Evidence for God’s Existence – The Moral Argument

Continuing with the series of evidence for God’s existence as the most plausible explanation for how things are, we get to the moral argument. This one is not born of scientific reasoning, but again using the inference to the best explanation. What I will do is give the logical argument for objective moral law, then look at some of the possible hypotheses for what moral law is actually like. Once we decide between subjective and objective moral law, then we will look at what is the most likely standard for objective moral law–in other words, is there an objective Moral Lawgiver?

The logical argument reads this way:

1) If objective moral law exists, then the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver (i.e. God).
2) Objective moral law exists.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for moral law is an objective Moral Lawgiver.

The obvious issues are with both initial conditions in the hypothetical syllogism. First, it must be shown that objective moral law exists. So let’s talk about that first.

The simplest way to determine if objective moral law exists is to find a situation where there is no possible way you can look at it as either completely right or completely wrong. One common example used is rape. This has come up in another discussion I’ve been having recently, and there has still been no evidence to show that there is anything right about rape, no matter if it’s humans, animals, etc. It is decried as a completely wrong event, no matter how apathetic some people might be to it in certain instances.

Another hypothetical example: a mother murders (not kills–either by accident or a gun to the head, etc.–, but actually murders) her 3-day old baby for no reason. The baby has no ability to discern right from wrong, and so could not have committed a wrong against the mother for which it is self-defense or retaliation. There is no instance in which the murder of this baby could be considered right, so it is objectively wrong in every instance.

So in order to show that morality is not objective, one must break down such situations and show an instance where it is not only socially acceptable, but truly right to do so. Otherwise, this satisfies the burden of best explanation for morality being based on objective value judgments.

Once objective moral values have been determined, we continue with the same method (inference to best explanation) to determine the tertium quid, or measuring stick for moral values. So we look at the hypotheses available, and make the best judgment given the information we have. So let’s take a look at some of the potential measuring sticks:

1) Promotion of life=right. Not a bad measuring stick, but incomplete. This would mean such things as killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral, or an act of altruism to save someone else would also be considered immoral. A police officer killing the criminal in a hostage situation to save hundreds of lives would be immoral. While the goal SHOULD be to promote life, it doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation to an objective standard of moral values.

2) Causes suffering=wrong. Again, not bad, but still insufficient, because any act that causes suffering would be deemed immoral. So again, killing someone in self-defense would be considered immoral. Breaking up with someone would be considered immoral. Hitting a home run would be immoral. And so on to the absurd.

3) Minimizing suffering=good. This one gets a bit closer, but what is the definition of minimal suffering? The best way to minimize suffering is to eliminate it, and how do we go about doing that on our own? While we can try our best to do good, ultimately doing what is perceived to be a good act might involve causing someone to suffer. For example, social programs are seen as largely good, because they are attempting to help people that can’t help themselves. Yet in order to fund these programs, the government must tax its constituents at-large. This almost definitely would cause suffering for some segment of the populace, if for no other reason than that it forces them to give up money they would not give up otherwise. So it seems like a naturalistic view of minimal suffering is insufficient.

4) An individual responsible for determining right and wrong. This is where it gets considerably better. Finally it gets down to one unique standard of determining right and wrong. If this person is responsible for guiding moral law, then all choices come down to whether it falls on the right side or wrong side depending on how that one person sees it.

So the question then becomes this: who is that individual? If it is a human, would it be possible for him/her to govern all cultures at the same time with the same moral law? Technically it’s possible, but only if that person’s own considerations couldn’t be called into question. What I mean is that the person who affects moral law would also be bound to it, so if that person says lying is wrong but has lied, then there is a serious problem with their position as objectively moral.

So the individual must be someone who is bound to moral law but has no possibility of doing wrong. And what is the best explanation for that individual? First, the individual must be omni-benevolent, so good is embodied in them. Second, the individual must be omniscient, so that they have a perfect knowledge of the good. Third, the individual must be omnisapient, so that they have a perfect understanding of the best means to achieve that good. Fourth, the individual must be transcendent, so as to not be susceptible to the natural instincts that unfortunately cause us to sometimes do wrong. Fifth, the individual must be immanent, so as to be able to enforce the moral law.

I think if you look at all of the necessary attributes, the theistic God is clearly the best explanation for an objective standard of moral law. To break down the argument, one must either show that a better objective moral standard exists, or show that God does not possess at least one of the above attributes. It’s a very difficult challenge, because the biggest hurdle to overcome is a complete understanding of what is good; of course, I believe it to be impossibly difficult because I feel it cannot be demonstrated, but I’m willing to entertain objections to objective morality and counter-arguments to the best objective moral standard.

EDIT: Due to the comment made on this post, I feel it also necessary to note that the objective moral standard must also be immutable, for if the standard for moral law changed it would not be objective. Since the theistic God also possesses this attribute, the argument is still in good shape.

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51 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Philo on April 7, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Interesting argument. However, the first premise is, surprisingly, false!

    Suppose that God claimed one day that it was morally obligatory to torture infants to death just for fun, and that it was immoral to stop anyone from doing that. Suppose that, in spite of that, someone were to say “I don’t care what God says: torturing infants for fun is wrong! I refuse to co-operate, and I will willingly go to hell rescuing infants from torture.” Would that person be moral, or immoral?

    Well, those of us who believe that morality is objective — that morally wrong things are wrong, and morally right things are right, regardless of what anyone says — will say that the person would be moral. Torturing infants to death for fun is wrong, no matter what anyone (even God!) says. There are many of us who think that, and it’s actually quite an intuitively compelling view. If it’s correct, then it’s possible to have objective morality without God.

    However, some people might disagree. They will think that morality is whatever God commands, period. To them, a person who tortures infants to death for fun _before_ God endorses it is evil, but a person who tortures them to death _after_ God endorses it is morally praiseworthy. That is a very counter-intuitive view! But even if it’s correct, it follows from it that morality depends on the judgments and commands of a person (the divine person of God).

    What this proves is that, oddly enough, those who think that God’s commands are the basis of morality _don’t_ belive in objective morality, and those who believe in objective morality _don’t_ think that morality comes from God (even if they believe that God gives moral commands).

    So, the first premise of the argument is clearly false.

    Reply

    • Welcome to my blog.

      This is what I mean by a false dilemma. If God were to claim that, then there could be a dilemma. But since the God we’re talking about also possesses the attribute of immutability, His moral value judgments will never change, therefore this hypothetical claim to God changing his opinion on any moral choice is impossible. Therefore, it’s a false dilemma.

      So the first premise is clearly still in play, and it is the dilemma presented in your objection that is false.

      Reply

  2. Posted by William on April 12, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    But God, in the old testament, did in fact command that entire nationalities be killed (genocide). The adults were to be killed, and their children. In some cases, the God commanded the Israelites to kill everyone except the virgin girls, which they could take for their own… spoils of war, I guess.

    In the new testament, God seems to condemn these actions, at least for these latter times. But God had done that. Now, a Bible believer could not say that God commanded evil, so then they would also be forced to say that genocide, and taking virgin girls of the people just slaughtered, is not evil in and of itself.

    It would seem that if God had actually inspired the Bible, making it his own word, then murder, rape, etc, are only evil if they were not sanctioned by God; and if they were sanctioned by God, are then acts of righteousness. Is this correct?

