Saturday, January 28, 2006

The divine command theory

I'm not a big fan of the divine command theory, but I don't think it is as problematic is some people suppose.

The divine command theory is a theory of morality that says the moral law is based on God's commands. The major problem with it is that it falls victim to Euthyphro's dilemma. Is something good because God's commands it, or does God command it because it's good?

If God commands it because it's good, then goodness comes before the command. If goodness comes before the command, then the good cannot be based on the command. So divine command theorists can't take this horn of the dilemma.

If something is good simply because God commands it, that makes the moral law seem arbitrary. If God's commands aren't based on anything prior, then he could've commanded anything at all. The only reason we have the moral law as it is is because God artibrarily commanded it to be so.

That strikes most people as counter-intuitive. It's not hard to think of counter-intuitive results that follow from this horn of the dilemma. God could've commanded mother killing and father raping, and they would've been good. He could've forbidden kindness, generosity, and loyalty, and they would've been bad. But our intuition balks as such suggestions!

Why? This is the weakness I see in this sort of argument. If God has forbidden us to kill our mothers and rape our fathers, and if he has commanded us to be loyal, generous, and kind, then of course our intuition will balk at the suggestion that things be otherwise. We balk because things are not otherwise. We live in a universe where things are the way God has made them. We have moral intuitions that are consistent with God's commands. So naturally the suggestion that things be otherwise are going to be counter-intuitive. If things were otherwise, then we would likely not balk so much.

So the fact that the suggestion of killing our mothers is counter-intuitive is not a good argument against the divine command theory.

But what of the fact that God's commands are arbitrary? Now I don't grant that they are arbitrary, but let's assume they are. What difference does that make? Are they any less binding just because they happen to be arbitrary? If God is the ruler of the universe, then we're obligated to obey him whether his commands are arbitrary or not.

I suppose the fear is that if they are arbitrary, they are subject to change. We don't want them to change, and we don't want a fickle God. But can't they be arbitrary and consistent at the same time? Isn't it possible for God to make arbitrary moral laws and stick to them? If so, then why worry about God being fickle?

26 Comments:

At 1/29/2006 1:15 AM , Blogger Paul said...

"Arbitrary commands" seems to imply randomness or purposelessness. "Arbitrary commands" seem to imply randomness or purposelessness. It seems reasonable to think that God's commands and decrees have some relationship to His own intrinsic nature. So, to say that "something is good because God commanded it" may be true, but it is also to say that it is good because it finds its source in God's very nature. Is it valid to say we have an alternative to the two horns of Euthyphro's dilemma or do we just defend the divine command horn as being tenable?

 
At 1/29/2006 7:17 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Well I think the issue with the arbitrariness is whether or not god is in fact "good" or "just." If God can do anything arbitrarily, then he is bound by nothing resembling the words "just."

 
At 1/29/2006 9:57 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Of course he is, Steve. God is still "just" by definition. It's just that the definition is arbitrary.

 
At 1/29/2006 11:32 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam - this is the accepted definition of "just"

"Consistent with what is morally right; righteous. Properly due or merited, Valid within the law"

how can that be arbtirary?

 
At 1/29/2006 11:46 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

If the definition of "just" is "what is morally right," and "what is morally right" is arbitrary, then "just" is arbitrary.

 
At 1/30/2006 12:22 AM , Blogger Steve said...

but it can't be consistant with what is morally right, since morally right changes!

 
At 1/30/2006 12:32 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

If just is what is morally right, then just can't be anything but consistent with morally right. And as I pointed out in my post, "arbitrary" does not imply "changes."

 
At 1/30/2006 6:08 AM , Blogger Steve said...

Sam - you can twist the definition all you want so that the word "consistancy" comes as a byproduct of being morally right, rather than a prerequisite of being just, but that doesn't change the facts.

This is what I see:

P1: For God to be Just, He must be consistant with what is morally right
P2: "God's commands are arbitrary"
P3: Arbitrary commands are not consistant with what is morally right
Therefore
C: God is not Just

You're saying
P1 For God to be Just, He must be consistant with what is morally right
P2 "God's commands are arbitrary"
P3 What is Morally Right is Arbitrary
Therefore
C: God is just

But P3 doesn't make sense intuitively! In what way is it morally right, if its arbitrary?

Look at the accepted definition of morality "The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct"

Do we now have to change what morality means in order for God to be just? Why not stop using the word just say and "whatever god says, goes" but then of course, the Bible (which says God is just) would be wrong.

 
At 1/30/2006 6:48 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, I'm not twisting anything. You're the one who defined "just" as "consistent with what is morally right." I don't see how it's possible for you to define "just" that way and then to say that "just" is inconsistent with what is morally right.

I would like to know how you would defend the claim that "Arbitrary commands are not consistent with what is morally right." Under the divine command theory, God's commands are by definition what is morally right. I don't see why it matters whether those commands are arbitrary or not.

 
At 1/30/2006 1:50 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

It would seem that DCT doesn't speak to the nature of God. The idea is that what is right and wrong for humans is defined by God's decrees.

It may be possible that according to DCT that God's decrees could be arbitrary, or objectively found in His nature, or objectively found in an external law He must obey...Obviously there is one that is consonant with Christian theology, but I don't think DCT means to step that far.

Therefore, DCT would probably assert that what is 'just' is defined by what God decrees (but, again, only for humans).

