TEN Problems with the Canaanite Objection

By Tim Stratton

“Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21).

Why would God command the execution of all the Canaanites (along with the children) in the Old Testament? Many think this is one of the biggest objections to Christianity; however, when thinking logically, we can see that this is not an objection to Christian theism at all. We must recognize the real objection; at most, this is only an objection to Biblical inerrancy, as the “Canaanite objection” does absolutely nothing to disprove the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus. These two things must be invalidated before “Mere Christianity” (as C.S. Lewis put it) is discredited.

With that said, however, is this even a good objection against Biblical inerrancy? I think not. Why? Perhaps God had perfectly good reasons for issuing these “divine commands” (if He really issued them at all).

A quick study of the Canaanite tribes reveals a totally wicked culture, that if existed today, the world would decry. The Canaanites would brutally torture and sacrifice their babies to idols by slowly burning them alive (this sounds worse than ISIS Muslims today)! Eric Lyons noted the following:

 Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious” (Unger, 1954, p. 175). Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice (Unger, p. 175; cf. Albright, 1940, p. 214). As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30). The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees” (Unger, 1988). They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25).

These tribes inhabited the land that God gave to the Israelites. Therefore, not only were the Canaanites suffering God’s judgment for their wicked ways, the land was also restored to Israel. These tribes were to be utterly demolished as nation states! The Canaanites were ripe for God’s judgment, and justice would be served via the Israelites.

Here is what many skeptics miss: The Canaanites, seeing the advancing armies of Israel could have chosen to “get the heck out of Dodge,” and no one would have been killed! To underscore this point, we see no Bible verse in which God commands pursuing the Canaanites, or “hunting them down to the ends of the earth.”

Utterly Destroy?

Moreover, the Israelites did not literally “utterly destroy” all the Canaanites! Only the Canaanites who chose to stay and fight the Israelites were to be killed. In fact, it is quite possible that there were no Canaanite women or children killed at all. The Bible makes zero references to the actualkilling of Canaanite non-combatants, which supports the notion that it was only the Canaanite soldiers, who stayed to fight the Israelite armies, who were exterminated.

Speaking of Biblical affirmation, the Bible reports that Canaanite people were still alive after the conquest of the land in question:

“Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded… Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland” (Joshua 10:40; 11:16).

Joshua reports that God commanded “utter destruction,” and that he had followed that command “to the T” (Joshua 11:12, 15, 20); however, if we read the text further, we find that Joshua did not take all of the land (Joshua 13:1-5), and that many of the people who were supposedly either annihilated or removed from the land were, in fact, still living there (Joshua 13:13). The author is clear that the people of Anakim had been “utterly destroyed,” (Joshua 11:21-22); however, if we continue reading, we find Caleb asking for permission to drive out the people of Anakim (Joshua 14:12-15; 15:13-19).

Moreover, the book of Judges records that “the Canaanites persisted in living in that land” (Judg. 1:21) and “they did not drive [the Canaanites] out completely” (Judg. 1:28). This gives us good reason to conclude that modern readers might be making a hermeneutical error in trying to read ancient text through modern lenses. This is corroborated by the words of Moses regarding a future generation of Israelites, He says Israel “will be utterly destroyed” (Deut. 4:26). Now, the nation of Israel has experienced some great defeats in the past; however, the nation of Israel has not been “utterly destroyed” at all. In fact, the nation of Israel thrives today.

After considering all of the text and seeing that the Canaanites continued to survive, this either proves the Israelites disobeyed this supposed “command of genocide,” or this was likely figurative language not to be taken literally (i.e., I hope the Huskers KILL and wipe out the badgers and wolverines next year on the field), or, it proves my point – this battle was not about people; it was about taking control of the land.

What Does Evil Prove? 

Another problem the skeptic has when referencing the Canaanite Objection as evidence against God, is that it actually proves the existence of God! That is to say, if an atheist thinks the “Canaanite problem” is a good refutation of theism, they are actually refuting atheism. If they claim that the Israelites actions were really wrong (objectively), they are inadvertently providing evidence that God exists! Examine the Moral Argument:

1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2- Objective moral values and duties do exist

3- Therefore, God exists.

If atheists object to the “Canaanite problem” and proclaim it was objectively wrong to drive the Canaanites from the land, they are offering evidence supporting premise (2) of the Moral Argument. Therefore, God exists! If they do not think it was really wrong, then they have no grounds to complain.

To Whom is God Accountable?

On the other hand, and for the sake of argument, what if the Bible is supposed to be taken literally in this passage in question and God did actually command the Israelites to kill all Canaanites? Would God be guilty of sin? This raises several questions. For instance: is it objectively wrong for God to issue commands to us, that we are obligated to follow, but that He is not?[1] Moreover, is it objectively wrong for God to issue a law that we ought to follow, and then, tell us to do something different in a specific situation?

When we stop to intellectually consider this (as opposed to emotionally) things become clear. For example, I live in the great state of Nebraska (Go Big Red!), and the lawmakers that govern this state have issued the command: “Thou shall not drive over 75 mph on the interstate!” Now, I have to be honest, I do not like this command (I wish the speed limit were at least 90 mph); however, I am obligated to drive according to the laws of the State of Nebraska, independent of whether I agree with them or not. If I do not drive according to these laws (which are issued to help Nebraskans flourish), I will suffer consequences that the lawmaking minds of Nebraska have issued as well.

The same lawmakers have the ability to issue commands to certain individuals in extreme circumstances. For instance, the Nebraska State Patrol is allowed to drive much faster than the speed limit, when they are in pursuit of those who have broken the law. Moreover, thankfully, those who drive ambulances and fire engines can drive much faster than the speed limit if they need to. Are Nebraska’s lawmakers morally wrong or evil for issuing different commands to different people in extreme situations? Not at all! In fact, I think they would be wrong to tell State Troopers that if they were chasing bad guys who were driving 100 mph, that they still had to drive 75 mph while in pursuit. It would be wrong and just plain silly.

When thinking this through, did God really do something wrong if He issued such commands to the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites? God has the right (as the Ultimate Lawgiver) to give commands to certain individuals in extreme situations. We see this all the time in our government today.

I would ask those who think the supposed “Canaanite objection” is a problem for Christians, to please explain to me exactly who God sinned against if He did indeed issue these commands to the Israelites? If things are objectively wrong, they are wrong in reference to a higher standard. So, if God really did issue commands to kill people, what higher standard did God sin against? Is God accountable to someone? If this question is not answered, the objection has no teeth in its bite and does not make logical sense.

God’s Middle Knowledge

God, by definition, is omniscient. This means He knows the truth-value to any and all propositions. This includes counter-factual truths in the subjunctive mood and this means God possesses what theologians and philosophers refer to as “middle knowledge.” God is the standard of logic and rationality, and he is perfectly intelligent. Given this property, God makes the most intelligent decision in every scenario and situation. This means that God would know what would happen, if he did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites. Perhaps God knew that if they were not driven from the land and destroyed, Israel would not have become a nation, and Jesus would not have been born to save the world.

Moreover, God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity. We could conduct thought experiment after thought experiment regarding an omniscient being (who would know the truth-value to counter-factual propositions) that would lead to Him knowing that issuing the commands to the Israelites to drive the wicked Canaanites from their land, and even kill them, would be the best thing to do in that specific situation.

Finite humans, who are not perfectly intelligent, are simply not in a position to know if the omniscient, divine command from God is the best decision or not because we have no idea what counter factual would have happened, if God did not issue these commands. An omniscient God, however, would be in such an epistemic position to know these things with perfect certainty and issue commands accordingly.

How We Know

According to Divine Command Morality, if God commands us to take the life of another, it would not be wrong. In the absence of this command, it is objectively wrong to murder other humans. How do we know this? God has revealed this to us through His commands and the Law of Christ — to love everyone from our neighbors (Mark 12:31) to our enemies (Matthew 5:44). This law and these commands have been historically validated via the resurrection of Jesus, as it is God’s seal of approval of everything Jesus said, taught, and exemplified.

God does not order Himself to do things. He acts in accords with his omniscient nature. He is what the laws of logic are grounded in (“The Logos”)and He is perfectly intelligent. A statement is true when it corresponds to reality. God is the ultimate standard of reality, as He exists necessarily and eternally with no beginning, and all other things are contingent upon God and depend upon Him for their existence (Colossians 1:15-20). Therefore, God is the ground of logic, the standard of truth, and we depend on Him for our existence. As William Lane Craig points out, “We ought to depend on the one who depends on no one.” That gives Him the right to tell us how to live, and to tell us what to do, even if we do not subjectively appreciate the commands (just like I don’t like the speed limit)!

It is important to remember that God is not obligated by his nature to extend human life. God is the author, giver, inventor, and creator of life. It is His to decide how we ought to live, and He has the right to issue commands that He knows are best (even if they don’t always make sense to us). God gives us life and He has the right to take it when He chooses and by whatever means He chooses. Be that as it may, some continue to object and claim that if God did command the Israelites to kill the Canaanite children, that it would have been objectively wrong for God to issue such commands no matter what. Is this really the case? My former professor, Dr. Clay Jones (who does not think these passages are hyperbole), made the following comments on the issue:

“One of the key issues that we need to point out regarding the killing of Canaanite children is that it isn’t always wrong to kill the innocent. Copan makes this point in his book (“Is God a Moral Monster?“) and uses the potential shooting down of Flight 93 as an example. . . . Also, God is every bit as just for allowing a child to be taken quickly by the sword as He is for allowing them to be taken slowly by cancer. Further, if God knew that these children, when they grew up, would commit similar sins, then He does no wrong by taking their lives early.”[2]

After contemplating these comments from Clay Jones, consider the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan to win WWII. We killed many innocent Japanese civilians, although millions of lives were saved in the process! With historical examples like these in mind, it is clear that sometimes — in extremely rare circumstances — it is actually good, and the right thing to do, for leaders to issue commands that will have collateral damage and take innocent life.

Conclusion

This essay provides several logical arguments against the “Canaanite objection.” I have answered this objection based on logic and critical thinking. One may have an emotional revulsion against these answers, but an emotional revulsion is not an intellectual objection and it does not logically lead to the conclusion that atheism is true, or that Christianity is false. The supposed “problems” of God committing genocide in the Old Testament are not insurmountable problems by any means, and ultimately, not a good reason to reject Christianity. In summary, remember theseTEN key points:

1- Objections like these do not refute Christian theism; this objection is simply an argument against Biblical inerrancy (a non-essential doctrine) nothing more.[3]

2- The Canaanites were wicked (on par with ISIS) and ripe for judgment.

3- The battle was primarily about the land as there was no command to “hunt the Canaanites down to the ends of the earth.”

4- The Bible is clear that all of the Canaanites were not executed.

5- These commands could well have been figurative speech (i.e., “our football team is going to kill your team!”)[4]

6- Objections like these support premise (2) of the moral argument for God’s existence (Therefore, God exists).

7- Lawmakers have the ability to issue different commands to certain individuals in extreme circumstances.

8- If God really did issue these commands to kill people, whom did God sin against? Who is He accountable to?

9- Given God’s property of omniscience and perfect intelligence, God makes the best decision in every scenario and situation. God would know what would happen if He did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites.

10- Flight 93 and WWII atomic bomb examples demonstrate that it is not always wrong to issue commands where innocent lives are taken.

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


NOTES

*Please read this related article from my colleague, Shannon Eugene Byrd, shining additional light on the subject of the Canaanite Objection.

[1] I call this the “Bedtime Fallacy,” as this is equivalent to saying parents are wrong to command their children to go to bed at 9 PM, but they retain the right to stay up past midnight.

[2] Clay Jones was my professor in my “God & Evil class” and I wrote a paper on the Canaanite Objection. Dr. Jones wrote this to me in response to my paper.

[3] Read more regarding this topic in my article, “An Ignorant Objection to the Moral Argument.”

[4] Trevor Ray Slone personally informed me that God’s curse on Canaan (Noah’s grandson) in Genesis 9:25-27 gives further credence to the view that God did not intend to “utterly destroy” all of Canaan’s decedents (the Canaanites). God, in that curse, repeatedly indicates that Canaan’s decedents would be servants of God’s people. It is therefore logically impossible for God to decree that all of the Canaanites be destroyed, for how could they be servants if they were “utterly destroyed?”

 

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118 replies
  1. Luke says:

    Hi Tim,

    When I googled Canaanite Objection, your name came up in 3 of the top 4 results (you’re famous… sort of). I was just wondering if you could please provide the argument you are refuting.

    Your essay reads as if there were some syllogism ending with “Therefore the Christian G-d does not exist.” or “Therefore Christian Theism is self-refuting” yet I am not entirely clear on which conclusion is to be reached or what the premises that lead to these conclusion are supposed to be. It would be helpful to know what exactly you’re refuting.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Tim Stratton says:

      Hi Luke,

      I have never read a formal syllogism on the matter; however, being on college campuses, I constantly run into this objection as some kind of reason to think God does not really exist, or the Bible must be false, or that this is somehow “proof” against Christianity. Richard Dawkins has become famous for popularizing this view with quotes like these:

      “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

      Dawkins and William Lane Craig have had a bit if a back and forth (if you can call it that) on the matter. If memory serves, Sam Harris even appealed to similar tactics in his debate with Dr. Craig. Objections like these have become so prevalent that Paul Copan wrote an entire book on the topic and Dr. Craig referenced it during his debate with Harris.

      I’ve been involved in many conversations on this issue over the past few years with both Christians and atheists (and everyone in between). This article is responding to all of my personal experiences, debates, and conversations. Moreover, and probably the most important thing, I wanted these questions logically answered for myself.

      Your sort of famous friend, 🙂

      Tim

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Hi Tim,

        Thanks for your response. In the response you said:” I constantly run into this objection ”

        BUt this is my question is: what is this objection?

        I’m just not entirely clear on what the problem is supposed to be. That’s what I’m trying to find out.

        You opened your post by saying: “Why would God command the execution of all the Canaanites (along with the children) in the Old Testament?” You then say: “Many think this is one of the biggest objections to Christianity.”

        To me though, this is not an objection, it’s just a question.

        And honestly forgive me if this is completely obvious to everyone else and I’m not bright enough to see the plain thing that’s right in front of me.

        Now, I grant that a question can be an objection (example below), but how is it an objection to Christianity?

        Imagine if a my grandchild is putting a fork in the electrical outlet, and I pull them away. She asks “Hey, why would you do that?

        That is, I grant an objection of sorts. But it’s an objection to a very small specific thing. If you said: “Your grandchild is objecting to the idea that you are her grandfather”, frankly, I’d think you were off your rocker.

        Do you see what I mean?

        Your other example was a quote of someone hurling a bunch of insults at G-d. Again, that doesn’t strike me as an objection.

        I had an encounter with a homeless man this morning. Now imagine if I had said to him “you’re ugly, lazy, and your smell is quote unpleasant!” Would that be an objection? If so, what would I be objecting to?

        Again, I’m sorry if I”m terribly obtuse, I just don’t understand what the problem is supposed to be.

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • Timothy A. Stratton says:

          Hi Luke,

          I think I see what you are asking for now. You asked for clarity regarding what the exact goal of the Canaanite objection is. Typically, the goal of this objection is to demonstrate that the Judeo-Christian God is not good and not worthy of worship. From that point, some of my interlocutors have argued “if this ‘God’ of yours is not good or worthy of worship, then He is not a maximally great being, and if a maximally great being does not exist, then God does not exist” (even if there is a supernatural creator of the universe, this creator would be just be very powerful, but not good). In a sense, it’s actually an objection to the Ontological Argument’s “Maximally Great Being.”

          Hope that helps! ☺

          Tim

          Reply
  2. Andy Ryan says:

    “Here is what many skeptics miss: The Canaanites, seeing the advancing armies of Israel could have chosen to “get the heck out of Dodge,” and no one would have been killed!”

    Which skeptics? Can you name any of them? Where exactly do they miss this – can you quote any skeptics making the argument that you’re objecting to?

    “Examine the Moral Argument: 1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.”
    Who says? This is simply asserted. What’s more, the argument doesn’t show that God existing would mean objective moral values DO exist either. That’s two unsupported ideas.

    The biggest exponent of the moral argument is of course William Lane Craig. I’ll recommend to everyone again to view Jeffery Jay Lowder’s takedown of Craig’s version of the argument. Look up “Naturalism, Theism, and Moral Ontology: A Reply to William Lane Craig”.

    For a proper philosophical paper on the issue, read Jeremy Koons’: “Can God’s Goodness Save the Divine Command Theory From Euthyphro?”

    Theists can argue that if moral values BEGAN to exist then we must account for them, but if moral values have simply always existed then this doesn’t apply. And if theists claim that God himself always existed, and further that his moral nature always existed, then it’s special pleading to say THAT doesn’t need explanation but moral values without God cannot always have existed.

    “Moreover, God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity”

    And you don’t see any free will issues here, if people are being punished for things they haven’t even done? If you’re saying those people would definitely have committed those acts, such that they literally could NOT have chosen to do any differently, then how can you also say they have free will? If there’s no free will problem in destroying those people, why couldn’t he have removed the Nazis before the Holocaust?

    “God has the right (as the Ultimate Lawgiver) to give commands to certain individuals in extreme situations. We see this all the time in our government today.”

    We can vote out the government, and they literally have the powers they have because we agreed they could have them. How is this analogous to your God? Who gave him this mandate? Did he give it to himself? Did he give himself the right to give himself rights? And so on ad infinitum.

    Reply
    • Shannon says:

      I have heard many skeptics miss the point that the Canaanites could have simply left the area; Lawrence Krauss is a name that comes to mind as he used the Canaanites as a red herring during a debate with William Lane Craig.

      In regard to the moral argument keep in mind that if the premises are true, then the conclusion follows necessarily. What the moral argument brings out is that without a proper grounding, morality is subjective. If morality is subjective, then no moral code is superior to another; they would be akin to shades of colors that one prefers over the other, but one is not objectively better than another.

      If moral values have always existed that would put them in the realm of necessary existence. Moreover, they would also be an abstract, since on your view they are not grounded in God. I hope you can see the difficulty with this position because if the moral code of “Do not murder” existed necessarily, then it’s moral negation, “Commit murder” would exist necessarily as well. Who is to say which moral code is superior to the other, or which one should be followed? I hope you see the crunch you’re in.

      I can also tell from your comment that the Canaanite issue really bothers you. But, if there is no objective morality, why should it bother you? On what basis are you objecting to it? It can’t be anything further than your personal preference. Others have different views; should yours be followed instead? If so, why?

      With regard to Tim’s statement, “God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity,” Tim is appealing to God’s Omniscience, to include Middle Knowledge. This means that God knew of the range of possible worlds and how free creatures would act in them. So the idea that God’s foreknowledge renders free will illusory is just false. But, if you are a naturalist, what grounds would you have in affirming free will? If we are just biological robots programmed to do what our DNA instructs us to do, then there is no free will. If there is no free will, then murder, rape, and all sorts of other abhorrent crimes are committed despite one’s free will. What say you?

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        Shannon, no my point stands about the problem of punishing someone for something they haven’t even done. You’ve not refuted my point.

        Your other points mostly ask questions I’d already addressed in my original post.

        “If the premises are true then…”

        Right, and I questioned those premises. You’ve not defended those premises so again my point stands.

        “Its moral negation would exist as well”

        On the contrary, if it were necessarily true that murder was morally wrong then the law on non-contradiction would dictate that its negation BY NECESSITY could NOT exist as well.

        Other points you make assume that objective morality cannot exist without God, which is the very assumption I was arguing against. Trying to use that assumption to argue against my point is begging the question.

        Reply
        • Shannon says:

          I think you misunderstood Tim’s point. Tim was drawing on possible world semantics. He was using counterfactual statements to show that there are may be other possible worlds (situations) where God could command the Canaanites to be driven out and killed if need be. For instance, it could be the case that driving them out would lead to less loss of life. In my own article, I brought out instances where we humans are rational in killing in certain situations where a greater good is achieved. We do this without being omniscient and are still considered rational.

          With regard to the premises, you objected to the first premise with “who says.” This is hardly a disproof to the premise; it is just a question and if you want to defeat the premise you need to do much more than that. Moreover, if you are going to disprove the premise, you need to come up with a grounding principle for morality.