    Also something to consider, when you read about the bible’s morals laws, dont most of them make sense to you? if they make sense to us, meaning that morals make rational sense, then do we really need the Bible to reveal those things to us? In fact many nationalities and even other religions that predate the old and new testaments have many, if not all, of the same moral values – without the Bible’s guidance.

    Reply

    • William,

      Interesting questions. Let me try to address each one in turn.

      The first question I ask to you is this: did any of those nationalities deserve anything less than death? If so, on what basis would you make such a claim? Because the Bible says “the wages of sin is death,” so the truth is that God, as a just and holy Being, is responsible for disposing of sin. So if He is only doing what is consistent with His nature to do, how is that wrong? Secondly, how can you possibly know that the best end wasn’t achieved using these means, unless you are omnisapient? So what is your objective basis for measuring God? Without a better objective foundation, it really comes down to your opinion, and unless you can show that you are a better moral standard than an omniscient, omnisapient, omnipotent, immutable, transcendent and immanent Being, there is no justification to believe that your ways could possibly be better than God’s ways of achieving the best possible end. So you can only judge God by God’s moral standard, and it seems like He is being consistent with His own nature, because He is exacting justice for sin, not “murdering” anyone–if you look at the root basis for that word in both the Hebrew and Greek to understand the driving force behind “murder,” I think that becomes self-evident.

      If you’ll look closely at the text, you will see that God does not condone things like murder, rape and slavery, though many atheists who are at best casual readers of the Bible would persuade you otherwise. That’s why I stress looking at both the actual text as well as the context for passages in the Bible, because both are important in understanding the implications and meaning of the Bible. There are many interpretations of the same passage, but that doesn’t mean they’re all right. There’s only one meaning to each text, and if you study it enough with sincere objectivity, you’ll probably find it. But to suggest that God sanctions murder, rape, etc. is to not take a serious and objective look at the text. I’d be happy to look at some examples with you if you would like.

      As to your question about rationality used in assessing moral law, to me that begs the question of why they make sense in the first place? Is it because our parents instilled in us these values? And where did they get them from? And so on to regress, unless there was an initial explanation of such values. I’m curious to know what nationalities and other religions predate the Old Testament writings where these values were first introduced, and where the historical and archaeological support is for such a claim. If you could clear that up for me, I’d sure appreciate it. Because that seems to be the basis for the rest of the argument. If there were no religions that are conclusively shown to predate the Old Testament writings of Genesis, etc., on their own merits and without discrediting the time of Biblical writing (an important distinction–support for itself and not attack against something else), then the evidence would suggest that any other text would likely draw from what was initially put down in the Biblical texts, and so the Bible’s moral laws do provide the basis for our rational understanding of them, as well as their inclusion in other religions.

      I welcome your responses. Thanks for your time and coming over!

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 12, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        I appreciate the way you reply and address these topics overall. I want to come out and say that I do not doubt in God’s existence, but I do have doubts that the bible is his word. I wanted to make that point, just so it is addressed right off the bat.

        You are correct, i am not at all equipped to be the judge of what is moral or immoral, or to define what is or isnt, and I have been undoubtedly influenced by the bible in my own life – that is true. I am not saying that killing those people in the old testament was wrong, or immoral, i am just saying that if God commanded it, then we cant really get upset when anyone is killed or slaughtered because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of god – and as you pointed out, the wages of sin is death. And I think you are correct about having to take the context of the passage to see when God commanded those actions and when he prohibits them, but today, how do we know events like 9/11 were not really God’s punishment on a wayward nation? if it was, then those evens were not evil or bad, but if God didnt want them to happen, then they were not good. I am simply saying since we do not know how God takes those actions, we are not equipped to say whether they were moral or immoral – if the bible is indeed his word.

        I guess, in regard to moral standards and laws being given prior to the bible I was thinking of Socrates saying not to render evil for evil, although that only predated the new testament and not the old. The Code of Hammurabi’s “eye for an eye” does predate the old testament however. I guess an argument could be made that Hammurabi only got his code from hearing God’s followers of that time recite them, meaning that Hammurabi didnt come up with them but borrowed them from God – although that is conjecture. I think there are other example but cannot think of the at the moment, so I could be mistaken. I’ll look around and see what else I can find. The bible could even be used though I guess. It tells of godless nations, before the old testament was written, that lived in communities and had their own laws… they didnt seem to need the bible to know how to get along with one another, at least within their own countries.

        There have been plenty of of people who argue that morality is a rational conclusion that is beneficial in this life. It may not be the most beneficial in the short term necessarily, but in the long term. Be good to people because if you are not you may find yourself alone and in need of help. laziness sounds good at the time, but with just a little foresight, one can easily see that laziness will not keep you or your offspring alive. I realize these are just a few simple scenarios, but it can show that being good makes sense, as well as depriving yourself of some things do as well. I think most people would agree. The fact that they make sense without needing the bible is a question with many possible answers, but the one I still have is why would we need the bible if we can find those things out on our own?

        But I dont think those are the basis of the argument at all. I would see the basis of the argument being that man wrote the bible and claimed that God told them to. So far, everyone I have spoken with has never once claimed to have seen God tell anyone to write anything. no one has ever claimed that God told them that the bible was really his word. All we have are copies of manuscripts that were originally penned by men who make huge and hard to believe claims. So it seems like faith in the bible is actually faith the claims of the bible’s authors, in men. SO we must take the evidence presented and do the best we can with it. I see perfectly rational explanations as to how we got the bible without God or anything miraculous being involved. can I prove them, I guess not, but it is more easily believable than the unproven claims that the bible was written by god.

      • I understand your point, William, but Biblical inerrancy has nothing to do with morality. Any possible contradictions in the Bible have to do with its historical accuracy, not with its moral teachings. One could disagree with inerrancy and still agree with the moral teachings of the Bible. So that’s not an issue that is really relevant to this discussion.

        To paragraph 2, it seems like you’re agreeing with me on some level, because if God is the moral standard then only He can know for certain what is actually right and wrong. However, He has given us some insight through the Bible about what He deems those to be. For instance, you should not steal something that doesn’t belong to you. God says this is wrong, no matter the situation. So there’s no reason to say that we can’t make a fairly accurate assessment of what’s moral and what’s not based on whether it lives up to the standards that we are aware of, even without perfect knowledge of morality.

        I think if the Hammurabi issue is at best conjecture, it’s probably not an argument worth going forward with in this discussion. I think our time would be better spent on the more concrete areas of the moral argument.

        The biggest issue with your argument in paragraph 4 is that it implies some foreknowledge in order to know that a singular moral choice will end up being beneficial in the long run. If objective morality is true, then it is not determined by majority vote, and therefore prior experiences that point to potential future benefit don’t really apply, because you’re using majority to render your conclusion. In order to correctly make that one choice to make the long-term better, you have to have foreknowledge of the long-term, which no human being has. Just because being lazy gives the appearance of potentially harming your offspring doesn’t mean it actually will. So this is a subjective opinion based on limited knowledge in making a moral choice. With God, the opinion cannot be subjective, and therefore we have all the information we need to make the right decision on-hand already. Clearly an option with all information available is a much better moral measuring stick than one based on limited knowledge and the chance for aversion. So I don’t think that argument holds weight.

        The end of this paragraph doesn’t really address my response about how we come to these conclusions on our own, because values are either inherent within us (which implies they were put there by some agent) or they were instilled in us by others, which continues to beg the question until you get an initial explanation. Either way, it comes back to an inherent nature in us, which makes most sense if it was put there by something, and so God represents the best explanation once again.

