2 Samuel 12:11-12, 14″This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’

14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

What kind of moral and good God would do something like this? I mean, it’s not allegory—it’s a literal event (at least as literal as you interpret the Bible). It’s not a consequence of the fall. So often, Christians dismiss[i] evil in the world as a result of the fall, a consequence of Adam. But this isn’t a natural occurrence. This is punishment, rebuke, and (by some perspectives) manslaughter; extreme violence issued, decreed, and carried out according to the word of God.

Perhaps it will get better in the context of the whole story.

These verses are the conclusion following Nathan’s confrontation of David (2 Sam 12:1-14). David had done some horrific things. For starters, he slept with a married woman, Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:4). As if that wasn’t enough, Bathsheba was the wife of one of the soldiers under his command. When King David learned he impregnated Bathsheba, he tried to trick Uriah into thinking it was his (vv6-13). When this failed, sadly, David had Uriah murdered (vv14-16).

This is a treacherous story, one that does itself no favors by setting up David’s position as a “man after God’s own heart”.

If you were to present this story to me, on its own merit, I would be forced to admit—it sickens me. The child had no fault in the story; he was a victim of consequence–an innocent victim. What is more, David prayed and fasted for 7 days, never leaving the child’s side. He wore sackcloth and was joined by elders. Even with everything else, surely the God of mercy would spare the innocent child (2 Sam 12:15-18a).

I share this story for three reasons. First, if there were any reason to doubt the heart of God this story would do it. Surely it must be included in the Bible for a reason; I share this story to hash out that reason. Two, the story brings up a theological misunderstanding; I share this story to clear some muggy waters. Third, this story has shaken the faith of my friend, and I want to show there is another perspective—even if he finds my rationale lacking.

       1. Why is this story in the Bible

I can name three reasons why this story is in the Bible. Each reason gives credence to a bigger picture. First, it’s the whole of the story. What would the Bible look like if all the “God is good” verses showed up in the Bible and all the “God is bad” texts showed up outside the Bible? It would be seen as hypocritical—and rightfully so. But, because the authors of the texts, and those who compiled them together, were willing to show the hard parts, too, we can have more confidence what is written is the truth (as they understand it).

This is true for the NT disciples/apostles; they are shown to be “dim-witted, uncaring, uneducated, cowardly doubters who are rebuked by Jesus.”[ii] It’s true of patriarchal leaders like Moses and Aaron; what kind of heroic exodus from Egypt wouldn’t be complete without a complete and utter[iii] turn from the God who rescued you from captivity…within 40 days of freedom?(Do you feel the sarcasm *wink*?) How stupid, right!? Frank Turek writes it like this, “There are far too many embarrassing details about the supposed heroes of the faith to be invented.”[iv] That’s my point. Make-believe stories and myth don’t highlight the embarrassment; they sugar-coat the follies and focus on the fantastic. That’s not the case in the Davidic narrative. It’s painful, it’s awful, and tells the whole story—just like the rest of the Bible. Reason 1 why this story is included in the Bible is because we don’t need to shy away from the hard parts to understand God loves us.

Reason two: because morality isn’t black and white. Consider the humanistic appeal to never do harm. This sounds good superficially but falls apart when harm comes in the form of benefit. Vaccines, for example, are quite painful but prevent much serious illnesses and even death. If morality were simply rules–like do no harm–then there is no room for exception when the harm is beneficial. Or another example,  how about the atheist that says “It’s never ok to kill a baby” and supports abortion to protect the mom?[v] I don’t write that supposing that David’s baby dying somehow justifies abortion (more on that in point 3), but I do write that to highlight the fluidity of morals. Morals aren’t a set of rules to follow, they are principals of distinction; the extent to which an action is right or wrong.

Context atheism atheist KJV 1611 Bible Scripture

Now that I’ve said that, let me finish the thought. There are times we cross lines of morality because it brings about a greater good. In the OT, we see a lot of actions—many by God—which seem to cross an immoral landscape. However, once we get to the NT, the scenery changes. David’s son was taken as a result of David’s sin, but later God’s son was taken as a result of our sin. Let me be clear. You are free to say of the way God treated the sins of David, “That’s not how I would do it.” You have the ability to apply your own subjective standards on the narrative. But, when we arrive at the cross–the death of Jesus, you must continue to say, “That’s not how I would do it”. This time, however, the consequences are far more grievous. This time, your narrow, subjective view of morality cost far more than one life. So the second reason this story is in the Bible, it’s consistent with God’s morality being greater than our understanding. Just like the vaccine, the negative was superseded by the positive. This is difficult to understand especially when we consider loss of life, but that brings us to our next point.

morality God right wrong Christianity apologeticsFinally, number three. This story reminds us that Earth is not our home. Our souls and our eternity belong in Heaven. God is the creator. Job reminds us, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21) and again in 2:10, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”. Everything belongs to God.

In this way we need acknowledge a critical difference between murder and the death of David’s son. When someone on Earth kills another human, that life is not theirs to take; it’s murder. Murder is life taken unjustly. But, when the Lord calls, his creation answers; God does not murder, he commands. That is to say, God is not subjugated to morality, God is moral. William Lane Craig says it best:

Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself,  He has no moral duties to fulfill.  He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. (From: Reasonable Faith)

With this point, there is a sub-point worth mentioning. David prayed and fasted for 7 days hoping to save his son. On the day the boy died, his staff did not want to tell him. When they did, however, David rose and went off, showered, clothed himself, and (hear this) went and worshipped the Lord. There is a peace that is greater than our understanding when we submit to the Lord. If we only focus on the death of a child, we will only see murder and hate and anger. However, when we see the greatness of God in all things, we begin to, “consider it pure joy when you endure trials of many kinds.” (Jas 1:2).

       2. A new theology

A quick Google search of the word sacrifice offers the most common definition used to understand religious narrative. It says, “the act of slaughtering an animal or person as an offering to God”. But there is a better definition that helps understand what sacrifice accomplishes, and I’ll summarize it in one word: Trust.

Sacrifice isn’t just an arbitrary death, it is a payment; sacrifice is something we don’t want to live without, but can trust the the one we sacrifice to. Think about it in baseball terms. A sacrifice fly is a guy who hits the ball in a way that he will be out, but another runner will score or gain a base. The team is willing to give up an out in exchange for something greater. This is true in sacrifice offerings and why God portioned the offerings based on wealth (ox, goat, 2 doves, e.g.). In this way, the payment is just as impressive as the debt and that’s where restitution and redemption collide.

In terms of David’s loss, we must imagine the debt David had tallied. The army would return and talk about Uriah’s death. The town gossip would do the math concerning Bathsheba’s pregnancy. Chaos was sure to destroy the kingdom God established. But there was a chance for redemption; a chance to even zero out the debt. The son had to die. David must live without his son so David’s strength, not his weakness, was how he would be remembered. The entire kingdom was saved at the death of a boy.

sacrifice mother teresa pain Jesus Bible Scripture Trust

Some will object, the kingdom was in chaos. You’ll throw a red flag and say don’t forget, David’s wives were also given away in broad daylight. David’s sons would go on to be broken and scattered. The kingdom was not saved. But this, too, is near sided. Remember, Jesus was from the line of David. What kind of king is David if he is only seen as an adulterer and murderer? What kind of king is David if his strength is never has an opportunity to shine. The good here is greater than a person, even a small boy. This is a hard teaching to be sure, but perspective is critical.