          Given what Tim and I have said, there just isn’t any good reason to think that God cannot ground morality. Objective moral values and duties imply God’s existence, so if moral values and duties exist necessarily, then it follows that God exists necessarily as well.

          When it comes to morality being akin to an abstract object that exists necessarily, I see no real reason why someone would want to cash out ontologically. Additionally, one would have to explain the mysterious relationship between this abstract “goodness” and human beings. In my view, abstract objects do not exist.

          When I spoke of “moral negation” I was hinting at the inability of the moral platonist to distinguish between good and evil abstractions. These would be abstractions such as greed, hate, jealousy, selfishness, and so on. I see no reason why a human would be morally obliged to follow the abstraction of “goodness” over an abstraction such as “evil.”

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “With regard to the premises, you objected to the first premise with “who says”

            Right, because you’ve asserted the premise without supporting it. You still haven’t. Feel free to do so now!

            “Objective values imply God’s existence”

            Another assertion – why do they imply the existence of a God?

            How would a God provide a grounding principle for morality? How do you get from a proposed ‘is’ of his existence to ‘oughts’? Why would a God existing create obligations for us?

        • Shannon says:

          Andy, you know if you hold to moral platonism you are holding to there being supernatural abstract objects; if that is the case then you are by definition, not a naturalist.

          Also, how is it that some nonthinking abstract (supernatural)t object can exist but somehow a thinking abstract object—God—cannot exist?

          With regard to the moral argument and the charge that the premises are just asserted, this is not true. This formulation of the moral argument has a lot of literature written on it and is adequately stated and defended in works such as Reasonable Faith, On Guard, and others. For the sake of brevity I and Tim assume that others are aware of the defenses of the premises.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Shannon, when did I say a God couldn’t exist?

            Shannon, the defeaters of the moral argument are well stated too. Have you read the Jeremy Koons paper I referenced? At any rate, it’s not enough to simply say the argument has been made elsewhere – I’m asking YOU to justify it. Why does a God existing create moral obligations?

            Do you say the laws of logic are supernatural? If so then you may be defining the word differently to me. If you want to define me as not being a naturalist then go ahead – the label doesn’t affect my argument either way

        • Shannon says:

          I’m responding to the comment made on June 2, 2016 at 3:26 am.

          I actually didn’t say that you said God couldn’t exist. I was making the point that if other abstract entities could exist, then why not a thinking one?

          “Shannon, the defeaters of the moral argument are well stated too. Have you read the Jeremy Koons paper I referenced? At any rate, it’s not enough to simply say the argument has been made elsewhere – I’m asking YOU to justify it. Why does a God existing create moral obligations?”

          In defense of the moral argument; it seems to me that without God, there is nothing to ground objective moral values and duties. You attempted to use moral platonism, but I demonstrated that this does not provide a grounding either. Sure, the abstraction of goodness could exist necessarily but by the same token, so could evil, or selfishness, and so on. Why would one be obligated to follow goodness over evil and so on? Moreover, what does it mean to say a moral value of goodness or justice just exists even in the absence of some person that is good or just? Moral values seem to be properties of persons and I find it very difficult that they could exist as abstractions. Additionally, for the sake of argument, I will assume that these abstractions do exist. How do they create moral obligations for me or anyone else? Why would I be obligated to follow one set of moral obligations and not another?

          Moreover, why would our moral experience cohere so well with these abstract moral obligations; that seems enormously improbable.

          On DCT humans have moral obligations because of the divine commands themselves. The commands stem from God’s very nature; remember, he wills the good, because he is good. One might then ask, “Why is God good.” God as the greatest conceivable being is by nature the very essence of moral perfection. God’s commands create moral obligations for us.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Moreover, what does it mean to say a moral value of goodness or justice just exists even in the absence of some person that is good or just?”

            What does it mean for the value of pi to exist in the absence of any perfectly round objects? But it seems a leap from that to argue that the value of pi is a fiction.

            “God as the greatest conceivable being is by nature the very essence of moral perfection”

            This is just trying to define your way around the problem! What does it MEAN to say ‘God is good’.

            “God’s commands create moral obligations for us.”

            Why is that then? This obligation you refer to is one of those abstractions you say you don’t like.

            “How do they create moral obligations for me or anyone else? Why would I be obligated to follow one set of moral obligations and not another?”

            Why be obligated to follow God rather than, say, Satan? Why is good better than bad?

        • Shannon says:

          Reply to comment on
          June 2, 2016 at 5:32 pm

          “Moreover, what does it mean to say a moral value of goodness or justice just exists even in the absence of some person that is good or just?”

          What does it mean for the value of pi to exist in the absence of any perfectly round objects? But it seems a leap from that to argue that the value of pi is a fiction.

          So you posit that the standard “goodness” is just out there somewhere and that we should cohere with that standard, correct? Again, why should we follow that standard? What is it about it that makes it obligatory for me to follow it?

          If a standard of “goodness” could just exist and somehow we are obliged to follow it, I see no difficulty in that God could exist, be the standard of goodness himself, and ask us to follow him.

          “God as the greatest conceivable being is by nature the very essence of moral perfection”

          This is just trying to define your way around the problem! What does it MEAN to say ‘God is good’.

          God’s character is the standard of goodness. This means whatever God is like determines the content of the good. Now if you are asking, “how can we know the content of the good,” that is a question regarding moral epistemology. It could be a reflection of moral experience or divine revelation, etc, that one comes to know this. So good is ontologically grounded in God, but epistemologically, we can learn moral goodness through our experience.

          “God’s commands create moral obligations for us.”

          Why is that then? This obligation you refer to is one of those abstractions you say you don’t like.

          It seems much more reasonable that God, being the standard of goodness itself, is a better grounding for moral obligations than some abstract standard. Why should your children listen to you? Why does your commands to them provide obligations for them?

          “How do they create moral obligations for me or anyone else? Why would I be obligated to follow one set of moral obligations and not another?”

          Why be obligated to follow God rather than, say, Satan? Why is good better than bad?

          God is the greatest conceivable being. So God is THE GOOD, whereas Satan is not. Satan is not a maximally great being. He isn’t omnibenevolent.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Again, why should we follow that standard? What is it about it that makes it obligatory for me to follow it?”

            Who said it’s obligatory? And why would it be obligatory to follow your God’s standard?

            “This means whatever God is like determines the content of the good”

            Who says? Why does he determine the content of the good? What do you even mean when you say “God is good”, if ‘good’ is determined by God? It just becomes a circular definition.

            “Now if you are asking, “how can we know the content of the good,”

            I’m not saying that at all. Epistemology is a completely different subject here.

            “So God is THE GOOD, whereas Satan is not”

            Right, by why is THE GOOD better than THE BAD? What makes omnibenevolence better than omnimalevolence? You can’t say why one is better than the other without referring to another standard OUTSIDE of God, or you’re just using a circular argument.

            “It seems much more reasonable that God, being the standard of goodness itself, is a better grounding for moral obligations than some abstract standard”

            Why is it more reasonable? Who is determining what is ‘reasonable’ here? If ‘reasonableness’ is enough to resolve ethical problems then why does a God need to exist for morality to exist? If reasonableness can only exist IF God exists then you can’t use reasonableness to explain or ground God’s morality. If the former is flowing from the latter then you can’t use the latter to explain the former.

            “I see no difficulty in that God could exist”

            I never said that it’s ‘difficult’ for God exist. What you’ve not done is defended the moral argument for God’s existence.

          • toby says:

            Right, by why is THE GOOD better than THE BAD? What makes omnibenevolence better than omnimalevolence? You can’t say why one is better than the other without referring to another standard OUTSIDE of God, or you’re just using a circular argument.

            Spot on, Andy. When they start talking about “great-making qualities”, they’re betraying their own argument by smuggling in subjective notions of what greatness is. And when you ask them why this or that quality is great they’ll ignore it or evade it with “properly basic beliefs”.

        • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          Response to comment on “Again, why should we follow that standard? What is it about it that makes it obligatory for me to follow it?”

          Who said it’s obligatory? And why would it be obligatory to follow your God’s standard?

          “If God has created humans such that their final goal is to enjoy a relationship with himself, then establishing and maintaining such a relationship is supremely important to humans. If moral obligations are constitutive of this relation, much as other kinds of obligations are constitutive of other kinds of social relations, then those obligations take on an overriding importance if then make possible a relationship that has overriding importance.”

          It makes sense that one would want to satisfy the requirements of a being whom I love and owe an unlimited debt of gratitude, and whose love for me is such that he intends me to enjoy an eternal happiness in communion with himself and others who love him.

          “This means whatever God is like determines the content of the good”

          Who says? Why does he determine the content of the good? What do you even mean when you say “God is good”, if ‘good’ is determined by God? It just becomes a circular definition.

          Good has to have a grounding otherwise you would have an infinite regress. Tim Stratton has argued this in the thread as well.

          “Now if you are asking, “how can we know the content of the good,”

          I’m not saying that at all. Epistemology is a completely different subject here.

          “So God is THE GOOD, whereas Satan is not”

          Right, by why is THE GOOD better than THE BAD? What makes omnibenevolence better than omnimalevolence? You can’t say why one is better than the other without referring to another standard OUTSIDE of God, or you’re just using a circular argument.

          Omnibanevolence is a great making property, whereas omnimalevolence is not. God as the “aliquid quo nihil maius cogitate posit; that than which a greater cannot be conceived” So omnibanevolence is a necessary property of God and cannot be changed. God is the ultimate and as such, he is the standard. There isn’t this force outside of God compelling him to act good, it just is God’s nature and God wills from his nature.
          “It seems much more reasonable that God, being the standard of goodness itself, is a better grounding for moral obligations than some abstract standard”

          Andy, you asked, “Why is it more reasonable? Who is determining what is ‘reasonable’ here? If ‘reasonableness’ is enough to resolve ethical problems then why does a God need to exist for morality to exist?”

          No one is saying God has to exist for morality to exist; what we are saying is that in order for there to be objective moral values and duties, they have to be properly grounded. Atheistic Moral Platonism has yet to demonstrate that it can ground morality. Sure, it can account for abstracts like goodness, evil, and so on, but it cannot provide an objective basis. The good exists just as the bad exists and there is no ontologically compelling reason why someone is obligated to adhere to one and not the other on AMP.

          “If reasonableness can only exist IF God exists then you can’t use reasonableness to explain or ground God’s morality.”

          Andy, I didn’t say this; that is a straw man and a red herring, or as what I sometimes refer to as the “SQUIRREL” fallacy. But on a side note, you should read Tim’s Freethinking argument and also Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.

          All this being said, I am glad that you have rejected Naturalism and embraced metaphysics (supernaturalism)! I’m looking forward to your comments!

          Reply
      • David says:

        Shannon, you said, “What the moral argument brings out is that without a proper grounding, morality is subjective. If morality is subjective, then no moral code is superior to another; they would be akin to shades of colors that one prefers over the other, but one is not objectively better than another.” When you compare moral choices with colors you are comparing apples with oranges. No color ever suffered. No color ever died from deeds done to it. No color ever felt ostracized or rejected. I guess a color could feel blue. Colors don’t have pain receptors. Colors can’t be intimidated or threatened. You can’t torture a color. You can’t commit genocide against a color. You can’t rape or enslave a color. So to say that without a proper grounding moral choices are subjective and then compare that to color preferences makes no point at all. Shannon, are you saying that without Yahweh’s moral code to qualify the act there is no difference between me giving my daughter a tender kiss on the forehead as I tuck her into bed at night or slitting her throat? Without a god to provide an objective moral code there is no difference between me taking a meal to a neighbor in need or dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire? There is no way you believe this. You are just handcuffed to a system of Christian apologetics that requires you to make ridiculous arguments to support the need for the god described in your sacred literature. Morality IS subjective and informed over the millennia by trial and error. This is precisely why Jesus’ morality, while still somewhat retrograde (never condemning slavery and claiming he will eternally torture everyone that doesn’t fall in love with him come to mind) is far superior to the morality of his supposed father Yahweh. It’s obvious that morality had evolved by the time Jesus came on the scene The sages, priests, scribes, leaders, teachers, people had tried the law of Moses for a few hundred years and realized that some of it was a little over the top. By the time Jesus came along people were starting to realize that stoning a woman for being unchaste was just too much. Can you see that Shannon? You may sleep better at night believing that an objective grounding for a moral code exists but that doesn’t make it so. We just have to do the best we can and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not. To use your words Shannon, “I hope you see the crunch you’re in.”

        Reply
        • toby says:

          Torture, pain, genocide, etc. If there there is a god who has a plan and uses these things for good, and this god could create a world differently–in which even one act of genocide didn’t have to occur–then it is implied that the god wants or needs these things to happen. If this god is all powerful and all good, then christians cannot call torture, pain, or genocide bad or evil. They are part of their god’s plan and hence unavoidable and necessary and “good”.

          Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      To respond to one of your points, are you saying that objective morality can exist without a mind of some sort creating it?

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        If a mind is creating it then isn’t it by definition not objective? If objective doesn’t mean it that it is NOT dependent on minds to be so, then what exactly do you mean by ‘objective’? If morality is created by a mind then it becomes subjective. And that aside, if the origin of moral laws without a mind require explanation then the origin of morals from a mind also require explanation.

        Given that the laws of logic must logically be independent of minds – otherwise you’re allowing for alternatives to the law of non-contradiction, which is a self-refuting idea – then why not the same for morality?

        Finally, Euthyphro’s Dilemma shows why Divine Command Theory doesn’t work anyway. Read the Jeremy Koons paper I refer to in my previous post.

        Reply
        • Shannon says:

          The Euthyphro dilemma only provides difficulties for voluntaristic ethical theories that base all ethical properties on God’s commands. But, not all divine command theory systems of metaethics subscribe to volunteerism. For instance, Robert Adams system of Divine Command Theory regards God’s commands as only the source of moral obligations and the theory affirms that some objective theory of the good is necessary as the foundation for this account of the morally right.

          C Stephen Evans states, “Restricting the account to moral obligations allows the defender of DCT to escape the dilemma implicit in the Euthyphro question, if asked, ‘Are moral obligations duties because God commands them’? the proponent of DCT says yes. However, this does not imply that God’s commands are arbitrary. God’s commands are aimed at the good and are certainly not arbitrary.”

          Or put more simply, the way to escape the Euthyphro is to split the horns of the argument. On the one horn, you have volunteerism, on the other Platonism. In saying God wills the good because he is good, one offers a third alternative to the false dilemma.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Hi Shannon,

            This is an interesting idea, but one I’m not sure I understand.

            You said:“In saying G-d wills the good because He is good, one offers a third alternative to the false dilemma.”

            So, as I understand it “good” is a valuation based upon some standard. So for example: Andy spending time with his child is “good” because it conforms to a standard of “good” behavior, as laid down by G-d Himself.

            What standard is used here to conclude “G-d is good”?

            Thanks,

            Luke

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Luke, as I understand this attempted ‘third option, there is no standard to say ‘God is good’ – rather, God simply IS the standard.

            This isn’t a third option. It either denudes the word ‘good’ of any meaning at all, or it simply pushes the dilemma back a step.

            Jeremy Koons illustrates the first ‘featureless property’ point:

            “Alston presents the regress problem almost as an epistemological problem: how do we identify the ultimate source of good? If we have some knowledge of what traits (such as being loving and just) are good, then (plausibly) we need only find the being who exemplifies these traits to the maximal degree to find the exemplar of the good. But the problem we are grappling with is metaphysical, not epistemological: we are not (merely) trying to identify the source of good; we are trying to explain how it confers goodness on all things. So we cannot help ourselves to these virtuous traits (even if we know they are virtuous), because our problem is to explain HOW they are virtuous, not merely to identify which being is most virtuous.

            We must consider the source of these traits’ goodness (God), and ask, “How is it that this being confers goodness on these traits?” Alston, Adams, Craig and others answer, “In virtue of being supremely good.” But once we confine ourselves to a strictly metaphysical investigation, we see that this statement is meaningless, because we are debarred from appealing to any features of God which might make His goodness coherent, or explain why His goodness is worthy of admiration or capable of conferring praiseworthiness on the traits (such as lovingness and justice) that He possesses.

            Since God’s goodness is prior to any feature we could cite in an explanation (what) of God’s goodness, we cannot say what God’s goodness is. It is, again, a featureless property. The particularist is not just saying that there is an end to why-explanations; she is saying that no what-explanation can be given either. And that is simply not plausible, since this makes God’s goodness completely unintelligible.”

            Regarding the second point – the pushing back of Euthryphro a step:

            “Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape.
            If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?”

            But saying ‘God’s commands are aimed at the good’ doesn’t help because it uses ‘the good’ in it, which is what you’re trying to define in the first place, making it a circular argument.

            Shannon: “God’s commands are aimed at the good and are certainly not arbitrary.”

            You misunderstand here what ‘arbitrary’ means in the Euthyphro argument. It doesn’t mean ‘on a whim’ or ‘without reason’. It’s asking where the ultimate traits of ‘goodness’ come from. Saying they come from God doesn’t answer the question. Saying his commands are not on a whim doesn’t refute the ‘arbitrary’ charge either. Is it just arbitrary that the traits of God’s goodness happened to be such things as ‘loving’, ‘forgiving’ etc? If they had happened instead to be ‘hatefulness’ and ‘vindictiveness’, would we be holding THEM up as great virtues? If those traits could NOT have belonged to a perfect God then you’re saying those traits are intrinsically good APART from God. In other words, you would be saying that God’s nature necessarily would have to conform to this standard. If not, you’re saying that God’s traits could have been anything, and then, yes, they are arbitrary.

            Thus the Euthryphro Dilemma still applies, and still defeats Divine Command Theory.

            But seriously, read the full Jeremy Koons paper I quote above. If you’re spending time writing blogs and articles defending Divine Command Theory, you owe it to yourself and your readers to take the time to read the (admittedly long) current best attack on your argument. The title again is: “CAN GOD’S GOODNESS SAVE THE DIVINE COMMAND THEORY FROM EUTHYPHRO?”

      • Shannon says:

        I see goodness as a concrete object grounded in God himself. So to answer the question, I do not think moral abstractions provide an objective morality at all.

        Reply
    • Timothy Stratton says:

      Hi Andy, it is always good to hear from you! In my article, I wrote the following: “Here is what many skeptics miss…” You asked: “Which skeptics? Can you name any of them?”

      Off the top of my head, I am pretty sure that Dawkins, Harris, and Krauss have all missed this. This is irrelevant, however, as the skeptics I had in mind while writing this article are the ones I engage with on a day-to-day basis on college campuses. For example, a local biologist has used this to defend his atheism in our interactions. Many atheistic students bring this up to challenge my Christian beliefs when I am speaking on college campuses. In fact, I just met a guy today who told me his brother is not a Christian because of how the God of the Old Testament is portrayed. This is a pop-level argument that many undergrads (and some biology professors) think is good for horrible reasons (I offer 10 of those reasons).

      I wrote: ““Examine the Moral Argument: 1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.” You responded: “Who says? This is simply asserted.”

      Andy, you know better than this! You know that I have defended the Moral Argument for God’s existence in our prior conversations and in my previously published articles (like “An OUGHT From an IS”)! I don’t know if you have ever written blog articles before, but they are quite different than dissertations. The goal is to be as short and sweet as possible. This is why I typically hyperlink past articles (or the arguments of others) to support statements that are otherwise made “in passing.” I offered a hyperlink for your clicking convenience in the article above to make sure that this is more than just an “assertion.”

      You said, “What’s more, the argument doesn’t show that God existing would mean objective moral values DO exist either. That’s two unsupported ideas.”

      The first premise of the Moral Argument clearly states that *IF* God does not exist, *then* objective moral values *&* duties do not exist. The second premise simply points out the properly basic belief (that is even more basic than the belief the physical universe exists) that some things are really right, wrong, good, bad, fair, and evil no matter what any human thinks. To deny this is to tacitly affirm the actions of Hitler, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, ISIS, and your least favorite presidential candidate. All you are left with is stating that you simply have differing subjective preferences – nothing more. Anyway, if the premises are true, then the theistic conclusion deductively follows.