        So I think I’m still on firm foundation here. I welcome any other objections you may have.

  3. Posted by William on April 13, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    Oh, sure, i agree that God gave it to us. And if he gave us inherent knowledge of morality, then why do we need the bible for that knowledge.

    I guess that’s the point i was trying to make about Biblical errancy. I dont think that God and the bible are synonymous. People claim that God told them to write the bible, but why should I believe those claims? Since we’re talking about morality, i wonder why I need the bible if I can already figure morality out?

    ANd yes, if the bible were god’s word, then it would dictate morality. And since God commanded the slaughter of entire nationalities, then that slaughter cannot be evil, or God would have commanded evil. I’m just posing the question, since genocide seems counterintuitive to our internal moral code, how do we rationalize that completely? It could be an indication that it was not from god.

    But the Hammurabi thing is not all conjecture. He even wrote his law on stone so that we have the original with us today. Check it out.

    Reply

    • Let’s start simple and work backwards. The Hammurabi code is not conjecture–your opinion about whether or not Hammurabi came up with the code or got it from someone else is. Hardly conclusive evidence either way, so I would drop that point of your argument, as it neither adds nor subtracts anything.

      Ok if you agree that God gave us inherent morality, we can move forward. The question then becomes what exactly He gave us. Was it an inherent knowledge that morality exists, or was it clear knowledge of right and wrong? I think the best answer to that question comes in infants. Are infants born with a clear understanding of right and wrong? If so, I’d love to see the evidence that supports that view. If not, then it goes to show that right and wrong are learned, by which we need learning tools. And this goes to the issue that I’ve touched on twice before. What are those learning tools if not the Bible? Predecessors? But where did they get them from? And so on until there is an initial objective explanation, like some text that gives us insight. Like the Bible.

      We’ve already touched on the genocide issue two rounds prior, and it seemed like you backpedaled to the “well I’ll admit we can’t know for sure” position, so I thought it was done. What about my argument wasn’t clear that time?

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM

        The code of Hammurabi was only mentioned to show that people had what the bible gives, before the bible was given. I’m not sure how that is not relevant. The conjecture, as you pointed out, is did Hammurabi get that from God – that is the only part that really doesn’t belong in this discussion. I still think that Socrates is applicable as well, because he taught that you should not render evil for evil, way before Christ or the NT taught such, or was in existence. SO the bible is coming late to the game – that doesnt mean that God didnt write it, but it does show that people are able to formulate a strong moral code with out the bible. I thought that was what we were talking about.

        And you have a good point about infants, but I don’t think that it covers all the bases. Infants don’t know how to control their bladders yet, doe sthat mean that god must teach them how, or is it because their muscles havent developed completely? Let’s look at people as a whole. I am sure you were taught many things as I have been. I am also sure that you have figured somethings out on your own, correct? I believe that i have. The previous two points are verifiable evidence that people can come to a biblical understanding of morality without the bible. whether they were born with it, taught it, or have figured it out arent really the issues here. The issue is, do we need the bible to know what is moral or ethical?

        And I dont mean to be backpedaling, i’m just throwing around ideas. I dont think we know much at all “for sure.” We make the best decisions we can with the knowledge we have at the time. Hopefully as time goes on we acquire more knowledge and wisdom and are better equipped to make these judgements.

        Do you know for sure, and if so how?

        Also, I didnt realize that I was confused on the genocide thing. what am I missing?

      • Genocide–look at my comment three comments ago. There are two whole paragraphs devoted to it.

        The code of Hammurabi was dated as being written down before the Biblical texts we’ve discovered. This does not mean that Hammurabi’s laws pre-dated the Bible. That is the part that is pure conjecture, and as such doesn’t really add anything to your case. That’s why I suggested dropping it.

        Your infant argument doesn’t make sense, because it’s talking about physical characteristics, not moral choices. So you’re talking apples and oranges here.

        The question about teaching in your opinion is this: how do we figure them out on our own? What examples of things have you figured out on your own without any experiential teaching? Things like “I shouldn’t touch the hot coffee pot” are not moral choices, so what I’m looking for are moral choices you’ve figured out on your own without any prior knowledge or teaching. That would be pertinent to the discussion, and we could proceed further. It’s the infinite regress of experiential teaching that points to the necessity of the Bible, so it really is the issue in this discussion.

        And I agree that we make the best decisions we can with the knowledge we have at the time. I just submit that using the Bible as the basis for morality gives us far more available knowledge than any other possibility for moral standards.

  4. Posted by Damian Meagher on April 15, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    As I was reading your artilce, I was struck by the two examples your gave that demonstrate “Moral Law” namly that rape is always wrong and killing a newborn baby is morally wrong. I know it was touched on in earlier comments but I felt as though you brushed over the issue. There are many, many examples in the old testament of god ordering the rape of young women and the killing of newborns, (I take the liberty of posting two examples below). Now how can it be that these actions are moral when god commands it but immoral today? Either rape and murder of infants is immoral ALL the time and hence an example of a moral law, or it somtimes permitted to rape and murder if god commands it, in which case your example of an immutable moral law falls down.

    ” And at midnight the LORD killed all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn son of the captive in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.” Exodus 12:29-30

    “Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. “Why have you let all the women live?” he demanded. “These are the very ones who followed Balaam’s advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the LORD at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves.”
    Numbers 31:7-18

    Reply

    • If you’ll recall, the examples I gave were that rape was wrong and the murder of newborns was wrong. “Killing” and “murder” are different concepts–take a look at the nature of self-defense, for one. The righteous punishment for sin and the selfish angry intent behind murder are independent of each other. So your examples of killing newborns don’t really apply to the concept I’m talking about here.

      And your example of rape isn’t one actually. The big issue is that there is no act of rape found anywhere in this text. All it says is that the virgins are to be for the soldiers. But it doesn’t state for what purpose. It could have been to marry them and welcome them into the household as part of their family (a la Ruth and Orpah, who were Moabites but welcomed into the family of the Israelites), or it could have been any number of other explanations. So to infer rape in this passage is purely your interpretation, and since there’s no evidence of rape in the text, this example is also faulty.

      So I don’t think there’s really an issue here with either of my examples. But I appreciate your time and coming over here. I welcome any other objections you may have.

      Reply

  5. Posted by William on April 15, 2011 at 9:40 AM

    You are right, it does not say rape, and the Law of Moses seems to prohibit such, so I imagine that they were either takes to be wives or to be used as servants, but either way, i also imagine that it was little consolation to them.

    This is also what I’m talking about, though. So many things within the bible seem to make sense. Love, don’t kill, steal, care for the needy, etc, etc… they all make sense. So does this mean that morals and ethics make sense? I think so, but it’s harder to say that when you use the bible as that one stop and only true source, because of instances in the old testament where these actions were commanded.

    While there is a difference between killing and murder, i doubt you would say that we should go and slaughter the people of Saudi Arabia because they’re Muslim infidels who have forsaken the lord. It wouldn’t be murder as much as it would be a mercy killing. And their children, at least the boys, would be better off because they would get to go to the Christian heaven if they were still young enough and innocent – even though they’d be completely terrified at watching their parents and possibly siblings killed in front of them. The Girls could be taken to the USA, at least the virgins, and welcomed with opened arms. I cant speak for you, but this does not seem like a moral act on the surface. On the surface it seems immoral. But if the bible is from God, then these actions are neither moral or immoral, because only what God commands would be the determining factor as to what is moral.

