September 2016

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Subscribe

« The Trouble with Theistic Evolution | Main | Radio Easter Sunday »

April 05, 2012

Comments

Melinda,

Maybe I'm missing something, but I didn't see any explanation in the article/outline for why the crucifixion was necessary for any particular thing.

I assume that by "necessary," you mean the crucifixion was necessary to pay our debts in order to save the faithful, or something along those lines. However this seems not to be the case. God is omnipotent, right? So he could save anyone he likes, whether or not their debts are paid.

Maybe instead it was necessary for Jesus to suffer in order for God to save the faithful and satisfy some system of divine justice. However it is a strange sort of "justice" which requires more suffering than otherwise. Why should God care about a system which has the effect of inducing such terrible pain and misery? If God really is omnibenevolent, then it seems like he should value our well-being above and beyond some system of debts and payment.

--Ben

"God is omnipotent, right? So he could save anyone he likes, whether or not their debts are paid."

God's omnipotence does not mean he does things that are contrary to his character. For example, God is true, and the fact that he is not untrue does not put a constraint on his omnipotence. God is certainly powerful enough to be untrue (a toddler has that power), but it is not within his character.

As you noted, the cross was necessary in order that justice be done. When we, as human beings, hear about some horrible case where a child is raped and murdered, we feel a sense of indignant anger toward the accused - and rightly so! It would be wrong of us to not abhor such an obvious manifestation of evil! And that only applies to God even more so. As the only holy, perfect one, the offense of sin truly deserves nothing less than God's wrath (his righteous offense and anger toward sin). It would be truly appalling if God in all his holiness and righteousness looked at sin and merely shrugged.

For us to suggest that God could simply turn a blind eye to sin and forgive people anyway without any sort of justice being done indicates that we either have a deficient view of the seriousness of sin, or a deficient view of God's holiness and worthiness.

Besides, why would God, before the beginning of time, create a world in which sin and suffering were to take place, and sovereignly decree there and then that he would never exact justice? That would be borderline monstrous, since the whole reason he permits sin in the first place is so that his justice might be made known.

It was part of God's plan all along that sin would occur, precisely so his justice and wrath against it might be seen and glorified. A world where God's love and benevolence are seen and magnified, but not his justice and wrath toward sin (or even his mercy in forgiving sin), would be one where God's glory is incomplete.

As Christ's willingness to suffer for God's glory demonstrates, it is desirable that God magnify ALL of his glorious attributes in this way, even if it means some suffering on our part. Our willingness to suffer for God testifies to the worth we hold him in. The story of Jacob working for 14 years to earn Rachel's hand in marriage demonstrates the high esteem he held her in. Imagine if he said, "Eh, I'll work for the rest of the afternoon, but that's it."


"However it is a strange sort of "justice" which requires more suffering than otherwise."

Isn't that basically how justice works? Going back to the child-rapist-murderer example, when he is caught, what form should justice take for him? A comfy bed, a soft pillow, and a tub of ice cream? Of course not. He inflicted suffering on another person, and it is entirely just for him to suffer himself in payment. It is speculative to think that this increases some hypothetical cosmic "suffering" quotient somewhere.


"If God really is omnibenevolent, then it seems like he should value our well-being above and beyond some system of debts and payment."

First of all, God *does* value our well-being, even more so than we do ourselves! But let's not forget that his highest priority is his own glory and honor. And rightly so! (After all, who else's glory would we prefer God seek?) When we sin, we are committing a GRIEVOUS offense against his glory, but suggesting that there is something more glorious and worthwhile than God (namely, ourselves and our own desires). Since God truly is immeasurably worthy of our complete submission and praise, it is entirely right for God to be indignant and wrathful when we act as if he is not.

Nevertheless, as I said, God does place an extremely high value our well-being, which is yet another reason (in addition to the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph) why he is rightfully indignant and wrathful when he sees us causing harm to ourselves and each other by our sinful actions. When a parent sees their own children harming one another, is the parent grieved and angered by this? Or does the parent shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, if this makes you happy, carry on." Of course not!

Obviously, the line of thought eventually leads to "Why would God create a world in which such sin and suffering is possible at all? Couldn't he create a world where we never sin?" I already alluded to this earlier, but the answer is, "For his glory, first and foremost, and also for our Christlikeness."

It is undesirable that God should create a world where only some aspects of his character are seen and glorified and others go unseen and unglorified. In a world where evil never existed, God would never have any occasion to display such glorious attributes as his mercy, his justice, his patience, his forgiveness, his self-sacrifice, his wrath toward sin, his compassion, etc. His glory would be incomplete.

In a world where evil never existed, we might develop such character traits as love, humility, peace, etc. But we would never have the occasion to develop such good traits as courage, patience, justice, hope, forgiveness, mercy, sacrifice, etc. Our character would be incomplete.

AStev,

Thanks for the thoughtful response. However, I think maybe I haven't made my concerns sufficiently clear, because you seem to take for granted that God's favorite system of justice has some kind of inherent value over and above the well-being of conscious creatures, which is precisely the point I dispute. You also seem to think that for God to value his own glorification over the well-being of others is consistent with omnibenevolence, which I would also dispute.

Try thinking of it this way: Why is justice important in the first place? I submit that it has no great inherent value, but rather it gets its value from the role it plays in serving the well-being of conscious creatures. If justice only made things worse for people, then we should hardly value it! But the human justice systems with which we are most familiar make things a lot better for us by protecting and comforting us, among other ends.

Now, I don't mean to suggest that justice systems must never deal in suffering. Certainly one important component in any justice system is punishment, and this causes pain and anguish for wrongdoers. However, one of the central ideas behind punishment is that it acts as a deterrence to others who might be tempted to commit crimes (and hence to cause suffering). In other words, on balance punishment should reduce suffering. Otherwise we have no reason to value it.

Of course, the issue is much more complicated than can be tackled in a few paragraphs. For example, it might not be obvious that we should prefer a justice system which reduces suffering overall, even though it causes the distribution of suffering to favor wrongdoers. Fortunately, we can ignore that particular complication when looking at God's situation, since it is well within his power to reduce the suffering of wrongdoers without increasing the suffering of innocents.

On your view, God prefers a world where suffering is increased---and of an innocent man, Jesus!---in order to preserve his favorite system of reward and punishment. But unlike human justice systems, God's system doesn't seem to actually benefit anyone. It's just this system of rules that for some reason God seems compelled to obey.

If a justice system only increases suffering, then what use is it to God? Rather, since God is omnipotent, then to the extent that he values our well-being he should avoid implementing a justice system which harms that well-being with no counter-balancing benefits.

