop a sense of right and wrong? Suggest a time when this is ‘not necessarily wrong.’ Can you do that, Glenn?

    Glenn “If it’s your aim just to wear me down until I get fed up so that you can chalk me up as another one who’s afraid to answer your tough questions, enjoy the hollow victory.”

    This sounds like you’re tiring of the challenge. Presumably you set up this site to ‘defend your faith.’ 1 Peter 3:15.

  • Glenn September 7, 2012, 4:56 pm

    Do not fathers have a moral duty to ensure their children have the advantages they need; education, healthcare, and security, etc to thrive? Is God the father of humanity?

    God is not what human fathers are, no. Human fathers are subject to moral duty and may or not be non-morally good. God is non-morally good and is not subject to moral duty.

    To recap: I asked “Before I proceed, can you confirm: Is that what you’re now saying?” ”

    Twice now you have flatly declined to answer. Your choice. And you throw in things like “Your attempt to apply a ‘get-out-jail-free’ card to ‘explain’ such appalling acts as moral (non-moral)” even when my entire point in this episode (which I now believe you have never listened to) is that God is NOT moral.

    I call uncle. You win. Enjoy it Frank.

  • Jim McNeely September 9, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I wanted to pipe in here and say I appreciate the podcast and the discussion on the blog about it. It gave me a lot to think about, and I think you’re doing an amazing job with this. Thanks!

  • Frank September 10, 2012, 7:42 am

    Non-Moral Characteristics of God (http://www.mercydrops.com/Attributes/moralattributes.htm):

    Simplicity of God- uncomposed, indivisible, spirit (Jn 1:18, 4:24; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16)

    Aseity of God- self existence (Gen 1:1; Psm 90:2; Jn 1:1-3)

    Pure Actuality of God (Psm 90:2, Rev. 1:8, 17; Jn 17:5)

    God is Spirit- Richard Strauss Ph.D

    Omnipresence of God (Psa 139:7-8 & Jeremiah 23:24)

    Omniscience of God (Prov 15:3,1 Chron 28: 9; Psm 139: 2)

    Omnipotence of God (Rev 19:6, Ish 42:5)

    Infinity of God (I Kings 8:27, Ps. 145:3, Acts 17:24)

    Immutability of God (Malachi 3:6,Psm 33:11,Heb13:8)

    Immutability of God by Richard Strauss

    Sovereignty of God (Dan 4:35,Job 42:2; Ecc 7:13-14; Rom 8:28; Ps 104)

    The Sovereignty of God in History- Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M.

    God Is Eternal – (Psm 90:2; 102:12)

    Moral Characteristics of God (http://www.mercydrops.com/Attributes/moralattributes.htm):

    • Holiness of God (Ex 3:3-5; Josh 5:13-15; Ish 6:1-6; 1 John 1:5)
    • Righteousness and justice of God (Gen 18:25)
    • The goodness of God (James 1:17 & Matt 5:45)
    • The love of God (Psm 103:17; 1 John 4:8 & 16)
    • The mercy of God (Ex 3:7; Psm 86:15)
    • The grace of God (Ex 34:6; Eph 1:5-8; John 1:16)
    • The faithfulness of God (2 Tim 2:13 & Lam 3:22-3)
    • The truthfulness of God-veracity (John 14:6; 17:3)

    Notice, Glenn that goodness is among the MORAL qualities.

  • Glenn September 10, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Frank, if you had listened to this podcast episode, you would have heard my explain that yes, many people – including Christian thinkers – do indeed construe God as a moral agent who is morally good. You would also have heard me explain why I do not think this is correct, and you would have heard me saying that I was attempting to offer a correction to this way of thinking. If you find the time, maybe you could listen to it. 🙂

  • Frank September 10, 2012, 12:18 pm

    Glenn, I was wondering why (and correct me if I’m Wrong) that you are yet to offer Biblical support that directly reflects positively on Divine Command Ethics or the Non-morality of God. This is so important as thus far we only have philosophical truth only.

    Of course there is objective truth, but as Biblical truth often seems to contradict, say, archaeological truth, there must be some explanation that marries the two.