    If that’s the case, then why would any morals make sense to us at all? Some morals make sense, but others do not in the bible. The exception may be the NT, as I believe it has a great ethical code. But God is unchanging and according to the bible he did command genocide (whether the Israelites were to have a loving attitude when doing so, I suppose, could be the case). I think that morals make sense, though. I think we have the ability, which has been verified throughout history around the world, of figuring out and formulating a moral that we can live by. We could even have an inherent sense of morality. I think compassion is involved with morality, and love too. Do you believe that love and compassion have to be taught? And I think they can be expanded upon, but must they be taught completely?

    Reply

    • Hi William,

      So am I right in my assessment that you believe the OT and NT to be in dis-harmony? And if so, in what ways?

      And if we’ve been able to figure out moral code through history, where was the baseline for this code? More specifically, WHAT was the baseline? Ought not these historical cultures needed a Tertium Quid by which to measure morality?

      Finally, perhaps things like love and compassion don’t need to be taught, but only if they’re inherent within us. And what good explanations are there to have inherent moral values from birth?

      Reply

  6. Posted by Damian Meagher on April 15, 2011 at 4:06 PM

    Thanks for your response, I offered the example god killing the firstborn of Egypt as an example of unjustifed murder. If we examine the story in context it is very clear that the firstborn are being punished (killed/murderd in fact) by god in am attempt to both punish Pharaoh for his intransigence. In this context it is resonable to assume two things, that the firstborn themselves gave no offence or commited any sins, the sin lies with Pharaoh and the other assumption I think we can make is that in all the land of Egypt, at least some of the firstborn would have been newborn babies. Now in your original article you said that
    “The baby has no ability to discern right from wrong, and so could not have committed a wrong against the mother for which it is self-defense or retalation. There is no instance in which the murder of this baby could be considered right, so it is objectively wrong in every instance.”
    I now submit that there is no instance in which killing the firstborn of Egypt could be considered right either. Just to clear that this is not an isolated case in the bible of god condoning the murder of children I have the following list.

    Numbers 31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones.
    Deuteronomy 2:34 utterly destroyed the men and the women and the little ones.
    I Samuel 15:3 slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.
    2 Kings 8:12 dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
    2 Kings 15:16 all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
    Isaiah 13:16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.
    Isaiah 13:18 They shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eyes shall not spare children.
    Ezekiel 9:6 Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children.
    Hosea 13:16 their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.

    Now in all these examples it may possible to claim god is punishing the wicked and the sinners but I fail to see how the little children fall into these catergories.

    Now to the question of rape in the bible. It is clear from the context that the virgin girls are to be spoils of war, booty and loot. It is facile to pretend that young girls spared in war have been kept for any other purpose than rape. If the victors marry such girls, does that make the crime any less vile? No, it is just rapist deciding to continue the sexual servitude indefinatly. Indeed, what can one say about the situation af a girl whose village or city is destroyed, her family killed in front of her, she is raped and then forced to marry the man responsible for all this? I’m afraid we find no useful moral compass in the bible at all.

    Reply

    • Damian,

      Can you show me specifically in the rape passage where it says there was rape involved? And if it is implied, can you show me internal support for this implication elsewhere? I’m afraid I just don’t see it here.

      As to the murder issue, can you define for me what you believe “murder” to be? And just to be clear, you’re saying there is absolutely no reason to purge the entire heathen community? I just want to make sure I understand your position entirely.

      Reply

  7. Posted by William on April 18, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    No, I dont view the old and new testament to be in complete disharmony, but the old testament does have God commanding the Israelites to do things that we view as immoral now, that’s all. Based on this, i am posing two possibilities. One, if the bible is from God, then these commands that seem contrary to what we think of morals would seem to indicate that we do not know what is or isn’t moral – we would need God to teach us that. Two, since many other moral teachings do make sense to us in a rational sense, then perhaps we already know or at least have the capacity to know what is moral without a book that seem to condone apparent or typically immoral actions (the genocide/etc discussed earlier)- at least in specific cases (this may also be an indication that the bible is not from God, although I dont think it serves as proof for such, just evidence).

    Reply

    • What specific things do we consider immoral now? And is it right to hold history to our current standards?

      Also, just to clear up, what do you define as “genocide”?

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 18, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        those are good questions I guess. You ask if we should hold history to our standards. Do you think that time changes morality? maybe it does to some degree – I’ll have to think a bit more about that.

        I guess I define genocide by the common understanding, “the policy of deliberately killing a nationality or ethnic group.” the Israelites did this. I dont say that to knock them, it appears that many people in that time were guilty of that. But I guess this goes back to question #1 of your previous post, I think that most people view genocide as immoral today. Many people view slavery, taking virgin girls for their own after killing their families, killing children of any age, etc.. as immoral.

        This was commanded in the OT. Maybe it was good, maybe not, but If God had not commanded it, would it be good or ethical?

      • If time changes morality, than morality would not be objective, right? We’d be looking at subjective standards of morality, based on the time period?

        And if that is the definition of genocide, what is its purpose? Can genocides be different (i.e. have different motives)? Or is all genocide the same?

  8. Posted by William on April 18, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    This is an interesting discussion. I am not completely sure what you’re asking regarding the time vs, morality. I tend to think that genocide would be wrong regardless of the time period, but admittedly, I am looking at things from a present day perspective. Do you think morality is objective?

    The purpose of genocide? I guess for the Israelites, according to the bible, was that they were to eliminate the Canaanites so as to eradicate their false religions and in order to give the Israelites a new home where they wouldn’t have to build houses, or plant vineyards. I guess genocide could have different purposes, but so could almost anything else. Not that I am against situational ethics necessarily. are you suggesting that genocide could be good, depending on the situation – in this case God commanding it? what if we didnt know what god wanted, could someone rationally conclude that it was okay to commit genocide?

    Reply

    • I do believe in objective morality, yes. I think the blog post makes that pretty clear. 🙂 So if something like genocide is supposed to be wrong regardless of the time period, then it would be an objective moral value, right? Just making sure we agree.

      My question was more to the general purpose of genocide. Is there one singular purpose, or does it depend on the situation?

      Consider a hypothetical. A cult exists that is comprised of serial killers whose only goal in life is to wipe everybody else off of the planet. They have made it clear that arresting them will do no good, because they will do everything they can to escape and kill anyone they can. They are 10,000 strong, and are bunkered down at an abandoned sports arena to work on building nuclear devices with which to achieve their ultimate goal. The government decides that in order to preserve more lives, it will drop a bomb on the arena during one of the meetings, which kills all 10,000 of these serial killers. Is this immoral? If so, why?

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 19, 2011 at 7:57 AM

        The situation you present could be fine, but it is not the same as what the Israelites did. Let’s say Al Quaida invaded the USA and made the attempt to kill every inhabitant (men, women, children – maybe keep the virgin girls to make into wives or servants) so that they could eliminate the great white devil, erase our evil and carnal lifestyles, move into our homes and enjoy our fertile country. Would that be moral? This is more similar to what the Israelites did.

        The Canaanites had their homes and the Israelites invaded and took their lives and their homes. Does that seem moral or ethical?