       3. A new hope[vi]

There is no doubt that reading verses like these are hard to process. They require more than simple definitions and only come together when the entirety of Scripture is understood. I want to close this piece by contrasting the sins and loss of David to the sins and loss of our lives. David did some really messed-up stuff. He killed the husband of his adulterous relationship. He left his troops fighting while he pompously took advantage of his kingship. He let his pride take over and sinned against God. But, he was redeemed.

I mentioned earlier that David was seen as a man after God’s own heart. That was a little fib. Yes, it’s true that he is called as such in the Bible. However, those descriptions do not come before the sin, they come after the redemption (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22).

In correlation, when we see the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The depiction isn’t an arbitrary sacrifice; it’s a payment. God is essentially saying, “When you sin, I ask you for an ox, or a goat, or some doves, because that is what you must learn to live without so that you know you can trust me. But I see that you can no longer pay for your own sins—your sins are too many. Here. Here is a payment beyond measure.”

So, when you think of the Davidic narrative and other texts where God comes off as an immoral tyrant, keep in mind that he has never asked you for anything he is not willing to do himself. He is not confined by the rules you established, but is perfect and just in all his ways. I would encourage you, do not focus on the instant, the event, the solidarity of the moment. Rather, seek God. In all his ways he is good—even when it doesn’t seem that way.

Let me close with this thought. It can be argued that an all-powerful God should be able to find another way. It can be argued that a God that would allow this kind of suffering is an immoral God, one not worth serving. This is a naive view, one that focuses too much on the temporal and not enough on the eternal. Perhaps my next post will dive further into the benefits of suffering and the inconsistency of wanting a pain-free life. But for now, this post focuses on the fact that some Scripture is hard; it hurts–and that’s OK. So does God. He understands your pain because Jesus, his Son, also died–for you.

END NOTES:

[i] This is an inappropriate word. Christians care very much for the world and are among the leaders in humanitarian efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and supply the poor. Dismiss is a word I chose because at this point in this post I am illustrating the negative perception of Christianity. Please read on with patience and love.

[ii] Eric Chabot, “The Seven E’s of Testimony in the New Testament”. Featured on Ratio Christi: http://ratiochristi.org/osu/blog/post/the-seven-es-of-testimony-in-the-new-testament#.V42OefkrLIU

[iii] See what I did there? 😉

[iv] Frank Turek, “The Bible: Embarrassing and True”. May 6, 2010. From: http://townhall.com/columnists/frankturek/2010/05/06/the_bible_embarrassing_and_true

[v] This is a general comment. I don’t suppose all atheist support abortion or the idea that all Christians oppose it. It is meant to be taken as analogous. Thanks in advance for your comments and emails. 🙂

[vi] It’s titled that way for Gene 😉

74 COMMENTS

  1. You mentioned Job; he is a total case study in this very thing you speak of as are his companions.
    They come around doing a beat down on him because they are convinced that Job must have done something horrendous to be punished in this manner; which includes the loss of all of his children. And in the case of Job it was not even the result of any sin of Job’s but only for his testing and God’s Glory. I wonder how often David drew on the story of Job to help him through his own crisis, self made or not?

    “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him” Job 13:15

    For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth;
    And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God,
    Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

    Your brother in Christ,
    Michael

    • Thanks Michael! One of my college papers was on Job and there is a lot of thought that Job 1:5 may be the “reason” behind his extreme trials; he never had a heart for God but a legalistic obedience “Just in case my children sin”. Check it out if you ever get a chance.
      Blessings and Thanks!!

  2. a command is an intent verbalized and as such, WLC has no means to say there are separate moral spheres for man than god; god and man are either under no obligations at all, or, such obligations are universal (since WLC often puts god as the standard, saying that universal, objective morality exists anyway), or, obligations are merely constructions.

    the question is whether or not god is moral at all (given hume on “enquiry into the principles of morals”), since it implies moral agents are contingent beings, or if god is “moralness” (is morality itself) then god cannot be any standard, since god is ineffable.

    • Steven your comment implies God does good (or does not). This is fundamentally not what Christians believe. We believe God IS GOOD. By His very nature He does what is ULTIMATELY GOOD. Roger hit o this, that God could allow (or even do) some harm for an ultimate purpose we can’t know. This would be tied to His omniscience, that we can’t and don’t posses, thus we are making judgements based on limited info.

      • to say god is good is to say you judge god and say he’s describable as good.

        to be sure, there is no subject where there is a unified christian belief on anything. that said, the traditional view is that god is not good, god is goodness itself.

        and, end don’t justify means.

        • No, I know what good is because God tells us. Does causing harm (evil if you will) sometimes bring good? Sure! The vaccine illustration Roger used goes against the cliche’.

          I am comfortable with a God capable of deciding the good or bad allowed, for He knows best.

          • Tony, that has nothing to do with anything. but if you, in yourself, have no idea what good is, then you have no idea whether what god tells you it’s good or bad. yours is a perversion from orthodoxy, and what’s more, total depravity is NOT a christian concept at all. it is from the pagan worship of the god, mani, and brought into christian thinking by st. augustine, a manichean convert. it literally is an incoherent idea. holding to it where both parts are taken as true, then 1) you cannot tell the good from evil, and therefore, 2) you cannot say anything about the goodness of god, 3) only the “commandness” of god.

            hence, euthyphro!

            the orthodox view is that ALL men know what is right and wrong because god has put it on his heart. meaning that god has created man to be moral, every man is moral, and every man can speak to the goodness of god because we are icons of god, each of us sacraments of god, able to know god through 1) his active presence in the world (in other words, grace), 2) and because of our likeness to god, by our nature, “pistis” (ie draw to the good, persuasion to it, appreciation of it) is a result, where 3) both grace and faith are experiencing and neither about beliefs or having special knowledge imparted to us; these, by the way, are the only things scripture tells us are efficacious for salvation.

            i digress … god cannot issue any command that does not also apply to himself, if god is moral and of morality is consistent and coherent, absolute.

          • i’m not sure we are, toni.

            the question is about god being moral while doing and commanding the doing of some very crappy things. this article is an attempt to justify, explain, or otherwise harmonize a god of love with the one we encounter in old testament scripture.

            this paper contends that there is a moral double standard such that what god does is by fiat alone, always moral, yet may be immoral for man — even perhaps if a man has the same reasons for acting as he does that god has; for example, it may be moral for god to take the life of a person suffering terminally, yet not moral for man to do. justification in such cases is merely that might makes right or an issue of ownership, and then, morality is relative to a commander and not absolute in any sense; for there is no means of objectivity whereby any command can be understood in terms of goodness or moralness, only that so-and-so commanded thus-and-such.

            can you help me understand what common ground we have so far?