      I am pretty sure that you and I have had this conversation before, Andy. I know I have written articles on this subject and I am pretty sure that I have given this support to you before as well. Here is one argument supporting this premise:

      1- Objective truth corresponds to reality.
      2- If a maximally great being (God) exists, He exists necessarily and eternally. God is ultimate reality.
      3- God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to know, love, and enjoy him and other humans forever (Inventors invent things with specific purposes in mind. Creators create for specific purposes).
      4- Therefore, this purpose is objectively true apart from human subjective opinion.

      Andy, moral obligations, of the objective manner, are grounded in the revelation God has given us as to how we ought to behave corresponding to the purpose and goal that humanity was created for. This purpose and goal (which would be true apart from human opinion) is eternal human flourishing (summed up in the two great commands: love God first and all people as yourself). There is a reality regarding our existence and what we were created for, even if every human subjectively disagrees. God gives you the freedom to disagree and be wrong. We can add to the four steps above with the following:

      5- If God exists He is a maximally great being.
      6- If God is maximally great then He is perfectly intelligent.
      7- If God is perfectly intelligent then everything He does is for perfectly good reasons (This is the epitome of a good leader).
      8- Therefore, every command God gives is perfectly intelligent and perfectly good.
      9- Therefore, if we are to correspond to reality we ought to obey His perfectly good and perfectly intelligent commands (That would be the objectively smart thing to do).
      10- God gives us the freedom to do otherwise and freely choose to be objectively stupid.

      You said, “The biggest exponent of the moral argument is of course William Lane Craig. I’ll recommend to everyone again to view Jeffery Jay Lowder’s takedown of Craig’s version of the argument…”

      Do you really think JJL’s argument is a good one, Andy? This is anything but a “takedown.” For starters, his title is “Naturalism, Theism, and Moral Ontology,” but he sure does not defend naturalism; in fact, he argues against naturalism! He is anything but a naturalist as he states that there are many immaterial abstract objects that ontologically exist without beginning! He specifically references the laws of nature (which are not nature themselves), mathematical laws, and the laws of logic. Now, I think a strong argument can be made that the best explanation of all of these immaterial abstract and eternal things is the eternal existence of God (I have written on this topic on my website). Be that as it may, why can all of these supernatural (other than nature) immaterial abstract things exist, but a supernatural immaterial concrete “Thing” cannot exist? How ad hoc to posit all of these supernatural entities to avoid an argument deductively proving a supernatural immaterial Thinking Thing exists. This atheist is willing to posit an *infinite* amount of supernatural things, but is determined to avoid a supernatural thing if it is an immaterial thinking thing (a mind).

      At any rate, if one defends objective moral values (not duties) in this manner, he can never again call himself a naturalist. So, if things other than nature are affirmed, why cannot God exist too? Why not emotionally argue against the number 7 or the law of the excluded middle?

      Regarding Euthyphro, if “the good” can be grounded in an immaterial abstract object (which the proponent of the Euthyphro dilemma affirms), why cannot “the good” be grounded in an immaterial concrete object like God? It’s quite easy to split the horns of that false dichotomy.

      I wrote: “Moreover, God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity…” You said, “And you don’t see any free will issues here, if people are being punished for things they haven’t even done?”

      Andy, you conveniently ignored the surrounding sentences that provide a clearer context! My 9th point clarified: “Given God’s property of omniscience and perfect intelligence, God makes the best decision in every scenario and situation. God would know what would happen if He did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites.” The point is that God would know if this is the most intelligent thing to do given his purpose for creating mankind. Perhaps if the Canaanites were allowed to stay and live in that land, they would have eventually ruled the world and forced all people to worship Baal against their will and burn their babies alive in honor of their idol (just a thought experiment to make a point). If that were true, then it seems that the divine command to drive out the Canaanites would be the most intelligent thing to do regarding the Creator’s primary purpose for creating humans.

      Andy, you said, “If you’re saying those people would definitely have committed those acts, such that they literally could NOT have chosen to do any differently, then how can you also say they have free will?”

      Knowledge does not logically stand in causal relation. To think it does is simply to make a philosophical mistake (it’s actually an error in modal logic). Just as an infallible weather barometer does not cause the rain in Spain, an infallible knower of how people will freely choose does not cause Hitler to do the Holocaust. God knows with 100% certainty how free humans will freely choose. So, your above statement should be edited in the following manner: “People would definitely have [freely chosen to commit] those acts, [even though ] they literally could have chosen to do differently.” God simply knows with certainty how people will freely choose.

      You asked: “If there’s no free will problem in destroying those people, why couldn’t he have removed the Nazis before the Holocaust?”

      Again, Andy, you need to consider God’s middle knowledge! Perhaps God knew that if the Canaanites were allowed to exist in the land, then the world would become utterly evil and no human would freely choose to fulfill the objective purpose they were created for and humanity would not flourish on earth or for eternity. I think a strong case for this can be made, but I am simply offering a thought experiment as I stated in the article. In regards to Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps God knew that if he allowed the Holocaust, that humans would turn to Christ in mass numbers if they experienced the evil of Hitler. Moreover, this is not a counterfactual, but it actually happened! In fact, I might not be a Christian today if it were not for Hitler. My grandpa committed his life to Christ while fighting in WWII. He then raised my mom to know about Christ, and they both taught me about the gospel. I have literally shared the gospel and led hundreds upon hundred to Jesus Christ and those thousands each lead many to Christ. So, perhaps the reason God did not stop Hitler before the Holocaust is because He knew humanity would learn from Hitler’s free but objectively wrong actions.

      I wrote: “God has the right (as the Ultimate Lawgiver) to give commands to certain individuals in extreme situations. We see this all the time in our government today.”

      You said, “We can vote out the government, and they literally have the powers they have because we agreed they could have them. How is this analogous to your God?”

      Andy, no analogy is ever completely perfect, but you are missing the main point of the analogy. The government has the power and the right to issue certain commands that in the absence of such a command would be illegal. It does not matter if these leaders were voted in, or if we lived under a communistic dictatorship. If one with this authority (given to voters or not) tells you that you will go to jail if you drive faster than the speed limit, but then issues commands to certain individuals to drive faster than the speed limit in certain situations (and they will not go to jail, but rather be praised), then the one with the power and authority to issue these commands and it is actually a good thing. I noted that our government is a prime example of this.

      Moreover, the Supreme Court cannot be voted out of power. They are unelected and appointed by a president you may or may not have voted for or agree with. The power the president has to do such a thing was given to him by people that lived a long time ago and by people that you may or may not agree with.

      You asked, “Who gave [God] this mandate? Did he give it to himself? Did he give himself the right to give himself rights? And so on ad infinitum.”

      Why does this authority need to be “given” by someone else, Andy? If that is your view, then without God, you are going to be left with an infinite regress. God is the perfect terminator of this regress. As I explained above, God is the perfectly intelligent being. Is not the epitome of a “good leader” one who is usually acting in an intelligent manner? Don’t we vote for the presidential candidates that we think are more intelligent or have more intelligent policies than the other (especially the policies that lead to human flourishing)? If God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to flourish for eternity (which He did), then His commands (based on His omniscience) would always lead to such a goal, even if they did not make sense at the moment to ignorant and finite humans.

      Well, I need to take my Mac into the shop now. I will be without it for a few days so I must bid you farewell. I’m sure I’ll see you on a thread of a future article of mine. In the meantime, I hope you continue your dialogue with Shannon.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “The first premise of the Moral Argument clearly states that *IF* God does not exist, *then* objective moral values *&* duties do not exist.”

        Sure, it states it. But it’s an unsupported premise.

        “Don’t we vote for the presidential candidates that we think are more intelligent”

        Not necessarily at all. I’d rather vote for a guy who’d uphold the constitution that an evil genius who doesn’t care for it.

        “So, if things other than nature are affirmed, why cannot God exist too?”

        Who said that God couldn’t exist? Lowder didn’t make the argument that God couldn’t exist, and he didn’t make the argument that naturalism was true. He argued against Craig’s argument from morality, and you’ve not overturned Lowder’s objections.

        “Be that as it may, why can all of these supernatural (other than nature) immaterial abstract things exist, but a supernatural immaterial concrete “Thing” cannot exist?”

        Again, who said it COULDN’T exist. It’s Craig (and your argument) that a God MUST exist because it’s the only explanation for objective morality. If Lowder argues that this is not so, it doesn’t not at all logically follow that he’s saying God must NOT exist – he’s just saying that objective morality is not an argument FOR a God.

        “At any rate, if one defends objective moral values (not duties) in this manner, he can never again call himself a naturalist.”

        So what? The argument he presents stands on its own – it’s irrelevant whether or not you label the man who presents that argument a naturalist.

        ” If God is perfectly intelligent then everything He does is for perfectly good reasons (This is the epitome of a good leader).
        8- Therefore, every command God gives is perfectly intelligent and perfectly good.”

        No, Tim, it doesn’t follow that perfectly intelligent means perfectly good, unless you want to argue that it’s impossible to be evil and perfectly intelligent, or you simply defined ‘good’ as ‘perfectly intelligent’, which is pretty odd definition of the word.

        “Andy, moral obligations, of the objective manner, are grounded in the revelation God has given us as to how we ought to behave corresponding to the purpose and goal that humanity was created for.”

        Why does this carry obligations for us? You’re trying to get ‘oughts’ from an ‘is’ here.

        Reply
        • Candy Smith says:

          objective morality has to be an argument for God. It cant be based off of humans. It not only doesn’t make sense but it isn’t possible!!

          Reply
    • RLL says:

      Andy, I just listened to the argument by JWW and he far from “destroyed” WLC argument, he merely showed that Craig agues from a Ontological Moral Objectivity, while he feels that one can have Moral Objectivity using an Epistemological foundation. Then he attempts to show why one CAN have moral objectivity from a pragmatic foundation. So it is a strawman, not a refuting.

      Reply
  3. TGM says:

    The thrust of your article seems to be that god is not actually evil because of the extermination of the Canaanites, and thus skeptics are wrong. Of course, this argument by skeptics, as well as the arguments from evil or suffering, are not really arguments against the existence of God, only arguments against the existence of a good god, according to general agreement about what constitutes ‘goodness’. Theists naturally make the counter argument that skeptics cannot see the big picture, thus, how can we say that evil is unnecessary.

    You know, in any area of investigation, we make assessments based on actions rather than words – unless you’re an apologist, apparently. The esteemed apologist/detective J.W. Wallace, arriving at a murder in progress, would believe the active shooter who screams ‘I didn’t do it!’ and start looking for clues elsewhere, right? Of course not. Genocide speaks to me far louder than any claim that it was appropriate or necessary. And I don’t buy the ‘ends justify the means’ rationale.

    But this all assumes there is a god. Were that the case, I could at least absolve theists for believing this insanity. But since I have not been convinced, I must direct my incredulity toward those who somehow think their conception of god is actually admirable. Frankly, I think you’re better off hoping the bible got a few wrong.

    Tim, I have a question for you… Suppose this being that you worship did exist. How could you tell the difference between a good god and a sufficiently powerful Being just pretending to be a good god?

    Reply
  4. David says:

    I feel sorry for you Tim. Your belief in the truth of the bible commits you to a morally repugnant system of rationalization for some pretty horrible acts. Don’t you ever get tire of making excuses for Yahweh? In the old testament he condones or commands genocide, chattel slavery, human sacrifice, misogyny, honor killings, racism, killing children, kidnapping and rape, murdering others for their land, treating women as property….the list is long. Of course, when you see any of these things in other religions or cultures you are perfectly happy to condemn them. Doesn’t it seem contradictory to you that one of the tenets of Christianity is that you should be a truth teller yet, as an apologist, you are engaged in one of the most intellectually dishonest endeavors that exists? I know it happens, but I can’t for the life of me see why anyone one would be attracted to your breed of Christianity.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Something has gone wrong somewhere when you’re making the same excuses for genocide as the Nazis.
      “Hey, they had a chance to leave – if they stayed behind then they DESERVE to get slaughtered. Well obviously the kids didn’t have a choice, but those kids would have grown up rotten anyway, we KNOW that, so killing them now is for the best. And hey, there’s still a bunch of them left, so that’s not even proper genocide, right?”

      Reply
      • David says:

        Shannon,
        Here’s one for starters. Deuteronomy: 22:13-21 is a beautiful prescription for an honor killing. The fact that you would stone a woman for being unchaste is barbaric. The problematic nature of the passage is compounded by the fact that the husband, if found to be lying, only takes a beating and pays the father 100 shekels. WHAT??? He only gets a beating and a fine for making a claim that might have cost his wife her life? He pays the father? What? This is a clear indication of the fact that the daughter is her father’s property. And the falsely accused wife receives, as her reward, the blessing of spending the rest of her life with this delightful fellow who just accused her of being a whore?

        Shannon if you can’t accept the straight forward meaning of this passage and are willing to make rationalization for it based on special pleading I feel sorry for you. Please don’t parrot some lame apologetic that Craig, Copan or the like has put forward. They all fail. And don’t give me any “is” vs “ought” rationalization. This is clearly an “ought”. And any “new covenant” dodge you might trot out fails too because if the father, son and holy spirit are one and eternal, the three of them are, right now, hovering over some village in the Levant watching and condoning the stoning of some young Israelite girl for a sexual indiscretion.

        It’s amusing to me that Christians site the horrific practice of honor killing seen today in some Muslim cultures as yet another example of why Islam is a religion of evil while right there in the Hebrew bible section of your own holy book you find this passage. Shannon, I have a daughter and would kill anyone that tried to stone her for such an act. And would categorically reject any deity that commanded it. I hope you would too.

        I can provide verses to substantiate every other item in the list above as time provides. I just thought this ONE was concise and pretty damning so I started with it.

        Reply
        • David says:

          Oh, and Shannon, I forgot to add that Yahweh must not have been privy to the science that we have today since if he had been he would have known that there are many reasons why a virgin might not bleed from her first intercourse. Does knowing this speak to your conscience at all Shannon?

          Reply
          • Shane Eugene Byrd says:

            Response to David’s comment on
            June 6, 2016 at 1:23 am
            “Shannon, regarding your claim that morality has to have some sort of objective grounding you said, ‘What the moral argument brings out is that without a proper grounding, morality is subjective. If morality is subjective, then no moral code is superior to another; they would be akin to shades of colors that one prefers over the other, but one is not objectively better than another.’ When you compare moral choices with color preference you are comparing apples with oranges. No color ever suffered. No color ever died from deeds done to it. No color ever felt ostracized or rejected. I guess a color could feel blue. Colors don’t have pain receptors. Colors can’t be intimidated or threatened. You can’t torture a color. You can’t commit genocide against a color. You can’t rape or enslave a color. So to say that without a proper grounding moral choices are subjective and then compare that to color preferences makes no point at all.”

            It is precisely the point that if there is no ontological grounding of values and duties then there is no way to prefer one value over another. This means there is no reason to prefer goodness over evil other than one own subjective reasoning. What would make evil worse than good if they are on ontologically ungrounded. The point about colors not suffering misses the point entirely. One prefers a different color based on ones own preferences and there is no objective reason to prefer red over blue; it is a subjective reason that one prefers one color over another. Similarly, without grounding, morality is subjective as well. Sure, doing something evil to another might cause them suffering, but why is it wrong to cause another suffering? Can you provide a basis other than your own subjective reasons? I will answer the rest of your response when I get some more time this evening.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “why is it wrong to cause another suffering?”

            Why is it wrong to favour God over Satan? Why is benevolence ‘better’ than malevolence? Why is following a supposed God’s design ‘better’ than contravening His supposed design? You can’t answer the above without relying on one of the very principles that you’re trying to explain in the first place.

            Imagine two hypothetical universes – both exactly the same in every respect, but one was designed by God and the other came about without God (by natural selection or whatever). Why would punching someone in the face be wrong in one universe but not the other when the suffering it causes is exactly the same in both? Either it’s wrong in both or it’s wrong in neither.

          • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            A little bit of context for Deuteronomy 22:13.
            Gordon Winham notes, “The husband claims that by giving him a dud wife (for his 50 shekels) his father in law had in effect stolen the sum from him. Two legal principles are therefore applicable those dealing with theft and false witness. The penalty for theft of deposited property is double restitution according to Ex xii7. But according to Deut 19:19 and other ancient near eastern laws false witnesses were punished with the punishment the accused would have suffered if substantiated.”

            According to Deut 19:19 false witnesses were punished with the punishment the accused would have suffered if substantiated. If this law meant that substantiation of the husband’s accusation would actually result in the execution of his wife then the failure to substantiate his claim would mean that the husband would be executed as well, but he is not. Apart from the fine to the father, his other punishment is an unspecified punishment (which is not execution) and loss of his right to divorce; if he was executed, why worry about not being able to divorce his wife? It appears then that the actual execution of the woman was not envisaged. Wenham suggests then a substitute must have been envisaged in this text if it was to be read as coherent and consistent with the other laws in Deuteronomy.

            Matt Flannagan remarks, “This conclusion seems to be strengthened by several other passages that deal with the same topic. Two chapters later, Deuteronomy 24:1-5, The Torah deals with a case where a man divorces his wife, “who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her.”

            Note also how Christ interprets Deut. 24:1-5 in the Synoptic Gospels. He sees the impurity as adultery and presupposes that the divorced adulterous wife lives on and marries another man (Matt. 5:31-32) just as is the case in Deut 24:2. Thus, the very same situation—a wife committing adultery—does not lead to her death. This makes sense if the capital sanctions for adultery function as admonitory devices and in practice, a ransom was made as a substitute (possibly alongside a lesser sentence) but it does not make sense if a women who was discovered to have committed adultery by her husband was required to be executed.

          • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            June 6, 2016 at 10:19 pm
            Shannon, I answered your question regarding the subjective nature of morality. Are you willing to answer any of my questions? Yes, you posit that morality is subjective and then posit that it somehow improves through trial and testing. In order for morality to have an improvement, there has to be a standard, If morality is subjective as you posit, there is no standard, hence no improvement. David, this is inconsistent.

            Do you condone or condemn honor killings?
            I condemn honor killing. Do you? Look below for further comments on Deut 22-24 which demonstrates that the hypothetical in 22:13 wasn’t likely practiced literally, especially considering Jesus’ interpretation of said passages.

            Do you feel a woman should be stoned for failing to be a virgin on her wedding night?

            In Jewish culture, wedding are a three part event. Once a bride and husband are betrothed they are married; the passage (Deut 22:13) is actually about adultery. Again, see my comments below.

            Do you think her scum bag husband should receive a lesser punishment for what he did?

            I think the punishment is fair if the bride’s punishment was carried out using admonitory methods.

            Do you think that a girl’s father deserves the penalty money for the wrong done to her?

            Keep the cultural context in mind David. Husbands paid a bride price (50 shekels) for their bride. This was essentially an insurance policy should something happen to the husband; the money would be used to take care of the wife in his absence. In the case of Deut 22:13, the husband is claiming that he gave the money to the father for his bride, but the bride was adulterous before their marriage was consummated. According to Exodus false witness and theft required double restitution. Thus the 100 shekels the husband had to pay was double what he was trying to reclaim—the 50 shekel bride price. This was a very expensive fine and thus it was to detract from any husband bringing false allegations against his wife.

            Another reason the money was given to the father and not the bride is fairly obvious upon reflection. If the money was given back to her, it would have remained in the husband’s possession—she was still married to him. So, by giving it to the bride’s father, it would be a felt penalty.

            Also, keep in mind the intent was that the money would be used to take care of the bride.

            Do you think that having to live the rest of your life with a man that tried to get you killed the morning after your wedding is some sort of reasonable solution?

            The law regarding divorce in this instance seems to be talionic justice, the husband sought to be separated from this wife and for his false allegations, he is denied the ability to divorce her, that is his punishment aside from the 49 stripes and fine. He was to be financially responsible for her the rest of his life. So, the law was pretty harsh on someone who brought a false allegation forward.

            I’ll answer the below questions soon.

            Do you think that it demonstrates a certain degree of ignorance on Yahweh’s part for him to instruct the people to kill a woman that doesn’t bleed on her wedding night when we know today that there are many reasons why a woman might not do so?
            If you had a daughter and we were still living under the law of Moses would you let your husband and the men of your city stone her to death for unchastity?
            Are you willing to answer any of these questions Shannon?
            You won’t because you know to do so would require an excessive amount of special pleading and would make you look foolish.