      • So you would not equate the government in my hypothetical with God? Wouldn’t they both be acting in the best interest of their entire constituency? And doesn’t this even jibe with group morality, where sacrificing some to protect the sanctity of the whole is considered appropriate and even honorable?

  9. Posted by William on April 19, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I see where you’re coming from, but the issues is, how do we really know that Israel was really being directed by the true God? And also, the Israelites were not wiping the Canaanites out because the Canaanites were murderous terrorists. That’s really the reason why I dont fully agree with your analogy. I get it, I just didnt think that it was the most accurate portrayal of what we wee discussing.

    Reply

    • But then wouldn’t that be an issue with the Israelites, and not with God? So would we not be shifting the focus to the morality of the Israelites, and taking it at their level instead of God’s level? I think that’s what we’re seeing here, is that the morality issue is not with God, but with the Israelites. So to me it depends on what the moral choice was for the Israelites. Was it to wipe out the Canaanites or not, or was it to follow God’s command or not? If it’s the former, then we’re dealing with the morality of man, to which the Moral Argument still holds merit, because in the argument we’re not talking about what morality is, but where it comes from. If it was the latter, then saying “The situation you present could be fine” as you did means that you are OK with genocide so long as it provides the means to the best end, which is sort of an underlying implication of omnisapience–and this is also consistent with the Moral Argument I presented.

      So you see? You are OK with my Moral Argument either way when it comes to genocide. So we have no reason to argue, because clearly this means objective moral values do exist, and either way God’s omnisapience demonstrates His superior ability to be the moral measuring stick by which we base things. Therefore, the existence of such a God is the most plausible explanation for the moral framework we possess.

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 25, 2011 at 6:41 AM

        I dont know that I’m in disagreement, but I dont fully agree either. I’m really just trying to point out that some of what the bible says to be “good” is understandable to us – we can see why we should behave in such a way, and we can see how it would benefit us, etc. We also see, however, a few instances of what has been commanded by the bible god (which would have to be “good”) that seems contrary to our understanding of “good” or moral, such as genocide for example.

      • But you said that my hypothetical situation was OK. If you replace “government” with “God,” “bomb” with “Israelites” and “serial killers” with “Canaanites,” you basically have the same situation. So how can it be contrary to your understanding if you agree?

  10. Posted by William on April 26, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    because the Canaanites were not like the terrorists in your analogy. they were people, families who lived in their homes. They were not making war – Israel was.

    Reply

    • Oh? And how do you know this? How do you know that these were peaceful people minding their own business instead of making war on other neighboring tribes? And there’s also a second piece to the puzzle: supposing God introduces spiritual warfare. Were not the Canaanites warring with God on a spiritual level by worshiping their idols? So how innocent can we really project them as being?

      Reply

  11. Posted by William on April 27, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    Well, I guess that’s the question. But we only have to read the OT itself to see who attacked whom. My point in bringing this up is, if the bible is from God, and if what you say is true about them being spiritual terrorists/warmongers because they served other gods, then there is nothing wrong or immoral about killing anyone today because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and as you pointed out earlier, the wages of sin is death. However, killing people and genocide seem contrary to what we naturally regard as moral – at least they do for me and the people I know.

    Morality has been around before the OT and NT. The bible does have some very good moral teachings, but it also has somethings in it, such as genocide, that do not seem as moral as love thy neighbor, etc.

    I think the evidence points toward us not needing the bible to know morality, but if you are right and the bible is God’s word, then i am merely suggesting that we do not know and are incapable of truly understanding what is good. Why do some moral teachings in the bible make sense and others do not? Why not show the Canaanites that they were wrong in serving idols by some miraculous means. Miracles persuaded Moses, Paul, Thomas, and countless others in the bible, but the Canaanites were to be destroyed so that the Israelites could have a free place to dwell.

    Also of interest, apparently the archaeological evidence contradicts the bible in the genocide account. So far, from what I have read, the evidence currently shows that the Israelites never lived in the wilderness for 40years but were dwelling in Canaan with the Canaanites. It shows Jericho being destroyed long before OT text has it being conquered, as is the case with AI and probably other cities as well. But I am no scholar. This is just based upon what i have read.

    Reply

    • I agree with you 100%. There is nothing wrong or immoral about God killing anyone because we’ve all sinned and deserve death. We’ve spat in the face of God, and as a just and holy Being His response to sin should be appropriate. We deserve no second chances, but the fact that we’re still here demonstrates God’s unbelievable mercy in not wiping us out. So perhaps the question that’s needed here is “how could God look on what I thought and did and said yesterday and not kill me in my sleep?” When you look at it that way, you believe not in the supremacy of man (God owes me something), but in the supremacy of God (I owe God everything). Until you look at that way, you can’t possibly know what morality looks like, because the perception is that you believe yourself to be the best standard for determining moral values. When you flip the script, you see it for what it really is. I would encourage you to try looking at it that way.

      We’ve already discussed the flimsiness of your argument about morality being around before the OT and NT, so I don’t know why you brought it up again. I’m just going to leave that one alone.

      I think the answer to your question of “why do some moral teachings in the Bible make sense and others don’t” has everything to do with your perspective. If it doesn’t jibe with the way you view life, it doesn’t make sense. But why is God subjected to what you think makes sense? Doesn’t that just seem like God is your subordinate in this case, doing your bidding to make sure everything He does fits with what you want?

      Why doesn’t God show the Canaanites by some miraculous means? Why didn’t God give you 4 arms so you can do twice the work? The truth is that we don’t know the answers to these questions, but an all-knowing and all-wise God would certainly know better than us the best means to achieve the best end, wouldn’t He? So why are you trying to tell God how He should do His work, when He knows more and is wiser than you?

      Does this make sense? I know it seems like I am hammering away on the same point repeatedly, but all of your arguments point the same direction–that you think God owes you something. He ought to give you an explanation for why He didn’t do things the way you would. And if you’re the best objective moral standard, I think your point would be valid. But if we’re allowing for the possibility of God, we can’t allow for His existence but none of His attributes. And that I think is the big problem. I think what people are saying is, “I don’t like His attributes, so I don’t think He exists,” which is terrible from a logical, philosophical and metaphysical standpoint.

      The archaeological piece, while interesting, isn’t really relevant to this discussion on morality. We can have that discussion at another time if you wish, but this seems like a red herring.

      Reply

      • Posted by William on April 27, 2011 at 9:47 AM

        Didnt mean to drop a herring, i brought it up to coincide with the obvious places that show that man did in fact have a sense or morality prior to both the OT and NT. If you have thoroughly thrashed that idea I missed it. How is stating the facts regarded as flimsy? Do you believe that morality was nonexistent prior to the OT and NT?

        I used to look at things the way you do. I do not believe god owes me anything or that anyone owes me anything. I think that I owe it to God or the creator and myself to honestly look for what is truth and I think morality is part of that truth. let’s not forget that you have the bible because of man. God didnt give it to you, someone else did and told you it was from god. I am nit trying make myself THE Moral standard, but I used to really enjoy reading Preverbs (and still do), the sermon on the mount, the fruits of the spirit, and so on, because they made sense. I could see why they were moral and why it would be good to live by them. But I do not see why it was morally good to slaughter the Canaanites (one example). SO, if those guys that gave you your bible were right, and the bible is god’s word, then morality doesnt really make sense. Some of the moral teachings may seem to, but we cant trust our sense if genocide can be moral (unless you are truly perplexed as to why people find genocide immoral). In which case we could only know what is morally good by the bible and not by our own reasoning.