          • Steven, I’m sure you are aware of the saying “playing God” when someone does something like kill someone else, that is not their right to do. God can do things we can’t.

          • honestly, i don’t think you’re listening. i already said there are many ways to relate god and morality. all you just did was say that ownership is what makes something moral.

            in that case, anything i do to my children or to slaves is moral, since i am their sovereign.

            good may well be able to do things we can’t, but what god cannot do is anything immoral, and there cannot be two standards. what goes for man goes for god, of god can be said to be a moral agent at all.

          • “Lewis’ Moral Argument. The most popular modern form of the moral argument was given by C. S. *Lewis in Mere Christianity. He not only gives the most complete form of the argument in the most persuasive way, but he also answers major objections. The moral argument of Lewis can be summarized:
            There must be a universal moral law, or else: (a) Moral disagreements would make no sense, as we all assume they do. (b) All moral criticisms would be meaningless (e.g., “The Nazis were wrong.”). (c) It is unnecessary to keep promises or treaties, as we all assume that it is. (d) We would not make excuses for breaking the moral law, as we all do.
            But a universal moral law requires a universal Moral Law Giver, since the Source of it: (a) Gives moral commands (as lawgivers do). (b) Is interested in our behavior (as moral persons are).
            Further, this universal Moral Law Giver must be absolutely good: (a) Otherwise all moral effort would be futile in the long run, since we could be sacrificing our lives for what is not ultimately right. (b) The source of all good must be absolutely good, since the standard of all good must be completely good.
            Therefore, there must be an absolutely good Moral Law Giver.
            The Moral Law Is Not Herd Instinct. Lewis anticipates and persuasively answers major objections to the moral argument. Essentially, his replies are:
            What we call the moral law cannot be the result of herd instinct or else the stronger impulse would always win, but it does not. We would always act from instinct rather than selflessly to help someone, as we sometimes do. If the moral law were just herd instinct, then instincts would always be right, but they are not. Even love and patriotism are sometimes wrong.
            The Moral Law Is Not Social Convention. Neither can the moral law be mere social convention, because not everything learned through society is based on social convention. For example, math and logic are not. The same basic moral laws can be found in virtually every society, past and present. Further, judgments about social progress would not be possible if society were the basis of the judgments.
            The Moral Law Differs from Laws of Nature. The moral law is not to be identified with the laws of nature. Natures laws are descriptive (is), not prescriptive (ought) as are moral laws. Factually convenient situations (the way it is) can be morally wrong. Someone who tries to trip me and fails is wrong, but someone who accidentally trips me is not.
            The Moral Law Is Not Human Fancy. Neither can the moral law be mere human fancy, because we cannot get rid of it even when we would like to do so. We did not create it; it is impressed on us from without. If it were fancy, then all value judgments would be meaningless, including such statements as “Hate is wrong.” and “Racism is wrong.” But if the moral law is not a description or a merely human prescription, then it must be a moral prescription from a Moral Prescriber beyond us. As Lewis notes, this Moral Law Giver is more like Mind than Nature. He can no more be part of Nature than an architect is identical to the building he designs.
            Injustice Does Not Disprove a Moral Law Giver. The main objection to an absolutely perfect Moral Law Giver is the argument from evil or injustice in the world. No serious person can fail to recognize that all the murders, rapes, hatred, and cruelty in the world leave it far short of perfect. But if the world is imperfect, how can there be an absolutely perfect God? Lewis’ answer is simple: The only way the world could possibly be imperfect is if there is an absolutely perfect standard by which it can be judged to be imperfect (see Morality, Absolute Nature of). For injustice makes sense only if there is a standard of justice by which something is known to be unjust. And absolute injustice is possible only if there is an absolute standard of justice. Lewis recalls the thoughts he had as an atheist:
            Just how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust…. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if 1 did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. [Mere Christianity, 45, 46]
            Rather than disproving a morally perfect Being, the evil in the world presupposes a perfect standard. One could raise the question as to whether this Ultimate Law Giver is all powerful but not whether he is all perfect. For if anyone insists there is real imperfection in the world, then there must be a perfect standard by which this is known.”
            ‘Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics’ Norman Geisler.

          • lewis was popular but not in any other way persuasive.

            the simple fact that we are all human beings is enough to obviously expect that people will agree on what is right and wrong. there’s no need at all to invoke moral absolutes or universals. none.

            in fact, were lewis’ suggestion true, we’d expect to see a homogeneity not only in the signifiers naming some moral idea but also in the content of the principle itself, we wouldn’t have cultural moral divides.

            meaning, if there were some universal moral law, then we wouldn’t JUST see all cultures saying “murder is wrong”, we’d actually see all cultures meaning the same thing by “murder”. obviously a canabalistic culture doesn’t see some killings as murder, some don’t see abortion as murder, and so on.

            in fact, what we see in reality is only moral principles that may only have similarity in name and completely reliant on a culture to actually give them meaning … and these are never universal.

          • tony, will you answer me one thing?

            how can we tell the difference between a universe with a god and a universe without a god?

            in all honesty, there’s no way to tell. we suppose there’s a god and, we may be wrong about that.

            supposing we are wrong that there is a god, what has lewis demonstrated or proven?

            all these things folks say are dependent on god for their being or function, these are actual things and these cannot be doubted. what can be doubted is the existence of deity and anything said of such a being.

            therefore, while it is proper to say something about reality gives us the idea of god, it is circular training then to turn and say that these things bringing god to mind are contingent to god. quite literally and necessarily the opposite is true; without these things, the idea of god is impossible. good is dubious, reality is not, no matter how ordinary or odd.

            so, how can we tell the difference between each kind of universe?

          • and since we’re quoting, i thought i’d quote norm myself too:

            Equivocal God-talk leaves us in total ignorance about God. At best, one can only feel, intuit, or sense God in some experiential way, but no human expressions can describe what it is that is being experienced … [As for univocal] Our understanding and expressions are finite, and God’s are infinite, and there is an infinite gulf between finite and infinite. As transcendent, God is not only beyond our limited understanding, but He is also beyond our finite expressions.

            (Norman Geisler, ‘Systematic Theology, Vol. 1’, Bethany House Publishers, 2002, pg. 615)

    • Hi Steven,

      Let me start over real quick. I tried to reply earlier from my phone and failed to finish a thought (twice) when my phone opted to submit before I was done. HA! So I’m going to start over here, forgive me if you’ve already addressed something I miss.
      Also, to be frank, we have a comment policy in place for a reason. Generally your comments are reasonable and welcomed, but I don’t want anything you write to get blocked without making sure you were aware; no ad hominem, even if you don’t see eye-to-eye with other apologists (like WLC). Here is a link so we are all on the same page, https://clearlens.org/comment-policy/

      Ok, let’s start over.

      You seem to take issue with the morality of God vs the God as morality. Can you think of a scenario in which it is ok or even beneficial to violate one set of morals in order to uphold another set of morals? I think of things like the Holocaust. Some people outright lied to protect the lives of Jews. They (and I) believe the lie was justified even though it was immoral. Would you agree?