 
At 1/30/2006 2:16 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha- is there practically any way to apply this position? Can we come up with a methodology by which we can review God’s morals and determine whether it is:

1. Changing and non-arbitrary.
2. Non-changing and non-arbitrary.
3. Changing and arbitrary.
4. Non-Changing and arbitrary.

Or is it all some big guessing game? Take a simple one—eating rabbits. Prior to Moses, no law either allowing it or prohibiting it. After Mosaic law—no eating rabbits. (Lev. 11:6)

Now, at some point it became acceptable to eat rabbit again. When? During Jesus’ ministry? (Mark. 7:17-19). At His death? At His Resurrection? When Peter received a vision? (Acts. 10:15) Come up with a methodology by which we can ever determine WHEN this law ceased to be in existence, let alone why.

And Jeff, you are right. If the Euthyphro dilemma is used for “what God commands” rather than “what God Does” it could be argued this only applies to humans. But that isn’t the Euthyphro dilemma, is it?

 
At 1/31/2006 3:34 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

Can we come up with a methodology by which we can review God’s morals ... Or is it all some big guessing game?

Under the divine command theory, I'm not sure, but for myself, neither one. I don't review God's morals in order to determine whether they are changing or arbitrary, but I don't guess either. I say they are non-changing and non-arbitrary because of the philosophilcal arguments for compatibalism. The commands are non-arbitrary because all choices are based on disposition. God must first have a nature that dictates what his choices will be. I also say they are non-changing, because of compatibalism. God, being the first mover, has nothing outside of his own nature to cause him to choose to change his morality. For God to change, that change would have to be spontaneous, without reason, and random, which is inconsistent with compatibalism.

I don't think the rabbit example really fits this topic, because I don't think the change in command about eating rabbits is any indication that there has been a change in God's morality. In both cases, we are obligated to obey God. The change in command could be due to situations and how the command applies to those situations.

By analogy, imagine you had a kid with some kind of illness. You might require him to take medicine at one time, but forbid him to take medicine at another time. In both cases, he has a moral obligation to obey you, and that moral obligation doesn't change in either case. Your change in command isn't due to a change in your morality, either. Rather, it reflects a change in circumstances. There's a reason you allow at one time but forbid at another, and that reason may be perfectly consistent in both cases with your unchanging nature.

Sam

 
At 1/31/2006 5:14 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Lol! I love it when I use an example right out of the Bible, and the Christian prefers analogies! You fellows are scared of your own book! ephphatha, as I pointed out, you can’t even state when the law to eat rabbits was in force, let alone the why.

I see your methodology. You defined your God as you see fitting the immediate circumstances. Not a particularly objective, nor pragmatic methodology. I cannot even get a handle on what you think God is limited by, and how we determine THAT. (Although I have a sneaking suspicion one uses whatever one can to get out of the jam of the moment.) Why is your God limited to only free will as defined by humans? Couldn’t He have a completely different type of will that is beyond our comprehension? He (apparently) is limited by logic, but not by time. Limited by His nature, but not by an exterior determination of “moral.” Limited in His ability to eliminate natural disaster, but not in His ability to exercise complete dominion over creation.

And to retreat to the moral of the rabbits being “obey god” falls one squarely on the “might makes right” horn, as well as eliminating immorality, other than arbitrarily determined by God. Look, if the only law is “obey God,” then yesterday, God could say, “Eat rabbits” today say, “Not eat rabbits” tomorrow say, “Kill all the rabbits” and next Tuesday say, “Don’t kill any rabbits.” All of which is still your one morality—obey God. But if that is the only morality, then God has no concept of moral/immoral. It is all moral (or all immoral, depending on how you look at it) since he has no choice but to obey Himself.

Try it this way. Imagine being a god. Your “morality” is that you must obey god—yourself. But no matter what you do, no matter how you turn, you will always obey yourself. At any instance, you can change your mind, and what was true the previous moment, is false the next, but still within this parameter you have defined as “morality.” The ONLY way to create immorality, is to pick some arbitrary items, make the pronouncement that items are “disobeying God” and then proceed, realizing, of course, that in fact all choices are moral.

You seem to be saying that He is the creator of the world, and he can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants, but the only thing you are certain of, is that it is non-changing and non-arbitrary. And the way you know that? Why, because you defined God in such a manner.

ephphatha: For God to change, that change would have to be spontaneous, without reason, and random, which is inconsistent with compatibalism. We are spontaneous. We do things without reason, that are random. As far as I know, spontaneity , non-reasoning and randomness are not immoral. Why couldn’t God do them? He created them in us, didn’t he? Where did they come from, if not from God?

 
At 2/01/2006 1:47 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

There is nothing wrong with eating rabbits or with not eating rabbits, so "obeying God" is really the only moral principle that can be involved.

Why is your God limited to only free will as defined by humans? Couldn’t He have a completely different type of will that is beyond our comprehension?

I think libertarian free will is incoherent. That's why I think compatibalism applies to God as well as humans.

I have to wonder if you really read or understand what I write. I gave you reasons for why I think God is non-changing and non-arbitrary, and yet you say, "And the way you know that? Why, because you defined God in such a manner."

We are spontaneous. We do things without reason, that are random. As far as I know, spontaneity , non-reasoning and randomness are not immoral. Why couldn’t God do them? He created them in us, didn’t he? Where did they come from, if not from God?