        But history does show us that people had many, if not all, of the moral teachings withing the OT and NT prior to both the OT and NT – which indicates that people don’t need the bible for a moral compass. The bible even indicates this as it even claims to be written and handed down after many generations of people had already passed. Could God have guided them, sure, but they didnt have the bible.

        And in all of this, I am questioning the bible – not god. If god wanted to do things that way, then fine, he can certainly do it as he likes – he just hasnt told me that he wanted to do it that way. I am questioning the claims of the men who authored the bible – not the claims of god. I want to know if the bible is from god, because god didnt tell me it was or show me it was. All I have are the claims of men, that is it. I do not want to be guilty like the young man of god was in the OT when he trusted the Old Prophet (who turned out to be lying).

        But you are right, if the bible is from God, then we should follow it, I just find things in it that make me question that claim. Needing the bible for morality is one of those that makes me question. But what should we do with the bible if shows itself to be a product of man? The archeology is one way we can test it, and it is not 100% in agreement as I was raised to believe. If it is not from god, then the bible is no more an authoritative moral source as a cook book.

        Hammurabi wrote his code before Moses was ever said to have existed. Socrates said do not render evil for evil before the time of Esther, and much before Christ. This is not conjecture and is easily verified by a simple google search. but you seem familiar with philosophy so I would imagine that you are already aware of these examples.

        So i guess, do you think morality makes sense, and if so how or why?

      • But see I think what’s happening is that you are picking and choosing your own morality. You pluck the parts of the Bible that sound good to you, and reject the rest. That’s not the way objective morality works. That would be like choosing to only learn about the nice parts of history, but ignoring all the wars and violence because “they’re just too icky.” It doesn’t change the objectivity of the historical events, but what is being chosen is how much you are willing to accept. If that’s what you think works best for you, that’s OK, but just call it for what it is: a subjective view of morality based on what you think is right.

        While there may have been Codes of Law that pre-date Mosaic law in terms of their being written down, they are not sufficient for positioning objective morality. Why? Because their source was not omnibenevolent, so the founders of these codes could easily transgress against the codes, which renders their founders insufficient as a source for morality. An objective standard of morality must be bound to the moral law but have no possibility of transgressing it. And that is what I’m positing in my blog post, that God is the best explanation as a source for objective moral values. And there is nothing in the Bible that talks to God that contradicts an objective morality. The contradictions you are discussing here are contradictions to your own morality, and I ask again why you feel God (Biblical or not) must be subject to your standards. Because that seems to be the major hang-up you have with the Bible.

  12. Posted by William on April 29, 2011 at 7:23 AM

    But I am not saying that god is subject to my own moral standards. What I am saying is that certain moral standards seem rational. they seem to resonate with “man” in general, across time and nationality. Of course there a numerous instances where people obviously break these “standards”, but all that shows is that people are imperfect, just as there are plenty of bible believers who routinely break the bible’s laws.

    I guess it’s easy to say that I want god to do what i want him to do, but that is not at all the case. I try to seek out god’s will and truth, but there have been many things that really make me question and seriously doubt that the bible is from god. And again, I think morality is one of them. The NT has many, many good moral teachings in it, which I try to live by, but that alone does not make it from god.

    I am saying that we should all be subject to morality. I could more easily accept the notion that god put the moral standards into each of us (our conscience for example) more easily than i could take the notion the god gave his moral code to a very select few who were to write that code down and then pass it along to us, while leaving nothing that verifies its claims, but leaving for us many things that seem to contradict those claims.
    you’re basing all of this on the assumption that the authors are being 100% honest and 100% correct. I am more skeptical, at least now, and when i see that people had the same ideas of morality prior to the bible, then that makes me think that the bible is indeed not needed to know morality.
    Because people knew what was moral before the bible doesnt mean that they invented morality, it may just mean that they discovered it or decided to mandate that people follow what they already knew.
    And then when I see things being condoned in the bible, such as genocide, which seem completely contrary to our natural understanding of what is ethical, it certainly does give me pause.

    If I do tell myself that the genocide in the bible was for the best, i still struggle to see how. I see people being slaughtered today who are not Christians and I do not feel like it is a good thing or that it is god’s will – but maybe it is. They have rejected god and Jesus and according to the bible that is a terrible sin, so they are deserving of being killed, according to you, right? I mean, if something is right and good, then it is right and good… or was in only right and good in the OT and no longer right and good now? What was loving, merciful and long suffering about killing families and taking their daughters, houses and possessions?

    Reply

    • I think we’re getting closer. I also believe that God has instilled His moral law into us, so we have it innately from birth. However, it doesn’t make sense to just figure it out on our own, because we don’t see evidence of that in any other walk of life. We don’t figure out how to speak words on our own–our parents and other adults coach us and help us along. We don’t just learn math on our own, but teachers help us with the basic tenets to put us on the right path. So it would be absurd to think that some type of support or teaching wouldn’t be necessary to help us develop the framework for the moral code. That is part of what I think is the purpose of the Bible.

      Now obviously the Bible doesn’t touch on every single possible moral choice, but I think it does the job of covering off on the principles that govern those moral choices. It is evident to me that it is the most complete moral framework we have, which makes sense given that the belief is that it was handed down from God Himself through men. If there’s a better moral framework out there, I sure haven’t seen it.

      Again, genocide might some contrary to your standards of what is ethical, but the genocide you think of is brought upon by man and to man. That is not what is seen in the Bible. And I think you have a mistaken notion that the nature of God has changed from the time of the OT until now. It most certainly has not. It has manifest itself in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that the just, holy and wrathful nature of God in relation to sin isn’t still there and being used.

      So what is your standard for morality, because I’m not mistaken in my assumption that you believe in objective morality, right? And if I am, what is the basis for that?

      Reply

  13. Posted by William on May 2, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    I get you, but like math, through some simple”education” of simple laws and principles, a student can then figure harder notions out on their own – if they truly understand the first principles. They must make sense in order to build upon them. I think morality is similar.

    I think that you only can make a distinction of genocide as we know it today and the genocide in the bible, that god is credited with commanding, by saying that god commanded one and (as far as we know) has not commanded the others. If we rationalize the OT genocide by saying that sinners were killed or brought to justice, then how can we say that any genocide is wrong if we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of god? This part does not makes sense to me the way that “love your neighbor,” or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you” does. And I’m not really saying that the nature of god has changed from OT to NT, but his interaction certainly has – something has changed.

    My standard? What’s my standard for math, or physics? it’s not merely the contents of a book. Or because professor whoever said so. Even if I trusted completely and solely on those text books or professors, i should still recognize that they could be wrong and there is still an absolute answer to 2 + 2 whether I have it right or not. SO I guess if i’m going to take the time to try to understand morality, i think that it must make rational sense to me. That does not mean that I will know all there is to know about morality, but i should keep pursuing it. I guess it is similar to Socrates and Plato’s idea of the “forms” where a perfect circle exists even though man cannot replicate it, but it is the knowledge of what a perfect circle is that helps us in producing our best circles (the circle is used as a metaphor.)