      Looking forward to learning together.

      • i can refrain from commenting on turek and WLC, though to be clear, none of that was as hom … just me offering contempt. two different things, but either way, i get your drift.

        i don’t have any issues. i note that there are problems with any way you proceed.

        classically, there is the euthyphro dilemma; is something moral because god says, or is something moral regardless. the consequences of answering either way are well known. since the answers don’t bode well, the turn was and has been, to say god is morality itself.

        so what i’m saying here with this view is that it implies god is contingent (among other things, none so good).

        you have suggested what is moral may be different for man than god. tony may or may not have articulated both your ideas and his own, but i hope in any case, i’m understandable in why commands and sovereignty have nothing to do with morality.

        as to your question, it would say it is its own object lesson. you are talking about justification and asking if i agree. well, to me, this is how we have become moral agents and how we continue to morally progress. that’s aside from anything to do with god.

        make sense?

        • I don’t think I’m arguing that morality for man and God are different. Rather, I would say that causation of morality is different solely because we have different perspectives. To illustrate via a hot topic in the news, many #BlackLivesMatter folks take issue with every form of police violence. They feel targeted, profiled, and like something needs to change. On the other side are the #BlueLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter. They don’t see race as the major issue, but think the other group is using race to gain advantage or power. I use this example because both sides are fighting for morality but are very different–opposite even.

          With this in mind, we can recognize that our perspective of morality is near sided. I am arguing that God has the same morals, but with a greater perspective. I don’t think he wants anyone to die. In fact, biblically he came and died so all may live (2 Cor 5:15, 1 Thes 5:10, e.g.). And that was the point I made in the post, if we view morality only from the view of the present, many things may seem barbaric and immoral. But, with a view from eternity, things must look very different.

          When you say, “this is how we have become moral agents” can you tell me how you came to that conclusion? What evidence do you have that morality is an evolved trait? Where did it come from originally?

          • sociability is a fact of the matter. the fact that we can articulate and negotiate the kind of society we want to live in makes us moral agents target than merely other social animals.

            morality is not an “it” that “comes from” anything. it is a word that categorizes behaviors where those behaviors impact sociability via inequity and property where and only where there is need. saying something is moral is no different than saying the sky is blue. blue is nothing the sky is (color does not exist) but it certainly is the best way to talk about the pleasantness of the weather.

            it only makes sense to ask what you have of and only if you reify “morality”, otherwise, it only takes a brain and feeling like you’re getting the sort end to start to talk about what’s right and wrong. a complaint is the beginning of a moral conversation. it’s as simple that.

      • also, when you ask if i can think of a scenario in which it is ok to violate a set of morals to uphold another set, “beneficial” is what betrays the matter of what our sense of morality is about; human well-being where all precepts and principles are indeed judged by benefit.

        • This sounds like Universalism. Is that what you are getting at?

          P.S. you can answer on the other threat to keep things simple. Thanks again for your comments and understanding.

          • i think you mean utilitarianism. and no, that’s not at all what i’m getting at. i’m not offering a theory of morality here, but instead, how it is we can have moral conversations at all and then, the sorts of ways we arrive at agreeing something is our isn’t moral.

    • Thanks for your comment Steven. I don’t mean to crash this party but I was curious about a couple things you said here. If you don’t mind I’d like to ask you what you meant by them.

      First, you said, “god and man are either under no obligations at all, or, such obligations are universal” Can you explain why you present this as a two-pronged dilemma instead of three (the third being: God and man’s prerogatives are not the same, therefore, particular commands that encroach upon God’s prerogatives are not universally applied)?

      You also said, “moral agents are contingent beings”. I’ve not heard this before. Can you explain what you mean by that?

      Thanks for your time, Steven.

      • i’m not taking about commands here. that’s WLC’s take, given the quote. i’m suggesting that any moral obligation which exists for man exists for god as well. certainly no one ought to have an issue with the idea certain rules exist for man that doesn’t for god and this doesn’t present any moral inconsistency or problems. it’s clear anecdotally that what goes for me doesn’t go for my kids, or adults and children, etc..

        ultimately, i’d contend that between any group of creatures which society can exist, each member of that group has obligations. so, WLC cannot talk about obligations not beholding on god because no one sovereign to god can issue commands to god, which creates an obligation. no, society is what creates obligation, relationship.

        with me?

        • Ok, I’m following you. Any moral obligation which exists for man exists for god… I’ll go along with that but I’d change the wording slightly. Any moral obligation which exists for man is consistent with God’s nature and, thus, God would naturally honor the same principle as it is keeping in His character. But this is what I’m trying to understand. It seems to me that if He created life He has the prerogative to take it away. As a matter of fact, Deuteronomy 32 and other places state as such. But you seem to disagree. What I’m curious is why you think that the Author of life must be under the same obligation as His creation? This is what I meant by encroaching upon God’s prerogatives.

          • i have kids. can i take their lives?

            morality cannot have two sets of standards. if you agree, then i think you’d find your question a bit off. do what i say but not what i do?

          • Ok, but you’ve already undercut your argument by rejecting, for sake of discussion, the existence of God. In other words, you’re starting with humanity and attempting to make it analogous to the divine. Since your relationship to your kids is human-to-human and also contingent being-to-contingent being the example you’ve offered is not even close to being analogous. What I’m looking for is a concession that God exists (for argument’s sake) in order to consider the logical implications or else I suspect this discussion will keep missing its target.

            So I’ll ask again: If there was a God who is the Author of life why must that Being be under the same obligation as His creation? This is a claim that needs some kind of rationale, it seems to me.

          • i made no statements about the existence of god and i have been speaking as if there is one.

            you’ll have to go all the way down the hole. if god is imminent, god is ordinary and then indistinguishable from reality. if god transcends, god cannot be known; he’s entirely beyond any frame of reference we have.

            this presents problems.

            1) there is nothing analogous to god.
            2) god is ineffable.
            3) if morality is analogous to humanity, out cannot be analogous to god.
            4) in fact, because nothing which exists can be analogous, god-talk cannot be true, only worth something or worthless.

            so, given that central problem, anything we say about god is admitted as “for the sake of argument”.

            as to your question, you prefix it each time with “author of life”. either that is something key about giving god carte blanche, or we can simply say “why is god under the same moral obligations as man”. the answer is that there cannot be a double set of standards. i struggle to understand how this requires explanation; res ipsa locutor.

            sure, if society is not possible with god then god has no obligation to us and we have none to him. but if there is, then only one set of moral obligations exist and it applies to all members.

            did you read the passage from hume?

          • Ok, I think I’m starting to get a better understanding of where exactly we disagree; although much of what you’re saying still needs more unpacking so my comments and/or questions are going to try to zoom in on that area, if you don’t mind. You said, “anything we say about god is admitted as ‘for the sake of argument’. That’s not what I meant when I said you’re rejecting the existence of God. Clearly you are saying something about God, I can see that. But your previous analogy showed that you are not adopting the existence of God as a necessary component of analyzation on this issue. If you had conceded (not just spoken about) the existence of God, I don’t think you would have used yourself as an analogy to God because your relationship to your children is not analogous to God’s relationship to creation. So I apologize, maybe I wasn’t clear; I’m not looking for some kind of explicit concession, just an intellectual one or else I think this discussion will keep missing the target.