We're going to have to save this for another blog entry, because it will require me to explain why I think libertarian free will is incoherent. I don't think anything we do is spontaneous or without reasons unless it happens to be an involuntary reflex or something. But every intentional act on our part (or the part of any being who has intentions, including God) is based on some intention, motive, reason, disposition, inclination, etc.

 
At 2/01/2006 3:07 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha, perhaps I do not understand you. The reasons you gave for God being non-changing and non-arbitrary are definitions of God. Look at them:

Why is God non-arbitrary? Your “reason” : The commands are non-arbitrary because all choices are based on disposition. God must first have a nature that dictates what his choices will be. How is that anymore than a definition of God? You are placed in a position of not knowing, through either human inability to comprehend, or God’s inability to communicate, to quantify what God’s “nature” is, nor how it “dictates” to God.

What I see are fancy words, strung together, but upon inspecting them, we gain no further knowledge. How, for example, could God not be dictated to by his nature? What, in his nature, could he say, “I won’t do that?” Nothing, I would surmise. Therefore, saying his choices are dictated by his nautre is saying….well, nothing.

Are you saying there is absolutely no such thing, either supernaturally or naturally, that is arbitrary? If so, if it does not exist, then I could understand where you are coming from. “Arbitrary” is a concept, but a non-existent one. But if it DOES exist, here or anywhere, God has to have the capability, true? May not exercise it (don’t know) but at least could.

And saying God has a “nature” is not very helpful either. It is an attempt to remove the problem by one step, but leaves the problem in place. “Why is the carpet wet?” “Because water was placed on it.” Not helpful, when we are looking for where the water came from.

“Why can’t God change?” “Because his nature won’t allow it.” The next, obvious question would be “Why can’t God’s nature change?”

Why is God non-changing? Your “reason” : I also say they are non-changing, because of compatibalism. God, being the first mover, has nothing outside of his own nature to cause him to choose to change his morality. Another definition. God is “the first mover.” Mover of what? For him to make the choice to move, the choice must be there first. Is “choice” the first mover? If God is dictated to by his nature (and if this phrase has any meaning) his nature must come first. If it happens at the same moment, God is not dicated to by his nature. They are one and the same. Is there “nothing’ outside of God’s nature? What about creation? Is that “in” or “out” of God’s nature? If “in” then all of creation is as holy as God. And, (weirdly) creation is therefore dictating to God.

If creation is “out” of His nature, how can you determine that God may not change his morality based upon reacting to creation?

Maybe if I try it from this angle, you can see why I don’t understand what you are saying. My rabbits again. No, I will not give them up. :)

The king enacts a law that says the citizens cannot eat rabbits. Why? Because they chew cud. (They don’t.) A few years go by, and someone points out their neighbor is committing a crime by eating rabbits. “That old law?” the king asks. “I repealed it a few months ago.”

Any king, government or other god that first enacts a law about eating rabbits (for no apparent reason) and then repeals the law (for no apparent reason) we would indicate is changing and aribtrary. Think about how funny this is. At some unknown point in the First Century, a Jew in Rome is eating a bowl of rabbit stew. His first bite is disobedient to God by violating Mosaic Law. His second is not. What changed?

To me, this is indicative of a changing, arbitrary God. (And this is one of many, many examples.) You have indicated God is not changing and is not arbitrary. In reviewing God’s position on rabbits, I ask the natural question, “Why do you say that? What is your proof?”

And to that you have stated that God is dictated by his nature, and his choices must be dictated by that nature. God is the first mover, and there is nothing outside his nature to cause him to change his morality.

Maybe I am not making myself clear. But I like to apply definitions. See how they fit in the world about us. At the moment, I am using the simplest law—eating rabbits. And after reading your definition of God, I must confess stating, “Huh?”

Perhaps the complexities of this God-dictated-to-by-nature are too much for me.

 
At 2/02/2006 2:41 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

You seem to agree with me to an extent, so let’s start there. You said,

How, for example, could God not be dictated to by his nature? What, in his nature, could he say, “I won’t do that?” Nothing, I would surmise.

I totally agree. Now let’s think about this. If God’s choices are determined by his nature, then his choices are not arbitrary. To be arbitrary would mean to be totally spontaneous, acausal, baseless, random. But since they are based on his nature, they are not arbitrary.

(Lemme make a detour here. This is the big difference between compatibalists and libertarians. Libertarians believe our nature does not dictate our choices, but compatibalists say our nature does dictate our choices.)

Now I suppose you could say this only postpones the problem, and we now have to ask what God’s nature is based on. If God’s nature didn’t derive from anything, then it’s arbitrary, right? And if God’s nature is arbitrary, then the choices that come from it are also arbitrary by extension.

The problem here is that God’s nature didn’t come from somewhere. It didn’t derive at all. God is the first mover. And this is not just a definition either. This is something I arrive at through the necessary/contingent version of the cosmological argument. For anything at all to exist, something must exist necessarily. To be contingent means to depend on something else for its being, so not everything could be contingent or else nothing would exist. There must be a first mover—something upon which everything else has its being.

If God is necessary, then he is not arbitrary. To be arbitrary would entail that he could have been otherwise. But to be necessary entails that he could not have been otherwise.

I think it’s no small coincidence that the supreme ruler of the universe—the one upon whom the moral law derives—and the prime mover of the universe—the one upon whom everything else depends for its being—are the same being. It makes good sense to me. God has dominion over his own creation, which has a strong appeal to common sense. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me.