    As far as objective morality is concerned – I do not feel comfortable signing my name to it exclusively. I guess it depends on how one phrases the ethical question though. is it wrong to steal? yes, but in every instance – I dont think so. I find no fault in someone stealing to provide a need to their loved ones, such as bread for a starving child. Also is it wrong to kill, I believe that it is, but i also recognize a difference in someone defending their family from a violent home invader and killing someone over a game of poker. I cant, at least at this moment, find a good reason to kill an entire nationality of people – a group of people maybe, but not a nationality. Should the USA have declared war on Arabs because Al Qaeda is compiled of Arabs?

    Reply

    • William,

      But your perfect circle example is exactly my point. We need a perfect standard for morality, and that being must also be incapable of becoming imperfect. And the best explanation for such a being is the theistic God. So you’re affirming my point, not countering it.

      However, you contradict your own opinion in the last paragraph. If stealing is wrong, it’s wrong in every sense. Otherwise, to use your metaphor, it’s like saying a circle is a circle, but an oval is also a circle. The truth is that they are two different shapes because one fits the mold of a circle and the other one doesn’t. Morality is very much the same way. You can’t call stealing OK as long as it suits your purposes, because that’s subjective morality and the circle analogy falls apart. You can either have it one way or the other.

      This is what I mean by trying to have your cake and eat it too. Because you’re saying that it must make rational sense to you in order to believe, but your standard of “rational sense” is likely quite different from some other people (children, for instance). So you’re trying to say that morality must fit your standards, rather than fitting yourself into it. You keep denying that fact, but it keeps coming out time and time again. And if you choose to live that way, fine, but just call it for what it is.

      Reply

      • Posted by William on May 9, 2011 at 9:45 AM

        I think i understand your point, but…

        I do agree that God is a good source for morals to originate, but I was saying that one does not need the bible to know morality. Morality does not originate with the bible.

        what about killing? Right or wrong? Are there exceptions?

        even in the bible… take Jesus from the bible. the Jews were not allowed to work on the sabbath day, yet Jesus and his disciples gathered food (Ex 26:16-30) (Matt 12). It was also not right for anyone other than the priest to eat the Shewbread, but in both instances, there was an exception. Romans 14 also talks about exceptions. That’s why in my earlier post I said that it probably depended on how the question was asked. is murder wrong? is needless, selfish theft wrong?

        is it wrong to gather food on the Sabbath? Is genocide wrong?
        I believe circumstances can alter an outcome, but in matters such as rape, torture, etc, I find it hard to find exceptions to those. A truly black and white world would be easier, but i just dont see the world that way.

      • I agree that morality doesn’t originate with the Bible. I think we’ve talked about this already. But the Bible is sort of the owner’s manual of how to help determine moral values. We can’t possibly know what God is like without Him giving us some indication as to it, so the written word that He inspired is all we have to go on to understand His character. So while the Bible is not the basis for morality, it is the best tool we have in helping mete it out.

        Ultimately, though, this whole discussion of the Bible is tangential to my original blog post, which is to posit the theistic God as the best explanation for an objective moral standard. In order to knock down the argument, one must show that the argument is flawed (which I think is sort of your angle with bringing the Bible into it) and provide a better alternative. I don’t think you’ve really done the first, and you’ve made no attempts at the second. So I’m not entirely sure what you’re aim is here.

  14. Posted by William on May 9, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    just to discuss, really. I mean, you say that the bible is our guide to morality because god gave it to us. If god gave it to us, then i would agree, but that would mean that morality doesnt necessarily make rational sense (genocide) and the things that do make rational sense (love your neighbor) only make sense by coincidence. We couldnt have known about it, or figured it out without God sharing it with us.

    I was also trying to show where people who lived prior to the bible obviously new of “biblical” moral principles – which argues that we do not need the bible to know what is or is not moral. I understand that some people want to ignore this history, but it’s there. (If we ignore the that takes credit from the bible, then history cannot lend credit to the bible – we would really be acting like the bible lends credit to history.) Whether god still delivered those morals by whispering in man’s ear (until the bible) or he gave them to us so that they would become evident as we matured, or if god did nothing of the sort and we simply apply reason to discover them – I cant say for sure, although i have my guesses.

    So really, I come back to the question, why do you credit god with inspiring the bible? I mean, i know the bible authors make that claim, but has god made that claim? And again, if morality is objective, then is genocide morally good? DO morals make sense? all of them or just some?

    Also, yes I try to use my own reason to make judgements about things. But using the bible does not eliminate that does it? True, things like adultery are pretty clear and unmistakable in the bible, but things like drinking, or modesty, or baptism, or what type of music, or when to serve communion, etc, all take judgement and many “christians” cannot seem to reach a consensus on them. In light of that, i think dismissing what i am saying because I use my own reason to determine (not define) morality, and other things, is moot, because even christians do that – at least to some degree.

    we’re trying to reach a better understanding – I hope. You and I simply disagree to a degree at the moment.

    Reply

    • William,

      Not trying to be rude at all, but pretty much all of these points you’ve already made and I’ve defended, so I don’t know what re-hashing them will do.

      The one sort of new point we’ve been on is this “rational sense” morality. The problem is that this is pretty much textbook subjective morality. For instance, you say it makes rational sense for it to be OK for a man to steal food for his starving child. I would say that this does not make rational sense. So which one of us is right? That’s why “rational sense” can’t be the basis for morality, because it’s entirely subjective. Christians may do this to some degree, but just because it’s done doesn’t mean that it should be done. And that’s the difference: whether the fact that it is done is right or not, and where we fall on different sides of the coin.

      Let me ask you this: do you believe that God exists? What exactly are you arguing for on this issue? For God’s existence or against?

      Reply

  15. Posted by William on May 12, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    I’m not arguing for or against the existence of God. I dont quite understand you. You criticize the use of subjective morality, but then you defend genocide in the OT – does that mean that genocide is always okay, or morally good?

    ANd yes, we often say the same things that we have already said, but I think that’s because we dont think that the other has refuted our points (I know that’s true for me). While you have responded to my points, i havent seen where you have “defended against them” (at least to the point where they were defeated).

    What I am asking, is how do you know the bible is from God? Also, if you think its better to let starving children die rather than steal some bread for them, I am asking why genocide is moral in the OT and does that mean that genocide is always moral since morality is objective? I guess also, why was it wrong for the Israelites to gather food on the Sabbath, but okay for Jesus and his disciples to gather food on the sabbath, since morality is objective? Romans 14, why is okay to eat meat in one instance, but not in another? the list of biblical examples goes on…

    Reply

    • The Moral Argument is an argument in favor of God’s existence. If you are arguing against it, then you are arguing against God’s existence. I think your points might go a lot further if you would take a firm stand on one side or the other. Otherwise it just sounds like you’re trying to stir up dissension.

      If you believe in God, then you believe in His supremacy and omnisapience, and while you may not completely understand the reasons why He wants some things the way they are, you trust that because you are human and fallible and limited in knowledge, He probably knows better than you.

      I think you are too caught up in the acts, and not enough in the purpose. The Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7 that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” If you look at the intent, rather than what’s actually being done, I think that explains alot about objective moral values, and you’ll see that the Bible is internally consistent with that lens. But if you’re too focused on the word “genocide,” then of course you’re going to miss the point.

      So I ask again, are you for God or against Him?

      Reply

      • Posted by William on May 12, 2011 at 12:52 PM

        I am for god, which I believe I have said before. but your point is that morals originate from god and we know this from the bible. I am aware of what the bible claims, but unaware of why we should simply accept that. you say that morality is one way that we can accept that, but whether you want to see it or not, history shows that many if not all, of the bible’s morality had been taught prior to the time the bible was reportedly written. So people did not need the bible then, they have gotten the morality from God, but not the bible.