By the way, it doesn't help to claim that God's character prevents him from ignoring his favorite system of reward/punishment for the sake of our well-being, because his character is part of the issue. If God's character leads him to love a particular set of rules more than our well-being, then that's going to violate omnibenevolence.

So I hope that helps clarify the problem. I look forward to any responses.

Ben,

Might I ask on what basis it is that you conflate the concepts of "justice" and "suffering"? Is it an "injustice" to myself that I hurt and sweat and ache when I run a long distance? Is it a moral evil that, were I to choose to cut off my own finger, it would hurt outrageously? If someone pulled a bullet out of my thigh, and I screamed, are they a monster?

Moreover, why do you conflate "power" and "forgiveness"? Where did you get this idea that sending fire from heaven and sending forgiveness are the same? I don't see a logical connection, unless you've adopted the rather unBiblical, speculative, counter-logical view of, say, Descartes, that God can do anything, even "make a squared circle", by fiat.

I think you're correct that the kind of impersonal, hypothetical, cosmic principle you're envisioning, whose sole purpose is to keep us comfy and happy, and which has logic-defying abilities to do so, would indeed not create a world like this one. I just don't know which God you're talking about. It doesn't sound like the Trinity, or Al'lah, or the Jewish idea of YHVH, or even Zeus.

So where did you dig up this god whom you doubt?

Bennett,

You seem to have badly misinterpreted my comments. For example, why would you think I am conflating justice and suffering? Or why would you think that I believe "sending fire from heaven and sending forgiveness are the same"? Why have you suggested that I believe God's "sole purpose is to keep us comfy and happy," or that he "has logic-defying abilities"?

Let me assure you, I agree with none of these ideas. I welcome your feedback, but it would be nice for you to address what I've actually written!

Ben,

You did conflate justice and suffering, you related them in the bit about "If a justice system only increases suffering, then what use is it to God?" I don't think suffering and justice have a necessary bearing on one another. It may be that I suffer for reasons that have nothing to do with God's justice--maybe I get upset over trifles, or work myself into a huff every time things don't go my way. That's "suffering", but it's my own fault. It may even be just to inflict suffering--for example, a boot camp inflicts quite a bit of suffering, in order to benefit the soldiers in the long run. Punishing children causes them to suffer in some sense, also for their own good.

Suffering may be a positive, negative, or neutral factor where justice is concerned, and vice versa. I don't see how raising one affects the other necessarily.

For that matter, the Buddhists make a reasonable point when they note that, while aging, sickness, and death are inevitable, suffering is not--you can circumvent it by eliminating all desire. Of course, the price for never feeling any pain is also never feeling love, or joy, or attachment. It's a tradeoff, part of the human condition. If you want to get into why *that* is, then we'd need to have a separate thread. Suffice to say, I don't think that there's adequate reason to believe that less human suffering would equate to more divine justice, and that did seem to be part of your conclusion.

As to why I think you mix up sending fire and sending forgiveness--you identified omnipotence as a trait which ought to allow God to "just forgive." No need for a system of debts, etc. Just wave his hand, and it's done.

But it's only in a system of debts that that would be possible. If I owed God a hundred dollars, he could (unlike the Federal Reserve) make $100 appear from thin air, and pay off the debt. Or he could just say "Hey, forget about it, call it a gift." (incidentally--grace *is* a gift, but we could get into that more, too, in a tangential discussion)

But note that this only applies in a debtor situation. If I, say, murder my father, what's God going to do? Poof Dad back to life, a la Lazarus? That would be restitution, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Dad's gone; maybe I'll see him at the Resurrection, but that goes for those who died natural deaths, too, so it's hardly going to count on the 'debt'.

So what's God to do? Wave his hand, and call it a gift? What, a murder is a gift? To whom, from whom? It's nonsensical. He cannot eliminate the event, he cannot reconstitute the elements. He can't go back and alter my choice. It happened, it's a done deal.

Now, he can say "I'm not angry at you. I'm saddened. I don't want to damn you. I want to save you. I want you to get better. I want you to be like me. I want to reform you, rather than destroy."

Sound a little like any Nazarenes you know?

But to do that, I would submit, God had to reach out. There had to be some way of bridging the gap, and that was the God-man. As soon as God became a man, he was bound to die (or else the whole thing was a sham--brings us to Arianism or Modalism or some other heresy).

So the issue arises of "Why on a cross? Why not in bed at a ripe old age, or of food poisoning like Buddha? Why not this way or that way?"

Well, if you read, say, Tim Keller's "The King's Cross" he goes into great detail about why, and what was accomplished. I won't do him the disservice of trying to condense it, but suffice to say, the *act* of forgiveness is not the same as the *outcome* of forgiveness.

If God "just said" that he forgave me, then he would be a liar. It was through Christ's birth, life, death, and subsequent Resurrection, that he performed the act of forgiveness.

As Keller points out, if you've ever loved someone who was badly damaged goods--a mentally ill relative, or substance-abusing friend, for example--then you know that it costs you something. You end up absorbing their pain. They aren't just in a mutual relationship, they are in some way a parasite you've chosen to endure, in the hopes of saving them from themselves. And it hurts, and it costs.

It would defy logic for God to achieve an effect--forgiveness, without a cause--some act of contrition and reconciliation.

Further, you have axiomatically (perhaps without realizing) asserted that comfort is preferable to discomfort, that happy is preferable to sad, etc. In terms of what we'd rather have, emotionally, yes. In terms of moral goodness or long-term beneficial outcomes related to the development of human excellence? Very questionable. Many of the greatest men in history were driven by their "thorn in the flesh." Paul was one, certainly, but Lincoln struggled with mental illness of himself and his wife, FDR was afflicted with polio, Mother Theresa had crippling doubt, Lawrence Olivier, at the peak of his powers, was wracked with stage fright. They all suffered, and were better for it, even though they would rather not have.

After all, they understood on some level that you don't get an effect without a cause. Prod even a worm with a pin, and see it turn. Sometimes suffering is just suffering, amoral and a fact of life. Sometimes forgiveness is free--you need only ask and receive. But it cannot be uncaused (ie--offered to all, without an act, without a reconciliation, without even a realization or request).

And I would ask again, just for the heck of it, how did you come to hold the view of God that you do? It isn't the one I see in the Christian Bible, or any other alleged "primary" source. It sounds more like what you're apt to hear about second or third-hand in philosophy courses or discussion forums, from people who have mostly read *about* the Bible, rather than the work itself. Who talk *about* the Church, rather than participating in it.

Bennett,

Please stop attributing to me views which I do not hold, indeed which I have expressly denied holding.