If God is the first mover, then everything that God produces must be consistent with his will. The will is the faculty of choice, so God chose things to be as he intended them to be. It doesn’t seem possible, then, for something to have derived from God’s nature to then cause a change in his nature. For that to happen, it would have to have been within God’s nature to begin with to bring about a change in his nature. But if it was in his nature to change his nature, then his nature was already other than it was, which is a contradiction. So I don’t think it’s possible for God to change his nature or for anything that is the result of God to change his nature either. So his nature must be unchanging.

You don’t seem to be getting the point of my analogy above with the medicine. You insist that if God allows rabbit-eating one day but forbids it another, that God is being arbitrary. But would you think a father who allowed his son to take medicine at one time but not at another was being arbitrary? Of course not. There are non-arbitrary reasons a father might allow his son to take medicine at one time but not another. If God has a reason for allowing rabbit-eating one day and forbidding it another, then his change in command is not arbitrary, and it does not indicate a change in his nature.

In your scenario, you rightly made the parenthetical comment that the change was “for no apparent reason.” So you must agree that the change is only arbitrary if there is no reason. But the key here is the word “apparent.” God’s reasons for changing his commands about rabbit-eating are not apparent to you, are they? So what I would like to know from you is this: How do you conclude that since little ole you doesn’t know what God’s reason is, that therefore God has no reason? Only if he has no reason is the change arbitrary, and you seem to insist that it is arbitrary, so you must be assuming there is no reason for the change. How do you know that?

Of course you could turn the question back on me and ask why I assume there is a reason. But I have already answered that question.

 
At 2/02/2006 11:46 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Very well said Sam.

 
At 2/02/2006 2:39 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha, thank you for your thought-out, lengthy comment. It clarified some questions I had about your position.

The cosmological argument. You do know, I hope, that argument is only effective on those that already believe in a god. One of the primary reasons no one else does is that it assumes the conclusion. No matter what I plug in as being “necessary” whether it is “the universe,” “god,” “energy,” “aliens,” or “small stones” out it pops as proven. Define it as “necessary” and it is proven. Plus the problem of using natural consequences to derive supernatural entities. As well as the problem (I understand) that some items in cosmology are NOT contingent. I haven’t fully researched all of cosmology though, so don’t take my word for it on that last one.

But at the moment, I will concede your cosmological argument. I only ask one thing—that you stay logically consistent with it. You take the detriment with the benefit of the argument. Fair enough?

Remember our previous discussion, in which you indicated God does not have the capability to perform an immoral act. The human capability to perform an immoral act—is it contingent or necessary? If it is contingent, it depends on something else to exist. By applying the cosmological argument, we go back to the necessary element (God) and therefore God must have the capability to perform an immoral act. On the other hand, if the human capability to perform an immoral act is necessary, then there are either more than one necessary elements in the universe OR God cannot be necessary, and must be contingent upon the human capability to commit an immoral act.

The problem no one can figure out, in the cosmological argument, is how to trace back existence to God, but not saddle Him with immorality as well.

We can do the same thing with your word “arbitrary.” (Again, it was left unclear, if you hold the position that humans are incapable of being arbitrary, then I would agree it is logically consistent that God is equally incapable. Otherwise by application of the cosmological argument…..) Is the human capability of arbitrary acts contingent or necessary? If contingent, by application of the argument, it must depend on the necessary for its existence. Therefore God must have the capability to be arbitrary. If necessary, then how many other things are necessary?

Try it with “changing.” Again, the capability to change—necessary or contingent? Isn’t this fun? No matter what we plug in, if you want humans to be contingent, then God must equally have the capability. Things like surprise, awe, faith, hope, joy, sorrow, repentance, jealousy, all sorts of wild and crazy things.

All I ask, ephphatha, is that you stay logically consistent. If you want God to have a “reason” since he is a necessary being, and all else is contingent, then we must equally apply it across the board. Want to see it another way?

ephphatha: If God is the first mover, then everything that God produces must be consistent with his will. “Everything”?

1. Humans have the capability to perform immoral acts.
2. This “capability” is part of “everything.”
3. God produces that capability.
4. The capability is consistent with his will.
5. His will is solely moral.
6. The capability of performing an immoral act is moral.

Then why can’t God have it? On the other hand, you may claim that the capability to perform an immoral act is NOT something that God produces. Therefore we have:

1. The capability to perform an immoral act is NOT contingent upon God.
2. The capabilty to perform an immoral act is necessary.

Is our capability to perform an immoral act necessary or contingent? Immoral or moral? Is our capability to change, to be arbitrary necessary or immoral? You want the cosmological argument? Have it. Just be consistent, please. All I ask.

ephphatha: It makes good sense to me. God has dominion over his own creation, which has a strong appeal to common sense. Of course it makes common sense. Gods were created by humans. They would tend to look and act as humans, and compensate for what humans don’t know. It would be more amazing (even stunning) for a God NOT to make common sense! We see watches being made, and assume a watchmaker. (Thanks to Paley.) We see the world, and since our minds attempt to force design in order to make logical sense of the world, we see a designer. What is so amazing about that being common sense? We derive morals, and impose a higher authority as validity of those morals. There is concept of a god, ripe for the using. Why not apply it to a God?

We see arbitrary, changing, immoral acting humans. Why does our common sense suddenly cease being the barometer by which to measure a god? Because (I would suppose) the person proffering the god does not WANT it to be arbitrary, changing or immoral.

