Friday, December 12, 2008

God the great abortician

I can never be sure whether a comment I leave over at Dr. Bruce Prescott's blog will survive the moderation process. He's not apparently quite as fond of debate as he is of liberal politics, vicious assaults on President Dubya, unthinking social gospel "theology" and naked assertions.

Anyway, a recent post of his accuses the pro-life movement of "refus(ing) to address" this issue:

(quoting someone else) We know now that perhaps 30 percent of fertilized human eggs spontaneously cease development and are thus aborted in the early stages of pregnancy—often undetected. A considerable number of embryos miscarry during later stages of pregnancy. If we use the phrasing of the country’s founders — Nature and Nature’s God — what do we make of this reality? Should we view Nature or God as the supreme abortionist? A friend of mine who is a churchgoing fertility specialist speaks of such events as “accidents” but the theological and philosophical implications are enormous. A current metaphor is that not every acorn can or does or should become an oak tree.

(then his comment) If nature is so wasteful toward human embryos, how can anti-abortionists be so sure that there is a divine imperative to preserve embryos that were produced by rape, incest and in instances where the life and health of the mother is at risk?
Here is the comment I left:
The main problem with this reasoning is that it conflates God with man.
Sounds familiar, really.

God is not a human. He is the Creator and has the right to take life, just as He gave it. Indeed, He takes all life. Doesn't everything die? Of course, and it's all His "fault".

He can take life at any time, be it adult or really young, and it is 100% justified, especially human life since all are sinners. The question is: What actions is man justified in undertaking? Murder of human life is not among them. Abortion is therefore unjustifiable.
It's an easy argument to deal with; I don't know why anyone would call it sthg the pro-life mvmt "refuses" to deal with. Let me suggest Randy Alcorn's book on pro-life answers. It's the best I've ever seen.
----

This brings up something that Dr James White sometimes says. I love the man; he is a rock star. I just don't agree with EVERYthing he says. And one of those things is when, in his capacity as apologist, he is faced with the question of what happens to infants when they die. Personally, I thought John MacArthur's book Safe In the Arms of God was thought-provoking and confidence-inspiring, but the confidence is not bulletproof. So I say that I guess maybe I'm 80% sure that all infants go to Heaven if they die young, but I don't really know. I sure hope they do, b/c I miss my miscarried daughter and want to hug her someday, but the Bible is not clear on this question.

Anyway, Dr White says on this question: "If all infants who die young go to Heaven, then abortion is a huge populating influence in Heaven." He apparently has a problem with that concept, but I do not see why, so it puzzles me why he uses this argument in this context.

1) Ironically, see this post from Prescott - lots of babies do die every year from miscarriage, whether the pregnancy was known or unknown. So whether by abortion, miscarriage, accident, whatever - children are dying and going to either Heaven or Hell every year. Seems like we'd have to question God's justice in putting ANY child to death in any way...

2) That's God's business whether He wants to populate Heaven that way. We are not in a position to judge God. Dr White is usually stickler on this point; the implications of his statement must escape him in this case. And that's OK - we all have blind spots. Even rock stars.
One can't say the same thing for Prescott - most of his worldview is blind, with the occasional clear spot. It's a sad way to live.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

A Christian disagreeing with another Christian over something which should be trivially easy to resolve if in fact Christianity provided clear moral guidance? I find that hard to believe!

Rhology said...

In what way is this a moral question?
Also, what is your argument that the disagreement is NOT due to the vagaries of reasoning taking place in either Dr White's mind or my mind but is rather due to some lack of clarity in biblical teaching itself? Make sure to include how you know that in your answer.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Yeah, White's argument there always struck me as on the order of 'hmm, you know, a lot of people did come to faith through concentration camps...'

Rhology said...

Comment from the combox of that post:
Sepherim said -
For the sake of clarification, what gives God the creator the right to take life? I can claim some part of the process of creating my children, but I don't presume that I therefore have the right to take their lives?
I will look at the Alcorn book but I have yet to see or hear anyone who is pro-life adequately deal with the "supposed" moral problem of God destroying hundreds of thousands of lives this way.