Also, pointing out that a little suffering now can lead to improved well-being later on is unhelpful, since I have been speaking all along of that broader picture. The problem with God's justice isn't that it causes local patches of suffering here and there, but rather that on balance it increases suffering. For God to follow his favorite system of rules of "justice" only ever results in increasing suffering, and never decreases it. It has no redeeming value to offset the suffering it causes. You point out that sometimes suffering is for a person's own good. Well, the suffering caused by God's system of rules isn't for anyone's good. It just causes a bunch of extra suffering on top of the suffering we already have.

Moreover, you have misunderstood my comments about God's omnipotence. I'm only talking about saving people from damnation, not offering them some sort of forgiveness for wrongdoing. (Although he is free to do the latter as well, that's not relevant here.) The point is, forgiveness or not, it is well within his power to save us, regardless of whether Jesus of Nazareth agonized on a cross in first-century Palestine.

Ben,

1. "For God to follow his favorite system of rules of "justice" only ever results in increasing suffering, and never decreases it."--What system of rules are you talking about, and how on earth would you, without being omniscient, ever begin to demonstrate what God's plan establishes on a timeline which extends well wider and further than your ability to process, much less perceive, information?

2. "the suffering caused by God's system of rules isn't for anyone's good. It just causes a bunch of extra suffering on top of the suffering we already have." You still haven't actually demonstrated that suffering is even a bad thing. Even if this objection went through, so what? You merely assert that it is bad to suffer, but what if suffering is a positive, or a neutral thing, on the whole? I have no asserted that God reduces suffering, I have asserted that he doesn't need to in order to be just and loving. Only if you axiomatically assume--for you cannot demonstrate it--that suffering causes more negative than beneficial effects in every case, can you then necessarily link it to moral goodness or moral evil. I assert that it is a pre-moral factor, much like sound logic, or the laws of physics. You have not dealt with that assertion, and thus any statement about whether suffering goes up or down cannot be properly related to moral goodness.

Unless you're suggesting that God should be more concerned with suffering than moral goodness or human excellence? I think you'd have to do some real footwork to prove that.

3. "I'm only talking about saving people from damnation, not offering them some sort of forgiveness for wrongdoing."

What's the difference, in your view? Save us from what, exactly? Death? Even Christians die.

Hell? That door is locked from the inside, as C.S. Lewis put it.

The consequences of our actions? I don't think there's any just cause to save someone who didn't even ask for it from the outcomes of what they freely and knowingly chose.

What exactly do you want to be saved *from*? For that matter, you seem to be assuming that "being saved" equates to "going to Heaven instead of Hell", but doesn't include things like, say, living a life of joy, peace, self-control, etc., or doing good works, or pursuing a mission from God. It's all just bottom line--Heaven or Hell?

Well, if you're that preoccupied with the afterlife, what makes you think you'd enjoy eternity either way?

Why on earth *should* God grant you life everlasting in the Kingdom of Heaven, if you've led a life of rebellion against him, have an unrepentant sinner's heart, and would spurn his offer of reconciliation?

Do you feel entitled to immortality, apart from having done anything good, bad, or otherwise?

Does God owe you something?

Bennett,

I'm concerned that you're not really making an effort to understand my position. For instance, you quote me as follows (emphasis added):

I'm only talking about saving people from damnation, not offering them some sort of forgiveness for wrongdoing.

In response, you write:

Save us from what, exactly? Death?

Due to multiple misunderstandings like this, most of what you wrote in your last post is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Remember, I'm criticizing the view that God needed to have Jesus suffer in order to make it possible to both save the faithful from damnation and satisfy the rules of his favorite system of "justice" (for lack of a better term).

It's not helpful, then, to point out that I'm not omniscient unless you're defending another view, e.g. that God must have his reasons for having Jesus crucified, even though we cannot say what they are due to our epistemic limitations. (And clearly you would not want to defend this view.) Nor is it relevant to talk about whether God owes us anything, or what "being saved" means in some context other than this one. So I haven't much to say on these topics (which you numbered as #1 and #3) other than to emphasize that they are all beside the point.

As for #2, I have already addressed that previously. You write:

You merely assert that it is bad to suffer, but what if suffering is a positive, or a neutral thing, on the whole?

In response, allow me to quote myself from earlier. I wrote:

Also, pointing out that a little suffering now can lead to improved well-being later on is unhelpful, since I have been speaking all along of that broader picture. The problem with God's justice isn't that it causes local patches of suffering here and there, but rather that on balance it increases suffering. For God to follow his favorite system of rules of "justice" only ever results in increasing suffering, and never decreases it. It has no redeeming value to offset the suffering it causes. You point out that sometimes suffering is for a person's own good. Well, the suffering caused by God's system of rules isn't for anyone's good. It just causes a bunch of extra suffering on top of the suffering we already have.

Bennett,

I'm concerned that you're not really making an effort to understand my position. For instance, you quote me as follows (emphasis added):

I'm only talking about saving people from damnation, not offering them some sort of forgiveness for wrongdoing.

In response, you write:

Save us from what, exactly? Death?

Due to multiple misunderstandings like this, most of what you wrote in your last post is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Remember, I'm criticizing the view that God needed to have Jesus suffer in order to make it possible to both save the faithful from damnation and satisfy the rules of his favorite system of "justice" (for lack of a better term).

It's not helpful, then, to point out that I'm not omniscient unless you're defending another view, e.g. that God must have his reasons for having Jesus crucified, even though we cannot say what they are due to our epistemic limitations. (And clearly you would not want to defend this view.) Nor is it relevant to talk about whether God owes us anything, or what "being saved" means in some context other than this one. So I haven't much to say on these topics (which you numbered as #1 and #3) other than to emphasize that they are all beside the point.

As for #2, I have already addressed that previously. You write:

You merely assert that it is bad to suffer, but what if suffering is a positive, or a neutral thing, on the whole?

In response, allow me to quote myself from earlier. I wrote:

Also, pointing out that a little suffering now can lead to improved well-being later on is unhelpful, since I have been speaking all along of that broader picture. The problem with God's justice isn't that it causes local patches of suffering here and there, but rather that on balance it increases suffering. For God to follow his favorite system of rules of "justice" only ever results in increasing suffering, and never decreases it. It has no redeeming value to offset the suffering it causes. You point out that sometimes suffering is for a person's own good. Well, the suffering caused by God's system of rules isn't for anyone's good. It just causes a bunch of extra suffering on top of the suffering we already have.

Ben,

Perhaps it would be helpful, then, if you would like to lay out your argument in some sort of formal structure, as it seems to be leaving quite a lot of room for misapprehension.

Perhaps something like

1. Omniscience necessarily entails a knowledge of all true historical events.

2. It is true that yesterday Bennett ate breakfast.

3. God is omniscient.

QED: God knows what Bennett ate for breakfast yesterday.