    Here’s some Biblical truth:

    New International Version (©1984)
    “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”

    New Living Translation (©2007)
    “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

    New Living Translation (©2007)
    “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”‘

  • Frank September 10, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Glenn: “But instead of just saying “Yes, that is what I am asking” or “No, that’s not it,” you set the conversation back a few steps by asking the original question – the one where I have already told you why Christians wouldn’t answer it!”

    Wow! Obviously I missed this one. Please remind what you said about why Christians ‘won’t’ answer my basic question, Glenn.

    Simply on the basis that I don’t have the philosophical qualifications, would you please simplify this quote, so that I can give a clear answer:

    Glenn: “Now that you have avoided some of the more obvious pitfalls when it comes to the conquest, your objection appears to simply be this: You don’t call it genocide, and you’re willing to grant Copan’s and Flannagan’s point, but you think that anything that has the potential to bring about collateral damage by harming children is always wrong.”

    Thanks Glenn.

  • Glenn September 10, 2012, 5:04 pm

    Frank: “Wow! Obviously I missed this one. Please remind what you said about why Christians ‘won’t’ answer my basic question, Glenn.”

    I did this in comment 76. And as I have said already, you win. You wore me down on that one. You succeeded, and I don’t wish to continue with it.

  • Glenn September 10, 2012, 5:06 pm

    Frank: “Glenn, I was wondering why (and correct me if I’m Wrong) that you are yet to offer Biblical support that directly reflects positively on Divine Command Ethics or the Non-morality of God.”

    That’s right, I haven’t actually said much by way of making a case for why Christians ought to embrace divine command ethics on biblical and theological grounds. As I indicated earlier to Ben, I do plan to do an article on that in the near future.

  • Frank September 11, 2012, 7:43 am

    Your admission that you can’t answer the question regarding the “execution” of the innocent along with the guilty is understood, Glenn.

    A couple more questions, then”

    (1) How does Divine Command Ethic/Theory and a ‘non-moral God’ impact the doctrine of salvation?

    And even more pertinently:

    (2) Thank you for finally stating isolated that you believe in a God that is not moral.This is unambiguous. Therefore..How can I trust a non-moral God?

  • Glenn September 11, 2012, 12:09 pm

    Frank, two very brief comments: First, I never said anything about not being able to answer anything. Nice try. Getting worn down is different from finding myself out of my depth. Secondly, you appear to be construing “non-moral” to mean “immoral.” It’s important to realise that non-moral here means “not subject to moral rules,” since God is the source of all such rules.

  • Frank September 11, 2012, 12:27 pm

    “(1) Can you explain to me why Christian apologists can’t frame a simple answer to my questions why God kills the innocent with the guilty?” I think “frame” is the appropriate word there. Try framing the question in a way that doesn’t sound like you’re just trying to antagonise them.”

    Is it that I make a charge against God here, Glenn?

    I’ll try to be more polite:

    Jude 7 says:

    7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,4 serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

    Note here that there is no distinction made about the inhabitants of the cities. The natural inference is that all were killed in the cities mentioned. No prophet had been sent (except arguably Lot and his family, but there is no evidence he was a preacher)and God’s conversation in Genesis 18 shows that Abraham does not appeal on the part of the children. Finally, only Lot, his wife, and daughters are reported as escaping the burning cities.

    Ditto the child victims of the Joshua Wars.

    Jude 7 says that those who died would be ‘eternally destroyed,’ leaving no provision of salvation for those who had had no opportunity to lead good lives. Was this and other accounts inaccurate in their reporting or was the book of Jude not written under inspiration?

    This is a call to all Christians to answer this apparent non-moral act.

    I have no desire to antagonise anyone; I just want an answer that would create harmony between the claims of perfect love, justice, power and mercy as the four cardinal qualities of God.

  • Glenn September 11, 2012, 12:33 pm

    Frank, you already did this. You asked a new question and I made a specific request for clarification, right before you jumped back to the earlier question. You ignored the request, I informed you that I had had enough, and now you seek to drag me back.

    OK, last shot. To take things forward, listen to the episode first. After that, please go back and answer my request for clarification.