            Your rationale, as far as I can tell is:

            1. Morality cannot have a double set of standards
            2. Therefore, God is under the same moral obligations as man.

            Without unpacking what you mean by “Morality cannot have a double set of standards” this seems like a new claim to support your previous claim about God. So I’m left wondering what real argument is here. Unless you want to say that your morality claim is akin to a properly basic belief (but I don’t want to put words in your mouth). I wonder, Steven, are you aware of the various distinctions and definitions under the broader category of morality? For example, the difference between moral values and moral duties?

            P.S. I did read your Hume quote but I have too much to say that would end up diverting attention to this particular issue, which I think is where the foundation of your disagreement with Christians lie. So I’ll table my comments on Hume for a bit longer if that’s okay. Appreciate the discussion, though!

          • whether god exists or not makes no difference to the conversation.

            first, to be clear, i am a christian and so, i believe something like a good exists. yes, my analogy is perfectly fine; the key to morality is society, not ontology (such that god, man, and/or AI all bear the same moral obligations to each other, else their irrelation doesn’t cause one to rise).

            how is my relationship to my children different than god’s to the world. keep in mind, ontology and sovereignty have nothing to do with anything (for reasons i keep stating).

            i don’t see how you think i’ve come up with a new claim. in nearly every single reply i’ve made, first to last, i have said that what goes for man goes for god because there cannot be double standards; predicate being the principles of fairness, justice, equality, inherent worth (not of power or authority, etc.).

            what in the world do properly basic beliefs have to do with anything?

            i’m the decades in on epistemology and five in on ethics … yes, i’m aware of many ways of speaking about morality. this is also why my harsh critiques of turek and WLC are not ad homs but commentary from the field, as it were.

            why did you think, or think it was at all important, that i wasn’t a theist, much less a christian?

          • Ok, this is where it’s vitally important that we look precisely at what each other is saying. I didn’t say you weren’t a Christian, Steven. I said you’re not allowing (I referred to it as intellectually conceding) for the existence of God in this discussion. And the reason I said that (as I previously explained) is, your analogy shows that you’re leaving out a fundamental quality of God that Christians affirm. Since you are a Christian then you should know that when Christians speak of God it includes certain fundamental characteristics and features, particularly (for this discussion) an Anselmian notion of God. So to say that God is beholden to the morality of humanity is to deny God as a Being “greater” than humans. In other words, God is not the greatest possible Being if He stands under, or must adhere to, an eternal outside source of morality. But if that’s the case then God is not God as Christians have understood Him. Thus, there is no God in this discussion. At this point we are attempting to explain things starting with humanity and working our way upward to a concept of the divine that Christians do not classically affirm. If you want to deny that is the case and keep saying that your analogy works, then I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree; because while you retain the same species, substance, and ontological status as your children, God does not retain as such in relation to His creation. More important than these features, your inherent nature is the same as your children’s (i.e. flawed/sinful), while God’s is not in relationship to humanity (assuming you affirm the notion of sin). So this analogy is not even in the ballpark from my perspective.

            My mention of properly basic beliefs is my (failed) attempt to guess what you meant by “i struggle to understand why this requires explanation. res ipsa locutor.” As you know properly basic beliefs are those axioms that do not require further justification (i.e. explanation) and are considered true. This is what it sounds like you were trying to do with your claim that morality does not require a double standard. Clearly I was wrong so I apologize. I knew when I was typing it that I shouldn’t have put words into your mouth.

            Finally, when you continue to repeat that morality does not have a double standard (just now you said it again: “what goes for man goes for god because there cannot be double standards”) and you say nothing else to unpack this idea (even after I ask you to please do so), that is what I mean by a “new claim”. As you well know, Steven, an argument is not simply a claim, rather it is a claim supported with good reasons. I’m looking for the reasons as to why you think “what goes for man goes for god” and I still haven’t heard one. As a matter of fact, you just said you don’t think you need an explanation for this. Not trying to be disrespectful but this is where the conversation is not advancing.

          • what does god’s existence matter in the discussion and why do you keep to the mistaken idea that there is even one belief that all christians believe in, much less that there is one concept of god in christianity?

          • Your previous characterizations of what I was saying show that you don’t. But that’s alright. There’s more to say in your other comment.

          • as for double standards … i haven’t addressed it because it is pedestrian and rather an insult to you if i offered one. but since you are asking, of god is immutable and god’s nature is morality, then saying or implying more than one standard is to say god is not the source of morality or not by nature, morality, or morality but not immutable. if morality is of, by, from, out is god, then it must be immutable, absolute.

            and again, that’s all pure logic and does not require good to exist or not exist to explore the implications of god in relation to morality.

          • Okay, again, I appreciate this comment because it helps me better understand your view. And don’t think that anything is too pedestrian for me! Because one man’s “pedestrian” is another man’s treasure. Just saying.

            You said if “god is immutable and god’s nature is morality…” Let me stop you here. That last turn of phrase reads like a Thomist wrote it. I’d say this phrase “god is morality” is probably the key to this entire discussion. I’m curious, are you seeing this issue through Thomist eyes, as it were? Because I think this might explain a lot.

            If “god is immutable and god’s nature is morality, then saying or implying more than one standard…” Again, let me stop you here. I didn’t claim there is more than one standard. You did. So let’s try to be precise here and not assume your claim is already accepted yet.

            Steven, your comments really hearken back to my original question. Because while you want to suggest that there is a double standard if God takes the life of a child and then commands that others do not, what if there is not a double standard? What if the impetus behind the command for us is authority based? This is a notion you clearly reject based on your previous comment. What I haven’t seen is an argument for why this notion should be rejected. Again, considering the qualities and attributes of the Author of life (as you well know as a Christian), why must He be subject to the same obligations as His creation? I still don’t see an argument here, Steven, just a brief sketch of the logical consequences of your assumed claim.

          • there is a double standard and i’m only noting it. you and this article contend that because god is somehow different than us, he can and does operate under different rules. my example was that god commands not to kill but then kills … but you yourself think that’s ok merely because he’s the “author of life” or because he’s “sovereign”.

            i have given two examples. are you not reading?! i said that if a general commands i torture someone then i have no obligation to obey, in fact, my obligation of to object. this clearly demonstrates that commands, authority, and station have nothing to do with declaring or discovering what is moral.

            please read what i write. having been accused twice now of not doing more than asserting for no reason, yet unfailingly, i give examples with each idea i’m expressing. there’s only one way this could be missed.

            yet again … why must there be one set of standards? smh. the entire point of morality is society, society is only possible with equity, double standards cannot achieve society because it demands inequity and in that case, cannot entail to being labeled moral at all.