Because right now, it would appear that I'm unclear on what you're unclear on, and why. Perhaps you should spell it out in very definite, precise, formal terms, and then we can have a more substantive, irenic discussion of whether your premises hold up, and lead necessarily to the proposition which you wish to establish.

On re-reading some of these exchanges, I think it's possible that your critique rests on some misconceptions about Christian theology, in which case, you are criticising something we didn't really say, and then I'm criticising your critique from what you see as a third, foreign angle, and thus we're just completely higgledy-piggledy. So we really should take a moment, catch our breath, and agree to terms.

"Well, the suffering caused by God's system of rules isn't for anyone's good. It just causes a bunch of extra suffering on top of the suffering we already have."

Seems at odds with this:

"Hbr 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Hbr 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Hbr 5:9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,"

Brad,

Indeed. I think one could make the assertion that suffering is not *necessary*, but that's an unprovable contention, since it relies on an unobservable hypothetical about human behavior. On the other hand, it's clearly *sufficient* to produce positive results, and thus it is not feasible to classify it as something which the world necessarily needs less of.

If, indeed, suffering produces desirable effects in the long run, then it may be that it's morally praiseworthy to perform certain acts which increase it, even on the net scale.

One thing that strikes me on the initial challenges by Ben is that his use / definition of the word "benevolent"[omnibenevolence]" is overweighted with his prior assumption that humanly comforts are the ultimate ends. I think I want to request for a non polluted definition, one that's not going to be challeng

Another is this curious statement:

"God's favorite system of justice"
speaks of God as if He's an imperfect being, having the consider to choose from many lesser versions of justice but has one of the many as His favorite. Hardly a perfect being, so the whole challenge isn't based on the Biblical God, YHWH.

Brad B,

I don't take the view that "humanly comforts are the ultimate ends." I suppose you must have gotten that impression from reading Bennett's response, because you won't find anything like it in my own comments.

Rather, I interpret God's omnibenevolence as being principally concerned with the well-being of other conscious creatures. So he delights in seeing us joyful, and in protecting us from needless suffering.

Of course, this doesn't mean that he won't allow local patches of suffering here and there. As an analogy, we might consider a mother who punishes her child in order to learn obedience, because she knows that obedience is going to protect that child from greater suffering in the long run. So God also might allow us to suffer in the present moment if he thinks it will reduce suffering or enhance our joy later on. But there must be a counter-balancing benefit to suffering, otherwise an omnibenevolent deity won't allow it.

Now Christians generally believe that Jesus' crucifixion accomplished something very important to our well-being. They think that Jesus' suffering did indeed have counter-balancing benefits, namely the salvation of the faithful from damnation. However since God is omnipotent, he doesn't need to use any particular method of salvation. He can just wish us to be saved, and we will be, regardless of whether Jesus was also crucified. Given that this is so, the question remains, why did God want Jesus to suffer on the cross? In anticipating other possible answers, I have discussed the role of justice.

As for God having a favorite system of justice, I don't see how you could dispute that. Certainly there are many competing justice systems available to him. And he demonstrates by picking one of them which he prefers. What makes God imperfect in so doing?

"Rather, I interpret God's omnibenevolence as being principally concerned with the well-being of other conscious creatures. So he delights in seeing us joyful, and in protecting us from needless suffering."

Well, this is pretty much question begging since you are assuming that your use of omnibenevolence is how you define it and then reason your response. I believe that this is what Bennett and I are discussing with you. You'll have to provide some compelling reason to prove that this definition is one we should agree with, as of now, it's not compelling at all.

Also, it's not clear to me that there was another way since Jesus pleaded if there was another way, let Him not endure the cross....He endured the cross.

Brad B,

If you think that God puts his desire for abstractions like justice systems ahead of the well-being of other conscious creatures, then okay. That's certainly one way to explain why Jesus had to suffer. But is that going to be satisfying? Making one's own desire for following a certain system of rules a priority to caring for the well-being of others violates my understanding of perfect goodness. But if you're fine with it, then I suppose that's that.

Brad B,

I should probably add:

So you asked me why you should agree with my understanding of perfect goodness (i.e. omnibenevolence). Well, you don't need to agree with it entirely. You just need to agree that God should put the well-being of conscious creatures ahead of his desire to enforce his favorite system of rules. As long as we're on the same page in that regard, that's all we need.

But in case you're curious how I justify my understanding of perfect goodness, it's due to something like the argument which Sam Harris presented in his book The Moral Landscape, and again in his debate with WL Craig. In short, imagine a world of which we know nothing except that the people in that world suffer terribly all the time. We can immediately sense a moral dimension to this world. In particular it is clear that this is not a good world, since everyone suffers all the time therein. Since we can sense this without appealing to anything else about the world, we must conclude that suffering itself has a moral dimension. A similar argument can be run for joy. If by "well-being" we mean the balance of suffering and joy, then we must conclude that well-being has a moral dimension.

Again, though, you don't have to agree with me about Harris's argument, or my broader view of morality. It is sufficient that you agree the well-being of others is more important than a given system of rules.

Hi Ben, do you consider yourself to have omniscience? I doubt it, but I think it takes a depth of knowledge you don't possess to sit in that judgement seat and say what is ir is not omnibenevolence.

I have an extremely good suggestion for EVERYONE on this blog:
First, all of the points of view are thoughtful, insightful and intellectual.
I am currently reading something called "The Nature of True Virtue" by Jonathan Edwards. The "main" thing I get from it do far is that "God created the 'best of all worlds'. True virtue, he says, is the "desisring the highest good for overall being, both actual and hypothetical". In regard to the latter (which really shows Gods infinite wisdom and worthiness of our trust-and not merely "blind trust"-), God created beings (some having "more being" than others) in the way that would be best for overall being (and by "being", I mean "intelligent being": humans and angels, not animals or inanimate objects) etc.

Matthew, 41

Ben,

You may pretty well take it for granted that every Christian here declines to accept Sam Harris' argument, especially since his argument (as postulated in his debate with WLC) for morality runs something like this:

1. Morality is a mental activity

2. Scientists may observe mental activity, as on an MRI.

QED: Morality falls under the purview of scientists.

Do I really need to go into why that's fallacious? Art is a "mental activity", will he place aesthetics under the neuroscientist's purview as well? What about love, truth, and beauty? Freedom is a mental construct, so is law, shall neuroscientists claim pre-eminence there as well? I can watch the NFL on TV, does my observation of it mean that I should be able to call the plays, or even have the grounds to judge? Monday morning QB indeed.

In short, he argues for a technocratic oversight of all human experience. He doesn't explicitly state the rest, because it's patently absurd to anyone, but that would be the logical extension of his argument.