        I am suggesting the possibility that perhaps God gave us the ability to determine morality on our own. I am suggesting that if we have to use the bible as a moral guide or authoritative source, then we cannot know what is morally right on our own, and therefore the moral things that sense to have rational sense is only by coincidence. If the bible was THE source of morality, and things like genocide (which are contrary to most peoples sense of ethically good) would be okay – meaning that we dont really know and couldnt trust our rationality about morality.

        you are coming from the standpoint that god and the bible are essentially the same. I am asking why you think that, because I do not. Saying that something originates with god is different than saying it originates in the bible. God never said that the bible was his book, a few guys claimed that it was.

        Therefore, if you make the claim that we need the bible to know morality because god wrote, then it seems like a fair question to ask why you think it s from god.

        and how would you define the killing of entire nationalities, if not by “genocide.” we dont have to use the term genocide if you dont like it. What if I posed the question this way, “since the killing of entire nationalities was condoned in the OT, does that mean that the killing of entire nationalities is good to do today, since morality is objective?

      • Friend, it sounds like your war is not with me. If you are for God, as you say, then ask Him to be the revealer of things for you. When you try to do it on your own strength, these problems come up. If you have issues with the Bible, then study the historicity of it from both perspectives. See what proponents and critics alike have to say about it. It seems like a big problem for you is that “God hasn’t told us any of this stuff.” Well that’s not something I can convince you of, because I’m not God. I know what I believe, why I believe it, why I believe in the Bible (watch Voddie Baucham on YouTube for a great explanation of this). I know that nothing you have argued derails the argument in this post, because it only applies to a general scope of morality, not the Moral Argument as it was presented.

        If you want answers on morality, friend, they’re not here. They’re in a book that is reliable, authentic, corroborated and filled with truth. I hope you would look there for your answers. You can’t disprove the Bible without the Bible, so start there before you go to the commentaries, and work your way through it. Read Romans and Colossians and James, and they might help you at least understand why Christians believe and strive to live the way that they do. Then maybe we can talk some more. Thanks for your questions and discussion.

      • Posted by William on May 12, 2011 at 1:01 PM

        I also wanted to add that I absolutely agree that god would know anything better than me. That’s kind of the point. genocide seems so completely obviously wrong, that I dont think God would condone it. But maybe he would, I could be wrong, so then why should I trust that the bible is his when he never told me it was and all we have is the claims that miracles used to happen that supposedly proved it, but they (miracles/proof) just dont anymore so I should just go along with it. That’s just a little too much like the Emperor’s New Clothes for me.

  16. Posted by William on May 17, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Sabe, thanks for your response, but I think that response hints at another problem. I have read the bible, and do still. I have read histories that support the bible, but i have also read histories that do not support the bible (in fact do not agree with the bible). I can say the same for science and archaeology. I know what I believe and why,as well. But the problem is that I have mentioned some of this before which indicates that you have not really been paying attention, or have purposely made the decision to ignore and assume/accuse me of just not knowing enough. I guess that’s fair though, seeing as how I feel like you haven’t made it through all of the evidence yet either. I guess that could be why many of my questions to you went unanswered (whether intentionally or unintentionally).

    And again, it’s not answers to morality that I am seeking here, it is not to have a war with anyone. Perusing through your blog and comments I saw that you were saying that the morality in the bible is evidence of God. I wanted to discuss that with you, that’s all. Do you view this as a war? I just dont agree and would like to know your thought process; the “why” to your conclusion.

    And True, “god hasnt told you that he wrote the bible” isnt the point, but it illustrates that you are placing your faith in the mortal authors of the bible. God shared something with them (if the bible is true) who in turn shared it with you (many times removed). I think this point cant be ignored, although it is not the main reason why I dont think the bible is from God… Plus, as it relates to this discussion, we can see where people had a sense of morality that almost perfectly mirrored what was in the bible, before the bible was written – hence morality came before the bible.

    I will say that the bible is full of very moral teachings, but that in and of itself is not proof of divine inspiration. That being said, i do not wish to “war” with anyone on the matter, nor do I want it to be viewed that way. I will bow out and leave it with us disagreeing on certain aspects of morality, while agreeing with others.

    Take care and good luck with you search for truth. May we all find it.

    Reply

  17. There’s a problem with your ‘objective moral standards’, on my blog you made a comment saying:

    “there is no reasonable objective moral standard apart from God.”

    And you later claimed that:

    “In order to be objective, there could be no possible situation in which this would be false.”

    Okay so, this would mean that in order for your moral standards to be objective there could be no possible situation in which ‘Thou shall not kill’ would be false, yet you claim that like Abraham you would obey God’s command to kill if such a command was made.

    This is a situation in which in which ‘Thou shall not kill’ would be false, so how is it objective?

    Or is it still objectively wrong despite God commanding it?

    Since you came over to my blog to debate this, I’m more than happy to share my opinion on the matter. Your issue is one that is due to a lack of Biblical scholarship. I can’t fault you for that–the people that understand the Bible are the ones that read it with the intention of understanding. I’m guessing that’s not really your intent in relation to the Bible, so it’s an easy, if only partially honest, mistake.

    The Hebrew word used in the verse you quoted is ratsach, which is more appropriately translated “murder, as with premeditation.” There is further evidence to support that concept. Matthew 5:21-22 shows Jesus’ explanation of the verse. Take a look:

    “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;”

    1 John 3:15 echoes this sentiment: “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.”

    As I mentioned on your blog, the issue is with the intent, not the action. Jesus makes that quite clear. The intent behind the “murder” that is forbidden in Exodus is anger in one’s heart. So the sin is the anger, and that is what God has commanded the Israelites to eschew.

    So when we look at the situation with Abraham, was there anger in his heart when he was going to sacrifice Isaac? I think if you look at it objectively, you will see that his heart was not one of anger, but one of love, both for his son and for his God. He didn’t want to sacrifice Isaac because he loved him, but he loved God more and was willing to do what God asked of him.

    So it is only a contradiction if you’re not willing to look into it. When you uncover the truth of the situation, it makes perfect sense.

    So there is no problem with my assertion of God as the best explanation for objective morality based on this objection. In fact, it stands all the more firm when you apply it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Doctor Bad Sign on July 24, 2011 at 6:37 AM

      So if I decide to get drunk and drive a car, without any express intention to kill anyone, yet I crash my car into a group of people killing one of them – is that okay because I didn’t intend to kill someone?

      I wasn’t angry, I didn’t intend to kill someone, but I did, and that’s okay because it wasn’t intended. Do you think this would hold in a court of law?

      Or say I was aimlessly shooting a gun into the distance, and I accidentally misfired and shot someone dead – without intending to. Is that okay too?

      Surely you have to account for responsibility as well as intent, because you can act irresponsibly without any explicit harmful or malicious intent and still end up killing someone.

      Reply

      • But again you miss the point. What is the motivating factor behind getting drunk in the first place, or getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk? The same thing with aimlessly shooting a gun. Why do these things? It’s a sense of entitlement, which has its roots in pride. The intent of the heart is to be selfish and do what one thinks will be the most fun for himself or herself, which is prideful and therefore wrong.

        You’re missing the forest for the trees. You are still looking at it from the intent of the action, and that is my point when I say the issue is the intent of the heart. That’s why God tells Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

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