          • David says:

            Shannon,

            I can’t believe that you, as a woman, are willing to accept apologetic rationalizations for the barbaric, misogyny of this passage.

        • shannon says:

          Deuteronomy 22:13 is part of Israel’s national law. That being said, the provisions in biblical and cuneiform law collections dealing with the commission of a wrong typically list only the most severe penalty allowed by law and leave other possible penalties unmentioned.” This is reflective of an error we have seen many times: Deuteronomy is not a literal handbook, but is really intended to be didactic — a book of case law.

          So to be clear, the penalty of death is given as the maximum penalty, but lesser penalties were probably given.

          Deuteronomy 22:13-19 also presupposes that the wife is innocent and that the husband concocted the false accusation to make money from the bride price. For the act of attempted shaming of the daughter, her family and father, he was to be chastised (Deut. 22:18) and fined a 100 shekels to pay the father of the bride.

          Keep in mind that in Ancient Israel sexual purity, and purity in general were highly important and these laws were intended to enforce sexual purity.

          Also, you can only make this charge that stoning the woman was unfair if you hold to objective morality, otherwise morality is subjective from culture to culture. You may think it’w wrong, but if morality is subjective, that is just your opinion and not a fact. If you hold to morality being objective, then keep in mind that this is case law, not a real situation; it is hypothetical and may have actually prevented situations like this from occurring in the first place.

          Reply
          • David says:

            Shannon, regarding your claim that morality has to have some sort of objective grounding you said, “What the moral argument brings out is that without a proper grounding, morality is subjective. If morality is subjective, then no moral code is superior to another; they would be akin to shades of colors that one prefers over the other, but one is not objectively better than another.” When you compare moral choices with color preference you are comparing apples with oranges. No color ever suffered. No color ever died from deeds done to it. No color ever felt ostracized or rejected. I guess a color could feel blue. Colors don’t have pain receptors. Colors can’t be intimidated or threatened. You can’t torture a color. You can’t commit genocide against a color. You can’t rape or enslave a color. So to say that without a proper grounding moral choices are subjective and then compare that to color preferences makes no point at all. Shannon, are you saying that without Yahweh’s moral code to qualify the act there is no difference between me giving my daughter a tender kiss on the forehead as I tuck her into bed at night or slitting her throat? Without a god to provide an objective moral code there is no difference between me taking a meal to a neighbor in need or dousing him with gasoline and setting him on fire? There is no way you believe this. You are just handcuffed to a system of Christian apologetics that requires you to make ridiculous arguments to support the need for the god described in your sacred literature. Morality IS SUBJECTIVE and informed over the millennia by trial and error. This is precisely why Jesus’ morality, while still somewhat retrograde (never condemning slavery and claiming he will eternally torture everyone that doesn’t fall in love with him come to mind) is far superior to the morality of his supposed father Yahweh. It’s obvious that morality had evolved by the time Jesus came on the scene The sages, priests, scribes, leaders, teachers, people had tried the law of Moses for a few hundred years and realized that some of it was a little over the top. By the time Jesus came along some people were starting to realize that stoning a woman for being unchaste was just too much. Can you see that Shannon? You may sleep better at night believing that an objective grounding for a moral code exists but that doesn’t make it so. We just have to do the best we can and sometimes that’s good and sometimes it’s not. To use your words from a previous post Shannon, “I hope you see the crunch you’re in.”
            You also said, “So to be clear, the penalty of death is given as the maximum penalty, but lesser penalties were probably given.” This is anything but clear. But lesser penalties were “probably” given? How do you know this? What is your evidence? Seems like if this was really true you would have said, but we know for certain that lesser penalties were almost always given. I’ve heard Copan make this claim. But what if only one young Israelite girl was stoned back then. Would that make it ok? And are you saying that all the laws in the old testament were didactic? No one was ever killed (stoned) for violating them? Seems like I remember a story about a poor fella gather firewood on the Sabbath one day and it seems pretty clear that he was literally stoned. Were Achan and all of his family actually stoned and burned for dipping into Yahweh’s sacrificial offering plate or is this too just a didactic story meant to teach a lesson? If you reinterpret the straight forward meaning of these texts to help make them less offensive you are opening wide a door for all sorts of varied interpretations of every story in the bible.
            You also said, “Keep in mind that in Ancient Israel sexual purity, and purity in general were highly important and these laws were intended to enforce sexual purity.” I think the intent of the law is pretty clear. Not sure why you think that has any bearing on the discussion. But, it appears to me that sexual purity and purity in general is highly important to radical Islamic fundamentalists today and that is why they carry out honor killings when their women (property) act immodestly. Unless you’re a moral relativist I think you have to condone or condemn the killing of women in both cases. Am I wrong? It seems your argument eventually boils down to, “It was good when Yahwists did it because they had the right god but it’s evil when Muslims do it because they have the wrong god. I don’t believe any god ever told anyone to kill anyone. I believe people want to kill people for various reasons and claiming that god told them to do so helps them to rationalize their actions. I think it’s sad to say Shannon but I don’t think gods kill people, I think people with gods kill people.”

          • David says:

            And Shannon, your post really just summarizes the parts of the passage. You answered almost none of the questions I posed.
            Do you condone or condemn honor killings?
            Do you feel a woman should be stoned for failing to be a virgin on her wedding night?
            Do you think her scum bag husband should receive a lesser punishment for what he did?
            Do you think that a woman’s father deserves the penalty money for the wrong done to the daughter?
            Do you think that having to live the rest of your life with a man that tried to get you killed the morning after your wedding is some sort of reasonable solution?
            Do you think that it demonstrates a certain degree of ignorance on Yahweh’s part for him to instruct the people to kill a woman that doesn’t bleed on her wedding night when we know today that there are many reasons why a woman might not do so?
            If you had a daughter and we were still living under the law of Moses would you let your husband and the men of your city stone her to death for unchastity?
            Are you willing to answer any of these questions Shannon?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Also, you can only make this charge that stoning the woman was unfair if you hold to objective morality”

            Shannon, you’ve yet to show how objective morality comes from the existence of a God. Your attempted explanations ‘smuggle in’ morality by packing it into your definition. You can’t say that benevolence is a ‘great-making quality’ without begging the question. In other words, you’re trying to explain why benevolence IS moral – you can’t include the assumption that it is moral in your explanation for why it is.

            So until you make that case, you can’t say that theists have any better leg to stand on with regards to showing genocide, stoning, slavery etc are immoral. In fact you’re on a WORSE footing there, as the Bible condones all those things.

            Your co-theist here, Tim, has actually said that the holocaust of millions of Jews was actually a GOOD thing as their torture and murder made it possible for Tim to be a Christian. Do you agree with him? If so, would you happily make that case to a Jewish person who lost dozens of family members in the Holocaust?

          • David says:

            Shannon, I’ve already admitted that I think that deciding what is moral is a subjective activity. What else do I need to say.

          • David says:

            Shannon, I answered your question regarding the subjective nature of morality. Are you willing to answer any of my questions?
            Do you condone or condemn honor killings?
            Do you feel a woman should be stoned for failing to be a virgin on her wedding night?
            Do you think her scum bag husband should receive a lesser punishment for what he did?
            Do you think that a girl’s father deserves the penalty money for the wrong done to her?
            Do you think that having to live the rest of your life with a man that tried to get you killed the morning after your wedding is some sort of reasonable solution?
            Do you think that it demonstrates a certain degree of ignorance on Yahweh’s part for him to instruct the people to kill a woman that doesn’t bleed on her wedding night when we know today that there are many reasons why a woman might not do so?
            If you had a daughter and we were still living under the law of Moses would you let your husband and the men of your city stone her to death for unchastity?
            Are you willing to answer any of these questions Shannon?
            You won’t because you know to do so would require an excessive amount of special pleading and would make you look foolish.

        • shannon says:

          Here is a good resource on this very passage if you are interested. Sex, Lies and Virginal Rape by Bruce Wells, in the Journal of Biblical Literature, Spring 2005,

          Reply
        • Luke says:

          Shannon,

          You said:“This means there is no reason to prefer goodness over evil other than one own subjective reasoning.”

          So there is no reason other than reasoning? Why is /that/ reason not good enough?

          Shannon, let me ask another question, not that you’ve been answering my questions, but I can still ask, I suppose.

          You seem to say (many times) that objectively grounded morality is better than a subjective morality. As stated above, you admit there are reasons to prefer one action over another, but you say seem to imply, repeatedly, that these reasons are somehow inferior to objective reasons.

          Now, I absolutely think this could be right, but you just assert it over and over, but you never really tell us why a subjective reason is inferior. What is the specific reason (or reasons)?

          (“Because it’s just an opinion then” is not a reason. It’s at best an observation. It only leads to the question “why is an opinion inferior?” I’m looking for the actual reason that objective morality is better than subjective morality.)

          I would also LOVE for either you or Tim (or both of you) to answer my question about free will from “June 3, 2016 at 10:50 am”.

          Thanks,

          Luke

          Reply
          • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            Hi Luke, sorry I haven’t gotten around to your questions. I’ll try to answer your questions in the order you posted them.

            So there is no reason other than reasoning? Why is /that/ reason not good enough?

            It seems to me and a great deal of many others that subjective reasoning isn’t good enough because it would be contradictory. In the United States a person would be convicted for burning a living widow, however this was practiced in India at one point. If morality is subjective then what is morally “true” for one culture isn’t necessarily morally “true” for another culture.

            If morality grounded in persons (subjective morality) then as I mentioned in the above it could/would lead to contradictory morals. Human trafficking in the U.S. is illegal and frowned upon, however, in other nations, it is not frowned on, and even legally practiced; who is right if morality is subjective? All subjective moral models I have seen are arbitrary and boil down to persons preferring one moral action over another.

            If morality is objectively grounded, then this means that murder, rape, slander, and so on are objectively evil irrespective to persons. Across all cultures it would be morally impermissible to commit rape and so on.

          • toby says:

            If morality grounded in persons (subjective morality) then as I mentioned in the above it could/would lead to contradictory morals.
            Which is what we observe today and in history. It’s pretty damning evidence against the idea of objective morality. You’ll poo poo that of course, but the only evidence offered for objective morality is a version of “you want to be able to call the holocaust, murder, rape, etc wrong don’t you? Don’t it just feel like there is/should be?” It’s an emotional appeal to put people on the defensive with the false notion that something being wrong regardless of human opinion and reason has any use or meaning.

  5. toby says:

    this objection is simply an argument against Biblical inerrancy (a non-essential doctrine) nothing more.

    Not essential? God, a supreme being, can’t deliver his message accurately. Does that sound supreme?

    They weren’t completely destroyed. So we can assume that utterly destroyed means not all. Then we can play this game too: the bible didn’t say that the children were burned alive. The writers were offended that dead children were being cremated which was generally looked down upon and something you do to miscreants.

    Or how about this: this was simply war propaganda.

    Reply
    • Timothy A. Stratton says:

      Hi Toby, I stated the following: “…this objection is simply an argument against Biblical inerrancy (a non-essential doctrine) nothing more.”
      You responded: “Not essential? God, a supreme being, can’t deliver his message accurately. Does that sound supreme?”

      Theologians have differing views on this matter and it really depends with what one means by “inerrant.” Theologians such as Dr. Craig, Mike Licona, and myself believe that the Bible is inerrant in all that it teaches. The question then becomes: “What does the Bible really teach?”, and that is a question for those trained in hermeneutics. I have written about this on my website and I have another article coming out soon regarding how we ought to hermeneutically interpret certain parts of the Old Testament. Be that as it may, I am not arguing that the Bible is not inerrant in all that it *really* teaches; however, there are many Christians that believe the Bible is not inerrant at all. My point is that even if the Old Testament was indeed fallible, that does nothing to disprove the one single statement, that if true, then Mere Christianity follows: “God exists and raised Jesus from the dead!” This is why inerrancy is a non-essential to Mere Christianity.

      You said, “[The Canaanites] weren’t completely destroyed. So we can assume that utterly destroyed means not all. Then we can play this game too: the bible didn’t say that the children were burned alive. The writers were offended that dead children were being cremated which was generally looked down upon and something you do to miscreants.”

      Then I would ask you for historical reasons as to why we should consider that hypothesis as a plausibility. If your hypothesis has greater explanatory scope, explanatory power, is less ad hoc, and can provide further illumination, then it ought to be preferred. Now, I’ve provided *REASONS* as to why we should consider these 10 different problems with the Canaanite Objection.

      You said, “Or how about this: this was simply war propaganda.”

      I’m open to that possibility. This now becomes an issue of hermeneutics!

      Reply
  6. David says:

    You should hear some of the rationalizations that William Craig and Paul Copan give for genocide and slavery in their writings. They are sickening.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      I have see them.

      The problem with WLC’s arguments is that his evidence for objective morality is that we all feel revulsion against certain acts, yet when people feel revulsion about biblically ordered genocide, this revulsion is dismissed. Tim’s argument has the same problem – in the other thread when I asked Tim to give evidence for objective morality, his answer basically amounted to ‘Well don’t you really FEEL that baby murder is wrong?’. So that’s evidence for objective morality but not evidence against a moral God?

      To echo TGM’s question above, is there any act that the God of the Bible could order or commit that is so heinous that it would lead you to think he was NOT benevolent and all-loving? If not, what does it mean to call him benevolent and all-loving in the first place? Once you’ve said that child murder and genocide don’t qualify, what would?

      Reply
      • Terry Lewis says:

        Hi, Andy!

        I’m curious… do you feel the same revulsion at the practices of the Canaanites as you do at Israel’s destruction of Canaanite society?

        If not, doesn’t that seem to be a bit of a double standard?

        If so, then what do you suggest God and/or Israel should have done about such a culture?

        -tl

        Reply
  7. Luke says:

    Hi Shannon,

    You bring up some interesting things. Let me ask just a couple of (hopefully simple) questions to help me understand what you mean.

    What do you mean when you say “objective” moral values? What does that adjective mean in this case?

    You said:: I see no reason why a human would be morally obliged to follow the abstraction of “goodness” over an abstraction such as “evil.”

    I suppose I don’t either, but I also don’t understand why a human would be obligated to follow what G-d says? In other words:Why should I do what G-d says?

    (Personally, I want to do what G-d says, so I obligate myself, but why is any and every human thusly obligated?)

    You also said:” I see goodness as a concrete object grounded in G-d himself.”

    Isn’t this just your opinion? If I say “I see goodness as a concrete object grounded in Andy Ryan himself” why am I wrong, while you are right?

    If you say that the ground must be immaterial or permanent, why so?
    Even if there is a good reason for this (there may be, that’s why I ask), why do you see goodness grounded in G-d and not some other immaterial person such as the devil? Do you see this reason as more than just your opinion?

    Thanks and I look forward to hearing back from you,

    Luke

    Reply
  8. David says:

    Just because the bible says the Canaanites were wicked doesn’t mean they really were. This is an example of propaganda used to justify genocide for the purpose of stealing land. Something very common in human history.

    Reply
    • Candy Smith says:

      Yeah but if you read the Bible, its pretty obvious that they were!! Unless of course, you have no problem with them sacrificing their children to false gods, burning them as sacrifices? And thats just one thing!!1

      Reply
    • Candy Smith says:

      objective morality has to be an argument for God. It cant be based off of humans. It not only doesn’t make sense but it isn’t possible!!

      Reply
    • Candy Smith says:

      Propaganda? Really? Thats absurd. It may be common in Human History but that isnt the case with God and the Canaanites!!

      Reply
  9. Luke says:

    Hey Shannon,

    Sorry, I know I’ve already got about 5 questions out for you to answer, but I wanted to add another, as I was struck by something you wrote.

    Shannon said to Andy:“I can also tell from your comment that the Canaanite issue really bothers you. But, if there is no objective morality, why should it bother you?”

    I’ve been thinking about this in my head and just can’t make sense of it. Let’s look at a hypothetical:

    Let’s grant that rape and removal of body parts to induce pain and handicap are objectively wrong.

    If I am taken from my home at night, and raped rather brutally each and every night. Many nights end with some part of my body being cut off with a serrated, but dull knife, with no pain relief. First they start with removing small parts of the fingers, after a few months, I am missing a whole arm. I am usually allowed to heal just enough before the next amputation takes place.

    When I put myself in this thought experiment, even though we’ve stipulated that the things being done to me are objectively wrong, that idea is so abstract, while so many other concerns are so concrete and real, that I don’t think the “objectively wrong” idea would show up anywhere near the top of my list of reasons why I am bothered by this treatment of me.

    In fact, I imagine that if I asked 200 people on the street about this scenario and asked them “tell us the reasons this scenario happening to a neighbor would bother you” I just can’t imagine a single one responding with “because it’s objectively wrong”.

    Do other commentators here see that differently? Do you think many people would respond that way?

    (We are asking the question on the street without that priming stipulation that I had here, as priming would bias our results.)

    Let me ask you Shannon, if this were to happen to me, would you be bothered?

    I assume you would be (please correct if otherwise), but if so, why?

    Would it be just the one reason: because it is objectively wrong? Or would there be other reasons as well?

    If so, what are those reasons, and do they rank as more or less important? (If less important, can you say a few words about why?)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  10. Andy Ryan says:

    Tim: “Moreover, this is not a counterfactual, but it actually happened! In fact, I might not be a Christian today if it were not for Hitler.”

    I’d love to hear the reaction of some Jewish people who lost family in the Holocaust that Tim thinks the torture and murder of six million Jews was worth it so that Tim could make his apologetic arguments. Actually, I’m interested to hear Luke’s response to that too.

    Further, there’s a great irony that the same person who says that objective morality has to exist because otherwise we can’t condemn Hitler (who Tim actually believes was doing God’s work), is also defending genocide on the same blog. But full marks to Tim for at least attempting to defend his arguments, albeit (always) with a caveat that he’ll be prevented from posting again for several days.

    The problem here is that Shannon and Tim both try to explain why God grounds objective morality by referring to concepts that they claim can only be EXPLAINED by God’s objective morality. They say that without God we can’t, for example, base morality along the lines of human flourishing, and we can’t say what is moral along the basis of what is reasonable. But when we ask them to explain how God grounds objective morality, what answers do we get? That it is REASONABLE for the creator to set our morality, or that God is good because he promotes human flourishing. Well this is like a snake swallowing its own tail – either human flourishing is a good thing or it isn’t! They can say that it’s impossible to explain why God is good without an eternal regress, so we just have to stop at God being Good, but that’s not good enough. We don’t just stop there for the convenience of your argument!

    Reply
    • Luke says:

      Andy said: “I’d love to hear the reaction of some Jewish people who lost family in the Holocaust that Tim thinks the torture and murder of six million Jews was worth it so that Tim could make his apologetic arguments.”

      This isn’t a direct answer to your request, but I’d like to point to a survey by Pew: “How Americans Feel About Religious Groups” published July 16, 2014. It found that American Jews view Evangelical Christians least warmly of any religious group: worse than Muslims, and much worse than Jews felt toward Atheists. Though this kind of “the world is better because your family was brutally murdered” is only part of that problem, I submit that it is certainly an important part.

      Reply
    • Luke says:

      Andy said:“I’d love to hear the reaction of some Jewish people who lost family in the Holocaust that Tim thinks the torture and murder of six million Jews was worth it so that Tim could make his apologetic arguments. Actually, I’m interested to hear Luke’s response to that too.”

      Hi Andy,

      So I hadn’t read Tim’s whole response to you, so I looked and found this quote, which I assume is what you mean:

      “In regards to Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps G-d knew that if he allowed the Holocaust, that humans would turn to Christ in mass numbers if they experienced the evil of Hitler.”

      So, I’ll give you my honest answer. When I read that, my mouth dropped open and I cried a little.

      It strikes me as a horrible thought, and it is a painful one. (Notice the subjectivism there, since people like to get that confused ’round these parts.)

      I would honestly invite Tim to tour Auschwitz with me, and stand by those train tracks and imagine (and being there one can’t help but imagine) a little Hungarian baby, screaming as she is pulled from the arms of her mother, and taken to be killed straight away. He’d imagine not just this one baby girl, but the next one, and the one after. Many of them that came that day — traincar after traincar. And many more the next day. And the next. And the next. And the next.