  • Frank September 11, 2012, 3:08 pm

    Glenn: “Now that you have avoided some of the more obvious pitfalls when it comes to the conquest, your objection appears to simply be this: You don’t call it genocide, and you’re willing to grant Copan’s and Flannagan’s point, but you think that anything that has the potential to bring about collateral damage by harming children is always wrong.

    Before I proceed, can you confirm: Is that what you’re now saying?”

    If I understand you correctly, Glenn…it is confirmed.

  • Glenn September 11, 2012, 5:34 pm

    “it is confirmed”

    OK Frank, we may actually get somewhere. 🙂

    The objection you’re raising is really the general problem of suffering: If God really was non-morally good and also all powerful (so presumably capable of doing things any way he wants), why would God allow the innocent and/or the helpless to suffer and/or die in the process of God doing whatever he does (whether directly, in the course of the laws he established, or as a result of his commands to people). Why have any “collateral” at all? I think that’s what it boils down to.

    And here, I think, it would be amazingly sheltered – naieve, even – to imply that this is a question that Christians are universally too afraid to try to answer (as I’m sure you must know, Frank). many volumes have been written on it, just because it’s such a large issue that requires a fairly long reply. I’m not here saying that you’ve done this (that’s a separate question), but I do often find it to be the case that people who appear to be trying to shoot holes in Christian theology show up at blogs, message boards, Youtube and the like, and quite knowingly demand a response that they know they can’t have, like: “Right here, right now, in this blog comment box, solve the problem of evil or else your view of God is wrong.” Those who do such things have simply misjudged the purpose of the quick back and forth that blog comments aremeant to allow for – or else they are trying to intentionally ask a question without hope of a reply so that they can walk away as a victorious warrior having “silenced” a blinkered apologist.

    But as I said, I’m not saying that this is what you’re doing. I’m just stressing the risk that is run in wanting such solutions in this format – it will necessarily be disappointing for you if you want anything like a full and satisfying answer. I’m pressed for time tonight, but by the end of the week I’ll have a new comment for you on this.

  • Sandra September 11, 2012, 7:15 pm

    Frank, it seems to me that you’re an endless source of questions. Every time Glenn has answered one for you, you’ve got several more, and it really seems to me (I could be reading you wrong) that you have a real expectation that Glenn will make the time to carefully consider every one of your many many questions and answer you.

    It’s not for me to complain about this, but it seems to me that this means you’re benefiting considerably from Glenn’s time and background (and it looks to me like you’re comfortable assuming that you’ll be happy to continue doing so and asking for more, apparently without end). Fair comment? What I’m getting at is… it almost looks like Glenn’s time might be worth something to you. 😉

  • Frank September 12, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Glenn: “The objection you’re raising is really the general problem of suffering: If God really was non-morally good and also all powerful (so presumably capable of doing things any way he wants), why would God allow the innocent and/or the helpless to suffer and/or die in the process of God doing whatever he does (whether directly, in the course of the laws he established, or as a result of his commands to people). Why have any “collateral” at all?”

    I’m presuming this is a viewpoint question, not a leading or rhetorical one.

    It is interesting that when Christ was on earth he healed the sick and fed the poor to give them an ideal chance to take in his revolutionary teachings. Sadly, many of these may have been among the crowds baying for his death at the encouragement of the pharisees.

    Richard Swinburne’s “disadvantaged people exist so that others can do them good” is useful here. Surely if all people of earth had an equally ideal set of circumstances with which to work, would sin exist as we know it?

    Earthquakes and other natural disasters (of themselves not evil, obviously)are directly NOT the making as a cause of mankind’s sin and can produce public solidarity and an epidemic of looting and killing. One cannot presume the former without the latter. Therefore, in paradise, where would there be the desire to commit evil crimes with a full belly and endless learning and the resultant joy?

    You’re asking why God does has made the choices he has. Well, this is too general to answer the question I’m asking. The simple answer is that suffering will lead to paradise. Fine, but is this guaranteed for all? The Bible says only the repentant – despite the circumstances under which they conducted their course of sin (mental damage, physical damage, victimisation, disillusionment etc).