But at least he formed an argument, and put it out there. You have yet to do any such thing. What you have done instead is to axiomatically assert, without presenting any evidence--not one shred--that the reduction of "suffering" is the ultimate moral good.

You haven't even provided an adequate definition of suffering. Does it include only illness, injury, and death? Or does it include emotional distress and other subjective states of experience?

It's very important to distinguish between the two, because they are not, in fact, the same thing. Just ask a Zen Master. He never suffers, but he still has to chop wood and carry water, just as he did before Enlightenment.

In fact, it doesn't appear that you really do think that eliminating the subjective experience of suffering is the highest moral good, or else you'd be seeking the best possible way of doing so--and the Buddhists have had such a system since before Jesus was born. Simply adopt that, and encourage others to do the same. The only cost is discipline and stoicism. You'll have to give up joy if you want to give up pain, because the source of both is desire.

Now, if you want to eliminate physical injury and death, then you're taking issue with not being a god. I can't really do much for you there, although I would point out that the Resurrection body provides exactly that.

So, there's your task. Provide a useful definition of how you're using the word "suffering" in your argument. Then form an argument showing that suffering is a universal moral evil, and lack-of-suffering (ie, comfort) is a universal moral good. I would point out that joy and suffering are not antithetical--consider the bittersweet experience of watching a child marry, or unrequited love. They can happen simultaneously. The antithesis of suffering is comfort, so that is the good if suffering is the evil.

Once you've done all that (which will, by the way, place you in the halls of great philosophers) Then you need but to prove that God universally raises rather than decreases suffering. Then prove that none of this suffering, on the net, adds rather than detracts from other fungible or superior goods. All you'd have to do there is form a comprehensive database of every experience of every human ever to have lived or now live, and how every instance of suffering in their life impacted them, and everyone they ever came into contact with, directly or indirectly, at that moment and stretching forward into the rest of human history ad infinitum. Only in that way may you categorically prove that nobody's suffering produced any good for them, or anyone else.

Or, as is more likely, you can simply offer defeaters to other peoples' arguments, without a sound position of your own, and not deal with the undercutters and defeater-defeaters which they offer. It's quite easy to be the two old guys in the Muppet Theatre.

Brad B,

Remember, I'm not claiming to know how omnibenevolence cashes out in terms of particular behaviors. So for instance maybe the omnibenevolent thing to do is send Jesus to suffer and die on a cross. Please understand that I'm not saying God was wrong to do that. I'm only pointing out that, whatever reason God had, it could not have been to follow a system of rules, because the well-being of conscious creatures trumps rule-following every time!

So it's not as if I need to be omniscient. It is sufficient to know enough of what I mean by the term "goodness" to say what I need to say about it. Similarly, you don't need to be omniscient to say that, say, caring for a loved one is good. We can speak to these matters well enough without divine superpowers.

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "Well-being is most commonly used in philosophy to describe what is non-instrumentally or ultimately good for a person."

So your position is, I take it, that what is good for us is what is good for us?

Do I need to look up and define "tautology" for you as well, or explain how this has nothing to do with "suffering" or even injury, pain, and death?

Also, you seem to be operating on the assumption that Jesus is a human being separate from God, and God punished Jesus as a scapegoat for the rest of us. Not only is that not the case, Jesus was not human, and he was not separate from God, on orthodox Trinitarian Christianity.

What you are saying, then, is that God damaged himself in order to benefit the rest of us, but that this was not a good action, because it caused God to experience pain. That his altruism was, in fact, evil.

The contradictions are heaping up, Ben.

"It is sufficient to know enough of what I mean by the term "goodness" to say what I need to say about it."

I dont know...if you can make a judgement of what is ultimately good, you must have exhaustive knowledge of ends that aren't at your disposal. Seems unreasonable to consider this claim true.

I'd say that you cant even say one thing about whether an act is finally good on you own but neither can any other finite creature though.

Brad B,

I don't see why we need omniscience to know that, say, enslaving a person is not good for him (ultimately or otherwise). After all, we need some knowledge of what is good and evil in order to make moral judgments in the first place. For instance, if it is as likely as not that slavery is ultimately good, then why not practice slavery?

But fortunately for us that's beside the point, and so we don't need to worry about it. Remember, I'm not claiming that any particular thing (e.g. crucifixion) was ultimately good or bad for anyone. I'm only saying that it couldn't be good for us because of some system of rules that God happens to really love following, since conscious creatures are moral priorities to unthinking, unfeeling entities like rules.

So appealing to a set of rules won't explain why the crucifixion is somehow in our best interest. That is my main point here.

Bennett,

I haven't responded much to you lately because your criticisms are pretty much all directed at straw men. However it may be worth mentioning that "good" is not synonymous with "good for person X." Also, I urge you to continue to read that SEP article, especially the sections on hedonism and welfarism.

Ben,

I did read the article, thanks. I'll note that your criticism of the crucifixion is based on a false assumption about God's relationship to Jesus, and that your assertion that it "couldn't be good for us because of some system of rules that God happens to really love following, since conscious creatures are moral priorities to unthinking, unfeeling entities like rules" is irrelevant.

For one thing, you're assuming a number of things there.

1. That the Christian is trapped on the horns of Euthyphro's dilemma.

2. That we have chosen the left horn--that is, what we think is "good" is what God dictates by fiat, but the actual good is something independent of God.

3. That the rules God dictates are not intended to *promote* human welfare.

So who's attacking a straw man?

And furthermore, how is it "attacking a straw man" on my part to ask that you form an argument in a clear and concise manner, while defining your terms? If you feel you are being misconstrued, then state your case clearly. Otherwise, it's easy to assume that you're being vague so that it's difficult to actually contend with your points.

Right now, you haven't even criticised, to the best of my knowledge, a single thing that orthodox Christian theology actually holds to. You haven't even set out a cogent argument, only a set of blanket assertions without evidence.

So what am I supposed to argue with? You won't even do us the courtesy of spelling it out, so I'm forced to make inferences to even begin a debate.

If I debate a straw man, it is only because there's nothing but straw in your statements thus far.

And actually, I should amend the above. I re-read this: "I'm only saying that it couldn't be good for us because of some system of rules that God happens to really love following, since conscious creatures are moral priorities to unthinking, unfeeling entities like rules."

And realized that you don't even have us on the horns of the Dilemma. Because in the Dilemma, either the good is good because it is the will of God, or else God wills the good because it is good.

This doesn't actually say either of those. What you have there is a God who doesn't care about people. He doesn't even care about himself. He cares only about rules. He's even willing to be born as a man, suffer humiliation, pain, and death, and so on, in order to serve those rules.