Since a god is a human creation, it follows that it conforms to human common sense. Here is a good example of “common sense” in action. Surely you have seen some science fiction movie, and in those movies the Aliens have larger heads than humans. Why? Because “common sense” says that two things:

1. Space travel requires a higher intelligence than what we have.
2. Larger brains equal higher intelligence.

Both concepts are wrong. We have the same amount of intelligence we had 1000 years ago. We just build on more knowledge. In another 1000 years, we may accomplish long-distance space travel. We won’t be more intelligent. (Plus, if we stole it, we could be just as knowledgeable and intelligent…) Further, science has not linked brain size to intelligence.

But since we (or Hollywood writers) developed aliens, we used “common sense” and voila—large-headed bipedal creatures. Not surprising at all.

ephphatha: It doesn’t seem possible, then, for something to have derived from God’s nature to then cause a change in his nature. But the capability to commit immoral, arbitrary and changing acts didn’t come from his nature, did it? If it did, then he can. If it didn’t, then it is another necessary, non-contingent element that means there is more than God out there. Which COULD cause a change in his nature, upon interacting with it. But if God’s nature could change, then change goes back to being part of a necessary being. Do you see how you are going ‘round and ‘round with this?

I got your point in your analogy. I find it rude (and fairly boring ) to attack analogies; instead I try and see what the person was attempting to convey with it. Your analogy was so far off the mark, I stuck with rabbits. We can’t see the reasoning behind eating/not eating rabbits. We are clear as a bell as to the reason of medicine/not medicine. Ask any person, regardless of race, creed, religion, age, sex or locale as to the difference between providing medicine to someone who is ill, and someone who is well. They will say:

“Because the child is sick.”
“Because the child is sick.”
“Because the child is sick.”
“Because the child is sick.”

Ask any person, cross-culturally, why God would forbid eating rabbits, and then allow eating rabbits, and you will get:

“I don’t know.”
“That’s a stumper.”
“Beat’s me.”
“He must have had a good reason.”

(See if you can find the Christian in this picture!) The further problem with your analogy is human limitation. If my child is sick, I only have so many tools available to me. God can heal. Our conversation would look as follows:

“Why didn’t God heal his child?
“I don’t know, but he must have had a good reason.”
“Why did God provide medicine?”
“I don’t know, but he must have had a good reason.”
“Why didn’t God say why he provided medicine instead of outright healing the child?”
“I don’t know, but he must have had a good reason.”
“When was the child well enough, that giving the medicine became immoral?
“I don’t know, but he must have had a good reason.”
“Why is eating rabbits disobeying God one moment, and not the next?”
“I don’t know, but he must have had a good reason.”

ephphatha: God’s reasons for changing his commands about rabbit-eating are not apparent to you, are they? So what I would like to know from you is this: How do you conclude that since little ole you doesn’t know what God’s reason is, that therefore God has no reason? Let’s remember who “little ole” me is. According to your belief, I was created with a brain. A brain that God intended me to use. A brain that it is NOT a sin to use. A brain that uses logic, and thought, and observation. A brain that God even requires me to use to find Him, and will hold me accountable for failing to use to do so. (Rom. 1:20)

In point of fact, in the very first book written in the New Testament, I am told to “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21) and that who “little ole” me is.

I know the reason for the rabbits. I have given you a few days to come up with it, and you just want to say, “there is a reason, we don’t know what it is, and you can’t say there isn’t a reason.” I have given you a chance to go out there and learn all about rabbits, and the possiblities of rabbits, and instead I get these analogies.

O.K., here it is on rabbits.

Archeaology has discovered an interesting anamoly in Canaan in the 1500-500 B.C. range. No pig bones. None in sacrifices, none in waste, simply none. The obvious conclusion is that the Canaanites did not eat pig. Note that word—“Canaanites.” This would mean the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and, of course, the Jews. It was a mode of distinction, in some way, for them. (Of particular note, not distinction from other Canaanites.) They excercised a dietary restriction.

When the Mosaic Law was written, arguably around the time of Josiah, it was already long in effect to not eat pig. Not too difficult to simply incorporate the practice already in place to the law. No one was doing it anyway, making it an easy law to follow. In giving a justification of the law, they fell upon (for unknown reasons) cloven hooves and chewing cud. The law specifically eliminates rabbits because of its lack of hooves, but notes that rabbit chew cud.

Rabbits don’t chew cud. Cows are obvious for chewing cud. They sit there in the field, munching away. Ever see a rabbit in a field? It wiggles its nose, and moves it mouth. It has all the appearances of chewing cud, but it doesn’t. To a person, at that time, it was important to make the distintinction since people might say, “Hey a rabbit chews cud. How come we don’t eat those?” Why rabbits and pigs were eliminated from their diet, (long before the law was written) we simply don’t know.

They picked an action people were already doing, and said, “God said it is a law.” (Easy law to follow, eh?)

Fast forward to First Century. One of the many impacts on Judaism was the Hellenization of many Jews. Intermingling with other cultures. As part of that, Paul introduced an offshoot of Judaism to gentiles. In order to “sell” it, though, he could not impose Mosaic Law, (too rigid) so he repealed the whole thing, introducing salvation by faith. When the author of Mark wrote the story, he assumed it went back to the time of Jesus, and placed the lifting of the food ban in Jesus’s words. The Author of Acts (I assume the same as the author of Gospel of Luke) had a penchant for correcting the Gospel of Mark’s inaccuracies. If he knew that food ban was actually lifted after Jesus would have lived, he would have incorporated it in the story of Peter/Cornelius to place it at a much later date.