    William Lane Craig says dismissively that the children of Canaan were ‘fast-tracked’ to heaven; Jude 7, written under divine inspiration, indicates they suffered eternal destruction. Your guess is as good as mine.

    Yes, libraries of books have been written on the subject yet…what’s the answer?

    Do you worship a knowable God or a mysterious God? I congratulate you on so far not appealing to the ‘mysterious God’ theory and abandoning the effort to answer. I appreciate this, but if you can’t answer the question, then why not just admit it?

    The problem here, though, is that, so far with no Biblical support Divine Command Theory and the non-moral God should remain little more than human philosophy.

  • Buzz Moonman September 12, 2012, 12:29 pm

    Glenn said “Buzz, stop it. You’re not being persecuted or insulted when people point out that you’ve grasped the wrong end of the stick”

    I didn’t say I was being persecuted and as I said, I don’t have a problem with having the mickey taken out of me. I’m just pointing out where you are exhibiting double standards and poor quality ideas, that’s all.

    The questions – What is morality? and What is it’s purpose? are important ones in the context of our distant ancestors and non Theist societies.

    Glenn says “You’re assuming that if the Maori (or other people) didn’t believe that God was responsible for their moral knowledge, then it’s a fact that God wasn’t responsible for it.”

    I’m not assuming it, I’m backing it up with reasons why it is so.

    It is you who are assuming that just because people don’t believe there is a natural objective foundation for morality, then its a fact that your alleged god is responsible for it, whether they believe that or not. If you had bothered to read my posts on morality, you would know why I say that your basis for morality is wrong because there is a natural basis for morality.

    I don’t expect you to agree with me

    Well, not just yet 🙂

    I do expect you to follow your own advice and read other peoples ideas before you say they haven’t unpacked anything.

    I’m not brushing this off, I’m saying that I’ve already dealt with the objections but you haven’t bothered to check out my take on those objections.

    There are people who can live with uncertainty and who have a natural objective foundation for morality, even if they are not able to articulate it well, that makes your alleged god redundant in the morality stakes, even if your god did exist. Some of us can articulate it. That you don’t agree with us Secularists does not change our point that you are not using a god as a basis for morality but are really using the natural basis that humans have always used since they decided society was a good idea, whether they knew it or not.

  • Glenn September 12, 2012, 12:47 pm

    “I’m not brushing this off, I’m saying that I’ve already dealt with the objections but you haven’t bothered to check out my take on those objections.”

    Well Buzz, as I said, I have read what you wrote. You can claim that you’ve addressed everything, but as yet I have not seen you single out any arguments and shown what is wrong with them, and you don’t appear to be taking up my invitation to do so.

    The one substantive claim that you have tried to defend is that if some people have moral knowledge but don’t believe in my God, then my God is not responsible for the moral facts. I have already explained how this amounts to confusion, and you do not appear to have offered new considerations that call this into question.

  • Glenn September 12, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Frank, I pointed out that it’s wrong to expect a succinct yet full and satisfying answer. I said that within a week I should have time to reply. And you immediately respond with “what’s the answer?” Frank, I’m simply amazed.

  • Frank September 12, 2012, 3:07 pm

    With your permission, Glenn:

    Sandra, I assume from your appeal to pertinence, that you are either Glenn’s wife, acolyte, agent or mother.

    As he is a Christian apologist, I accept his generosity to be primarily motivated by his Christ-like love for his fellow human and his desire for their salvation.

    Actually, I have only asked one question, and all others are satellite to examine the logical relevance of his answers. Glenn is an expert debater; I’ve heard him. This is a cake-walk for him.