      I wonder if Tim would then say: “worth it!”

      I imagine if one heard the screams from that place all at once, one would simply die from the pain of it all.

      Look carefully at what Tim says. He believes that he is likely a Christian today thanks to Hitler. I’m just not sure how to escape the conclusion “I will enjoy eternal paradise, because hundreds of thousands of babies were ripped from their parents and brutally killed.”

      Am I missing something?

      Tim, I’m sure, would say: “well, I wouldn’t put it that way.” But that’s just a way of saying “yes, that’s true, but I’d like to conceal that truth behind some softer language.” Sorry, it’s probably not fair of me to put words in his mouth.

      I just can’t help but think: who wants a reward paid for with that kind of horror?

      In other words, I find the idea that something exists that is worth the systematic murder of millions of people personally insulting and horrifying. I have personal family stories from this war that are tragic and terrifying, and many, many people have stories much worse than I do.

      Tim may say that I’m objectivelt wrong to bristle at the idea that the world is better because my family members were brutally murdered, but I at least hope he’d understand the feeling.

      So there you have my reaction. Sorry Tim.

      Thanks,

      Luke

      Reply
    • TGM says:

      “Moreover, this is not a counterfactual, but it actually happened! In fact, I might not be a Christian today if it were not for Hitler.”

      The segment of Tim’s response that includes the quote above is simply disgusting. I can’t imagine a more vile sentiment offered as part of a rational defense of any position. Among the reasons Dawkins used to justify his dismissal of William Lane Craig was Craig’s suggestion that whom we should really have wept for were the Israelites, for having to commit God’s massacre.

      I suppose that by this rationalization, we must also cry for all the poor Nazis, suffering daily in labor camps, as they did the ‘work of the Lord’. And now Tim can be a Christian.

      If this represents the good, then may I become the most evil person ever to have lived. May I be sequestered away in a remote, dark void, far, far away from those lucky enough to have been forgiven; forced to share time with ugly, ugly, people like Russell, Hitchens, Dawkins, and all the Jews, Muslims, Hindus and so forth who were unlucky enough to miss out on the good news.

      Reply
  11. toby says:

    I’d love to hear the reaction of some Jewish people who lost family in the Holocaust that Tim thinks the torture and murder of six million Jews was worth it so that Tim could make his apologetic arguments.

    I love how they like to say we have no basis for saying that anything is evil. But if “god has a plan” then how can they say that anything is evil themselves? Any horrific act that has happened HAD to happen for that plan. They apologize for a monster they’ve created themselves.

    Reply
    • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      1. God is a morally perfect being.
      2. Being perfect god cannot act contrary to his nature (which is moral perfection).
      3. A perfectly moral god cannot commit morally imperfect actions.
      4. Therefore god has no free will.

      Let’s symbolize this first, to see if it is a valid argument. Let g stand for (God; its lowercased because it stands for an individual); P stands for “a morally perfect being” ; I is “cannot act contrary to his nature; and I is for “cannot commit morally imperfect actions; F is for Free will.
      1. g is P
      2. P is not C
      3. P is not I
      ∴ g is F

      In order for this to be a valid syllogism the letters must form a chain that leads to the conclusion. Your syllogism does not do this. In fact F (free will) is just inserted into the conclusion when it wasn’t in any of the premises. This is a non-sequitur argument, which is a formal fallacy. So this argument, is not an argument at all.

      This would seem to imply that god is deterministic. Knowing god’s nature and putting a choice between good and evil in front of him would result in the good choice 100% of the time. The world is worshiping a deterministic robot.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        ” I is “cannot act contrary to his nature; and I is for “cannot commit morally imperfect actions”

        ‘I’ means two different things? Are you sure that’s how syllogisms are supposed to work?

        “I demonstrated that your argument was not logically sound”

        I think I’ve just demonstrated that your attempted rebuttal is not logically sound.

        “In fact F (free will) is just inserted into the conclusion when it wasn’t in any of the premises.”

        Toby argued that if 1) a being cannot possibly commit morally imperfect actions and has no choice but to commit morally perfect actions then 2) he doesn’t have free will. You’ve not shown why this isn’t true. You’ve not explained how 1) is compatible with free will.

        Reply
        • Shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          The first “I” was actually “C”. I made a typo. That being said, the argument still is not sound. It does not follow that a morally perfect being does not have free will; he could have discretion as to what action to take. C. Stephen Evans and other DCT theorists, call “Discretionary Thesis.” This is the notion that God’s commands are towards the good, but there could be some discretion as to how those commands are issued. For instance, one of the commands in the decalogue is not to steal, but God could have issued another command, something like “possess no personal property.” Look into Robert Adams work on this topic.

          Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Shannon, there’s either a perfect action for a situation or there isn’t. If there’s just a bunch of pretty good actions then it doesn’t work. Are you saying there’s a range of actions that are all equally perfect and unimprovable, and you’re stuffing God’s free will into those options?

      • toby says:

        Fine. Change 4 to “Therefore god cannot choose to perform morally imperfect actions.” Then the implication is still that god cannot choose immoral actions.

        I don’t think you could even say that a perfect being would even consider anything but a moral action. Do christians not say that if you think of doing adultery then you’re an adulterer? Does that not apply to a god? And informally people argue that we need the choice of committing heinous acts to have free will in order to freely choose to obey god. Does god have special free will? Probably. Specially Pleaded Free Will.

        Reply
    • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

      You said: “This would seem to imply that god is deterministic. Knowing god’s nature and putting a choice between good and evil in front of him would result in the good choice 100% of the time. The world is worshiping a deterministic robot.”

      I demonstrated that your argument was not logically sound. Thus, this statement has no teeth to it.

      Reply
  12. Luke says:

    Tim and Shannon:

    I have a question about free will.

    I mentioned earlier the scenario in which I child attempts to insert a fork into an electrical outlet.

    If I stop a child from doing this, am I violating the child’s free will?

    Also Shannon, I asked a few questions of you, but I know there are a lot of posts here, so perhaps you’re not intentionally ignoring me (it’s fine if you are), but just haven’t seem them. I just wanted to give you the chance to answer in case they are the types of questions an apologist like yourself is interested in answering.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Timothy A. Stratton says:

      Luke, you said, “I have a question about free will. I mentioned earlier the scenario in which I child attempts to insert a fork into an electrical outlet. If I stop a child from doing this, am I violating the child’s free will?”

      I do not think little children possess the sufficient conditions leading to libertarian free will which allows for rational/moral decision making. So, I would answer, “no” to your question as the child does not possess LFW in the first place.

      Reply
      • Luke says:

        Hi Tim,

        Thanks a lot for your answer!

        I clearly did a bad job with my question, as your answer did not correspond with what I wanted to know. Sorry! (Actually, I found your answer fascinating, but I think we have too much going on already to pursue that now.)

        Let me ask this (and between these three questions, I hope that the target of my inquiry will be clear).

        If you stop someone with libertarian free will from doing something they are attempting to do, are you violating their free will?

        For a specific example: imagine that you walk outside of your apartment and you see a man trying to rape another person. You stop him. Have you violated the intended rapist’s free will?

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
        • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

          Excellent question Luke!

          If someone stops a person with libertarian free will from doing something they are attempting to do, would that person be violating their free will?

          I don’t see why they would be violating their free will. That person still freely wills to do the act, however, they are hindered from carrying out that act. This means that the free will isn’t violated, but the freedom of action is.

          I think a good example is a person who has suffered a severe stroke. Provided their cognitive faculties are in place, that person may freely will to move their hand, but they may be prevented from carrying out this action because of the stroke. The person still has volition, just not the ability to physically carry it out.

          Reply
          • toby says:

            1. God is a morally perfect being.
            2. Being perfect god cannot act contrary to his nature (which is moral perfection).
            3. A perfectly moral god cannot commit morally imperfect actions.
            4. Therefore god has no free will.

            This would seem to imply that god is deterministic. Knowing god’s nature and putting a choice between good and evil in front of him would result in the good choice 100% of the time. The world is worshiping a deterministic robot.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            It’s worse than that, Toby. If we use the apologists’ own arguments then the following is logically true:

            1) You cannot create your own purpose
            2) If you’re not created for a purpose then your life is meaningless
            3) No-one created God
            4) He cannot create his OWN purpose
            5) Therefore God’s existence is meaningless

          • toby says:

            The other implication is that anything god does is perfectly moral. So when he tells you to go next door and rip the baby out of your pregnant neighbor with a kitchen knife and smash it on her front steps it’s a perfectly moral thing to do.

          • shannon Eugene Byrd says:

            Reply to Andy Ryan.
            June 10, 2016 at 8:59 am
            Andy, you said: “It’s worse than that, Toby. If we use the apologists’ own arguments then the following is logically true:”

            1) You cannot create your own purpose
            2) If you’re not created for a purpose then your life is meaningless
            3) No-one created God
            4) He cannot create his OWN purpose
            5) Therefore God’s existence is meaningless

            Is that a valid argument?
            1) u is not P
            2) u is M
            3) g is not C
            4) g is not P
            ∴ g is M

            That argument is a hot mess dude. Moreover, the moral argument isn’t about ones purpose in life. It is about whether moral values and duties are grounded properly. In a similar way, one could argue whether or not their life has an objective meaning, but this would be a different argument.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “That argument is a hot mess dude”

            Talk is cheap, Shannon. Go ahead and explain which of my premises is incorrect.

          • Luke says:

            Shannon said:“I don’t see why they would be violating their free will. That person still freely wills to do the act, however, they are hindered from carrying out that act. This means that the free will isn’t violated, but the freedom of action is.”

            Hey Shannon,

            Thanks again for the answer.

            So how do you view moral evil? The original post here is generally about evil in the world and it’s compatibility with a loving G-d. For centuries there has been a defense to the problem of evil which sees “free will” as a greater good. You seem to not have much problem with someone stepping in to stop an evil action and don’t see that as a violation of will. It seems then, there would be no issue to you in G-d doing so.

            Do you have any defenses or theodicies as far as moral evil is concerned, given your views?

            Thanks!

            Luke

  13. David says:

    Tim, I happened to read your 4th endnote tonight and was stunned by the callous nature of it, “[4] Trevor Ray Slone personally informed me that God’s curse on Canaan (Noah’s grandson) in Genesis 9:25-27 gives further credence to the view that God did not intend to “utterly destroy” all of Canaan’s decedents (the Canaanites). God, in that curse, repeatedly indicates that Canaan’s decedents would be servants of God’s people. It is therefore logically impossible for God to decree that all of the Canaanites be destroyed, for how could they be servants if they were “utterly destroyed?” So to you Tim, Yahweh’s plan to make the Canaanites the “slaves” of the Israelites is superior to him making them the objects of genocide as the book of Joshua claims? This strikes you as a greater good? Do you know how stupid this sounds? I think I’d rather be exterminated than enslaved. But, I guess your view of slavery is congruent with Yahweh’s, “Slavery is not really such a bad thing if the orthodox people are enslaving the pagan people”. Man, thanks Tim, now this whole story doesn’t seem so bad. “Yahweh’s plan for the Canaanites was “just” slavery.” When you put it that way it almost sounds like a benevolent act.

    Reply
    • Timothy A. Stratton says:

      David, I never said that this was my view. Remember, I am offering at least 10 reasons why the Canaanite Objection fails (only one of them needs to pass). This endnote was not directed at atheists, but rather, some Christian theologians who disagree with guys like Paul Copan who think the writings are to be interpreted in a strict literal manner. If one holds that view, then they must deal with Trevor’s point (he actually changed his mind on the issue and wrote about it on his own website because of this). Speaking of Paul Copan, he writes at length regarding the differences between being a servant (my word) and a slave (your word that you attempt to put in my mouth). After all, the Bible teaches that Jesus (the Creator of the universe) entered into the universe to be a servant. He also commanded us to serve each other.

      I don’t know about you, but I would rather serve you out of love than be exterminated.

      Reply
      • David says:

        Tim, you are guilty of the same conflation that Copan tries to get away with in “Moral Monster”. You know there were two types of “servant hood” in ancient Israel. There was indentured servitude that the Israelites practiced among themselves and there was chattel slavery that they practiced toward foreigners. It’s a joke for you to pretend that servant is what is implied in the text. Slave is absolutely the correct word. I know you don’t want words put in your mouth but, in an attempt to sweeten up the text a little you, like Copan, refuse to use the correct word. I can quote you chapter and verse but I suggest you locate Thom Starks thorough refutation of almost every claim in Copan’s book and read it for yourself. You can find a free Kindle version of it by Googling “Is God A Moral Compromiser”.

        Reply
      • David says:

        Tim, here’s some more related to your servant/slave conflation. What does this verse mean Tim?
        When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, (then dies) he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property [literally, “his money”]. (Exod 21:20-21)

        How about this one Tim?
        However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live around you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your sons as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the sons of Israel, your fellow countrymen, you shall not rule over one another severely. (Lev 25:44-46)
        Are you still going to pretend, like Copan, that the law of Moses did not condone chattel slavery?

        How about this lovely passage Tim? This might make a good life verse.
        When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes. You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her. (Deut. 21:10-14)
        See any problems with these Tim or are they all just examples of people being blessed to be the servants of Israel? Oh that we should all be so lucky. Tim my wish for you, because of your willingness to whitewash these hideous passages, is that you are personally blessed with the opportunity to be this type of “servant” to another human being some day.

        Reply
        • toby says:

          David, I think what you’ll find is that Tim and other apologists just don’t care or think about these verses. Modern Christianity seems to want to jettison the bible. You can see that in how they deal with other sects of christianity. “All you have to do is believe Jesus is your savior and that he was resurrected and accept him as your savior.” This is basically all they care about anymore. Some of the wackier ones also want the earth to be 6,000 years old.

          Reply
      • David says:

        So, I admit to Shannon that I believe that deciding what is moral or immoral is a subjective process. I then ask her to state her position on, what I believe to be, some morally problematic passages and she goes silent. I call Tim on, what I believe to be, his dishonest treatment of some genocide and slavery texts and he does the same. Maybe you guys are tied up with something but I’m really interested in a response to my last posts.

        Reply
  14. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Hi Andy,

    In regards to the question, “what does it mean to say a moral value of goodness or justice just exists even in the absence of some person that is good or just?” you responded:
    “What does it mean for the value of pi to exist in the absence of any perfectly round objects? But it seems a leap from that to argue that the value of pi is a fiction.”

    Many do argue that it is fiction, Andy. In fact, well-known atheistic philosophers like Daniel Dennett believe things like “the values of pi,” and “the law of the excluded middle,”are nothing but “useful fictions.” There are several options here. Either these abstract objects are:

    1- Actual/ontological existing supernatural things (thus, naturalism is false)
    2- Useful fictions
    3- Human inventions
    4- Concepts in the mind of God (thus, naturalism is false)

    A committed atheistic naturalist can only use (2) or (3.) An atheist can reject naturalism (which is ad hoc and the minority view of atheists) and appeal to (1), but then why appeal to an actually *infinite* amount of supernatural things and blindly assert a supernatural mind (God) cannot exist? This is not only ad hoc, but also seems to commit the taxicab fallacy! Some atheists that I have debated have held to (3), but obviously the law of gravity existed before humans were around, so, if you want to remain committed to your faith in atheism, your best hope is to agree with Dennett and appeal to these abstract objects as useful fictions. Or, you can reject naturalism and even atheism if you’d like to appeal to (4). If you are wondering, I like (4) as it has great explanatory power, explanatory scope, it is less ad hoc in the light of all the other evidence.

    You asked: “Why be obligated to follow God rather than, say, Satan? Why is good better than bad?”

    Andy, as I’ve explained to you before (and on this thread), if God created creatures on purpose and for the specific purpose of eternal flourishing, then any creature (created by the Creator) who disagrees with the Creator as to what purpose we were created for, is simply wrong. Satan, like humans, is a creature.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “Andy, as I’ve explained to you before (and on this thread), if God created creatures on purpose and for the specific purpose of eternal flourishing, then any creature (created by the Creator) who disagrees with the Creator as to what purpose we were created for, is simply wrong. Satan, like humans, is a creature.”

      That doesn’t answer my question. I never said that a purpose God created us for might be up for debate, so you’re arguing against a strawman.

      That God created us for a purpose just means… that he created us for a purpose. You’ve not shown why that creates objective morality or moral obligations. Why is obeying a purpose someone else created you for more moral than not obeying that purpose? You’re still trying to get from an is to an ought.

      The only way you can bridge that gap is by appealing to some other principle. You’ve not stopped the regress you discussed before.

      Even if we grant for the sake of argument that a supernatural being created for a purpose, what principle do you refer to that explains why this creates morality and moral obligations? Sure, you can say that this makes YOU personally feel grateful, but that sounds to me like the same appeal to emotions you rather callously accuse Luke of making, simply because he feels sad about losing family to the holocaust. It’s not an answer for why everyone IS obligated, rather than may or may not FEEL obligated.

      Reply
  15. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Andy, I said, “The first premise of the Moral Argument clearly states that *IF* God does not exist, *then* objective moral values *&* duties do not exist.” You said, “Sure, it states it. But it’s an unsupported premise.”

    Andy, I gave a logical argument that does not just support this premise, it deductively proves it! You must have missed it in your haste to provide a response. If you cannot find it in the minutia of comments above, find it here:

    http://freethinkingministries.com/an-army-of-straw-men/

    I said, “Don’t we vote for the presidential candidates that we think are more intelligent?”
    You responded: “Not necessarily at all. I’d rather vote for a guy who’d uphold the constitution that an evil genius who doesn’t care for it.”

    Why would you “rather vote for a Constitutionalist, Andy? Do you think that is the more intelligent or rational position? You miss the point and seem to affirm that the constitution is a really (objectively?) good thing, and thus, it would be more intelligent to uphold the constitution than for the evil math genius to usher in Communism. Thus, you vote for who you think makes the most intelligent decisions and for whom you believe has the most intelligent policies as to how our country should be governed. Don’t confuse intelligent actions with simply being smart.

    I asked, “So, if things other than nature are affirmed, why cannot God exist too?”
    You said, “Who said that God couldn’t exist?”

    We have ample examples of you arguing for naturalism on this website. At the very least, you have argued against *every* supernatural thing (God and souls) that I have ever argued for in the past. For some reason you seem to be repulsed by the idea of immaterial minds, but now you seem to be just fine with immaterial everything else (“everything” meaning an infinite). I am just trying to point out what seems to be inconsistencies on your part. At the very least, you seem to be ad hoc in your response.

    You said that Louder did not claim to be arguing for Naturalism, but I pointed out that “Naturalism,” was part of his title! No matter what Louder thinks, you are demonstrating inconsistency as you have fought to the death for naturalism, but now reject it as it no longer suits your needs. This is the epitome of the taxicab fallacy.
    Andy, you said, “… you’ve not overturned Lowder’s objections.”

    Let’s examine exactly what I have done: I have pointed out how ad hoc it is to appeal to an infinite amount of immaterial/supernatural objects to avoid objective morality being grounded in a certain immaterial/supernatural mind (God). Moreover, by appealing to Euthyphro, I pointed out that if the proponent of Euthyphro is going to state the two horns as options, then one of those options is that “the good” is grounded in an immaterial abstract supernatural object that ontologically exists. I offered the question, if “the good” can be grounded in an immaterial abstract supernatural object, then why can’t it be grounded in an immaterial concrete supernatural object? If there is no logical objection to my question, then a legitimate third option is now on the table. This is an easy splitting of the two horns of Euthyphro’s false dichotomy.

    I asked, “Be that as it may, why can all of these supernatural (other than nature) immaterial abstract things exist, but a supernatural immaterial concrete “Thing” cannot exist?”
    You responded: Again, who said it COULDN’T exist. It’s Craig (and your argument) that a God MUST exist because it’s the only explanation for objective morality.”

    I gotta stop you right there, Andy! Atheistic naturalism cannot account for the following:

    1- Objective moral values
    2- Objective moral duties/obligations
    3- The ability to make moral choices

    Andy, as you are now rejecting naturalism to get you off of this hook, you can logically appeal to the existence of “the good” and “the bad” as some abstract objects and still be an atheist. However, if humans exist by accident (instead of being created on purpose and for a specific purpose), and if we are less than “Dust in the Wind,” as every life ends in the grave and we leave no lasting legacy given the impending heat death of the universe, then it does not matter (objectively speaking) if your determined life happens to align with one set of abstract objects over another. There is no difference between Joseph Stalin and Mother Theresa besides personal preference (which would be forced upon you anyway). Both of their lives end in the exact same way (unless atheism is false).

