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Monday, April 27, 2009

The 'Moral Monster' Argument

An argument (but, to be blunt, it frequently is not made as an argument but merely as an assertion) against the reality of God's existence which is popular amongst village-atheists-with-intenet-connections is that the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.

Recently, "KairosFocus" posted an item concerning this argument/assertion: Matt 24 Watch, 80: Is the God of the Bible (esp. the OT) a barbaric, genocidal "moral monster"?

Coincidentally, so did Victor Reppert at "Dangerous Idea:" Scripture: The word of a demon, or just a Paine for sinners

Following is my response directly to "KairosFocus" (and more indirectly, to the general tone of comments made in the DI thread):

I seems to me that you [that is, "KairosFocus"] don't get around to explicitly answering the question you've posed -- note, I said "explicitly." Here's my attempt to draw out, and to a degree expand upon, the implicit argument you're presenting:

1) There exists that which is properly called 'morally evil' -- and the atheist cannot, upon pain of incoherence (and willful incoherence is itself a moral evil), simultaneously deny this reality while asserting that the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster.

1a) The fact that there is moral evil is proof that moral good exists; for, to say that "thus-and-such is a moral evil" is a meaningless assertion if there exists-not that against which the "thus-and-such" is a violation.

1b) BUT, neither good nor evil are compossible with any atheistic/materialistic/naturalistic worldview.

For, IF the world itself *just is* (i.e. the world was not intended-and-created, but rather exists in its own right) -- and, after all, this belief/assertion is a primary and non-negotiable commitment of atheism -- THEN there can exist only that which is grounded in, and reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space.

AND, since 'good' and 'evil' are *not* grounded in, nor reducible to, matter-energy moving in time-space, then no such things can possibly exist were it indeed the case that the world is not created, but rather exists simply and without need of further explanation.

1b.1) THUS, in the very act of making the accusation that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," the atheist has asserted that atheism -- the assertion that there exists no Creator-God whatsoever -- is an assertion from a false worldview. That is, the particular atheist admits that there is, and that he knows that there is, some being who may properly be called 'God.'

1b.2) THUS, if he will be logically consistent (which is itself, after all, a moral obligation), the atheist must give over his atheism and admit that the world was intended-and-created; which is to say, that there exists a Creator-God.

1b.2a) AND, if he will not be thus logically consistent, then we Christians have no logical (nor moral) obligation to take him -- or his "objections" to the God-of-the-Bible -- seriously. For, he proves himself to be intellectually dishonest (which is to say, to be worse than a mere liar); he proves by his very act of willfully embracing logical inconsistency that it is logically impossible for us to argue with him, for there are no rules to which any "argument" he presents will adhere. I, myself, would go further and argue that not only is it logically impossible to argue with such a person, but also that it is immoral to (pretend to) attempt to do so; that one has the moral obligation either: to ignore him; or, to attempt to help him admit and correct his underlying problem, which is hatred of the truth and the good.

So, on the assumption that we are now dealing with an erstwhile atheist, perhaps we can procede:

2) The assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" is seen to contain the unstated (and doubtless unrecognized) assumption that, while there is indeed a God, the God-of-the-Bible is not the *real/ultimate* God.

2a) For, after all, the "ultimate" God is that being in whom all things ultimately are rooted and have their being -- else, one ends up with the infinite regress problem of positing an infinite series of "Gods," each of whom it becomes epistemologically necessary to assert, in never-ending sequence, is ontologically prior to the one currently under consideration.

3) Positing that "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- exists in its own right (as per the false paradox of the Euthryphro dilemma) turns out to be as incoherent as asserting that the physical world exists in its own right. That is, "the Good" must also be rooted in, have its existence in, the "ultimate" God.

3a) For, not only is "the Good" semantically contained within the "all things" which are and must be ultimately rooted in the "ultimate" God, but also "the Good" is inter-personal and relational -- one cannot coherently speak of "the Good" and of the moral obligation to accord with it (nor of its violation, that is, of moral evil) without implying a plurality of persons: if there exist-not persons (emphasis on the plural), or should there exist a plurality of persons but with no relationship one to the other, then there exists nothing, nor can exist anything, properly called "good."