  • Sandra September 12, 2012, 5:49 pm

    No Frank, I’ve never met Glenn.
    “Actually, I have only asked one question”

    “Would it therefore be a reasonable argument against the existence of God on the basis of the Joshua Wars if there is no archaeological evidence to support the Bible accounts?” “Does this evidence cancel out any philosophical claim?” “So then how should be process the principle to ‘love our enemies’?” “Two questions, therefore, I would like to ask regarding the Joshua Wars:” [Frank then poses two questions] “Isn’t DCT simply taking sides in Euthyphro’s Dilemma: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”” “A question for you Glenn, how does Copan’s thesis progress the moral argument?” A cluster of questions: “Glenn, Are you as a Christian seriously arguing that there’s a possibility that the god of the Conquest was not Jesus’ father? Do you yourself accept Paul Copan’s premise? If so, are you saying the Bible is errant, or at least in need of decoding? If so, then error can enter at any given moment of reading the Scriptures, at least in the form of misinterpretation. If this is true, can we pronounce the New Testament error-free?” “Could you please make a comment or two on my contention that your title: The Non-moral Goodness of God presupposes that there is also a ‘non-moral badness’ in existence.” “What is the law being spoken of here, Glenn?” “Would slowly drowning children during the Noachian Flood be an example of this?” “I wonder if you could help me with two more things:” [Two more questions follow]
    “Do you hold to Richard Swinburne’s implication, then, that God permits evil so that good (presumably moral good) can be done to alleviate such evil?” “Please tell me how to process that God acted with non-moral goodness in this situation.”
    “What has Flanagan’s and Copan’s thesis to do with child-murder, Glenn? I await your reply.” I notice the demanding tone – Glenn, run off and get me an answer, then come back to serve me more. Quickly. And towards the end of this torrent of questions and demands, you have the gall to actually presume to taunt Glenn: “This sounds like you’re tiring of the challenge.” Frank, any normal human being would tire of such mosquito-like conduct! They would have done so much sooner, and they would not still be extending patience and grace to you. You even managed to goad Glenn into coming back to the table. You have no appreciation of just how needy and demanding you’re being. Maybe this is normal for you. And omg, I was so sickened by this, THEN after Glenn had come back, continually serving you, answering your huge list of questions, he – ONCE tells you that you’re asking a very broad question, and that books and books have been written on this, so a full answer couldn’t be given in a bog com box, and even though he is busy, he will make time for you, and come back with a comment within a week. Your response? You snap back: “What’s the answer?”

    But you’ve only asked one question.

  • Sandra September 12, 2012, 6:25 pm

    Glenn, I’m sorry if I’m speaking out of turn. But it just seems to clear that Frank is like the kid in your class who puts his had up ever five seconds right in front of your face, calls out asking questions on topics unrelated to the lesson, asks you to – when you’ve gone home that evening – to get answers for him, phones you at home to make sure you’re in a hurry getting them for him etc. I’ve been listening and reading your stuff for a while, I know you work a normal day job, you have your own life outside of that, and you do this for us in your *spare* time. Evidently what Frank does in his spare time is try to get people to stop talking about whatever they were talking about and pursue his agenda, answer all his questions, satisfy his every intellectual desire and provide him with an education. In spite of clear comments at the outside of this thread, he has STILL just blown off the topic of this podcast episode (I don’t think even one of his many questions has been about any material you covered), and has gone back to the only thing he ever seems to want to talk about: Why is the God of the old Testament such a booger?

    I would just ask you to consider whether or not the time which could actually be put to good use should really be spent on one very demanding individual in this way. You wrote a really good blog post a while back called “Why I don’t reply to everyone.” In it, you said:

    And lastly, what would you be doing if you weren’t responding to this criticism? Time is one of the most precious gifts you have, so think about how you’re investing it….
    … Time is ticking away my friends, and you are mortal. You’ve actually got things to do – or at least you should. God has given you plenty to do! Would your time be more wisely invested writing that next article for publication, putting together your next blog on some issue that you think is important, or responding to somebody who just said that you’re “mindlessly incompetent.” Or even if the criticism is more civil in nature, is responding to it clearly more important than the other things you should be getting done? Let’s see why my options are: Write for publication, work on podcast episodes (which are planned but not even written due to the scarcity of time), try to find better ways of providing for my family, work on important professional / ministry / academic networking, engage in my own reading/research, or respond to that guy…. hmm…. What to do? Granted, sometimes it will be responding to that guy. Often criticism does warrant a reply. If I do reply, I have to be careful not to get snagged, so that my time starts disappearing into somebody’s comments thread.