The “reason” behind the rabbits is very simple. When humans practiced it, they incorporated it in their God belief. When humans abandoned it, they equally removed it from their God-belief.

And no, ephphatha, you have never given a cohesive answer as to why your God gave two hoots about eating or not eating rabbits. You simply philosophize that there must be one.

 
At 2/03/2006 5:41 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods,

D: Remember our previous discussion, in which you indicated God does not have the capability to perform an immoral act.

S: Yes.

D: The human capability to perform an immoral act—is it contingent or necessary?

S: It's contingent.

D: If it is contingent, it depends on something else to exist.

S: Yes.

D: By applying the cosmological argument, we go back to the necessary element (God)

S: Yes.

D: and therefore God must have the capability to perform an immoral act.

S: Nope. That does not follow. Or if it does, you need to show how.

D: The problem no one can figure out, in the cosmological argument, is how to trace back existence to God, but not saddle Him with immorality as well.

S: You should read Jonathan Edward's book on The Freedom of the Will. I think he handles this "problem" just fine.

D: Again, it was left unclear, if you hold the position that humans are incapable of being arbitrary, then I would agree it is logically consistent that God is equally incapable.

S: I thought I was clear. I said that an arbitrary act is an act without a cause, reason, motive, etc. But humans can only act with causes, reasons, motives, etc. It follows that humans are not capable of arbitrary acts.

D: No matter what we plug in, if you want humans to be contingent, then God must equally have the capability.

S: This is far from obvious to me.

D: 1. Humans have the capability to perform immoral acts.
2. This “capability” is part of “everything.”
3. God produces that capability.
4. The capability is consistent with his will.
5. His will is solely moral.
6. The capability of performing an immoral act is moral.

S: Depending on what you mean by (6), I would agree. It is perfectly moral of God to produce the capability for humans to perform immoral acts. If that's what you mean, then I agree. If you say the performing of an immoral act is moral, then of course that's a contradiction, and I don't agree, and that doesn't follow from your premises.

D: But the capability to commit immoral, arbitrary and changing acts didn’t come from his nature, did it?

S: It was within God's nature to produce in people the capability to commit immoral acts, but producing that capability was not itself an immoral act.

D: We can’t see the reasoning behind eating/not eating rabbits. We are clear as a bell as to the reason of medicine/not medicine.

S: I still don't see any indication in your response that you get the point of my analogy. My analogy was to show that a change in command is not arbitrary as long as there is a non-arbitrary reason for the change. As you have agreed, it's clear that there is a non-arbitrary reason for a change in command from "take the medicine" to "don't take the medicine," so the change in command is not arbitrary. If you want to continue to insist that the change in command from "don't eat rabbits" to "eat rabbits," is arbitrary, you need to demonstrate that God has no non-arbitrary reasons for the change. So far, all you've been able to say is that you don't know what his reason is.

D: The further problem with your analogy is human limitation.

S: Why is that a problem? If God has some purpose, then he is limited to fulfilling that purpose. It isn't enough to say, "Well God can heal." Healing may not be included in the purpose. He may have some purpose in a person not being healed. Same thing with eating or not eating rabbits.

D: Let’s remember who “little ole” me is. According to your belief, I was created with a brain.

S: Little ole you was never created with a brain or a mind capable of apprehending the full extend of God's mind. You do not know everything God knows. My whole point in mentioning "little ole you," was to say that just because you don't know what God's reasons are, it does not follow that God has no reason, and you did nothing to even address that point.

D: I know the reason for the rabbits.

S: But the reason you gave was completely irrelevent to the question. The question was this: Why did God change the command from not eating rabbits to eating rabbits? Your explanation said nothing about God's commands or God's reasons at all. In fact, your explanation seems to assume there was no divine command at all either way. If that's your position (which I'm sure it is), then it doesn't address the question.

D: I have given you a few days to come up with it, and you just want to say, “there is a reason, we don’t know what it is, and you can’t say there isn’t a reason.”

S: So far, you haven't given me any reason to think I need to know the reasons for the change in command. I've given you an argument to show why I think God has a good reason, but so far you've done nothing to refute the argument.

D: And no, ephphatha, you have never given a cohesive answer as to why your God gave two hoots about eating or not eating rabbits.

S: I don't see why it's necessary for me to give such an answer. I've already shown how we can conclude that God has a good reason without knowing what the reason is, so it's not necessary that we know.

D: You simply philosophize that there must be one.

S: And you simply ignore the argument.

 
At 2/03/2006 11:10 AM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha, it occurs to me that perhaps you tire of my presence here. While I thrill in theistic debate, not everyone else does. Perhaps you prefer to philosophize to those that believe, not to those that do not. This will be me last comment on this blog entry. (Besides. I may be beating a dead horse.)

Three quick problems with your cosmological argument.

1. You agree that humans have the capability to perform immoral acts. You claim that God can conceive, and create, but not contain this ability to perform an immoral act. O.K.. Stay consistent. Humans also have the capability to perform moral acts. Applying the same exact argument, we must also conclude that God can conceive and create, but not contain this ability to perform moral acts. According to you, Humans do NOT have the ability to perform arbitrary acts. Applying this same argument, we must conclude that God can conceive and create, but not contain this inability to perform arbitrary acts. Humans can change. Applying this argument….