          • Steven, this conversation is not advancing so this will be my last comment. Examples are not arguments. You’re comparing a 20 dollar bill to a 5 dollar bill when this is a category error. You really should be considering a comparison between money and the inventor of money. Orthodox Christianity is not undercut by anything you’ve offered and I sincerely hope that one day you reconsider your view with a fresh heart because no one should hold a view unless they have solid reasons to support it.

            Thanks for the opportunity to discuss.

          • smh! i give the arguments and premises and give examples that illustrate the point. what else do you want me to do?! you’ve missed the fact i’ve done any of that.

            what makes “society” isn’t that a $5 is a $5 and a $20 is a $20, but that each is “money”, and each spend the same!

            god cannot be THE moral standard and have a separate standard and merely call it “moral”.

            Nate, please note that i have been the only one of the two of us to do more than offer bald assertion. don’t condescend to me.

          • like zeno, when seeing his audience get up and leave upon his claim that motion was impossible, nate declared “examples are not arguments!”

            said the genius to the simpleton, “all swans are white”. and the simpleton to the genius, “what about that black one just over there?” replies the genius, “i’m not going to look there because one must argue, an ‘over there is proof’ is not an argument!”

      • oh, and here’s one source of the idea that moral agents are contingent …

        Thus, the rules of equity or justice depend entirely on the particular state and condition in which men are placed, and owe their origin and existence to that utility, which results to the public from their strict and regular observance. Reverse, in any considerable circumstance, the condition of men: produce extreme abundance or extreme necessity: implant in the human breast perfect moderation and humanity, or perfect rapaciousness and malice: by rendering justice totally useless, you thereby totally destroy its essence, and suspend its obligation upon mankind. The common situation of society is a medium amidst all these extremes … Were there a species of creatures intermingled with men, which, though rational, were possessed of such inferior strength, both of body and mind, that they were incapable of all resistance, and could never, upon the highest provocation, make us feel the effects of their resentment; the necessary consequence, I think, is that we should be bound by the laws of humanity to give gentle usage to these creatures, but should not, properly speaking, lie under any restraint of justice with regard to them, nor could they possess any right or property, exclusive of such arbitrary lords. Our intercourse with them could not be called society, which supposes a degree of equality; but absolute command on the one side, and servile obedience on the other. Whatever we covet, they must instantly resign: our permission is the only tenure, by which they hold their possessions: our compassion and kindness the only check, by which they curb our lawless will: and as no inconvenience ever results from the exercise of a power, so firmly established in nature, the restraints of justice and property, being totally useless, would never have place in so unequal a confederacy … This is plainly the situation of men, with regard to animals; and how far these may be said to possess reason, I leave it to others to determine.

        (David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning The Principles Of Morals)

        • “(1) If God exists, then objective right and wrong exist. God’s own holy and perfectly good nature provides the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. His commands flow necessarily from His own moral nature and constitute for us our moral duties. In the JudeoChristian tradition, the whole moral duty of man can be summed up in the two great commandments: first, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your strength, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind,” and second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On this foundation, we can affirm the objective goodness of love, generosity, selfsacrifice, and equality, and condemn as objectively evil selfishness, hatred, abuse, discrimination, and oppression.

          (2) Because, according to supernaturalism, man’s life does not end at the grave, all persons are held morally accountable for their actions. Evil and wrong will be banished, righteousness will be vindicated. Good ultimately triumphs over evil, and we shall see that we do live in a moral universe after all. In the end, the scales of God’s justice will be balanced. Thus, the moral choices that we make in this life are infused with an eternal significance. We can, with consistency, make moral choices which run contrary to our selfinterest and even undertake acts of extreme selfsacrifice, knowing that such decisions are not just empty and meaningless gestures. Rather, our moral lives have a paramount significance”

          Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-the-basis-of-morality-natural-or-supernatural-the-craig-taylor-debate#ixzz4F87RCZUK

          • if god doesn’t exist, then objective right and wrong exist.

            WLC knows well enough (but will never disclose like an honest human being) that all things are subjective and that objective is not the opposite of subjective. and that, as a result, intersubjective agreement is entirely sufficient to say morality is objective.

            if you want to see perhaps the best debate he’s been involved in, youtube his debate with shelley kagan. this is a perfect example of why WLC rarely debates philosophers, ie his peers.

            it’s well worth your time.

          • I watched with much anticipation that Craig would be matched, but alas I was disappointed. It seems as if Kagen could never grasp the concept of the grounding of moral duties/obligations.
            That is my point.

            I think any worldview has to answer a few basic questions:

            From ‘what’ came everything?

            How did life begin?

            Why are there morals?

            Is there anything else (other than what we ‘see’)?

          • that’s odd, because craig conceded in the end in his fair well to shelley.

            kagan did ground the theory of morals he presented; contractarianism. he did so with john rawls’ “veil of ignorance” and there are many more ways to do so.

            we cannot know that what exists “came from” anything else. existence is a brute fact. there’s no reason to believe nothing was ever the state of affairs; which you must concede since this is the theological argument for god (ex nihilo nihil fit) and an observation we observe in reality (when we try to create an environment of nothing, something continually manifests).

            how did life begin? who knows. this is not any kind of question (and none of them are) necessary to some or any worldview.

            is there something that exists which we cannot perceive? likely, but in terms of mattering at all, if we cannot perceive it, it manifests exactly as “nothing” does by definition, and then it’s worth just about as much.

  3. “god [hitler] doesn’t murder; god [hitler] commands [others to murder]”

    and as far as that goes anyway, “ratsach” is used in the decalogue … and the same word, same meaning, is used in the OT describing god taking a person’s life.

  4. actually, there does exist that responsibility and all you’ve advocated is that might makes right, appealing essentially to sovereignty.

    this then goes directly into euthyphro, to wit the counter has been to say “god’s nature is morality” (and you can hear WLC state this well and repletely in all his debates on morality). the reason for the idea is from the irresolvable problems of the paradox. but in this side step solution, WLC runs headlong into hume, contingency inherent in the claim, and imperfection by implication.

    to say god is moral is to say something we understand. since morality is sensible to us, it is not god’s nature lest it be ineffable too by definition. to say god is moral is then to say god meets our standards and meanings of what such a statement communicates. and unless we separate morality and god, then there’s nothing to say about morality at all except that you have entailed a double standard in what you’re saying. however, since we understand morality, then what saying god is moral is a grade; humans judging gods.

    • Steven, we’ve run the limits of replies, it would seem, as I’m replying to other comments here on this comment.

      You remind me of the philosophy class I took. The professor asked, “how do we know we are not just brains in a vat or part of a matrix, hard wired into a giant computer.” To which I answered, ” just like we know we ain’t ticks on a dog’s hind-end…” It would seem that it is very easy to ‘suppose’ or ‘imagine’ anything, but I’m afraid I’m no philosopher…I deal in what is…as I see it.