    OK, that’s all I will say on it. But do think about it, because it would be a shame to see resources going to waste here.

  • Glenn September 12, 2012, 6:54 pm

    In the interests of fairness I’ll let Frank offer a comment in reply (if he wishes to offer one), Sandra, but then I ask that as of tomorrow this particular discussion be taken up privately if anyone wishes to pursue it.

  • Frank September 13, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Sandra, you seem to be a person rich in intuition, which is why I’m surprised you failed to intuit Glenns’ natural disdain at your suggestion that I pay for what the founder of Christianity taught should be given free (Matthew 10:8)

    There’s a great MP3 file on the Net (The Great Blasphemy Debate)where Stephen Fry (an avowed atheist) reminds us of two of the most creepy words in existence today (abused for personal advantage);namely “respect” and “offence.”

    Reading your reply of yesterday (and thank you for re-iterating a number of my questions and confirming that they are satellite in nature to the main issue)concerned me of the level of ‘offence’ and, indeed, anxiety you display.

    It is my observation that this has become common in view of the freedom that the Internet now gives to free speech. I have noticed that many Christian bloggers, like youself, become ‘offended’ when rational logic threatens the emotional acceptance of traditional beliefs. I call this Martyr’s Syndrome. Here’s my premise:

    Apart from a few hotspots around the Western World, Christians are not overtly persecuted as they may have expected. This threatens one of the most common aspects of some Christians’ religious identity, particularly those escatologically-inclined. When the foretold open persecution doesn’t appear, some will resort to referring to ANY disagreement with their traditional beliefs as “persecution.” This is a form of self-placation.

    The tenor of your statement above puts me in mind of this.

    This is only my opinion, of course.

    Glenn is made of stronger stuff. So far he hasn’t himself resorted to the “divine mystery” argument and has shown himself more than capable of standing up for his own beliefs.

    Glenn, I look forward to your upcoming article on the Biblical support for DCT and the non-moral God.

  • Glenn September 13, 2012, 12:40 pm

    And now that issue is done (even if it magically became a rant about persecution!). PS Frank, it’s the non-moral goodness of God, and as I said, the article will be on the reasons why a Christian should accept DCT, not the non-moral goodness of God. But I’m glad you’re looking forward to it. 🙂

  • Frank September 13, 2012, 3:07 pm

    Thanks Glenn. Please remember though, it is now I who feels persecuted. Would you also consider an article on the Biblical support for a non-moral God? This would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Frank

  • Frank September 13, 2012, 3:08 pm

    Whoops! I meant: “It is NOT I who feels persecuted.”

  • Glenn September 13, 2012, 4:48 pm

    Frank, did you read the comment to which you’re now replying? I said: “PS Frank, it’s the non-moral goodness of God”

    But as I think you see: If I write an article showing that Christians should believe in DCT, and if I construe morality as bound up with duty, then I will have shown that God must be non-morally good, rather than morally good. Efficiency.

    And as you’re calling the shots as to how I spend so much of my time in the comments thread, I think I’ll retain control over which articles I write. 🙂 But if you want to explore the issue further, why don’t you write something, perhaps defending the claim that the Bible supports the view that God is a moral agent (i.e. in the sense that I am consistently talking about being a moral agent: subject to moral duties), and see what you find. (I say “find” because writing an article is never just about putting down ideas from my head onto the screen, time invested in research is mandatory). Serious suggestion.

  • Frank September 13, 2012, 8:38 pm

    It is funny you should make this suggestion, Glenn. I was thinking much the same way and was going to ask you if I could. If it is okay for you, I will first wait for your upcoming article and use mine as a rebuttal. Is that okay?

    I assure you that I have no intention of monopolising your time. My passion merely matches yours. In fact, it’s my non-moral duty.

    Sandra, feel free to criticise my work; I welcome it. I would, however, appreciate arguments and not tirades.

    Thanks

    Frank

  • Glenn September 14, 2012, 12:32 pm

    Well, you don’t need my permission to do your own research and writing, so sure, go ahead. Nothing to do with me!