By using this escape clause, you have invented a class of capabilities that Humans can do, and God cannot. What method do you use (other than definition and assumption) to determine what capabilities we have that God does not? OR, as it appears to me, are you just picking and choosing that which is most convenient to your position.

Why did our capability to perform a moral act come from God, and our capability to perform an immoral act not?

2. You say: It is perfectly moral of God to produce the capability for humans to perform immoral acts. But the capability to perform an immoral act is immoral. (Since God doesn’t have it, right? If it was moral, God could have it.) As everything God does is moral, are you concluding that it is moral to create immorality?

More interestingly, here you indicate that It's clear then that God has a preference for good over evil. So God preferred to create immorality over………..immorality? Would God preferring to NOT creating this world be immoral? Seems He is in a catch-22. Not create=immoral. Create= creating immorality. This makes no sense. No matter what God did, immorality necessarily results!

3. This is a bit more hyper-technical, so for those inclined, skip it. You have two elements in the cosmological argument, necessary or contingent. (For a brief description, if interested, google found this quickly enough.)

You seem to confuse “contingent” as just being dependant on something else. While this is part of the definition, true, “contingent” ALSO includes the element that it is not necessary. Which means it could have failed to exist.

If the capability to perform immoral acts is contingent, it did not need to exist. It was not necessary for God to create it. BUT, you state:

If God is necessary, then he is not arbitrary. To be arbitrary would entail that he could have been otherwise. But to be necessary entails that he could not have been otherwise…

If God is the first mover, then everything that God produces must be consistent with his will. The will is the faculty of choice, so God chose things to be as he intended them to be. It doesn’t seem possible, then, for something to have derived from God’s nature to then cause a change in his nature. For that to happen, it would have to have been within God’s nature to begin with to bring about a change in his nature. But if it was in his nature to change his nature, then his nature was already other than it was, which is a contradiction. So I don’t think it’s possible for God to change his nature or for anything that is the result of God to change his nature either. So his nature must be unchanging.
Therefore, whatever God produces is consistent with his will Is his will necessary or contingent? You also indicate that God’s choices are determined by his nature. Is his nature necessary or contingent?

If God chose to create immorality, he had no choice in the matter, true? It had to exist.

So on the one hand we have the capablity to perform immoral acts is not necessary (contingent), and on the other, that it is necessary. Your position is logically inconsistent.


Let’s finish up the Rabbits. (Oh, I long ago got the point of your analogy—commands change for changing circumstances. The idea of analogies is to get as close to reality as possible. Giving us one with the underlying change in circumstances is analogous to a non-communicative God.) You state: If you want to continue to insist that the change in command from "don't eat rabbits" to "eat rabbits," is arbitrary, you need to demonstrate that God has no non-arbitrary reasons for the change. So far, all you've been able to say is that you don't know what his reason is. Is that what I have been saying? Have I been saying that I don’t know what the reason is? Can you point out a quote from me where I say that I don’t know the reason God changed on rabbits? Nope.

See, I agree with you completely. My reason for the changing of the rabbits is irrelevant to the discussion. It was humans, manufacturing gods and rules by gods that caused the change in rabbits. ephphatha, I am firmly convinced by the overwhelming evidence there is no god. I would never state, “I don’t know what God’s reasons are” because there is no god for me to question. But this conversation would be pretty boring if all I stated was “there is no god. Phooey.” To even move it forward, I have to leap into the theist world, and for the debate, go on the assumption there is at least some entity out there the equivalent of the human understanding of a god.

The only reason I gave my response is that you asked how “little ole” me came up with a reason for the changing of the rabbits. I did. I figured textual criticism, alphabets, history, and archeology are a bit out of your depth, but it would be impolite to not at least respond as to my position.

I have just been curious as to whether you could come up with anything as a defense to the rabbits. There is google, you know. Try looking for the Jewish response, (they wrote the Tanakh, so it is a good place to start.)

To be fair, I have yet to have a Christian come up with a reason for the changing of the rabbits. (Nor the when) The only reason you have articulated is, “I don’t know, but since God is moral, it must have been a moral reason to change.” I am looking (like in your analogy of medicine/sickness) for cold, hard reasons for the change, not some nebulous, “I define God as Moral, so not matter what He does is moral. Even forbiding and allowing the eating of rabbits.”

 
At 2/03/2006 2:06 PM , Blogger Jeff said...

Observations:

Dagwood says: " It would be more amazing (even stunning) for a God NOT to make common sense!" All the while harping over and over about being consistent.

I find it interesting that you have said many times that God is false because He just doesn't make sense.

Now you say He doesn't exist because He's just the way you would expect?

I also see a dishonest and deplorable use of sophistry. Look at the taunting tone: "Perhaps you prefer to philosophize to those that believe, not to those that do not."

And to top it all off, Sam's first response demolished Dag's opposition, he just couldn't see it and kept trying.

Dag's been told to check out Jonathan Edwards' work on the subject, yet years from now he'll still be saying that no Christian has given an answer to this question of evil.

And we'll still be hearing about rabbits.

 
At 2/03/2006 5:10 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Lol! I should know by now to never claim “last post.” I fear I may not be making myself clear, Jeff, so hopefully I can clear some things up.

No, I did not see that Sam’s response “demolished” anything I had said. I still had (and still have) numerous questions that remain unanswered. Are you suggesting I do not ask them? Do not point out errors that I see? Conclusions that do not match?

