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November 08, 2011

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Great post Amy! It seems to me that what Law is arguing for would imply that there were some objective standard of good and evil outside of his own nature. But on th eChristian view, the moral standard is rooted in God's own nature, not from a standard outside of himself.

However, even without this argument, taking into account that there is both good and evil in the world, we would have reason to prefer the idea that the God who exists is good rather than evil simply because of the nature of good and evil. Good is our obligation, our standard, the ideal. Evil is a rejection of those obligations, actions that fail to measure up to that standard, a twisting of what should have been done.

You are absosmurfly right, Amy. Here's how I put it on my blog:

First, just look at the properties of good and evil and what they mean. Notice that evil is what ought to be avoided, and good is what ought to be embraced. That's just true by their definitions. Good and evil are not equal and opposite. If they were, then you could exchange good for evil and evil for good. Whether a culture adopts the moral law that "You should always do evil" as opposed to "You should always do good," would be an arbitrary decision. But we can see, by the very nature of good and evil, that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided.

Since this distinction between good and evil comes from God, and since between good and evil, good is what ought to be done, and evil is what ought to be avoided, it's clear that this God has a preference for good over evil. Everything that ought to be done is good, and everything that ought to be avoided is evil. It follows that God only prefers good, and never prefers evil. God, then, must be wholly good.

Well, Law has a point, from a particular point of view (cue cheekiness here). I mean, if we all adopt Ayn Rand's standard of moral excellence, then Jesus was the worst man ever, and God is a horrible evil tyrant.

In which case, sign me up for the Dark Side. I'd be a bad, bad boy in the Objectivist/Egoist world.

Sam, exactly. I wish WLC had taken the time to explain this clearly in the debate. I felt like a lot of the debate was them talking past each other. Partly because they were trying to cover too much ("does God exist" is way too broad for a short debate), but partly because they each had a different track in which they wanted the debate to go, so they were pulling in opposite directions rather than focusing on responding to the other person's arguments. I thought the Millican debate was better.

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, ... righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
...
"Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other."
...
And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given."

http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.11?lang=eng#10

(Book of Mormon

That Millican debate was one of the best debates I've heard in a long time.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.

That is a very Taoist thing to say. :-)

Whether good or evil, it would still mean a god existed. That's a start.

This is a really weak argument that isn't going to convince anyone outside our faith. It amazes me how much time we spend convincing ourselves and then patting ourselves on the back because we are fighting the good fight and changing the world's views. No .. we are just accepting lame arguments for things we believe by faith and pretending we have logical reasons that someone outside the faith would buy into, all the while just trying to make ourselves feel better.Our having an opinion on some things as good ands somethings as evil does not mean there is a God and there is NO proof of an objective good and evil ... just visit Christian churches alone and witness the wealth of opinions on what constitutes what in that regard.

Saint, it's a bit hasty to assume that because you don't find an argument persuasive that everybody else is just using it to console themselves when they don't find it persuasive either. I find the moral argument very persuasive, whether other people do or not. The fact that God is necessary for objective morality seems to be a plain and obvious truth, and I'm sometimes flabbergasted that it isn't just as obvious to everybody else. And while it's possible that there are no objective moral values, I find it unreasonable to deny them. And when I'm perfectly honest with myself, I can't bring myself to doubt them. They don't require proof anymore than other synthetic a priori assumptions about reality that we all make (e.g. the uniformity of nature, that our memories correspond to a real past, that our senses correspond to an external world, that events have causes, that there are other minds, that ought implies can, that we have an enduring self, etc.). I'm rationally obliged to believe in God because I hold to both of those premise--that God is necessary for objective morality, and that there are objective morals.

Or maybe morals are as objective as the earth is unmovable... only from a particular frame of reference.

Sam,
Nice response. I have conversation with folks outside the believing community often and this type logic never seems to hold water except with people who already believe as a result of an experience with the living God and his spirit. At that point, any argument makes sense because the belief is already established. From a purely logical standpoint, these aren't rock solid arguments apart from our faith and often times I see them presented as such. Honestly, I think they push people away from the faith because they percieve that we are trying to claim God existence with weak arguments. I enjoyed your response and think you are correct in your "a priori" comment ... but I think that might be informed by your experience, the same way other synthetic a prior experiences are ... in this case you experience with a living God. Something other folks need to believe ..Thanks!

At that point, any argument makes sense because the belief is already established.

That's not true, though. There are lots of arguments I've heard for God that I don't think are sound. For example, I think the ontological argument is unsound--even Alvin Plantinga's version. I also think the transcendental argument for God is unsound.

So I don't think it's only because I'm a Christian that I find that moral argument sound.

And if you think about it, it shouldn't be impossible for the moral argument to persuade somebody who isn't a Christian. I've seen many atheists affirm the existence of objective moral values, but deny that God is necessary. I've heard other atheists affirm that God is necessary for objective morals, but then deny that there are any objective morals. If atheists, as a group, can affirm both premises, then all you'd need is to find an atheist who could believe both at the same time, and you'd have a conversion.

I think that's what happened to C.S. Lewis. In one of his books (I think Mere Christianity he said that coming to grips with his belief in "fairness" had something to do with his coming to believe in God.

In that sense, you are correct Sam. That wasn't what I was going for but hey, words are fallible and it happens. My example was meant to represent more of a situational combination of belief/logic conclusion and less of a "you believe and so you will buy any evidence for God as solid" Clearly not the case since I believe and find most this logic silly. :)

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