    You said, “If Lowder argues that this is not so, it doesn’t not at all logically follow that he’s saying God must NOT exist – he’s just saying that objective morality is not an argument FOR a God.”

    It is an argument for God when the option he appeals to fails and God is the only hypothesis left on the table! An obligation to align our physical lives with one set of supernatural abstract objects cannot be explained apart from God. To ignore these obligations is to attack a straw man!

    I’ve clarified this here: http://freethinkingministries.com/an-ought-from-an-is/
    I said, ““At any rate, if one defends objective moral values (not duties) in this manner, he can never again call himself a naturalist.”
    You said, “So what? The argument he presents stands on its own – it’s irrelevant whether or not you label the man who presents that argument a naturalist.”

    I’ve demonstrated why Louder’s argument is lacking, but more importantly, Andy, I am interested in YOUR views (for the sake of future conversations)! In order to reject the idea that objective moral values *&* duties are grounded in a supernatural and immaterial God, YOU have rejected naturalism and are now appealing to an infinite amount of supernatural and immaterial “other things!”

    It must be noted for our future conversations that you have officially rejected naturalism (that’s a great first step, Andy)! ☺

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      I only just saw the above post – or ‘book’ as Tim himself might call it!

      “Andy, I gave a logical argument that does not just support this premise, it deductively proves it!”

      No Tim, you didn’t deductively prove it. Do you realised what you claim is here? You’re saying you, Tim, have not just offered an argument for the existence of God, but have actually PROVED it. That is, you’ve solved one of the greatest philosophical questions of all time.

      To bolster this astonishing claim, you link to an enormously long article I won’t got through it point by point, but you make the old error of claiming to have a third option to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, which in fact is just one of the standard two options in disguise. Point not made, God not proved.

      You also smuggle in morality into your premises by assuming that being ‘maximally great’ has to mean ‘perfectly good’. Why is ‘goodness’ a maximally great property?

      You also equivocate between God having ‘Good reasons’ for commanding something, which is to say rational reasons for his own desires, and those desires being ‘morally good’.

      ” if we are to correspond to reality we ought to obey His perfectly good and perfectly intelligent commands ”

      By ‘corresponding with reality’ you just mean ‘do the things that God wants us to do’. You’ve not shown that there is an OBLIGATION on us to do these things and you’ve not shown that God’s desires are necessarily moral. You’ve just said he has ‘Good reasons’ for his desires. What does ‘good’ even mean in this context? You’re using the word ‘good’ here to explain what ‘good’ means!

      “At the very least, you have argued against *every* supernatural thing (God and souls) that I have ever argued for in the past. ”

      Yes, because you’ve offered poor reasons for them!

      “For some reason you seem to be repulsed by the idea of immaterial minds”

      Not at all. It’s a beautiful idea. Unfortunately it’s not an idea with any evidence to support it.

      “You said that Louder did not claim to be arguing for Naturalism, but I pointed out that “Naturalism,” was part of his title!”

      And I pointed out that that doesn’t mean he’s arguing for naturalism!

      The Argument from Morality syllogism argues that objective morality exists and that God is the only explanation for it.

      In response to this Lowder points out that even if objective morality exists, God is not needed to explain it.

      One doesn’t have to abandon naturalism to point out the following:
      A) If objectively morality doesn’t exist then the argument fails
      B) If objectively morality DOES exist then God isn’t the only explanation, so the argument still fails

      “I have pointed out how ad hoc it is to appeal to an infinite amount of immaterial/supernatural objects to avoid objective morality being grounded in a certain immaterial/supernatural mind (God)”

      No you haven’t established that. You’ve not shown that God is the only explanation for objective morality.

      “It is an argument for God when the option he appeals to fails and God is the only hypothesis left on the table! ”

      You’ve not shown it fails.

      “It must be noted for our future conversations that you have officially rejected naturalism (that’s a great first step, Andy)! ”

      I don’t think given someone a label and then saying they’ve rejected that label is helpful. For the record, I don’t think I’ve ‘officially rejected’ it – I just pointed out that the argument from morality fails even IF you manage to prove the existence of objective morality.

      And for that matter, you’ve yet to demonstrate the existence of objective morality. All you’ve done is said that without it, we can’t say that Hitler was OBJECTIVELY bad. That’s not proof or even evidence. How can you test for objective morality, falsify it?

      Reply
  16. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Andy, I said, “If God is perfectly intelligent then everything He does is for perfectly good reasons (This is the epitome of a good leader).” I also stated, “Therefore, every command God gives is perfectly intelligent and perfectly good.”
    You replied, “No, Tim, it doesn’t follow that perfectly intelligent means perfectly good, unless you want to argue that it’s impossible to be evil and perfectly intelligent, or you simply defined ‘good’ as ‘perfectly intelligent’, which is pretty odd definition of the word.”

    Andy, I already explained this to you in another comment on this thread. You must not conflate having a high IQ (perhaps in mathematics) with *perfect* intelligence. I am friends with several people with IQs that are off the charts; however, they need help surviving on a day to day basis because they do not possess common sense (think of extreme Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory). Moreover, one can know the ins and outs of quantum mechanics and know diddlysquat regarding auto mechanics. This person would not be perfectly intelligent.

    A perfectly intelligent person might have the logical ability to do evil things, but why would he want to do something evil (stupid?) if he always knows the best thing to do in every situation to accomplish his purposes for maximal human flourishing? That question must be answered if this is going to be an objection! Moreover, if the evil thing was actually the best thing to do in a certain situation in which there were no good options (similar to voting for this year’s presidential candidates), then, is it not the best (good?) thing to do to pick the lesser of all evil options? That seems the most intelligent thing to do

    Now, God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to eternally flourish. Since God is perfectly intelligent, with His goal in mind, any command he gives to humans will be in order to help us flourish. God gives us the freedom to disagree with ultimate reality, but when considering the objective purpose of eternal human flourishing, any human who acts against God’s perfectly intelligent commands leading to eternal human flourishing is acting in a way that is not intelligent at all.

    I said, “Andy, moral obligations, of the objective manner, are grounded in the revelation God has given us as to how we ought to behave corresponding to the purpose and goal that humanity was created for.”
    You asked, “Why does this carry obligations for us? You’re trying to get ‘oughts’ from an ‘is’ here.”

    This is the way it *is* apart from human subjective opinion or the opinion of any other created mind. The mind of The Creator (God) exists necessarily and all other things are contingent upon God. If God exists necessarily, then God is Ultimate Reality. Statements that are true correspond to reality. God gives us the freedom to choose to correspond to reality or not. Since God created us on purpose and for the specific purpose to eternally flourish, and since God has revealed this purpose that is true apart from human opinion (including yours), then we know exactly why we exist, what we were created for, and how we *ought* to behave so that each one of us may experience eternal flourishing. As I’ve noted above, you are free not to flourish for eternity if you so desire.

    Reply
  17. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Andy, I said, “… this is not a counterfactual, but it actually happened! In fact, I might not be a Christian today if it were not for Hitler.”

    Your response: “I’d love to hear the reaction of some Jewish people who lost family in the Holocaust that Tim thinks the torture and murder of six million Jews was worth it so that Tim could make his apologetic arguments.”

    Andy, I provided a logically possible truth, that if it is true, then God would know it logically prior to the big bang! It is simply irrelevant if anyone has an *emotional* revulsion against an intellectual response.

    You said, “Further, there’s a great irony that the same person who says that objective morality has to exist because otherwise we can’t condemn Hitler (who Tim actually believes was doing God’s work), is also defending genocide on the same blog.”

    Andy, that is simply false and you are either proving your ignorance or dishonesty. Either way, you are putting words in my mouth (not cool)! I do not believe Hitler was doing “God’s work!” What I carefully explained is why God would allow Hitler to make some horrible FREE choices that were objectively wrong. You can read this article of mine for further clarification: http://freethinkingministries.com/lex-luthors-lousy-logic/

    I also provided a possibly true, but simple thought experiment with the help of a counterfactual that God would know the truth-value to: *IF* the Canaanites were allowed to continue to exist in the promise land, *then* ultimately all humanity would be destroyed and no other humans would flourish for eternity. However, *IF* the Canaanites were driven from the land, then billions of humans *WOULD* flourish for eternity. God would know if these counterfactual are true or not, and if they are true, then it seems it would be good to command the Israelites to drive the Canaanites from the land (Zero vs. Billions – do the math)!

    Moreover, I am not arguing for genocide, Andy. I gave TEN reasons (only one needs to be true) as to why the Canaanite objection fails. I point out that perhaps these commands were never given and that if they were given, perhaps they were not commands of genocide at all, but simply removing them from the land. I offered reasons to think this might be the case from the Old Testament itself. Again, please try to understand what you attack before attacking a straw man or putting words into my mouth.

    Andy, you said, “But full marks to Tim for at least attempting to defend his arguments, albeit (always) with a caveat that he’ll be prevented from posting again for several days.”

    Geesh, I’m sorry that I have a life apart from you, Andy. I am also sorry that my Mac needed some repairs. Don’t worry, Andy, my computer is now fixed and I’m back to set you straight (by the way, our interaction is working as you are not a naturalist anymore)! Moreover, Andy, I have a full-time job and defending my articles 24/7 against waffling skeptics is not my full-time job. I do not mind one or two responses, but I simply do not have time to engage in debate ad naseum with Internet skeptics. This is why I am responding to several of your comments now, but I probably will not be back on this thread after this. I have a peer-reviewed journal article I’m trying to finish regarding competing theories of time, a book I’m co-authoring, weekly articles to write and research for, weekly teaching plans and classes to prepare for, and upcoming lectures to write for speaking events around the country. On top of all of that, I try to keep my wife and son at the top of my list. I’m sorry my friend, but your revulsions are at the very bottom of my list.

    Andy, you completely ignored the deductive argument I gave you and made the following statement:

    “The problem here is that Shannon and Tim both try to explain why God grounds objective morality by referring to concepts that they claim can only be EXPLAINED by God’s objective morality. They say that without God we can’t, for example, base morality along the lines of human flourishing, and we can’t say what is moral along the basis of what is reasonable.”

    Andy, I am the one that has argued exactly WHY the flourishing of humanity is objectively good apart from human (or any other created mind’s) subjective opinion! My “Ought from an IS” article I provided above specifically points out that on atheism, there is nothing objectively good or correct with human flourishing (in the near future or eternally). On Christian theism, that’s exactly what we were created for even if you think otherwise.

    Moreover, I have specifically explained above that atheistic naturalism cannot account for 1- objective moral values, 2- objective moral duties, or 3- for an ability to genuinely make moral choices. You can reject naturalism and appeal to an infinite amount of supernatural abstract objects to explain objective moral values, and you can also reject naturalism and appeal to the supernatural human soul to explain how we can make genuine choices, but without a supernatural Creator who created humanity on purpose and for a specific purpose, then you cannot explain objective moral duties or obligations creatures possess.

    Either way, as you have kindly demonstrated: Naturalism is false (thank you very much)!

    You continued to ignore the deductive argument I’ve provided to you in the past and on this very thread and stated: “But when we ask them to explain how God grounds objective morality, what answers do we get?”

    You received a deductive argument from me, Andy.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “What I carefully explained is why God would allow Hitler to make some horrible FREE choices that were objectively wrong.”

      …And you said those ‘horrible choices’ worked out for the best because it meant you become a Christian. Face it, Tim, you’re saying God allowed it because it was a good thing.

      “On Christian theism, that’s exactly what we were created for even if you think otherwise.”

      You’ve not shown how you get from ‘We were created for that’ to ‘It’s a good thing’. The nearest you get to attempting to explain it is an analogy that people should use a hammer for whatever the hammer-designer meant it to be used for. An analogy that makes no sense – are you saying that it’s immoral for me to paint a hammer silver and turn it into a decoration because that’s ‘not what its inventor mean it to be used for’?

      “your revulsions are at the very bottom of my list”

      Tim, it was your fellow theist Luke who was revolted by your Holocaust apologetics, not me. I was if anything amused by how desperate the argument was.

      I’d go through the rest of your arguments but I worry you’re wasting valuable time with your family concocting ever-more desperate replies to me.

      Reply
  18. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Andy, you said our arguments are “like a snake swallowing its own tail – either human flourishing is a good thing or it isn’t! They can say that it’s impossible to explain why God is good without an eternal regress, so we just have to stop at God being Good, but that’s not good enough. We don’t just stop there for the convenience of your argument!”

    Well, where should we stop then, Andy? We don’t stop at a terminator for convenience; we stop at a terminator if it is the only explanation as infinite regresses are logically impossible and ought to be avoided! To this point, you have attempted to account for an infinite amount of supernatural objects to ground objective values, but no explanation has been given to ground objective duties or obligations.

    I have explained that if God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to eternally flourish, then that fact is true no matter what humanity thinks to the contrary. If God does not exist, then we were not created on purpose or for any purpose at all. In fact, the same cosmic process that accidentally coughed humanity into existence will inevitably swallow us up whole. The universe will experience heat death and it will be as if humanity never existed at all. If God does not exist and if humanity does not exit eternally, then we are nothing but “Dust in the Wind,” and our lives are without objective purpose. It logically follows that if there is no purpose or goal in mind apart from human opinion, then it simply does not matter if one lives a life like ISIS, Hitler, rapists, or child-molesters. We all share the same fate no matter how we choose to live (or are determined by nature to behave); it simply does not matter objectively speaking. It is simply one human’s subjective opinion against the opinions of others.

    Reply
  19. Timothy A. Stratton says:

    Hey Luke, you said, “So I hadn’t read Tim’s whole response to [Andy], so I looked and found this quote [from Tim]”:
    “In regards to Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps G-d knew that if he allowed the Holocaust, that humans would turn to Christ in mass numbers if they experienced the evil of Hitler.”

    Luke said, “When I read that, my mouth dropped open and I cried a little. It strikes me as a horrible thought, and it is a painful one. (Notice the subjectivism there, since people like to get that confused ’round these parts.)”

    Luke, why would you cry? This seems to be, yet again, an emotional reaction to an intellectual response. Do you think this is objectively evil? Do you think Hitler had a moral obligation to not commit the Holocaust? If so, how do you logically ground these objective moral values *&* duties? Do you reject naturalism as Andy has now done too? If so, why can’t one of these infinite amount of supernatural things be God? Moreover, how would you explain these objective duties and obligations that you think Hitler had apart from God or any other contingent mind?

    You said, “I would honestly invite Tim to tour Auschwitz with me…”

    I would love to join you, Luke! Is this really an “honest invitation?”If you pay my way, I am there in a heartbeat!

    You continued to write about the (objectively?) evil things Hitler and the Nazis did and then said, “I wonder if Tim would then say: “worth it!”

    It’s not up to me, you, or any other finite human’s subjective opinion regarding “worth,” Luke. However, I provided thought experiments above that you seem to have missed (you did state you have not read it all so I will give you the benefit of the doubt). The thought experiments provided counterfactual statements that humans would stand in no epistemic position to know with any kind of certainty; however, God would know these counterfactual truth-values with 100% certainty. If the thought experiments I provided elsewhere on this thread are true, then all one needs to do is crunch the numbers and do the math. I’m not omniscient, but if it were between zero people eternally flourishing and billions of people eternally flourishing into the infinite future, I’ll freely choose the billions.

    It helps to keep eternity in mind. Every physical human body dies, but if I’m right (and I have arguments supporting me) then no one ever really ceases to exist; rather, we simply change locations. I’ve also argued why it is good for humans to suffer on earth: http://freethinkingministries.com/lex-luthors-lousy-logic/ . If this is true, then human suffering is “worth it” in the long run (with eternity in mind).

    Luke, I sincerely appreciated this comment of yours:

    “I have personal family stories from this war that are tragic and terrifying, and many, many people have stories much worse than I do. Tim may say that I’m objectivelt wrong to bristle at the idea that the world is better because my family members were brutally murdered, but I at least hope he’d understand the feeling.”

    I do understand that emotional response, Luke. I would probably experience it too; however, I hope you see that I am trying to deal with this situation intellectually and bracketing my emotion for the time being.

    Your friend,

    Tim

    Reply
  20. toby says:

    Many do argue that it is fiction, Andy. In fact, well-known atheistic philosophers like Daniel Dennett believe things like “the values of pi,” and “the law of the excluded middle,”are nothing but “useful fictions.” There are several options here. Either these abstract objects are:

    1- Actual/ontological existing supernatural things (thus, naturalism is false)
    2- Useful fictions
    3- Human inventions
    4- Concepts in the mind of God (thus, naturalism is false).

    3, but your argument against it is fallacious—that anyone believes that if humans didn’t exist circles or gravity would cease to exist. Pi and principles of logic are concepts that arise from physical brains to describe shape (in the case of pi) and how people think (based on how our brains perceive our universe and how that universe operates). If all brains were gone, yes, these concepts would be gone. You’re not seriously arguing that 1, 2, 3 are objects that exist independent of thought because they arise from the brains of thinking beings as a language of quantification. That language is dependent on brains, the things being quantified–planets, stars, atoms, whatever–do not. The abstract objects notion is basically a category error.

    Reply
    • Timothy A. Stratton says:

      Toby, you replied:

      “… your argument against it is fallacious—that anyone believes that if humans didn’t exist circles or gravity would cease to exist. Pi and principles of logic are concepts that arise from physical brains to describe shape (in the case of pi) and how people think (based on how our brains perceive our universe and how that universe operates).”

      Toby, you are *assuming* only one view that is debated even amongst non-theistic philosophers. Surely the laws of logic are not invented by human brains, but truths that are discovered. For example, logically prior to the big bang (or the “mother of all beginnings” described in the BGV theorem), the statement: “nothing physical exists,” is either true or false if human minds can contemplate it or not. Thus, the logical law of the excluded middle is true if humans exist or not. Even that last sentence relies on this particular logical law. If you argue that it’s false, then it’s true.

      Moreover, if mathematics is a human invention (as opposed to a human discovery) then why could Peter Higgs over 30 years ago sit at his desk and crunch the numbers to conclude what has become known as, “the God particle,” must exist. Then, after three decades, millions of dollars, and countess man hours later, they finally scientifically verified what has been proven via these “abstract objects” of mathematical numbers and equations? Why would the human invention of mathematics ‘just happen’ to always be right?

      On top of that, you are conflating gravity itself with the “law of gravity.” Even the agnostic phyiscist, Alexander Vilenkin, has come to affirm that naturalism must be false because he believes that something supernatural like abstract objects had to exist logically prior to space and time.

      Again, I simply provided four options to choose from. I reject at least two of them, but offered them for your consideration.

      You said, “If all brains were gone, yes, these concepts would be gone.”

      You are begging the question in favor of naturalism, Toby, and that is a logical fallacy. You are assuming only material brains can form concepts without arguing for it. I have deductively argued for the existence of immaterial minds on my website. If the immaterial mind exists, then even if all brains were gone (or never existed in the first place), then concepts could still exist. If a necessary, supernatural, and immaterial mind (God) exists (which the Kalam, OA, & LCA deductively prove), then these immaterial concepts can exist eternally without beginning, and thus they would exist necessarily in any possible contingent state of affairs (worlds) this necessary mind could actualize.

      You said, “You’re not seriously arguing that 1, 2, 3 are objects that exist independent of thought because they arise from the brains of thinking beings as a language of quantification.”

      Again, you conflate brains with minds. That is the debate and you are simply presupposing and assuming without argument. This is two logical fallacies committed at once! I do hold that abstract objects are better thought of as concepts in the mind (not brain) of God. However, there are some atheists who argue, as Andy Ryan has been, that these abstract objects are not concepts in a mind or brain, but rather, ontologically existing supernatural objects. This is called atheistic Platonism. I’ve demonstrated the problems with that approach in this thread.

      You said, “That language is dependent on brains, the things being quantified–planets, stars, atoms, whatever–do not.”