This isn't a God of love, or a God of justice, it's a God of Rules. In fact, it's a God who *worships* rules--he places them higher than the good, and higher than himself. I don't know what you call that, except worship.

So where, pray tell, do you find this idolatrous God? Certainly isn't YHVH, or the Trinity, or Al'lah, or any other God I ever heard of. Sounds like an imaginary Straw God.

And if you find these contradictions not to be what you're trying to delineate, then I beg you, sincerely beg you, to spell out your argument in clear, concise, formal terms, or else quit complaining that you're being misconstrued. As far as I can tell, I'm doing a better job of elucidating you than you are.

By the way, on a more charitable note (just because I'm so enraptured with this debate--and on a less smarmy note, because you seem like a nice kid and I don't mean to just bash you), there's nothing wrong with your statement that, in short, caring about rules more than people or gods or really smart dogs, or other conscious, feeling creatures isn't a good basis for morality. I totally agree. People first, rules second.

But nobody here is saying rules first, people second. We're making the more sophisticated statement that the rules ought to promote the ultimate good of people, etc., and that God has the ability and character to do that even if we aren't always able to intuit how.

We also don't say that Jesus was a separate, created being whom he threw to the lions on behalf of those rules (or us, or whatever).

Your belief isn't all bad, but you're barking the criticism up the wrong tree. It might fly better as a criticism of, say, Arianism or Mormonism (and you're welcome to take it to the LDS and debate with them), but it just isn't what we're actually proposing.

My impression from skimming through the above conversation:

Why would anyone think that God's law is a set of silly rigid rules that he should just bend in order to accommodate mankind's proclivities to wrongdoing? Any judge who turns a blind eye to the law in order to spare the guilty party punishment is unjust.

One of Ben's initial observations strikes me as a little odd: "God is omnipotent, right? So he could save anyone he likes, whether or not their debts are paid." I agree that God can save anyone he likes. However, if their debts are paid, then from what are they being saved? If their debts are unpaid, then why can't God save them by paying their debts himself? But this payment is the very thing to which Ben objects. God has done something far more costly than we can imagine in order to spare us from the penalty we earned. And yet Ben further objects that God is not benevolent?

By the way, Jesus was not crucified to save the 'faithful', for none of us have faith except that which God gives us: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8).

Jesse,

Well our human justice systems are in place to serve the public good. But I don't see what's good about God's cosmic justice system. Now, maybe we could say that God's justice system ultimately benefits us in some way unknown to us. But indeed it would be very much unknown just how that happens.

Keep in mind that I'm not denying God is omnibenevolent. Certainly he is, by hypothesis. So Jesus' suffering must be ultimately for the best. The question is, how is Jesus' suffering for the best?

I submit that an appeal to cosmic justice doesn't help, because at bottom justice systems are just rules we follow. Ordinarily we expect our rules of justice to improve the overall balance of well-being, but in this case it is a mystery how God's justice system accomplishes that goal.

"I don't see why we need omniscience to know that, say, enslaving a person is not good for him (ultimately or otherwise)"

Well, if you dont see why, maybe you aren't thinking this through enough. You are using the term omnibenevolence, it is a term that carries with it a finality, completeness, or maybe more apt, perfection. If you are going to judge whether something fits within the term omnibenevolence, you have to have complete knowledge to rightly judge that. This would have to be knowledge that can inform you of the final disposition in eternity without error.

As to you example, I can think of a thousand resaons why enslaving someone might be good for them. Making a judgement to the ultimate state would of course require ultimate knowledge.

btw, I'm in agreement with Bennett that the case you seem to want to make is hard to follow and the argumentation is diluted because of vague or imprecise terminology. I dont even want to grant your premises in the first place much less go further into whether you have a point worthy to spend time debating.

Brad,

Relieved to hear I'm not the only one who was a little baffled. Jesse seems confused, too.
I was worried that maybe saying all those rosaries had acted as some sort of mantra and dulled my ability to parse language. Guess I can keep my new set of prayer beads after all!

Brad B,

I'm sorry to hear you haven't followed my argument, and that you think I'm using "vague or imprecise terminology." However, if you are not sure what I am arguing, then next time please just ask for clarification before accusing me of intentional obfuscation. I am usually happy to oblige.

So in the interest of clarity, allow me to re-present the argument first in a summary, and then again in greater detail.

The summary: If we want to appeal to God's favorite system of justice to explain why Jesus had to suffer, then we must know why that system is ultimately good for us. However, we do not in fact know how God's rules of cosmic justice are ultimately good for us, and so no appeal to those rules will be satisfactory as an explanation.

Now let's unpack this summarized argument. In the actual world (per Christianity), we have the following scenario:

(A) God sends the faithful to Heaven instead of Hell, and he also sends Jesus to die on the cross.

But consider the following hypothetical variation on this:

(H) God sends the faithful to Heaven instead of Hell, but he does not send Jesus to suffer on the cross.

In (H), everyone has (as far as we know) the same amount of joy and suffering except Jesus, who has at least the same amount of joy but is spared a great deal of suffering, when compared to (A). So on (A), there appears to be an equal or lesser amount of total joy but greater total suffering than on (H).

Nevertheless, God has expressed a preference for (A) over (H) by instantiating the former. He is omnipotent, so he has the power to instantiate (H); yet he chose instead to instantiate (A), thereby expressing his preference for it. So the Christian here faces a pretty steep challenge, to answer the following question:

(C) Why does God prefer (A) to (H)?

Now, I need to make the move from talking about the total balance of suffering and joy to speaking in terms of well-being, i.e. what is good for a person. It is not immediately clear how to connect the two, but it seems to me quite intuitive to suppose that, at least on the surface, (H) appears better for Jesus, and not any worse for anyone else. Maybe this is not the case, but it seems a reasonable initial assumption given the way (H) is constructed. In other words, at first glance, the following appears to be true:

(1) Everyone in scenario (H) has the same well-being as in scenario (A), except for Jesus, whose well-being is greater in (H) than in (A).

Probably at this point you are thinking to yourself, "but (1) is not true!" And you would be correct; (1) is indeed false, for the following reason: By hypothesis, God is omnibenevolent, which means (among other things) that he is principally concerned with the well-being of other conscious creatures. If (1) were true, then given this guiding principle, God would instantiate (H) instead of (A). However God has instantiated (A); so (1) must be false.

With all this in mind, consider the following possible answer to (C):

(2) God prefers (A) to (H) because (A) respects God's justice system whereas (H) does not.

It's not that this answer must be false, exactly. However, (2) doesn't really explain very much, because it leaves a mystery why God should care about his justice system. It cannot be that God just really loves his favorite justice system for its own sake, since part of what it means to be omnibenevolent is to care principally for the well-being of others. Rather, God must love his justice system because it somehow results in (not necessarily strictly) greater well-being overall. So anyone using (2) as an answer to (C) therefore has the following additional challenge:

(C') How is it that God's justice system results in a greater total balance of well-being?