I respond:

For the sake of clarification?
Well, OK. There are a few reasons why God has the right to take life.
Nothing "gives" Him the right. He has always possessed it and possesses it forever by virtue of His character and existence. He is the greatest being in existence. He is holy. He is good. He is infinitely wise.
Ephesians 1:11 tells us that "He works all things after the counsel of His will." Romans 8:28 explains this working further - that "He works all things for good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose."
At any rate, He gives life to every person. He is the very one who holds that life together, indeed, He holds every molecule in the universe together, actively. He is the author of life. The author has the right to decide when the book ends.

You have a highly subordinate part of creating your children. I don't know if I'd say "creating" at all, really.
Sperm met egg. Who made the sperm? A part of your body. Who made your body? Etc - take it all the way back and the answer is God. God made you. He also knows when it is best for you to die, and that's when you'll die.
In the same way, it is part of His plan that these babies (including one of mine, who was miscarried) die at a very young age. We must and indeed are obligated to trust God for that. We may not understand, but there are plenty of things we don't understand.

It's not a moral problem for God at all. Who can judge God? Who can call Him into his courtroom? Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, you know?

NAL said...

Rho:
He can take life at any time, be it adult or really young, and it is 100% justified, especially human life since all are sinners.

Are fertilized human eggs sinners?

Rhology said...

Yes. They inherit the guilt of Adam.

Anonymous said...

Also, what is your argument that the disagreement is NOT due to the vagaries of reasoning taking place in either Dr White's mind or my mind but is rather due to some lack of clarity in biblical teaching itself?

Why, I have no such argument! So what you're saying is that either you or Dr White are wrong - and of course, both of you could be wrong. I completely agree with you!

Rhology said...

OK, then we agree.

NAL said...

Would you say that abortion is an aspect of God's nature?

Anonymous said...

OK, then we agree.

That's right, you agree with me that you could be wrong.

Rhology said...

NAL:

No. It's an action He undertakes in a providential way, acting thru natural processes, which is the way He accomplishes the vast majority of His actions in this universe.


Anonymous:

And so could you. Just comes down to who has the best argument. I'm just not seeing much argument from you so far.

NAL said...

NAL:
Would you say that abortion is an aspect of God's nature?

Rho:
No.

Would you agree, therefore, that God acts in ways that are contrary to His nature?

Rhology said...

Would I agree, "therefore"? I don't see how what you said would follow from my answer.
No, I would not agree.

Anonymous said...

And so could you. Just comes down to who has the best argument.

Not really. It must be the case that either you, he or both are wrong. So it's logically impossible that I'm wrong.

And who says the "best" argument is the correct one? Maybe you have the "best" argument and are still wrong.

I'm just not seeing much argument from you so far.

Yes you are, and you agreed with my argument a few comments back. Do you have short-term memory problems?

NAL said...

Premises:
1) God acts to take life via abortion.
2) Abortion is not part of God's nature.

Therefore:
3) God acts in ways that are not part of His nature.

Rhology said...

Anon,

OK.


NAL,

Fair enough. Let me restate: God always acts IN ACCORD with His nature and never acts contrary to His nature.

NAL said...

Rho:
God ... never acts contrary to His nature.

Premises:
1) God acts to take life via abortion.
2) God never acts contrary to His nature.

Therefore:
3) Abortion is not contrary to His nature.

Rhology said...

Correct.
Extending that to humans, however, is an unwarranted leap, if indeed that's where you were going.

NAL said...

Premises:
1) Morality is grounded in God's nature.
2) Abortion is in accordance with God's nature.

Therefore:
3) Abortion is not immoral.

Rhology said...

For *God* to abort is good.
For a human to murder a child is bad.

NAL said...

Rho:
For a human to [abort] is bad.

Then this sense, that abortion is immoral, must be grounded in something other than God's nature, since abortion is in accordance with God's nature. What is your basis for claiming that abortion is immoral?

Rhology said...

God is not held to the same type of standard as the one to which humans are held.
God can and must be the only object of worship. Man must not and cannot.
God can and must be the only object of prayer. Man must not and cannot.
God is the author of life. Etc.
There are all sorts of ways in which God is different from humans.
Again, that *GOD* can abort is in accord with His nature. Humans are not permitted to - that is murder.

Paul C said...

God is not held to the same type of standard as the one to which humans are held.

What standard are humans held to?

Rhology said...

God's Law.

And it's not like humans can measure up to it, but we are commanded to.
That's the human situation and dilemma. That is why we need a perfect substitute.