      I think it is pretty clear Christianity makes the most unique claim of ALL RELIGIONS. IF Jesus rose from the dead, and we have the most well attested ancient documents of history (20,000 to 25,000 manuscripts!) that claim so, then He was who He claimed to be. As you point out, in Geisler’s quote, God IS TRANSCENDENT…by His nature He would have to be…but back to Lewis, if an author of the story wanted his characters in his novel to know him, he could write himself into the story. God did that very thing. Christ came to show us God, in a form we could understand and relate to. You can argue about the truth of the claim… But it is hard to argue its uniqueness! (Please don’t go Mithra/Horus on me…I was just beginning to respect your intellect).

      As for this Jesus, it is behoven that I ask if you have made Him savior of your life. Christ came, died, and was buried (placed in a tomb)…but rose again appearing to a suffient enough witnesses to satisfy me, I suppose. I take the resurrection as fact, based on the evidence, and the Holy Spirits dealing with my heart. The writer of Hebrews stated that Jesus was, “the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person,” speaking of Jesus being God on display. Faith must play a part, granted, but faith is not confidence in fanciful notions but the evidence we have before us.

      I pray you find Christ before it is eternally too late, for, “there is no other name, given among men, whereby you must be saved!”

      God Bless

      • meh. i may as well say jesus didn’t teleologically come at all. he was born in the usual way and what he believed and how he lived got him killed. he asks us to do the same, which he says it’s the way of life.

        the christ legend has more in common with hinduism and buddhism than anything else; suffering being key and compassion being the only salvation from it. but as for the mythic elements themselves, there really is nothing nouveau about demigods and miracles and so on.

      • tony … “deity exist” is exactly a “we could just be ticks on a dog’s hind end” and all we can say is that all that can matter is what happens to us if we hold these things as being the case or not. neither statement is anything provable.

        you should read item four of peirce’s “some four incapacities” because he responds exactly like you have; doubt must be justified just as belief must.

        however, the ramification is that this makes god-talk irrelevant and only justified and justifiable in that you think life is better thinking that way.

        • The problem, it seems, in my estimation, is the evidence is not compelling to you, while to me-very convincing. Maybe that is the point of of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in convincing someone. Maybe it’s like the Calvinist/Reform folk say (I’m neither), and some are not the ‘elect’. I’m praying Steven that the Lord will grant you a place, as I do for all of us, a place of repentance.

          Grace and Peace

          • saying so is a bit of a cop out, don’t you think, tony?

            what evidence can there be for a god that transcends reality; that which evidence is.

            what evidence can there be for an imminent god, then indistinguishable from reality?

            god is a metaphysical proposition. you either get an impression from reality that there is a god or get the impression there isn’t.

            i’m sure, tony, you’re not going to argue that there’s a god because “my impression is better than yours”, right?

            also, it’s funny to me that you presume, because of what i’m arguing, i’m not a theist. in fact, i’m a christian. but, whether believer or non, there is no vantage point from which anyone can argue and reason and evidence do not change the fact the justification for either side is entirely impression and nothing more.

          • Hi Steven,

            Some things you’ve said just haven’t sat right with me, and I was hoping you would clarify your position. Your first comment on this thread questioned God’s morality (is he moral or not?). That sparked a conversation on the knowability of God.
            To generalize the conversations up to this point, various methods of learning about God have been rendered for your consideration (Scripture, C.S.Lewis, morality in society, that I can remember). To each of those, you had a different perspective, up to and including, refutation of the argument. That lead us here where you said, “you either get the impression from reality that there is a god or get the impression there isn’t.”
            1) What do you think someone like Paul would say to that who did not get the impression Jesus was God, but it was revealed to him.
            2) What role does the Bible play in your life
            3) What role does the Bible have in drawing the conclusion that God is an impression from reality?

            Those are curiosity questions, because when you say “Christian”, it seems to come from a different position than I am accustomed to.

            But I’m also baffled how you came to the understanding that there are no arguments, reasons or evidences for God yet you still believe?

            I’m not trying to move this conversation away from morality and based on the comment policy I won’t be following this convo passed your answers. I am just hoping for a baseline. Since we are both Christians, I hope to build on our commonality to help paint a better picture why the OP speaks to the knowability of God–distinguishable through (and therefore from) reality.

            Thanks for your response, your respectful discussion, and continued life-long growth.

          • i didn’t say there aren’t reasons to believe.

            consider that if i have the impression there’s some “big other”, then the reason i have it at all is because of something about reality. however, it’s not just something about reality but about me too. because of who i am and where i am, god is an idea that naturally arises. i’m not able to invent the idea, just hone the concept into a more concrete image.

            there are plenty of arguments for god. again, you’re summarizing me but saying the opposite of what i have. the trouble is that there are also plenty of arguments against god too. the question is that if all are logically equal (which can only mean sound), why does a person favor one versus another. hence, one reason why appeals to logic don’t mean squat.

            i have no idea what paul would say. the problem is that like paul, we’ve both had revelations of god, however, mine have left me with a completely different vision of christ … which is ok because paul was out of sorts with james and peter too. the kicker is that ALL we can say is that scripture tells us to judge each by fruit. now forgetting that elsewhere it says to separate message from messenger, then the measure of fruit nullifies the importance of the message itself since anything we could believe that produced fruit in our lives should be seen as sourced in god.

            paul would argue that revelation is from god. i’m going to bet that you’d source it in god moving through scripture. i say that it simply doesn’t matter. the focus of christ and the church itself has always been praxis, bringing good into the world, being sacraments of god (ie “living sacrifices”), and community and increasing our sense of what community is by demanding the members of it are everyone, not just some.

            i’m not a bibliolater.

            as for what role the bible has in drawing a conclusion that a good exists? none! again, we cannot choose our disposition to that question. you either have the impression, and then scripture held you imagine what god is like, or you don’t and scripture is then perhaps just an interesting read. sola scriptura is not a sustainable idea. appealing to scripture as “authoritative” makes as much sense as scientists arguing about reality where their premise is “reality is authoritative and reality supports my conclusion”. no, there is reality and there is scripture and neither have “authority” and each is interpreted and no interpretation is to be seen as true or to be worshipped. to say something said of the bible is true is merely to say “this is what i think and here’s how i have come to this conclusion, and i think it’s the most justified thing to think”.

            i’m not sure of your policies, but if they stop a good conversation for no good reason, you may want to reexamine them.

            i hope you respond. cheers.

          • I for one totally understand where Steven Hoyt is coming from. This is the problem I see of religion in general and Christian / Muslim / Jewish religions specific. They claim to be “exclusive” based on their “holy scriptures”. I have confessed to Roger that I am agnostic in the Greek definition that “I cannot know” .

            As Steve has so appropriately stated, “this is what i think and here’s how i have come to this conclusion, and i think it’s the most justified thing to think”. Nor should we try and silence those who disagree with our views. Everyone is entitled to feel this way. No one has the market cornered on truth.

            I stood at the Temple of Luxor in Egypt and noticed how many of the faces of the reliefs were chiseled away beyond recognition by Christians. “After their original religious activities ceased, Egyptian temples suffered slow decay. Many were defaced by Christians trying to erase the remnants of ancient Egyptian religion.” (wikipedia)

            My view is that if your religion is superior, the masses will willingly come and join you. And if they don’t ………………….