I submit that nobody has an answer for (C'). Furthermore, it seems clear that anyone using (2) to answer (C) hasn't provided a satisfactory explanation so long as (C') remains unanswered.

To see what I mean by "satisfactory," consider the following analogy: Suppose you ask me, "why did you go to college?" and I respond, "I went to college in order to obtain my college degree." My answer isn't false, exactly; I did indeed go to college to obtain my college degree. Yet clearly I have not actually provided an satisfactory response. It's obvious that you want to know why I care about having a college degree, and in my answer I completely avoided dealing with that issue.

Similarly, in offering (2) as an answer to (C), the Christian has avoided dealing with (C'); yet (2) is not a satisfying answer to (C) unless we have an answer to (C').

In conclusion, appealing to a system of rules to explain Jesus' suffering on the cross isn't helpful unless we understand how that system of rules improves our overall well-being. So, since we don't know how God's favorite system of rules of cosmic justice improves our overall well-being, it cannot adequately explain Jesus' suffering.

Hopefully that helps clarify my argument.

For those of you who are interested, I adapted the previous comment for a blog post of my own:

Why did God want Jesus to suffer?

Feel free to visit and comment if you like.

Ben,

"If we want to appeal to God's favorite system of justice to explain why Jesus had to suffer"

We don't. Only you seem to want to do that. The rest of this was a meandering, half-coherent discourse on why a God wouldn't be a rules-bound tyrant. Which we already knew. You're correcting a doctrine that we don't propose.

Also, "Why would God want Jesus to suffer?" is a complex question. In the sense of the logical fallacy. It implies some sort of sadism, in the very asking.

You also still, in this little argument, haven't dealt with the fact that Jesus and the Father are one, along with the Holy Spirit, as a united Triune entity known as God. Whatever Jesus endures, so too do the Father and Holy Spirit.

You might say, then, that God wanted himself to suffer. Which you have no right to criticise him for, if you respect the right of an individual to self-determination. If God wants to suffer to benefit others, he has that right as a conscious, free-willing entity, does he not?

You really need to deal with the fact that you're criticising doctrines we didn't put forward, and entities who don't exist, but failing to deal with the doctrines we do hold to, and the God whom we *do* propose to exist.

Bennett,

I'm glad you don't appeal to God's favorite system of justice to explain why Jesus had to suffer, because if you did then you would not accomplish much of anything. But it would be a mistake to say that "we" don't, since in my experience many Christians do. In fact, if only you carefully read the comments in this blog post (which would prevent, I think, many of your misconceptions about what I have written!) you would see that at least one of the several commentators takes this very position. Recall that AStev wrote in the comment second from the top:

As you noted, the cross was necessary in order that justice be done. When we, as human beings, hear about some horrible case where a child is raped and murdered, we feel a sense of indignant anger toward the accused - and rightly so! It would be wrong of us to not abhor such an obvious manifestation of evil! And that only applies to God even more so. As the only holy, perfect one, the offense of sin truly deserves nothing less than God's wrath (his righteous offense and anger toward sin). It would be truly appalling if God in all his holiness and righteousness looked at sin and merely shrugged.

For us to suggest that God could simply turn a blind eye to sin and forgive people anyway without any sort of justice being done indicates that we either have a deficient view of the seriousness of sin, or a deficient view of God's holiness and worthiness.

That seems pretty clear to me!

Even in the article/outline on which this blog post is based (the one written by Koukl), he hints that justice might be the reason Jesus had to suffer, writing:

When the full debt for our sin was paid, and the justice of God was fully satisfied, Jesus simply gave up His spirit... He paid the debt so that whoever relies on Him would not perish under God's judgment, but have life with Him fully and forever.

Further appeals to justice to explain Jesus' suffering can be found all over the internet, for example here and here.

If you do not share these views, great! Because they are not satisfactory as an explanation for why Jesus had to suffer.

Hi Ben, I dont mean to sound dismissive of your thinking. It's really not that I think less of you or your ability to reason well. The charge of imprecision or vague terminology could be my own denseness, but because I'm not the only one, I just was pointing out what I believe is the reason why we are not following you.

I think the most recent post by Bennett is reflecting my thoughts also. Your charge that his responses to you are aimed at strawmen is what he and I think I would call the premises of your argument. The fact that we dont have even a remote sense of agreement on your starting points is why I cant see proceeding with trying to understand your argument. In fact, I dont think you have the case you want to argue if your prior premises are accurate reflections of an authentic Christian doctrine of God.

In any event, I'm not declining to discuss this issue with you for anything other than, I/we just dont see any reason to debate something just soley for the sake of having a discussion. Maybe you see value in the discussion that I dont see, but if you want to address a Christian view, it should at least start out Christian.

Brad B,

If you don't want to take the time to understand my argument, that's totally fine. I don't expect everyone to be interested in my personal opinions and judgments. However if you want to criticize the argument (as it appeared you initially wanted to do) then it might be best to first understand it.

Anyway, if you think my argument doesn't apply to you, then okay. But many Christians have tried to get away with appealing to justice to explain why Jesus had to suffer, as can be observed in the comment I wrote before this one (the one immediately before your most recent comment). So it is indeed a Christian view---just not the only Christian view.

Perhaps the greatest point of confusion for me is in trying to figure out what exactly Ben is trying to prove. Is it one of the following?

1) Jesus' crucifixion was necessary, but Christians haven't yet demonstrated why this is so.

2) Jesus' crucifixion was unnecessary.

3) God's laws are unjust.

4) God's laws are just, but the penalties are excessive.

5) God's laws are just, and the penalties are fair, but they should have been simply waived in the interest of the greatest good to the guilty parties.

6) God's laws are necessarily just. The Bible describes a god whose laws are unjust. Therefore either the god of the Bible is an impostor or the Bible errs in its description.


By the way, the OP never claimed the linked article would prove /why/ the crucifixion was necessary, nor did the OP even claim it was necessary, yet Ben began his objection:


Maybe I'm missing something, but I didn't see any explanation in the article/outline for why the crucifixion was necessary for any particular thing.

I assume that by "necessary," you mean the crucifixion was necessary to pay our debts


Look carefully for the word "necessary" in the OP and in the linked article. You won't find it. So why all the fuss about necessity?

From what I understand, God freely chose to make the sacrifice--he was never obliged, and would fully have been justified in giving us all what we deserve. Therefore we are saved by grace, classically defined as God's unmerited favor. Jesus did not die to save the faithful; he died to save the unfaithful, of whom am one. As it is written in Mark's account,


Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesse,

My position is (1), and not any of (2)-(6).