I have long, long ago given up any view that this is a “win-lose” battle in which a person is declared the winner, and the other a loser. I just enjoy the discussion and pushing on the envelope, testing the other person’s ideas, see if they mesh, see where the other person is going with it, seeing if I understand their position correctly. Does it convince me? Naw. Will I convince a theist? Doubtful. Just looking for something new.

I believe the concept of God is false, because the human attempts to describe such a creature do not make sense. A god that is responsible for the creation of moral, but not the creation of immoral, I would like explained. To be technically correct, I should use the terminology of “the alleged God” or “the concept of God” or “the human rendition of god” but I find that becomes tedious and boring very quickly. I beg your indulgence to understand that when I use the term “God” it is no indication whatsoever that I find a God false. There is no God to find false. I just am trying to save time. (And most theists find it rude, besides.)

If portions of the attributes described by humans of God fit common sense, I find that unremarkable. If you were left with the impression that I felt ALL of the God concepts described made sense to me (they do NOT) and that is why God doesn’t exist, I apologize. Most try and fit a God-concept as best they can, but upon scrutiny, it falls apart.

Jeff: Dag's been told to check out Jonathan Edwards' work on the subject, yet years from now he'll still be saying that no Christian has given an answer to this question of evil. Have I said that? Shoot, Jeff, as a Christian, I came up with an answer to the Logical problem of Evil. Albeit, not this one. I would further agree that Christians have “given” an answer to the Evidentiary Problem of Evil. (“Free will” and “Greater Purpose” being two prime candidates.) But when discussing these answers with non-Christians, it has been my history that most Christians that understand these arguments are forthright that the answers would not be satisfactory to non-believers.

Yes, ephphatha has stated that Jonathan Edwards has provided an answer. If he read it, and understood it, why not just explain it? Why keep refering to a book, and make me do his homework? Would you prefer (and I can) that I start referring to books in my replies, and wait until you read them before answering any of your questions? Or would you prefer I outline what arguments the book uses, and why I find it compelling?

You don’t like my bringing up the rabbits? I brought up Numbers 31 here and you didn’t care to respond, I brought up David’s baby here and you didn’t care to respond. Just what parts of the Bible AM I allowed to talk about with Christians?

Out of morbid curiousity, why the acerbic tone? I thought ephphatha were discussing admirably.

 
At 2/06/2006 11:44 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Shoot, Jeff, as a Christian, I came up with an answer to the Logical problem of Evil. Albeit, not this one. I would further agree that Christians have “given” an answer to the Evidentiary Problem of Evil. (“Free will” and “Greater Purpose” being two prime candidates.)

Now I'm confused. So why continue barging ahead on this point continuing to assert that the answer isn't sufficient? This is a large part of why I've concluded you are simply argumentative for the sport.



If he read it, and understood it, why not just explain it? Why keep refering to a book, and make me do his homework?
Or perhaps you are asking him to do your homework? I don't know, perhaps it's valid to request the argument regurgitated. As you point out, we'd then have to be fair and read your books.
Actually, Sam may have posted a summary of Edwards' writings on this topic at some point in the past.

Out of morbid curiousity, why the acerbic tone? I thought ephphatha were discussing admirably.
Don't know...perhaps I was in a bad mood that day and owe you an apology. I'm not quite sure yet, because, while being polite, you don't seem to accept any valid arguments or counter arguments. This is intellectual dishonesty, if true.
And besides, you are a professional arguer. :)

 
At 2/06/2006 8:12 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Jeff - but the fact that he is a professional arguer cannot be presented as proof that his arguments are invalid, as Im sure you know! Whether for sport or not, an argument must either be true or false.

 
At 2/06/2006 9:30 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

Jeff: “Valid” arguments? Don’t arguments need to be tested, re-tested, evaluated, re-evaluated, and (for lack of a better phrase) “run through the wringer” before they are valid?

Simple test. If you think these arguments of Sam’s are valid, then perhaps you can explain—what is the weak point of the argument that the presence of immorality is necessary? What is the weak point of the argument that the presence of immorality is contingent? Rather than simply cheer on a string of words that agrees with what you hope is true, look to the argument itself. Test it. Bite into it. Think of its possibilities. Decide if it would be convincing to you, if a non-theist proposed it.

I am not continuing to “barge ahead.” In fact, I had stopped. I just thought your tone and post was uncharacteristically antagonistic, and that maybe I was not clear.

Yes, I am a professional arguer. You. Have. God. Objective Truth. Justice. Objective Morality. Why would you evercomplain about going against a mere human, regardless of their profession? You. Have. God.

True, I enjoy the debate. What I hope for is a Christian that will actually look at what they are saying, reflect, and revise it upon learning new information. Don’t laugh, I have seen it happen.

I accept counter-arguments. The problem, Jeff, is that I have already heard them, already considered them, already hoped they would be true, and have already reluctantly set them aside as not being viable. I am constantly looking for something new.

All that being said, though, I must consider that Sam may not WANT debate. It is possible that he would prefer people giving him encouragement and not questions. That is why I backed out.

 
At 2/07/2006 8:58 AM , Blogger Jeff said...

Steve, if you understood me to mean that I'm sorry. Your statement is correct.

My point was that he argues for fun, even knowing what he argues against is a sufficient response. He even knows the historical Christian response and ignores it.

All that being said, though, I must consider that Sam may not WANT debate. It is possible that he would prefer people giving him encouragement and not questions. That is why I backed out.

More baiting.

 

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