          • That. pretty much sums up our conversation. I see from your blog that you seek after the questions that take your whole person to figure out. With that, I will leave you with this thought: your whole person includes the time you haven’t had yet–don’t let your current reasons be the stopping point from learning.

          • why that caution, roger? that’s very presumptive and insulting. and no, my whole person cannot be anything more than i am right now and the total of past experiences which constitute “me”; the future is indeterminate and it’s senseless to say my whole self includes all possible future states i could find myself in.

            roger, will you do me the favor of answering the question i asked: how can you distinguish between a universe with a god and a universe without a god?

          • The comment policy is set to keep comments focused not to discourage dialog.

            But I think I’ve found the issue with our disconnect. You said “there are arguments against God” that are logically equal. I disagree. Not all arguments deserve the same amount of plausibility. For instance, if I found a dead body and 500 people give roughly the same description of what happened, their description is highly more plausible than an alternative (and logical) argument that aliens flew in, committed the murder and implanted a fake story in the minds of 500 people.

            In the same way, a contrasting argument for God is abiogenesis — that some – thing is the result of no – thing. Many people hold to this view for several reasons, but it is not logically equivalent to the Jesus narrative with witnesses, historical reliability, prophecy, and other reasons I’ve listed in my Q&A are there extra biblical accounts of the resurrection.
            So when you ask “why does a person favor one over the other” I’d say much of their reasoning is because they are appealing to their emotions instead of intuition and reasons.

            Would you agree with that?

          • well, listen to what i’m saying, roger.

            a sound argument is a valid argument where all the premises are actually true. the result is that the conclusions from those premises are “necessarily” true.

            what i am saying is because god transcends reality (that which “evidence” is), we can only argue rationally about the existence of god. therefore, if there exist two opposing arguments about the existence of god and both are sound, then nothing about either argument itself entails the reason one conclusion is accepted versus another. if you ask why one is “better” than another (ie as you say, “plausible”), the answer is “abductive inference”. and in laymen’s terms: “what makes the most sense”. i’m sorry to say, that’s anything but relative to impression when it comes to the question of deity.

            and listen, i don’t want to foray into any specific “sort of something” you’d call evidence, but i do want to give you a second hurdle, aside from the fact we can’t have knowledge of things which transcend experience.

            the second hurdle is that if there is no way to distinguish between a world where there is a god and a universe where there isn’t a god, then NOTHING about reality can be used to suggest there is a god at all; such as saying “the existence of life is proof of god”. that’s because whether or not we know if there are or are not gods, or whether or not we know anything at all about the origin of life, we absolutely know life is possible without god as a matter of fact of there is no god because life does exist. given this conundrum, all supposition about god is dubious rather than anything about reality being contingent to god. in fact, the idea of god is instead contingent to reality.

            and no, i wouldn’t “agree with that”. first, for moral reasons; being that you’ve greatly insulted anyone who disagrees with you, and for no reason at all. second, if you are listening to me, in psychology and in epistemology, we can NOT choose to believe anything. we believe what we think is the case, unless a person has some problem of psychology. third, emotion is no different than intuition. these are called “sentiment” and lead us to conclusions about experience non cognitively. “reason” is not logic, but it the cognitive processes of arriving at conclusions about experience. people do not want to delude themselves about reality. the ultimate reason for this is because we can only know ourselves by contract with reality, the mirror of ourselves. too, and just as important, is that there are always consequences for getting things wrong about reality.

            why does a person favor one over the other? because they want to know the case with x, there’s no evidence affirm or deny any case i’m any real way, they see logically equivalent arguments for and against x (meaning each is sound), but one stands out as able to abductively fit; but the explanation for the sense of parsimony is “sentiment” about the totality of experience of the world.

            to be clear, the part you aren’t getting is that when i say “logically equivalent”, i mean sound. and when i say we still choose one over the other, i’m saying (and you admit to) we abductively infer and conclude, and this is not any process or logic; it is strictly about sensibility. the inference is making sense of the impressions we have. and with that, QED.

            follow?

  5. Roger, “God is not subjugated to morality, God is moral. William Lane Craig says it best:””Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.” WLC

    Hey Roger,
    I have enjoyed our conversations here on your blogsite. I have to admit however, your post here concerns me deeply. To agree with WLC that God is not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are sounds very cultic to me. Since the Bible says man was created in His (God’s) image, this would explain how anyone could justify their evil.

    I am in Washington DC at the moment and will be home this weekend. I will address this issue further at that time. You have really thrown me a curve ball but have also further confirmed why I am no longer a Christian.

    Be well my friend.

    • it’s perverse … i issue commands to my children. does that mean i have no moral duties to fulfill? and truly, how does any command issued constitute an obligation? if the suggestion is authority, the counter is pointing out that morality is outside of authority. for instance, i must know aside from the general’s command to torture that i have an obligation to resist the command. in fact, i do know as a brute fact there’s something not right about that command before it is ever issued.

      too, i certainly would have a hard time avoiding jail if i abandoned my children and my defense was “hey, judge! i didn’t tell or my kids to do anything. so, i have no moral duties to fulfill!”

      WLC is a hack epistemologist and a hack theologian.

    • Well you picked a fun time to be in DC. I’m in Cleveland, but not for the RNC–even though it’s more like a police convention; they are everywhere!

      I’m sorry you think my view is cultish, though I can see why it may come across that way. In a way, understanding the morality of God is circular. Let me explain. I, too, sometimes wrestle with God’s goodness. One thing that helps me is reminding myself of the times God has been reliable. This is subjective, of course, but if my relationship with God marries up to other stories (friends, biblical narratives, etc), then I can be reassured. So, if I can be reassured by my experience, then my experience becomes reassuring.

      The one point I want to make sure I iterate is that even though it is circular for me, it didn’t start out that way. A better description may be a spiral, which seems circular but has a beginning and get’s tighter/stronger as it continues. That’s because I wasn’t always Christian. I came to that choice only a few years ago.

      Anyway, looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Your insight is welcomed and pleasant.

      Safe journeys

      • “In a way, understanding the morality of God is circular.”
        “Let me explain. I, too, sometimes wrestle with God’s goodness.”

        When I was a Christian, I never wrestled with God’s Goodness. Jesus said no man is good. Only God is good. What I wrestled with was God’s badness. 🙂

        I actually did a road trip and arrived home this evening after 11 hrs on the road today. I will try to respond in more detail after a good night’s rest.

        Thanks again Roger for your willingness to discuss issues like this.

  6. @Roger, “don’t let your current reasons be the stopping point from learning.”

    I was actually thinking the same thing about you, Roger. Having said this, it looks like we are all probably done here. Steve did a much better job than I could have at expressing many of my own thoughts. Thanks Steve and nice to have met you on here.

    I did enjoy the exchange, Roger and wish you the best. Remember, I have been where you are AND I haven’t stopped learning. 🙂

    Be well my friend

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