    But it worries me, Frank, that you seem to know, even before doing the research, that you will “refute” my article where I explain why the Bible and Christian theology supports DCT. What if I produce good reasons? Careful Frank. Don’t keep assuming that you simply must disagree with whatever I am about to say.

    PS: Non-moral duty? What is that? Do you mean it’s your legal duty or something?

  • Frank September 14, 2012, 7:36 pm

    It’s a pun, Glenn.

    Can you just confirm; are you offering to publish an article of mine or have I misunderstood you.

    Don’t worry, Glenn. Part of article is already written in my head. I’m fast getting a handle on DCT and it’s obvious flaws. Unless, of course, you have your own philosophical version of what is commonly accepted as DCT/DCE. You’re assuming it’s a Bible teaching. I may not disagree but I want to discuss the price tag for mankind.

  • Glenn September 14, 2012, 7:43 pm

    Frank, you’ve misunderstood. I’m not about to publish your article, I was just suggesting that you look into it yourself. But if you think it’ll stand up to scrutiny, why not put it online?

    I wonder if you would share these “flaws” some time. You say that you’re quickly getting a grip on the subject and you see its “obvious” flaws. Many have done that Frank, hastily latched on to the alleged flaws that go around an d around on the internet – in spite of having been soundly addressed in the literature on DCT. And when you say you’re becoming familiar with the view, I do hope you mean that you’re taking the required time to immerse yourself in the defences of that view. Otherwise you’re not getting familiar with the view at all. You’re merely getting an initial acquaintance with the fact that you don’t accept the view.

    And if you “may not disagree,” how do you already know that you will have a refutation for the case that DCT is biblical/Christian ? Remember – the issue isn’t whether or not you agree with DCT. The issue (now) is whether or not it’s consistent with Christian theology and Scripture.

  • Sandra September 14, 2012, 8:06 pm

    Wow. Seriously… now you are meant to serve him further by providing him with publishing space and an unearned audience. I barely know what to say. But my bad, to point out such poor manners is a “tirade.”

    Glenn, I’ve seen and heard your work on divine command ethics, and some of the articles that others have written, and it does tend to generally take the form of demolishing objections. It’s a good demolition too, don’t get me wrong. But I do look forward to seeing what you have to say to a Christian audience in particular on why they should accept DCT.

    In addition to writing the article (presumably another one for publication), I hope you put it up in the articles section of your site!

  • Glenn September 15, 2012, 4:57 pm

    Frank… honestly… Now you imply that it is fear that drives me in not choosing to publish your articles at my site?

    Look, every single line of argument that you have ever tried to push here – every snide comment about the weakness of another view, every observation you’ve made that you thought would undermine a claim – without fail, if memory serves – has failed quite badly and obviously. I do not consider that your critiques have merit, and I do not think you understand much of the subject matter that you’re attempting to wax wise on. That’s not a crime, of course, but when coupled with an attitude that assumes your arguments will always be bulletproof, that you know in advance that whatever I am about to say on a subject will be easily and completely refuted by you, and that I am cowering in fear at your new-found mastery of these matters… that gets old very quickly. It got old a while ago, and my patience has met its match.

    I appreciate that you feel attacked by such comments (you are not, after all, familiar with robust debate about these things), but to imply that it is cowardice on my part that prevents me from actually giving these terrible arguments a platform is one of the worst tactics in trying to get one’s own way that I have encountered.

    Tell you what Frank – you’ll be able to comment at this blog again in six months. I’ve extended to you considerable patience and time, and if you’re simply going to abuse that, then you can fill your evenings some other way. I know I will!

    PS – You probably mean “solipsists,” who are people who maintain that no other people besides themselves actually exist. I get the feeling you think it means something else.

  • John Quin November 1, 2012, 3:04 pm

    Hi Glenn
    (caveat first: I haven’t read the above in depth so just ignore this question if by chance if was covered above or even if you just don’t have time to address the issue then feel free to ignore)

    After having listened to this podcast for the second or third time I have at least one question.