3a.1) Moral evil just is the violation of the interpersonal relationship amongst a plurality of persons. Even to use the word 'violation' assumes there is something which is proper and of which violation is possible.

3b) To reiterate: "the Good" -- that by which one is justified even in asserting that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" -- does not exist in its own right. Rather, its existence, as with that of all other existing things, is grounded in the reality and existence of "ultimate" God.

4) So, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his assertion that "the God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster," logically must adopt a position of gnosticism; that is, that there is, indeed, an *ultimate* God-who-is-Good, but that the God-of-the-Bible cannot this *real* God.

4a) BUT, this throws us right back into an infinite regress of an ever-receding, ontologically-prior, "real" God, by the Goodness of whom we are judging the so-called God currently under consideration to be morally deficient.

4a.1) For, after all, our erstwhile atheist's argument against the God-of-the-Bible rests upon the appeal to one's emotional response to the moral evil (and/or natural evil) which exists in the world and the existence of which the God-of-the-Bible, whom we Christians say *is* the real God, allows. Going further, our erstwhile atheist's argument is not only that God-of-the-Bible allows moral evil (and/or natural evil), but that he both commits and commands moral evil.

4a.2) BUT, if this argument is valid against the God-of-the-Bible, then it is equally valid against the God-Before-The-God-of-the-Bible. And, if it is valid against *that* God, then it is valid against the one before him, world without end (amen, amen).

4b) So, our erstwhile atheist logically must abandon gnosticism as fruitless and self-defeating, for it devours itself; the very percieved problem (real or imagined) on the basis of which one adapts gnosticism in the first place cannot be answered by it, and, in fact, if the percieved problem is real, then it apples as fully to gnosticism as to non-gnosticism.

4c) Or, our erstwhile atheist, if wishing to maintain his rejection of the God-of-the-Bible, must maintain that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the "real" God allows the "evil" of the God-of-the-Bible.

4c.1) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible allows evil to exist in his Creation.

4c.2) Which is to say that there exists some morally valid, even if unknown-to-us, reason that the God-of-the-Bible does and/or commands that which we emotionally reject as being evil, or that which would indeed be evil when commanded by a mere human being.

5) To reiterate, the existence of "the Good," as with all things which exist, is and must rooted in the God-Who-Exists (and whom, as we Christians know, just happens to be the God-of-the-Bible).

5a) To assert that the God-Who-Exists is morally evil is to assert that Goodness is a self-contradiction, which seems to be absurd; or it is to assert that existence is a self-contradiction, is blatantly is absurd.

6) So, our erstwhile atheist is backed into the corner of realizing that the "problem" is vastly misstated and misunderstood.


Crude said...

A whole lot of the atheist attempts to make use of moral arguments in any way tends to come across to me as wildly insincere and incoherent. If the atheist is taking a position of subjectivity wrt morals, all the arguments fall apart when it comes to external criticisms. If they're taking a position of objectivity wrt morals, they typically end up resisting the need to understand what such a position necessitates. (Because the result is God or something so close to God that you can practically smell the incense.)

Ilíon said...

Exactly, Crude.

"(Because the result is God or something so close to God that you can practically smell the incense.)"

That was so funny (and I come from a very "low church" background).

Wakefield Tolbert said...

Fair enough.

Now what about the old riposte (just to play the devil's advocate to match my new logo) that God is just a big meanie BUT Christians in the final analysis only have ONE fallback argument:

He can do whatever in blazes He feels darn well tootin' like doin'


Ilíon said...

Welcome to my blog, such as it is, Mr Tolbert.

Devil's Advocate: "He can do whatever in blazes He feels darn well tootin' like doin'"

My response: Mr Devil has not *attended* the argument, for this whine/accusation is the very thing the argument is meant to help him understand is wholly misplaced.

Now, perhaps Mr Devil might counter that I haven't presented the argument in such a way that he can understand it. To which I must respond that one cannot understand what one does not engage, and until and unless Mr Devil engages the argument, I surely cannot see where it might be better expressed so as to enable him to grasp it whole.

Ilíon said...

By the way, if you *really* want to act like the typical internet 'atheist' in reacting to this particular argument, may I offer you this clue as to just what tone and manner to adopt?