Paul C said...

So humans are held up to God's Law, but God is not held to God's Law.

That sentence makes absolutely no sense at all to me.

Rhology said...

External critique. And worthless.

Paul C said...

Not an external critique. A reasonable question, which apparently you're not prepared to answer?

rotsaP loeJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rotsaP loeJ said...

A more precise way of framing it might be 'God is held to God's Law in its proper application to God; man is held to God's Law in its proper application to man.' There is no biblical tension with God being, for example, proud or self-centred, as the universe does, in fact (on the Christian view), revolve around him. Similarly, there is no biblical tension with him taking human life at any time, because it belongs to his prerogative as creator. In no sense does that contradict these being illicit for us.

sepherim said...

Rho
I decided not to clutter up Bruce's blog with any more of this. To address your first question, no I am not an atheist posing as a baptist. But I have made very clear in various posts that am not a doctrinaire or doctinial or confessional Christian, meaning that I do not see the traditional doctrines as particularly helpful when it comes to determining how God would have me live my life. Consequently I no longer accept claims that if God says/does something it is good by default. I guess that is why I misread your appeal to "him who is without sin," not recognizing that you were in fact simply restating the commonly held belief that God, being without sin, is qualified to cast the first stone. Of course that ignores the fact that, accrding to traditional belief, Jesus could have cast the first stone but chose not to.

And regarding my being a hypocrit, I am unapologetically critical of ignorance where ever I find it, in the Oval office or the local church just as you are. I do find it somewhat disingenuous for you to claim "I'm not 'throwing stones' at all" by limiting what has become a common metaphor for self-righteous criticism to a woodenly literal meaning.

And, no, I don't object to your critiques of the writings on others, but I do object to the self-righteous and dismissive tone of much of your criticism, i.e. "Haven't I instead spent my time holding people to a better standard of reasoning and devotion to God, pointing out inconsistencies and blasphemies?"

Rhology said...

Paul C,

See leoJ's comment, please. It's well said.

Sepherim,
Welcome!
Let's talk over here.

Paul C said...

A more precise way of framing it might be 'God is held to God's Law in its proper application to God; man is held to God's Law in its proper application to man.'

That means that there are two laws; one for God, and one for humanity.

rotsaP loeJ said...

In one sense you are obviously right: we aren't allowed to do stuff God can do. On the same argument one might deduce that there is a different law of gravity for birds.

Another way to say it would be say that moral laws, like physical laws, apply differently to different orders of being. (I don't know if you accept the existence of such ontological diversity or not, but we are discussing God after all so you may as well.) Anyhow, in a moment of semantic generosity I will allow that calling it two different laws is at least a plausible manner of expressing the basic idea. But it's not especially precise.

Suppose they were two thoroughly distinct codes (and that we had the capacity to see both and adjudicate them as such)? In your mind, what would that demonstrate beyond the mere point of fact?

Paul C said...

In one sense you are obviously right: we aren't allowed to do stuff God can do. On the same argument one might deduce that there is a different law of gravity for birds.

No. This argument is bullshit.

Another way to say it would be say that moral laws, like physical laws, apply differently to different orders of being.

This is also bullshit. Name a single physical law that applies differently to different orders of being.

Anyhow, in a moment of semantic generosity I will allow that calling it two different laws is at least a plausible manner of expressing the basic idea. But it's not especially precise.

This is also bullshit. It's completely precise. If there are two completely different standards for different orders of being, then they constitute two different laws.

In your mind, what would that demonstrate beyond the mere p oint of fact?

If you believe in moral judgments, an action is either good or bad regardless of who's carrying it out. Yet here you are trying to support an argument that actions are good or bad depending on who carries them out. At this point I refer you to Euthyphro and ask for clarification on how this could possibly be the case.

Rhology said...

If you believe in moral judgments, an action is either good or bad regardless of who's carrying it out.

