I didn't write this, but I like it. It's quite useful for reference around here, and I encourage anyone who reads this blog and/or its comboxes to digest it.
First, a word about the difference between an internal and an external critique. An internal critique is when somebody like Singer makes an argument against the moral character of God and then evaluates whether or not the Bible or Christianity offers an adequate and coherent response. It would be like giving the following argument: 1) One of God’s commands is that we shall not murder, 2) yet God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, 3) therefore, God is inconsistent. This argument is an internal one because it stays within the bounds of Christianity in order to identify an inconsistency. Notice that points 1 and 2 are both taken from the Bible. An external critique, on the other hand, tests something about Christianity against something outside of it. It would be like giving the following argument: 1) God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, 2) no truly good God would ask a follower of his to sacrifice his own son, 3) therefore, God is not good. Do you see the difference? The first one tests Christianity on its own grounds. The second one introduces an external standard or concept and tests Christianity against that external standard or concept. In that second argument the external concept is that “no truly good God would ask a follower of his to sacrifice his own son.” But from where is the objector getting his information about what a good God would or would not, or should or should not, do? Not from the Bible, not from Christian theology, therefore it is an external critique. And once we train ourselves to spot the kind of critique that an objector is making, we won’t be fooled into accepting the objector’s external arguments against Christianity without a sound basis for his moral judgments.
Why bring any of this up? Simply to show that in almost every case where an objection is raised against God’s goodness, the objector fails to launch an adequate argument. For some reason the objector seems to believe that he or she can simply say “God is evil” without showing where they get their idea of what is good and evil to begin with. Actually, the reason is quite simple. It’s very easy to state that God is evil without having to qualify that value judgment. What is much harder, on the other hand, is to say that God is evil and argue for that conclusion from a secular system of ethics. The reason being that no secular system of ethics can ever get off the ground. What ends up happening is the objector resorts to borrowing the Christian point of view in order to argue against the Christian point of view. But there’s a twist — the objector inserts his own definitions into his arguments from the backdoor. Let me explain.
One of the most common blunders that objectors make when they argue against God is they question God’s goodness using their own yardstick, their own understanding of what constitutes goodness – and then conclude that on account of God failing to meet their test that God is not good. But remember, the Bible doesn’t share their definition of goodness. So when they say something like “God is not good because there is suffering” — they’re substituting what they think “good” means apart from how Scripture defines it. As I’ve noted earlier, this is fine, it’s a valid argument, but not when the objector makes it seem like he’s exposing an inconsistency in God or Scripture. All the objector is doing is showing that his or her definition of goodness is different than the Bible’s.