      There are many theoretical and quantum physicists who disagree with you, Toby! If you claim to be “on the side of science,” you better make sure you have read all of the literature before making such claims with such confidence. In fact, my FTM article coming out tomorrow deals with this specific subject.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        Surely the laws of logic are not invented by human brains, but truths that are discovered.
        I didn’t say that they are “invented”. Perhaps I wasn’t clear, but they are merely DESCRIPTIONS of how our minds work and that is ENTIRELY based on a combination of how our brains developed and how the universe works. Concepts of thought and what amounts to physics. The concepts were “invented” in that they were conceptualized.

        For example, logically prior to the big bang (or the “mother of all beginnings” described in the BGV theorem), the statement: “nothing physical exists,” is either true or false if human minds can contemplate it or not.
        I have no use for this hypothetical. “Logically prior”? This is a made up state of affairs that may have nothing to do with reality and as such is red herring gibberish. It’s a construct you’ve picked up from apologists before you and it’s formulated to make a debate point. It smuggles in temporality to make a point that in a time prior to being time we can say that time doesn’t exist. This is beneath you.

        Moreover, if mathematics is a human invention (as opposed to a human discovery) then why could Peter Higgs over 30 years ago sit at his desk and crunch the numbers to conclude what has become known as, “the God particle,” must exist.
        Can you not use any language the same way? Math is a language (many different ones actually) that is a more precise and concise way to express the nature of the universe. Anyone can say, “There’s a field that exists that causes matter to have mass and like most fields it has a corresponding particle.” And did he just sit down and tinker with numbers at random? No, I he had an idea and he formulated it in the language of math. Years later we observed it. But do you not know that there are many, many physics papers out there with perfectly acceptable math that do not represent reality?

        On top of that, you are conflating gravity itself with the “law of gravity.”
        Nope. I’m saying gravity existed prior to our conceptualization of it. The concepts we generated do not.

        You are assuming only material brains can form concepts without arguing for it. I have deductively argued for the existence of immaterial minds on my website. If the immaterial mind exists, then even if all brains were gone (or never existed in the first place), then concepts could still exist.
        That’s fine. I’ve read such arguments and don’t find them convincing in the least. We could make up any number of deductive arguments on any number of subjects and still be left with what apologists have in regards to a deity: untestable, unverifiable suppositions.

        If a necessary, supernatural, and immaterial mind (God) exists (which the Kalam, OA, & LCA deductively prove), then these immaterial concepts can exist eternally without beginning, and thus they would exist necessarily in any possible contingent state of affairs (worlds) this necessary mind could actualize.
        Mmmmm, theosophical gravy. There’s a mind that isn’t anywhere and in no time and nothing and it can somehow take more nothing and make a universe . . . because it’s POWERFUL nothing. The god argued for by apologists is the definition of nothing. “Out of nothing, nothing makes a universe.”

        Again, you conflate brains with minds. That is the debate and you are simply presupposing and assuming without argument.
        I do. Because that is all that we reasonably have to assume is necessary for mental function. Apologists violate parsimony and posit unnecessary assumptions because of gaps in our knowledge.

        Reply
  21. Luke says:

    Hi Tim,

    You asked me a bunch of questions so I’ll go through and reply. I’ll try to just answer and not give context unless it seems necessary.

    Tim asked:“Luke, why would you cry? This seems to be, yet again, an emotional reaction to an intellectual response.”

    I cried because I’m human Tim. Some of the people you talked about were my family. Many others were people whose lives I’ve studied intemately, whose diaries I read (not facsimilies, actual diaries in archives, diaries that these victims touched, wrote in, sometimes stained with their own tears), people who mean something to me.

    Thinking about their fear and their helplessness. That’s the worst of it. Imagining what that was like. Hearing the horror in my head. The fear of a child who just can’t really understand, and a parent or sibling helpless to save them or help them understand. Unable to do anything at all to help them. I cry now trying to type this.

    “Why would you cry?”, you ask. “How could I not?”, I answer.

    Tim, you suggested that my family members being brutally murdered might have been for the better in the big picture. And you fail to understand why thinking about that idea might make me sad?

    I answered Andy’s question, and I answered it honestly. He didn’t ask for an intellectual analysis. I just answered his question.

    Tim, you even quoted the part of my response that specifically noted that was just my subjective response. Yet you seem to mock me for it anyway: “yet again, an emotional response” (emphasis added) — I’m not saying you intended to be mocking, but “yet again, an emotional response” surely strikes some readers as: “there goes Luke again, that emotional basket case”.

    I just answered Andy’s question.

    Honestly, what do you want me to say Tim? Do you want me to say “I apologize that thinking about my murdered family as a net good makes me sad.”?

    I’m honestly at a loss to understand why this question was asked, but that’s the answer.

    Tim asked:“Do you think this is objectively evil?”

    I’m not 100% certain what the pronoun “this” refers to here, but my best guess is that you mean the actions known collectively as the Shoah, so I’ll answer that.

    My answer: Unequivocally YES!

    As you know many philosophers believe in objective moralities apart from G-d (and numerous others do not), but I don’t refer to those non-theistic systems here. Personally I am a theist and strongly believe that the acts that make up the Shoah were objectively evil, as are many things that people in this world do, and I believe that G-d is part of that story.

    Tim asked:“Do you think Hitler had a moral obligation to not commit the Holocaust?”

    Yes.

    Tim asked:“If so, how do you logically ground these objective moral values *&* duties?”

    I can’t say with certainty Tim. This is one of the reasons that I come to this website. I’d like to learn get a better handle on what exactly all of the implications here are. Trying to learn this is the reason that I have asked some of the questions I asked of you and Shannon.

    My best answer is that I see them as grounded in the truth of the mind of G-d. Just as there exists an answer to math questions that have never been asked, there exists a right answer to every possible question of “how should I act in this situation” and G-d having an omniscient mind knows those answers perfectly. That’s the source of morality.

    I’m not saying this is right, Tim. Like I said, I’m just here to learn.

    Tim asked:“Do you reject naturalism as Andy has now done too?”

    It’s not something I believe, nor do I recall ever believing it. As far as Andy is concerned, I have not heard him reject naturalism. I personally find that it’s the person in question who is the best judge of what it is they believe, but perhaps your experience is different.

    Tim asked:“If so, why can’t one of these infinite amount of supernatural things be G-d?”

    It can! Tim, where have I ever said it could not be? Where did you get this idea?

    I hope you answer those questions, because I’m mystified.

    You called me a friend, but you treat me like an adversary, preconceiving that I disagree with you. You must assume that I disagree with you, otherwise this question makes no sense. You automatically treat me as someone to be pushed-back against. All the while I agree with you. Why Tim?

    This is not the first time you’ve done this by the way. I wrote the following to you on April 7, 2016:: “I hope that you don’t assume that just because someone asks a question or two, they must disagree with you. The person may well agree and is just trying to gain a better understanding.”

    Tim asked:“Moreover, how would you explain these objective duties and obligations that you think Hitler had apart from G-d or any other contingent mind?”

    I don’t Tim. I believe in G-d, and that objective values are tied to His mind.

    Can you please give me some idea on what has seemingly convinced you otherwise?

    Tim asked:

    I would love to join you, Luke! Is this really an “honest invitation?” If you pay my way, I am there in a heartbeat!

    It is absolutely an honest invitation. I almost emailed Dr. Turek this weekend to ask for your email to extend the invitation more privately and so you would know it was not symbolic. I think you would find the trip enlightening.

    I cannot pay your way however. One of my moral struggles is how to spend the money that I have, but I’m quite convinced that objective morality demands that I give as much of it to the truly needy as possible. I fail at this all the time. It’s a huge struggle for me.

    Let me ask a brief question, though this is not a response to a question of yours.

    In regards to the question of the Shoah being ultimately for the good (“worth it:) you said:”It’s not up to me, you, or any other finite human’s subjective opinion regarding “worth.”

    Do you think G-d would allow suffering with no redeeming reason?

    It seems to me that if you answer “no”, then you have indeed argued that on your beliefs it must be “worth it”, otherwise it would not have happened. (The fact that something happened, means it was worthwhile in the big picture.)

    It seems to me that if you answer “yes”, then the argument of “perhaps the reason G-d did not stop Hitler before the Holocaust is because He knew humanity would learn from Hitler’s free but objectively wrong actions.” is neither here or there, since no such reason is necessary for G-d to allow it. Frankly, if your answer is yes, it’s a really weird thing to think of — to give a reason you yourself see as inconsequential.

    I have tried and I believe I answered all of your questions. Please let me know if there is something I missed or if there is something else you’d like to ask of me.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  22. Jcb says:

    Tim,
    It is false that “no one ever really ceases to exist; rather, we simply change locations.” The evidence clearly shows that when one dies, they are no longer existing in almost every sense of the word: they aren’t eating, sleeping, watching movies, nor as far as we can tell are they thinking, etc.
    I agree with you: if suffering a little bit on earth entailed a billion years of good times for everyone, it would probably be worth it. But unfortunately there is no (real) evidence of this outcome. You think that human suffering is necessary for that billion years of good times. Hence you seem to think that the Holocaust was a good thing, a necessary thing to get all that goodness in the future. There is much evidence of the suffering of the Holocaust. There is almost no evidence that this suffering is needed for that billion years of good times in the future.
    Thoughts?
    -jcb

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Even the argument that ‘suffering here on earth is needed for what happens afterwards’ is completely contradicted by Tim’s other argument that God can have people killed for crimes He KNOWS they’d commit in the future if he allowed them to live.

      I’m not denying that an omniscient God would by definition know in advance what someone would do… but if there’s no problem in judging someone in advance for everything they WOULD do – if God can just ‘cut to the chase’ – then why do we need to go through anything on this life in the first place?

      God knows who’ll be saved, who won’t – why is any of this ‘earthly test’ necessary? Why even CREATE the people who God knows will end up in hell?

      By the way, this reminds me of Minority Report, where in the future people are arrested for crimes they haven’t even committed yet. And this isn’t like arresting people now for crimes we know they were PLANNING, this could be crimes that they haven’t even THOUGHT of committing. I think most people watching that film figured that there were moral problems in punishing someone for something they haven’t done, even if we’re assured that they WOULD have done that thing.

      Reply
  23. Luke says:

    Hi Tim,

    So I’ve gone through and answered your questions, so let me ask about some things I’ve tried to understand for some time, and sometimes have trouble getting answers on this website.

    I know we all have limited time, so I’m going to limit my inquiries to just a few. I hope most will be pretty simple to answer. This post seems long, but a lot of it is just introducing scenarios that are simple to comprehend. In other words, the post is much briefer, intellectually, than in appears.

    I’ve bolded my questions so that you can find them more easily.

    *****

    Let me ask you about the thought experiment you discussed, and the impact on free will, if your proposed scenario were true.

    You said that “perhaps G-d knew that if He allowed the Holocaust, that humans would turn to Christ in mass numbers if they experienced the evil of Hitler.” You went on to say this wasn’t just “a counterfactual, but it actually happened!”

    So it seems in this thought experiment we have two possible worlds, one in which G-d “allowed the Holocaust” and in which you, Tim, ended up a Christian. And one in which the Holocaust was not allowed by G-d, and you did not accept Jesus as your savior. G-d chose which world would exist, and which we would experience.

    So let’s think through this.

    1. If G-d chooses to allow the Holocaust, Tim becomes a Christian.
    2. If G-d chooses to NOT allow the Holocaust, Tim does not become a Christian.
    3. G-d is aware of outcomes in alternate realities even if they don’t exist. (G-d knows what would have happened in a universe without the Holocaust, even if that world is never actualized.)
    4. G-d chooses which potential realities He actualizes.
    5. G-d choice is the determining factor in whether Tim becomes a Christian or does not. (Follows from 1,2,3, and 4.)

    Does that all make sense? Do you see any problems with this?

    Now let’s expand this out a bit. Instead of two possible worlds, we have a number of worlds that is or approaches infinity. G-d is aware of every logically possible reality. Since this number is infinite, it’s possible (or rather almost certain) that there are universes that are identical except for minor details. So there is one in which I had bread, butter (from humanly pasture raised milk), and tea for breakfast today (G-d actualized this potential reality), and another world in which I stopped at a bakery on my way to work and bought and enjoyed a chocolate croissant and coffee. Everything else is the same.

    1. If G-d chooses to actualize the bread&butter world, Luke will eat bread and butter.
    2. If G-d chooses to actualize the croissant world, Luke will eat a croissant.
    3. Nothing else changes except Luke’s breakfast food on 7 June, 2016.
    4. Therefore G-d choice was the determining factor in whether Luke ate bread and butter, or a croissant for breakfast.

    If your theory that G-d makes a choice on which your fate hinges is true, then He is the one who really wanted me to have the bread. Is He not?

    (As a side note, it seems that we have some pretty good Biblical backup for such a conclusion. Paul writes to the Romans: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on G-d who has mercy.” Paul even answers the objection that it’s somehow unfair for G-d to judge someone, when it’s G-d’s will that resulted in their fate; Paul states the objection this way: “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”)

    Back to my breakfast: there is nothing I could have done to choose differently, because the world in which I do that is nixed by G-d. This invalidates any response of “you could have made a different choice.” It’s clear I could not have.

    So, how does this correspond with your view of free will? If G-d chooses between two potential realities: one Holocaust&ChristianTim, the other NoHolocaust&NonChristianTim, then logically He also chooses between two potential realities that are otherwise the same, except for my breakfast choice today. G-d rejected the croissant world. If that is so, how can we come to the conclusion: “therefore Luke, not G-d chose what Luke would have for breakfast.”?

    It seems to me that if we accept the premise of your thought experiment: that G-d makes choices that alter the results of our reality, then it seems you have to give up any conception of what can be fairly called free will.

    Here is another question:

    Why is a objective morality, as you define it, better than subjective morality, on a practical level?

    I’m going to give an example of what I’m looking for, but feel free to change or give another example. I hope what I am after will be clear.”

    Since Hitler has been mentioned, let’s go with that. Imagine: It’s late 1941 and you’re camping in the forests of Masuria, not far from the Wolfsschanze. You are a Christian and believe what Hitler is doing is objectively (in a theistic sense) wrong. Without getting into the details, you overhear a couple discussing a plan to assassinate Hitler. They mention the need for someone with experience with electronics — the exact skills you happen to have.

    Now imagine a fork in this scenario, in one, you learn that these conspirators are believers in objective morality grounded in G-d. In the second, they believe that Hitler is terribly wrong, but they hold that view to be subjective. “He is terribly, unredeemingly bad in my opinion!” they say.

    What difference does it make to you, to the world, to anyone, practically, which they believe?

    Since I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be, I may not ask the best questions so I hope you’ll help! As I said, I hope what I’m after is clear.

    Would you act any differently toward the second couple vs. the first? (And if so: how, and for what exact reason?)
    Would you refuse to join the second couple? (And if so: for what exact reason?)
    What is an action (if any) that you would take with or toward the first couple that you wouldn’t take toward the second?
    What is an action (if any) that you would take with or toward the second couple that you wouldn’t take toward the first?

    I absolutely get the emotional benefit of being able to say “it’s REALLY wrong”. But is there anything beyond that? A practical difference… If so, what is it?

    (I’m not only concerned with differences generated by what people believe. If there is a practical difference between a world with moral realism, and one without it, though people’s beliefs concerning moral realism are the same, I’d like to know that too.)

    Allow me to attack the same problem from another angle.

    Years and years ago, Dr. Turek posted a video about a madman that was going to chainsaw someone’s head off for fun (or something very much like this). The video was about how without objective values, the madman’s actions couldn’t be said to be objectively wrong.

    Now, imagine you are the intended victim. You have two options.

    You can push button A, or button B.

    Button A will instantly give your attacker a belief in subjective morality, and a strong subjective belief that hurting others for fun is deeply wrong. The button will do this 100% of the time

    Button B will will instantly give your attacker a belief in the existence of objective morality with almost the same set of rules as the morality you believe to exist — including a belief that hurting others for fun is deeply wrong –, he acquires a deep love for G-d but a Jewish conception of G-d, so he does NOT accept Jesus as his Savior. This button will do this 98% of the time.

    Which button would you push?

    Briefly, why?

    Here is another thing I’m not sure I understand properly.

    Let me repeat a question (edited for clarity) I asked of Shannon, who said “G-d is good”:

    Here is what I said: “As I understand it “good” is a valuation based upon some standard (h/t Clive Staples). So for example: Andy spending time with his child is “good” because it conforms to a standard of behavior, as laid down by G-d Himself. What standard is used to conclude ‘G-d is good’?”

    Allow me to copy a question I asked of Shannon (which Shannon has not answered yet):

    Shannon said: “I see no reason why a human would be morally obliged to follow the abstraction of ‘goodness’ over an abstraction such as ‘evil.'”

    Luke said:“I suppose I don’t either, but I also don’t understand why a human would be obligated to follow what G-d says. In other words: ‘Why should I do what G-d says?’ (Personally, I want to do what G-d says, so I obligate myself, but why is any and every human thusly obligated?)”

    (To expand on this a bit, we can easily get prudential oughts: “If one wants to avoid punishment, then one ought to follow the law.” “If one wants to please G-d, then one ought to follow the law.” But how to we get the obligation — the ought — without an if?)

    One more, simple yes or no question:

    If G-d approached you and made you this offer: You can give up your ticket to heaven, but G-d stops the Holocaust. No one else has their salvation affected.

    Do you accept?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  24. Luke says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Thanks so much for the response. I really appreciate it.

    I have to be honest and say that I was a bit confused by it. It seems that your response is a formal argument for the existence of subjective morality.

    Are you trying to argue that subjective morality exists alongside one or more objective moralities?

    Or are you trying to argue that subjective morality is all there is?

    Your argument logically proves the existence of subjective morality (if we accept your premises), but if your goal is to show the latter, than I think it fails (the existence of a subjective morality does not disprove the existence of objective morality).

    Here is your argument as I understand it. It takes the form:

    1. If A then B
    2. A
    3. Therefore B

    1. “If morality grounded in persons (subjective morality) then as I mentioned in the above it could/would lead to contradictory morals.”
    2. Contradictory morals exist: “Human trafficking in the U.S. is illegal and frowned upon, however, in other nations, it is not frowned on, and even legally practiced.”
    3. Therefore “morality [is] grounded in persons.”

    Can you clarify aiming to show with this argument? I concede the existence of subjective morality, but I believe at least one objective morality exists, and I think your argument fails to disprove that, as I said.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • shannon eugene Byrd says:

      Hi Luke,

      I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get responses, but as you can tell, there are a lot of comments that Tim and I have responded to.

      In regards to my “argument” I wasn’t arguing for morality being grounded in persons, I was just showing that if morality was grounded in persons, there would nothing objective about it. Take the first premise of the my statement in the argument you created. If I thought burning living widows was wrong and Hindu men thought this was a perfectly moral practice, what reason could I give other than my subjective morality that they should not do this? It seems to me that I couldn’t tell them not to do it if morality is subjective. How could one impose their moral code on someone else?

      I do think you got the first and second premises a little mixed up though. Actually, the way you write your premises would look like this instead.

      1. if A ⊃ B
      2. B
      ∴ A

      This argument actually commits a formal fallacy, you cannot affirm the consequent; you can deny it and it would lead to the denial of the antecedent. So, if this is actually what you meant to present, then the argument is invalid. Let me know your thoughts on this.

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “How could one impose their moral code on someone else?”

        So the important thing here is that you get to impose your morality on someone else? This raises far more questions than it answers.

        1) How does objective morality ‘help’ you impose your morality on someone else? For example, the 18th century Christians convinced that slavery was condoned by God. They imposed this morality on Africans. Are you saying that if objective morality didn’t exist they wouldn’t have been able to keep skaves?

        2) If you mean one could not JUSTIFY imposing your moral code, isn’t the idea of justifying morals ITSELF a moral idea? If so, you’re basically saying ‘Without a concept of rights, you’d have no right to do X’ – which makes no sense. Without rights you wouldn’t have to talk about lacking the right to do something.

        3) People just imposing their views on each other by force is exactly what we DO say in history. US Slavery ended by force, remember?