Plenty of distinctions are made in moral judgments depending on who does them and the circumstance and the amount of knowledge present in the situation.
Take the thought experiment of Joe the Galilean, a disciple of Jesus Christ, Who just a minute ago ascended into Heaven. Whoa. But at that very moment, he is suddenly teleported into the room where the 20 July plot is about to assassinate Hitler. What the heck? Wait a minute, sirs, you cannot do this thing. It is morally wrong if you to do murder a man!
Now, if he had further information, he'd realise that the target is actually a pretty bad guy and needs to be assassinated, and he might agree, but at first he'd think it was morally wrong.
Same here - we have some information about stuff, God has all of it. We have His command. We do not have His authority. He has authority to do what He wants, and further, what He does is always good, by definition.

Specifically to this question - there is no indication from the Bible that it is morally wrong to KILL, only that it is wrong to MURDER. Killing is permitted in certain situations. Murder is not. Murder = the unlawful taking of human life.
But God never murders. All people are capital criminals in His sight. Many of them He permits to live lives, some He does not, and He is the one Who gets to make that decision. You may not agree, but you have never given even close to an objective standard by which you would judge ANY moral question, so there is no reason to listen to you as a moral authority.

You like to say "Euthyphro" - it is apparently like your lucky rabbit's foot. Maybe you could explain sometime how it applies to someone who doesn't hold to the divine command theory of morality, like me.

Rhology said...

It is morally wrong if you to do murder a man!

Um... what I meant was: "It is morally wrong for you to murder a man!"
Sorry.

Paul C said...

Now, if he had further information, he'd realise that the target is actually a pretty bad guy and needs to be assassinated, and he might agree, but at first he'd think it was morally wrong.

It would still be morally wrong, and you haven't demonstrated otherwise. What you have demonstrated is only that sometimes it may be necessary to choose between the lesser of two evils. Please feel free to demonstrate how it's morally right to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944 by your standards, but I think you'll find it difficult, if not impossible.

He has authority to do what He wants, and further, what He does is always good, by definition.

I understand. The problem is this comments thread you are arguing that there are two definitions of "good" - one for God (what God does) and one for man (what God commands). This of course raises the problem of how you distinguish between the two, for which you have offered no explanation, only assertion. Perhaps you could explain?

Specifically to this question - there is no indication from the Bible that it is morally wrong to KILL, only that it is wrong to MURDER. Killing is permitted in certain situations. Murder is not. Murder = the unlawful taking of human life.

What is "lawful" varies across time and place, across cultures and legal systems; so your argument is that what is morally wrong varies in a similar way. This of course is at odds with what your previous position that right and wrong are objective.

You may not agree, but you have never given even close to an objective standard by which you would judge ANY moral question, so there is no reason to listen to you as a moral authority.

That's irrelevant, since I'm not asking that you listen to me as a moral authority. I'm merely pointing out that your arguments do not stand up to scrutiny.

Maybe you could explain sometime how [Euthyphro] applies to someone who doesn't hold to the divine command theory of morality, like me.

"Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is somehow dependent upon God, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands. Divine Command Theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God, and that the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires." - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Perhaps you could explain how this differs from your view, since they appear to be identical.

Rhology said...

Why would it be morally wrong? On whose standard? The biblical one or your subjective personal one?
If the former, why? if the latter, why I'm not obligated to care is well-documented in this blog's archives.


Please feel free to demonstrate how it's morally right to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944 by your standards,

Even if I'm wrong about that, the thought experiment has served its purpose - has to do with INFORMATION.
Hitler was a genocidal maniac. For a group of conscientious objectors from within his own gov't to kill him would be justified, I should think. But I could be wrong about that.
'Twould not be the same if a mugger slit his throat and stole his wallet (were that possible).


The problem is this comments thread you are arguing that there are two definitions of "good"

More like two applications.
Remember, I don't grant that God commits murder. He does end life, yeah, but it's all justified b/c all humans are capital criminals and live any life they live by His patient forbearance, not b/c they deserve it.


This of course raises the problem of how you distinguish between the two

He's God, and I'm not. What's wrong with that? It's all about authority.


What is "lawful" varies across time and place...This of course is at odds with what your previous position that right and wrong are objective.

God's law, not human law.
Since I'm talking about God's law, the objective claim remains in place. You've talked to me a fair amount - I'm surprised you don't remember that.


That's irrelevant, since I'm not asking that you listen to me as a moral authority.

OK, then you need to start showing why my position is internally inconsistent rather than making moralistic statements like "It would still be morally wrong" from your 1st sentence.