    Are we saying that the statement “We ought not gratuitously inflict pain on a human” is a rational ought even if we have already agreed that pain is intrinsically bad and humans are intrinsically valuable?
    It seems to me as though it would be hard to argue to most people that this wasn’t a moral ought.
    I wouldn’t want to create a whole system of morality based on pain but in this particular it seems like it should be a moral ought. Wouldn’t most people just think the definition of morality is that we should avoid doing what is bad? I can see holes with the position I’m outlining here but I just wanted to make sure I was on to the right thing. I seem to have previously thought I was on to the right thing when WLC raised the ‘value problem’ in his debate with Harris but I admit that I have extrapolated a lot from a limited understanding on this issue. Here we seem to be granting the value of humans.
    Additionally saying that anything is intrinsically ‘anything’ seems a little anti-foundational to me but that is possibly another issue.

  • Glenn November 1, 2012, 5:49 pm

    Are we saying that the statement “We ought not gratuitously inflict pain on a human” is a rational ought even if we have already agreed that pain is intrinsically bad and humans are intrinsically valuable?
    It seems to me as though it would be hard to argue to most people that this wasn’t a moral ought.

    Left explicit and literal, we can’t tell if that’s a moral ought or a rational ought.

    However, if by instrinsically “valuable” you mean to refer to a status that confers moral responsibilities (and it looks like this is what’s going on), then this is a moral ought, because it just means that we morally ought not gratuitously inflict pain on a human, because pain is bad and they have some status that confers on us a moral obligation to not do things to them that are bad. If that’s what you mean, then it’s a moral ought. But the intrinsic badness of pain isn’t itself a moral badness, and being in pain has no moral status whatsoever. Here what’s doing the heavy lifting is the value – and whereas one can easily persuade others that pain is intrinsically bad in some sense, it’s much harder to defend the claim entirely in naturalistic terms that there’s an intrinsic value to every human.

    More to the point in this context – the point of Wielenberg’s example was to provide a clear example of a bad thing that is not bad by virtue of a divine command, namely, pain. But you could never do that in a non question-begging way when it comes to intrinsic human value.

    (But – and obviously – if gratuitously inflicting pain on humans serves some end that we want, then rationally we ought to do it.)

  • John Quin November 1, 2012, 6:08 pm

    Thanks again Glenn
    I’ll reflect on it a bit.
    I sense I don’t have as much of a grasp on it as I’d like.
    Time to do some more reading. 🙂

  • John Martindale January 17, 2013, 7:56 am

    Glenn, so if I understand you right, your saying that God wouldn’t command torturing children, because His nature is love, His love restrains him from commanding such a thing. So in respect to God, his being loving is not identical to his being moral, but for mankind, to love is a moral because God commanded us to love. For God, its not a duty to love, for he is held by no moral code, nevertheless, He is filled with love for us, so he would only command what is the best for us. Anything he commands, mankind is obligated to obey, because of His authority.

    So all in all, is the main points of the argument, that we we need to substitute the word “moral” with the word “love” when referring to God? At first this seems odd, because I automatically think of love as being moral. So it almost sounded like you were saying the same thing as Craig.

  • Kyle February 13, 2013, 6:17 pm

    Thank you for the podcast, Glenn.

    I’m trying to listen to it again, but the audio cuts off after just a few minutes. Is there another way to listen to the whole thing? Thanks.

  • Glenn February 13, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Kyle, I had someone else say that to me recently, and then the next day they told me it was working. It’s working fine for me, but if you want to download the whole mp3, right click on on the word “download” link under the player and save the file somewhere. Or use iTunes.

  • Kyle February 14, 2013, 4:45 am

    It’s working now. Thanks!

    I’m still a bit confused as to why appealing to God’s supposed moral nature is not a good move. It’s something I’ve found problematic as well, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Are you saying that appealing to God’s moral nature doesn’t really answer the question in some way? Does it fail to explain the content of this “good”? Is it circular in some way?

    Sorry if my questions are vague.

Leave a Comment

Remember: All comments should conform to the blog policy and you must use your real name. Comments that do not conform may be removed in whole or in part. You can review the blog policy here.

 Characters remaining