As for the OP mentioning why the crucifixion is "necessary," it has been changed from what it originally said, probably as a result of my pointing out that the linked article does not directly address that issue. But when it was first posted, it used the term "necessary," and claimed the linked article addressed the issue now at hand.

Now if Jesus really desired to suffer on the cross, and God was just respecting that desire, then that's a different answer (that is, different than appealing to justice) to the question of why it was necessary for Jesus to suffer. However even if it is a satisfactory answer (and I don't think it is), I'm not sure this is quite what you have in mind. The Gospels suggest that Jesus was willing to suffer in order to achieve some other goal. But he didn't want to suffer just for the sake of suffering, or anything else along those lines. Indeed he asked God to take that cup from him, but apparently God declined the request.

So if Jesus was merely willing to suffer to achieve some other end, then this won't answer the question of why it was necessary for him to suffer to achieve that end. It's a partial explanation I suppose, but it doesn't get at what I see as the real mystery, which is how it happens that Jesus' suffering ends up benefiting the overall balance of well-being in the world.

The original post read as follows:

Here's an article that will help you understand the significance of the cricifixion - why it was necessary and what it accomplished.

Here is a Google cache view: original post

Ben,

I'm afraid I do have to take issue with you saying "Some Christians believe this, ergo I impute it to Christianity at large." Obviously if confronted with that, you'll deny having attempted it, but you can't deny (quietly, to yourself, no need to acknowledge me on this) that when you present this as your argument against God's morality, you're implicitly endorsing that this is a widely-held Christian doctrine.

With 2.1 billion nominal Christians in the world, many of them heretical, badly catechised, or simply stupid, you won't have a hard time finding huckleberries to talk down to. But confront the argument in its strongest form, or don't fancy yourself a "counter-apologist."

Bennett,

You imply that I'm only interested in "finding huckleberries to talk down to." This is quite an insult, and I take exception to it. In fact it's not just insulting to me---it's also insulting to the people you're disagreeing with. Heck, you just called these folks "simply stupid" for daring to hold a theological position which happens to conflict with yours. I wonder what AStev above (I don't know his qualifications), Pastor Garrett (a Seminary graduate) and Jason Dulle (who holds an MA in exegetical theology) would think of that. (Yes, those are the people you just implied are "huckleberries.")

Well Ben, it's not any unwillingness on my part to engage in the discussion, if you are willing to clean up your view of what is and isn't Christian. Anyone who calls themselves a Christian can say a lot of erroneous doctrinal things, this doesn't make that error officially Christian.

Take this presupposition you have:

"It's a partial explanation I suppose, but it doesn't get at what I see as the real mystery, which is how it happens that Jesus' suffering ends up benefiting the overall balance of well-being in the world."

You were challenged on this statement before, it is a premise that isn't acceptable on several levels. One is that it assumes that God created the world for man, not for Himself. The overall balance of well-being in the world
is vague and imprecise. You need this statement to be founded on something other than your heterodox definition of omnibenevolent as it relates the the biblically revealed God. Hopefully it would be founded on some historic church document or church father who is willing to say that a perfectly benevolent being's end goal is related to the overall well being in the world. I know you wont/cant though, it isn't there.

The second assumption that cannot be passed over is the idea that God somehow has freedom to be other than the perfect One. His acts are definitive of perfection, what He does eliminates all other possible options, so to suggest that God is using His favorite system of justice, and that He could have done otherwise is just plain ignorant of the Divine Being. You or others might want to dispute this statement, but I think it's justifiable in the historic Christian doctrine of the nature of God, but to move forward with you would require that we agree on some level. As it is, I cant get past this misrepresentation of the Divine. Without these, you have no basis for a discussion based on revelation/reality.

I'm sure you think you have been addressed on this issue which implies that Christians are defending your boogyman, but I think if they'd take a good look at what you are addressing, they'd do the same thing Bennett and I are doing, that is realize that your case is fraught with prior assumptions that should be first justified. As far as ASteve's post, I dont think he really endorsed the view you attributed to him because your doctrine of God is unChristian, and if a proper doctrine of God was in view, his statements are not exposed to the criticisms you lay at his feet.

All of the miscommunications that you call straw men along the way are due to your prior assumptions about God that had not been challenged. Now is the time to either address them or we can just drop it altogether.

I see that Bennett and I are again seeing the same things...I assure you that we are not conversing with each other, nor do we share denominational distinctives, but I think we do substantially submit to the rules of logical argumentation as best we are able. It's nothing personal, and I wager that if you make a compelling logical case, you'll see a proper engaging into the argument you want to make.

Brad B,

Thanks for the response. I'll try to address your objections as best I can.

I'm not saying that the view I'm criticizing is the Christian view, but it seems quite clear from the three examples I gave that it is a Christian view. Maybe you think it is an "erroneous" Christian view, and if so then I would agree (albeit perhaps for different reasons). Errors, of course, often deserve correction.

Now, you also object that the concept of "overall balance of well-being" which I'm using is too vague/imprecise. If you mean that it's not clear how to compare the well-being between two arbitrary possible worlds, I agree; but fortunately we don't need to be able to do that in order to consider the present case. However we want to go about evaluating the balance of well-being in a given world, we can consider the following modest principle:

(P) If the well-being of everyone but Jesus in two possible worlds V and W is held fixed, then the overall balance of well-being is better in V than in W if and only if the well-being of Jesus is better in V than in W.

Hopefully you can agree with (P); and that's all we need for my argument.

Next you object to my premise that God is enforcing his favorite system of justice. But as I explained before, I'm not sure how you can reasonably deny this. Recall what I wrote:

Certainly there are many competing justice systems available to him. And he demonstrates by picking one of them which he prefers.

This is not to say that God could have done otherwise in some broadly logical sense. However we don't need to say that about God in order to see that he has a preference. That preference may be logically necessary, but it is nevertheless a preference insofar as God enforces one system of justice but does not enforce any other system of justice.

Fair enough, the OP did originally contain language of necessity, and was changed.

Hi Ben, I dont have a lot of time to respond but quickly will say that my main rejection for the "well being" standard is that it is irrevelant to reasons why God did what He did unless you can show why it was His standard. I say this because you have tied your view to an omnibelevolence. I dont think God considered overall well being, but rather the world reflects His person and perfection without any regard to a scale of well being of creatures.

Next, I'm an agressive critic of Molinism, so maybe I'm oversensitive to "possible world" language, but I dont have time to consider this further right now so I'll withhold comment on whether or not your [P] is debatable within the bounds of profitable discourse even if I overlook the Divine reason for how/why the world is the way it is.

The comments to this entry are closed.