Divine Command Theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God

Apparently I mistakenly conflated DCT and Euth.
Thus the oft-stated dilemma. Of course, DCT is not identical to Euthyphro dilemma. The question is stated - Is it good b/c God commanded it, or is it that God commanded it b/c it's good?
Of course, the answer is neither. It is good b/c it is in accord with God's nature and character, and He always acts in accordance therewith.
Another part of the answer is that, absent this definition, there is no good at all. There just is. Of course, you have a longstanding open invitation to provide an alternative.

NAL said...

Rho:
Specifically to this question - there is no indication from the Bible that it is morally wrong to KILL, only that it is wrong to MURDER. Killing is permitted in certain situations.

So, would you consider an abortion, that was performed to save the mother's life, killing instead of murder?

Rhology said...

That's a toughy, actually, but only if we restate it a bit.
Abortion = murder.

OTOH, if we are trying to save the life of the mother and an unavoidable consequence of that procedure is the death of the baby, then that's permissible. Sucks, but permissible.

I hasten to add that I only bother to answer b/c this is a thread on the MORALITY of abortion. Such a situation is less than 0.1% of all abortions performed, ANYwhere, so it is a terrible argument for the pro-choice position.

NAL said...

I was talking about cases where the fetus is the cause of the threat to the mother's life. It wasn't an argument for abortion, it was an attempt to see if you were consistent in your views about what constitutes killing v. murdering. Since you claim abortion = murder, you fail the consistency test.

rotsaP loeJ said...

Well, now that we're all so chummy, I'd like to see you defend your nonsensical assertion that morality implies simplistic universality. I don't grant that for an instant - context matters.

It is wrong for me to tie up shoplifters and lock them in my closet; for authorised agents of the state, using a public cell, that becomes a necessary and virtuous action. And the constable and I are ontologically similar - he just has a better hat.

God is rather obviously in a different context than we are. Morality does appear to make certain demands on him - he cannot, for example, abandon his promises. But to suppose that this is equivalent to having moral standards identical to a human's is infantile.

Thus:
P1 - the moral action in a given case depends upon the identity and position of the actor.
P2 - God is clearly distinct from humanity in both of these categories
C - God's moral scope is not identical with that of humanity

Oh, and in re: different orders of being - angels can walk through walls whilst retaining the ability to interact with the physical world. (cf. Acts 12.7)

Rhology said...

NAL, I fail to see where I've been inconsistent.

Paul C said...

Why would it be morally wrong?

You have said that "there is no indication from the Bible that it is morally wrong to KILL, only that it is wrong to MURDER", and you have defined murder as the unlawful taking of human life. As I said, please feel free to demonstrate how it's not morally wrong to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944 by your own standards.

Even if I'm wrong about that, the thought experiment has served its purpose - has to do with INFORMATION.

Now you're adding yet another caveat to your allegedly universal ban on murder - that it's okay to murder somebody if you have "information" about them.

Presumably your argument is that God has all possible information, and therefore always acts for the best. The problem with this is - God let Hitler live. So clearly Hitler's living was for the best, and if you were given the opportunity to kill Hitler on 20 July, you would actually be going against God's will.

So is it still justified to kill Hitler?

More like two applications.

No, it's very clearly two definitions of good. This can be seen because there are some things that you claim that it is good for God to do but not-good for humans to do. That's not a different application, that's a different definition.

Are there any things that it is good for humans to do but not-good for God to do?

OK, then you need to start showing why my position is internally inconsistent rather than making moralistic statements like "It would still be morally wrong" from your 1st sentence.

I have, but as you have pointed out so succintly, you simply fail to see it.

Paul C said...

Is it good b/c God commanded it, or is it that God commanded it b/c it's good? Of course, the answer is neither. It is good b/c it is in accord with God's nature and character, and He always acts in accordance therewith.

You have not answered the dilemma, merely changed the wording. Is something good because it is in accord with God's character, or is God's character in accord with it because it is good?

Paul C said...

I don't grant that for an instant - context matters.

I completely agree - but you and Rhology are arguing that context does not matter where God is concerned. I would say that you can't have it both ways - but then you're probably a Monopolist Christian like Rhology.

It is wrong for me to tie up shoplifters and lock them in my closet; for authorised agents of the state, using a public cell, that becomes a necessary and virtuous action. And the constable and I are ontologically similar - he just has a better hat.