        4) We CAN change people’s minds about moral issues without referencing ‘objective’ morality. We just have to find common issues we value and care about and work up from there. Prejudice about a group, for example, can often just be changed simply by meeting members of that group. Republicans who changed their stance on gay marriage often put it down to simply meeting gays and figuring ‘they’re just like us’.

        5) If morality being rooted in humans would make it subjective, why wouldn’t morality being rooted in God make it subjective? If it is SUBJECT to God’s existence, that sounds pretty subjective to me!

        Reply
        • toby says:

          The whole notion of objective moral values as framed by the moral argument and argued by apologists are one of their best sleights of hand. They offer no evidence that these things exist other than to say that god does so they do and they do so god does. I’ve said let’s reframe it this way on this site many times and I don’t think it ever gets a response:

          1. If good didn’t exist, then good wouldn’t exist.
          2. Good does exist.
          3. Therefore good exists.

          Maybe this way:

          1. If god didn’t exist, then god’s nature wouldn’t exist.
          2. God’s nature does exist.
          3. Therefore god exists.

          It’s just a big con. The whole idea of objective moral values is idiotic. What could be the use or utility of there being moral actions that are beyond human beliefs or opinions? The only utility is for a supernatural monster to judge you with. Or for a preacher to which they have been “revealed” to make people do heinous things or take advantage of people with.

          As we are a socially evolved species our morality is intersubjective. A shared morality due to shared genetics, circumstances, knowledge, and biases. It’s imperfect because perfection doesn’t exist for the concept of morality. It’s like saying a person is perfectly beautiful. Such a thing is a matter of opinion. Unless we’re talking about Rebecca Romijn.

          Reply
      • David says:

        Shannon, if the writings in the bible presented a clear and consistent moral code and then the actions attributed to its’ author, Yahweh, perfectly followed that moral code then we might have something upon which to ground morality. But sadly, neither the bible nor Yahweh does this for us. If there are inconsistencies in the code or the code giver your argument fails. Additionally, the moral code given in the bible would also have to be exhaustive. It would have to cover every single potentiality related to moral decisions, which it also does not do. Even with all the biblical writings and the principles we can draw from them we still have to arrive at some moral decisions by choosing, what we believe to be, the lesser of two evils.

        Reply
      • Luke says:

        Hi Shannon,

        You said:“Let me know your thoughts on this.”

        I agree that it wasn’t a very good argument, but whether it was or not, I was and still am confused as to why you presented it and what you were trying to show.

        I agree that and argument can’t “affirm the consequent” but if that’s not what you were trying to show, then what were you trying to show?

        Also, when you get into formal logic, you should explain what you’;re talking about. Many readers here don’t have much experience with formal logic, and this is a forum that largely runs on informal logic arguments. This forum is a place of learning, but more importantly, a place for people struggling with their faith, or presenting defenses of their faith to equip themselves with good arguments. In my opinion you don’t do anyone any favors by talking above people’s heads, and worse to some you may come off as condescending or as just trying to stroke your own ego by trying to appear smarter than others.

        Anyway, back to our conversation, you asked my thoughts, but I’m still just confused as to what you were trying to prove with your argument?

        What was your argument meant to show? (Maybe once you share that, I’ll be able to understand how it related to my original question.)

        Thanks,

        Luke

        Reply
  25. Luke says:

    Shannon,

    I was wrong when I said that your argument proved that morality is “grounded in persons”. You are correct that it does not prove that logically. I was writing quickly and assumed some premises from your language (mainly: the idea that if morality was not grounded in persons we would then NOT have situations like “Human trafficking in the U.S. is illegal and frowned upon, however, in other nations, it is not frowned on, and even legally practiced.”).

    I’m still super confused by what you were trying to say, but I was wrong when I wrote that.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  26. barry says:

    Why would God command the execution of all the Canaanites (along with the children) in the Old Testament? Many think this is one of the biggest objections to Christianity; however, when thinking logically, we can see that this is not an objection to Christian theism at all.
    —–You are correct, it could very well be that these OT stories are kernals of historical truth infused with legendary embellishment.

    We must recognize the real objection; at most, this is only an objection to Biblical inerrancy, as the “Canaanite objection” does absolutely nothing to disprove the existence of God or the resurrection of Jesus.
    ——– Fair enough. But since no biblical author expressed or implied that biblical inerrancy extended “only to the originals”, we must prepare to deal with Christians who, like you, get more out of the bible than it has to offer, such as the foolish idea that the “only in the originals” qualification in inerrancy is something taught by the bible.

    These two things must be invalidated before “Mere Christianity” (as C.S. Lewis put it) is discredited.
    ——-Only if you incorrectly presume that bible inerrancy is part and parcel of Christianity, when in fact if you use Jesus and Paul as the criteria, then you have no biblical basis to say the doctrine of inerrancy is a fundamental component of Christianity. What was preached to unbelievers was “repent and believe the gospel”, not “I can reconcile any alleged contradiction in the bible!”

    With that said, however, is this even a good objection against Biblical inerrancy? I think not. Why? Perhaps God had perfectly good reasons for issuing these “divine commands” (if He really issued them at all).
    ——–But universally recognized criteria of historiography demand that you not merely put possibilities on the table, but that you argue that your chosen theory explains the data better than the theory you disagree with. And since you aren’t impressed when Mormons and other heretics cite to God’s mysterious ways to dodge obvious problems in their beliefs, consistency and honesty require that you not resort to that dodge either. Deal?

    A quick study of the Canaanite tribes reveals a totally wicked culture, that if existed today, the world would decry. The Canaanites would brutally torture and sacrifice their babies to idols by slowly burning them alive (this sounds worse than ISIS Muslims today)!
    ———-The more you argue in ways that support the premise that these ancient pagans were pedophiles and other wretched things, the more you must agree with the bible that God wanted Israelite children to be suffer rape as He enabled these immoral monsters to kidnap such kids in their war victories he gave them against Israel. See Deuteronomy 28:32, 41. Keep a barf bag handy if you feel really bold and attempt reading everything from 28:15-68.

    Here is what many skeptics miss: The Canaanites, seeing the advancing armies of Israel could have chosen to “get the heck out of Dodge,” and no one would have been killed!
    ———-Here is what many apologists miss: Their all-powerful God does not respect human freewill in the least. Ezekiel 38:4, where the metaphor of hook-in-jaws is entirely inappropriate if forcing people against their will is something God would never do. If that verse is theologically correct, then God could not only have emptied the promised land of the pagans, but stirred them to be less evil than they were, all with a snap of his anthropomorphic fingers. Your God could very easily have achieved the purpose of the promised land with far less bloodshed than he allegedly did. But before I accuse your god of immorality, I need to keep in mind that Deuteronomy 28:63 actually says god’s “rejoicing” in prospering his people is the same as the ‘rejoicing’ that he does in inflicting those horrible terrors on those who disobey him. Bye-bye Ezekiel 33:11.

    To underscore this point, we see no Bible verse in which God commands pursuing the Canaanites, or “hunting them down to the ends of the earth.” Utterly Destroy? Moreover, the Israelites did not literally “utterly destroy” all the Canaanites!
    ———-And the guy with a machete, allegedly thinking God willed it, didn’t actually hack every single child at the daycare. So obviously the atheists who deny that man’s religion aren’t appreciating the fully detailed truth.

    Only the Canaanites who chose to stay and fight the Israelites were to be killed.
    —–Finally! The solution to the problem of why the babies were killed (Joshua 6:21)! Apparently, the Canaanites were not only immoral, but blindingly stupid for trying to train their 1 year old girls to help them fight off the Israelites.

    In fact, it is quite possible that there were no Canaanite women or children killed at all. The Bible makes zero references to the actual killing of Canaanite non-combatants,
    —-read Joshua 6:21, then tell me the “young and old” refered only to young and old military members. And be sure to ignore the battle plan that says the nearby pagans are supposed to be 100% exterminated, Deut. 20;10-16.

    which supports the notion that it was only the Canaanite soldiers, who stayed to fight the Israelite armies, who were exterminated.
    ———Ok, so when Glen Miller says it was more humanitarian to kill the kids in such holy wars given they’d otherwise slowly starve to death, you disagree with Miller, and believe the Israelites would have killed the adult pagans, and left the pagan kids to fend for themselves? Smart move. Maybe you should have said something nasty like “the kids were killed too since they were too corrupted and would surely only grow up to take revenge on their Israelite foster parents”…so that I can have a chance to curse you for having no faith in God’s promise that when you properly raise a child, they will be good as adults. Proverbs 22:6.

    Speaking of Biblical affirmation, the Bible reports that Canaanite people were still alive after the conquest of the land in question:
    “Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded… Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland” (Joshua 10:40; 11:16).
    ———Nobody said biblical writers were afraid to knowingly overstate their case.

    Joshua reports that God commanded “utter destruction,” and that he had followed that command “to the T” (Joshua 11:12, 15, 20); however, if we read the text further, we find that Joshua did not take all of the land (Joshua 13:1-5), and that many of the people who were supposedly either annihilated or removed from the land were, in fact, still living there (Joshua 13:13). The author is clear that the people of Anakim had been “utterly destroyed,” (Joshua 11:21-22); however, if we continue reading, we find Caleb asking for permission to drive out the people of Anakim (Joshua 14:12-15; 15:13-19).
    ———And if you continue reading, you’ll find that Moses understood his own army to have disobeyed the command for “full vengeance” when they returned with women and children war captives. Numbers 31:1, 15 ff. The more you show that Joshua’s coup was not complete, the more you argue that he disobeyed God’s command. In other words, your God is far more bloodthirsty than even Joshua. Your god probably likes watching the “Saw” movies.

    Moreover, the book of Judges records that “the Canaanites persisted in living in that land” (Judg. 1:21) and “they did not drive [the Canaanites] out completely” (Judg. 1:28).
    ———–Yeah, because the omnipotent Jehovah’s power was held in check by iron chariots. v. 19 (!?). Not even the king of inerrantist reasoning, Gleason Archer, could touch that in his notorious Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Other inerrantist commentaries like the New American Commentary speculate that maybe the Hebrews lost their nerve or something. Yeah, never hesitate to add to the word of the Lord in the name of biblical inerrancy. Never mind that doing so proves you a liar by the bible’s own standard. Proverbs 30:6.

    This gives us good reason to conclude that modern readers might be making a hermeneutical error in trying to read ancient text through modern lenses.
    ——–You mean like inerrantists make when they assume Moses’ originally intended audience cared about bible inerrancy as much as today’s inerrantists?

    This is corroborated by the words of Moses regarding a future generation of Israelites, He says Israel “will be utterly destroyed” (Deut. 4:26). Now, the nation of Israel has experienced some great defeats in the past; however, the nation of Israel has not been “utterly destroyed” at all. In fact, the nation of Israel thrives today.
    ———Ok, biblical authors had a bad habit of exaggerating. Or maybe Moses seriously believed in the full annihilation of Israel in the future…but got it wrong.

    After considering all of the text and seeing that the Canaanites continued to survive, this either proves the Israelites disobeyed this supposed “command of genocide,” or this was likely figurative language not to be taken literally (i.e., I hope the Huskers KILL and wipe out the badgers and wolverines next year on the field), or, it proves my point – this battle was not about people; it was about taking control of the land.
    ———–Numbers 31 supports the “disobeyed” theory, and your failure to show grammatical or contextual justification for viewing these claims as non-historical, when viewing them as historical is clearly the default position, constitutes your own error.

    What Does Evil Prove?
    Another problem the skeptic has when referencing the Canaanite Objection as evidence against God, is that it actually proves the existence of God!
    ——Can’t speak for other skeptics, but my theory of the genocide is that the horrors, being indistinguishable from the brutish nature of the Israelites themselves anyway, indicate that these wars were purely human in planning and execution, the ‘god’ part is nothing but their own demented imagination no less than Chemosh was to the Moabites.

    Reply
  27. barry says:

    That is to say, if an atheist thinks the “Canaanite problem” is a good refutation of theism, they are actually refuting atheism. If they claim that the Israelites actions were really wrong (objectively), they are inadvertently providing evidence that God exists!
    ———I’m an atheist, no objective morality exists, and my basis for these atrocities being immoral is the common sense view of most mature adult Christians in the world, who naturally wince at the idea that God would ever require them to massacre children. Sure is funny that your NT god motivates you to look in horror upon these OT genocides. What, has he since felt sorry for doing this, like he felt sorry before about his choice to create man (Gen. 6:6)?

    Examine the Moral Argument:
    1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2- Objective moral values and duties do exist
    3- Therefore, God exists.
    ————Premise 2 is false. You need an objective standard before you can declare any moral to be objective, and you don’t’ have such a standard.

    If atheists object to the “Canaanite problem” and proclaim it was objectively wrong to drive the Canaanites from the land, they are offering evidence supporting premise (2) of the Moral Argument. Therefore, God exists! If they do not think it was really wrong, then they have no grounds to complain.
    ———Don’t overlook the obvious contradiction there is between Jesus who kills kids in the OT, and Jesus who loves kids in the NT. Or maybe the Jesus of the gospels cannot be defined with sufficient particularity to merit the presumption that we can know what we was actually like.

    To Whom is God Accountable?
    ——Ask me again when you’ve made something approaching even a weak case for theism.

    On the other hand, and for the sake of argument, what if the Bible is supposed to be taken literally in this passage in question and God did actually command the Israelites to kill all Canaanites? Would God be guilty of sin?
    ——–Not if he is a hypocrite who demands more from others than he demands of himself.

    This raises several questions. For instance: is it objectively wrong for God to issue commands to us, that we are obligated to follow, but that He is not?[1]
    ——–Can a wolf really inhale so much air that he can blow down the house of three little pigs?

    Moreover, is it objectively wrong for God to issue a law that we ought to follow, and then, tell us to do something different in a specific situation?
    ———Just because we never see bears talking to each other in English, doesn’t mean the story of Goldilocks is false. Calling it false is merely the conclusion of those who have an anti-supernatural bias.

    The same lawmakers have the ability to issue commands to certain individuals in extreme circumstances. For instance, the Nebraska State Patrol is allowed to drive much faster than the speed limit, when they are in pursuit of those who have broken the law. Moreover, thankfully, those who drive ambulances and fire engines can drive much faster than the speed limit if they need to. Are Nebraska’s lawmakers morally wrong or evil for issuing different commands to different people in extreme situations?
    ——No. Next question: How could an omnipotent God “need” to do anything?

    Not at all! In fact, I think they would be wrong to tell State Troopers that if they were chasing bad guys who were driving 100 mph, that they still had to drive 75 mph while in pursuit. It would be wrong and just plain silly.
    When thinking this through, did God really do something wrong if He issued such commands to the Israelites to annihilate the Canaanites?
    ———Do you ever ask that question about the 9/11 hijackers who flew planes into buildings? Could I employ your sophistry to suggest that you need to disprove Allah before you can be sure they didn’t have the approval of God to do what they did?
    Or could I just clean your clock with a reference to Deuteronomy 32:39?

    God has the right (as the Ultimate Lawgiver) to give commands to certain individuals in extreme situations. We see this all the time in our government today.
    ———Was the situation in the promised land so extreme that God could not provide foster-care for the pagan children? Did God forget how easily he solved clothing, food and logistical problems with a wave of his magic wand during the days of Moses?

    I would ask those who think the supposed “Canaanite objection” is a problem for Christians, to please explain to me exactly who God sinned against if He did indeed issue these commands to the Israelites?
    ——He sinned against nobody, he is either the result of savage ancient people dreaming him up, or he is, as Marcion correctly pointed out, a demon.

    If things are objectively wrong, they are wrong in reference to a higher standard. So, if God really did issue commands to kill people, what higher standard did God sin against?
    ——-Excellent point. If God becomes a man and chooses to rape a child, what higher standard did God sin against?

    Is God accountable to someone? If this question is not answered, the objection has no teeth in its bite and does not make logical sense.
    ———Deuteronomy 32:8-9 differentiates the ‘most high’ from Jehovah. Apparently Jehovah is accountable to the ‘most high’.

    God’s Middle Knowledge
    God, by definition, is omniscient. This means He knows the truth-value to any and all propositions.
    ——And you think an all-wise god inspired you to argue this hocus-pocus stuff to atheists? Did you bring extra sackcloth and ashes for when they get overcome with remorse for their sins?

    This includes counter-factual truths in the subjunctive mood and this means God possesses what theologians and philosophers refer to as “middle knowledge.”
    ——–a true Christian would be quoting scripture and recognize no need to help it along with vain philosophy like you are doing. Jesus and Paul are the ultimate theological authorities, not Molina.

    God is the standard of logic and rationality, and he is perfectly intelligent.
    ——–So far, you are beating atheists to death with your unassailable points. Please give me some rocks and trees. I’d like to hide myself from the face of him who sit on the throne and all his glory.

    Given this property, God makes the most intelligent decision in every scenario and situation. This means that God would know what would happen, if he did not issue the commands to destroy the Canaanites.
    ——-yeah, he knew that he could then rely on his own disregard for human freewill (Ezekiel 38:4) and stir the hearts of the pagans to just up and leave the country, like he stirred the heart of other pagans (Ezra 1:1), no bloodshed required.

    Perhaps God knew that if they were not driven from the land and destroyed, Israel would not have become a nation, and Jesus would not have been born to save the world.
    ———-God also knew that with a wave of his magic wand, he could make the pagans disappear into thin air and pave the way for an unobstructed Israel to take over. The whole idea of your all-wise god putting up with humans who apparently sin to the point of driving him to genuine lunacy (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), when by other biblical standards he was likely a lot more happy before he created anything, is just silly. Your god is like the idiot owner of a vicious pit bull who is always attacking people. She constantly “puts up” with all the problems that creature is creating, when nobody questions the better wisdom of putting a bullet in its brain…or better…not having such dog in the first place. If your god infallibly foreknew how pissed off his creatures would make him, he has only himself to blame for disturbing his allegedly perfectly happy pre-creation equilibrium. An analogy would be the idiot who gets a new house and car with great job, then decides to screw it up by getting married to a horrible woman who always makes him mad.

    Moreover, God would have known how wicked the Canaanites were, and known with absolute certainty that none of them would have worshipped him, if given the opportunity.
    ——He also knew that he could just as easily infuse them with the same type of will that Christians who have died and are presently in heaven have (i.e., authentically loving him, but not capable of sinning). Ezekiel 38:4

    We could conduct thought experiment after thought experiment regarding an omniscient being (who would know the truth-value to counter-factual propositions) that would lead to Him knowing that issuing the commands to the Israelites to drive the wicked Canaanites from their land, and even kill them, would be the best thing to do in that specific situation.
    ———–But as a bible believing Christian, you shy away from such lesser arguments and smartly depend solely upon the living word of God to make your theological points, right? If you’ve got the big guns, no need to use a sling shot, amen?

    Finite humans, who are not perfectly intelligent, are simply not in a position to know if the omniscient, divine command from God is the best decision or not because we have no idea what counter factual would have happened, if God did not issue these commands.
    —–Well given that you haven’t even made a weak case for theism, we are in a position to classify the bible god as nothing but the idol of yet another ancient pagan cult, just like the Canaanites.

    An omniscient God, however, would be in such an epistemic position to know these things with perfect certainty and issue commands accordingly.How We Know According to Divine Command Morality, if God commands us to take the life of another, it would not be wrong.
    ——–But if Deuteronomy 32:39 is true, God prefers to take responsibility for all murder, so in that case, if I murder somebody, I’m doing the will of god. Yes, I wholly expect your god to be angry with people who fulfill his will.

    In the absence of this command, it is objectively wrong to murder other humans. How do we know this? God has revealed this to us through His commands and the Law of Christ — to love everyone from our neighbors (Mark 12:31) to our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
    —–That does nobody any good. If an armed intruder is shooting into your house and trying to break in, how does the Christian occupant decide whether God is calling him home to glory, or wants him to kill the intruder? Casting lots?

    This law and these commands have been historically validated via the resurrection of Jesus, as it is God’s seal of approval of everything Jesus said, taught, and exemplified.
    ——–Please get the sackcloth and ashes ready, crocodile tears are starting to form in my eyes.

    I will not toy with you further, your following comments are nothing but preaching to the choir. barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • Candy Smith says:

      common sense view of most mature adult

      What if what you think is common sense contradicts what someone else thinks is common sense? How do you determine who is right?

      Reply

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