Why is it wrong for you to lock shoplifters in your closet, and why is it right for law officers to lock them up? You are confusing legal with moral. And whether the constable and yourself are ontologically similar depends on what ontology are using. So I'm entirely unsure what you're arguing in this instance.

God is rather obviously in a different context than we are. Morality does appear to make certain demands on him - he cannot, for example, abandon his promises.

So you disagree with Rhology, who defines morality solely in terms of what God does. If that's the case, then morality makes no demands on God at all. As the first comment said, what a surprise to find two Christians who disagree about something incredibly basic.

NAL said...

Rho:
It is good b/c it is in accord with God's nature and character, and He always acts in accordance therewith.

Good for whom? Humans? If so, then abortion is in accord with God's nature, so why isn't abortion good? If you derive your sense of good solely from God's nature, then abortion is good. If you equate abortion with murder, then murder is in accord with God's nature. Or, if you equate abortion with murder, then you are not deriving your sense of morality solely from God's nature.

Rhology said...

Paul C said:
please feel free to demonstrate how it's not morally wrong to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944 by your own standards.

As I said, it's a question of authority. If it is justifiable to kill, then it's justifiable to kill. I don't see what's so hard about that.
Romans 13, among other places, explains that gov't has the authority to put to death those that commit capital crimes. Hitler was a genocidal maniac.


it's okay to murder somebody if you have "information" about them

Which is a total misunderstanding of what I said.


God has all possible information, and therefore always acts for the best. The problem with this is - God let Hitler live.

He did? Hitler is still alive?


Hitler's living was for the best, and if you were given the opportunity to kill Hitler on 20 July, you would actually be going against God's will.

You are thinking about God's will far too simplistically. God has foreordained every event in the universe from eternity past. But He has not exhaustively revealed that ordination. He has commanded us to act according to His cmdmts.
So if I have the justification to kill, I am permitted to. If I am thwarted, I am thwarted - that has nothing to do with the justification for my actions. This is a similar "dilemma" in Camus' _La Peste_ and exhibits the same lack of understanding.


is it still justified to kill Hitler?

1) He's already dead.
2) I explained who and why.


Are there any things that it is good for humans to do but not-good for God to do?

Good question, let me brainstorm.
Sex is not not-good for God, but it is impossible... but that doesn't fit the bill.
Ah yes! Repentance of sin is one example. 'Course, that's impossible too. I might have to munch on this one and come back to it.


Is something good because it is in accord with God's character, or is God's character in accord with it because it is good?

It's the former. Stuff is good b/c it's in accord with God's character.


you're probably a Monopolist Christian like Rhology.

That's a new one on me. Google didn't even help. Could you explain?


Why is it wrong for you to lock shoplifters in your closet, and why is it right for law officers to lock them up?

B/c they have authority to punish wrongdoers, as officials of the gov't. Vigilantes and regular citizens don't have the right to dispense legal justice like that, ordinarily.


You are confusing legal with moral.

In this case, biblically, they are very closely aligned.


Rhology, who defines morality solely in terms of what God does.

??? So you try to catch me on the horns of a dilemma above, namely: "Is something good because it is in accord with God's character, or is God's character in accord with it because it is good?" and then you try to foist a completely different position on me? What are you doing?




NAL said:
Good for whom? Humans?

It is good for everyone for God to put people to death when He does so.
More generally said: It is good for everyone for God to _______ when He does so. B/c God always acts in accord with His nature and character, and His nature and character are the very definition of good.


If so, then abortion is in accord with God's nature, so why isn't abortion good?

For *GOD* to engage in killing people is good. But humans have very limited scope of permissibility and justification for killing other humans.


If you equate abortion with murder, then murder is in accord with God's nature.

Category error. Abortion is murder b/c it is humans engaging in the unjustifiable ending of human life.
God, OTOH, is always justified in ending human life whenever He chooses.

NAL said...

Let me see if I've got this straight. Whatever God does is always moral and always in accordance with his nature. Sometimes when humans do the same thing it is immoral.

What do you use as a basis for determining what actions of God's, that are always justified when He does them, are unjustified (immoral) when humans do them?

Rhology said...

Correct - you're getting it.
We can distinguish the justifiability of ANY action thru recourse to His commands and what He has revealed about Himself.

NAL said...

Commands and revelations. The commands part would seem to run up against the Euthyphro dilemma. The revelations part requires an a prori belief in God. It would seem like your sense of morality is valid only for believers.

Rhology said...

The commands part would seem to run up against the Euthyphro dilemma.

Well, let's unpack that.
Euthyphro dilemma = is it good b/c God commanded it, or did God command it b/c it's good?

The answer is the latter, with a qualification related to the nature of good vs how it is known to humans.
Good = that which corresponds to God's nature and character.
The way we know good = God communicates commands to us that correspond to His nature and character.
I don't really see how it's a dilemma at all. The answer is that God commands whatever b/c it is good, b/c it conforms with God's character and nature.


The revelations part requires an a prori belief in God.

Accessing and believing them requires the belief, yes. But that doesn't change the fact that they are binding and in force. It's not God's problem that you don't believe. It's yours.
You may believe there's no bus coming towards you on the highway, but when it encounters you at 50 mph, your belief changes nothing. You get run over. Same here.

rotsaP loeJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NAL said...

Rho:
The answer is the latter, [God command[ed] it b/c it's good]

Then it's good independent of whether God commands it or not.

Rhology said...

Correct, b/c there are plenty of good things that God has not revealed to humanity.
This is not the same thing as saying, "Then it's good independent of God's character and nature", however, just for clarification's sake.

NAL said...

Rho:
This is not the same thing as saying, "Then it's good independent of God's character and nature" ...

Since God is justified in taking any action, and any action is in accordance with His character and nature, God's character and nature is good only by definition. That's like saying, "Good is not independent of its definition".

Paul C said...

In response to the Euthyphro dilemma - "is it good b/c God commanded it, or did God command it b/c it's good?" - you have now given three answers:

i. At Wed Dec 17, 10:21:00 AM CST you replied: "Of course, the answer is neither."

ii. You then qualified this response with: "It is good b/c it is in accord with God's nature and character, and He always acts in accordance therewith". Since his commands are acts in accord with his nature, this is the same as saying that it is good because God commanded it.

iii. Finally at Thu Dec 18, 03:04:00 PM CST you replied "The answer is the latter", i.e. that God commands it because it's good.

Of course, at Wed Dec 17, 02:14:00 PM CST you also admitted that you fail to see where you've been inconsistent. I would suggest that this statement isn't just applicable to this thread, but is more of a general description of your thinking.

rotsaP loeJ said...

A point on Euthyphro: this not a logical dilemma. It suggests that morality is (on one horn) above God, or else (on the other) 'arbitrary'. The first horn disagrees with a Christian view of God - obviously, you can't have a being at once ultimate and subordinate. So if Christians thought that, they would be inconsistent with other parts of revelation. But the second does not. After all, considering that Christians view God as the creator and source of reason, knowledge, elementary matter, and a good many other things, it's not really contradictory to posit him as the grounding and source of morality. In fact, that would make morality arbitrary in the technical sense of the word: established by the one who has authority justly to do so.

It is also the case, per Rho's assertion (although on my view it tends towards the tautological), that God's actions are also good-in-themselves; because they do conform to the standard of his past behavior, which may thus be construed (at least in a loose sense) to be a sort of rule in the sense of 'norm'. It is somewhat more a point about his consistency than his moral goodness, but the categories are not entirely dissimilar.

Paul C - I was not arguing that context is irrelevant for God. On the contrary, I think that his context vis-a-vis creation serves as a prima facie moral justification. As members of creation, we have no further recourse - as Kant might say, in one of his spendid multisyllables, this is the imperscrutability of divine justice. The shoplifting example was meant as a small illustration that the identity of the actor affects how our moral discourse will consider him. God's identity is such that our moral discourse derives from him, and therefore, properly speaking, he stands outside and above it. It comes from him, and cannot judge him.

As it happens, God often behaves in a manner which we can easily justify under our own system. But this is not necessary.

I hope that serves to clarify my meaning.

Rhology said...

NAL,

Yes, I would agree. We're parsing the axiomatic - it's natural to expect that tautologies would emerge.


Paul C,

You are also right. leoJ rotsaP called me on this, and so my understanding has evolved. As I've said many times before, retractions are allowed around here. I'm entitled to them sometimes too. ;-)