William Lane Craig Argues Himself Into A Corner

In solution to the problem of evil Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig often retort that God may well have good reasons for permitting evil and suffering in the world. On his website William Lane Craig states:

God may well have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. We all know cases in which we permit suffering because we have morally sufficient reasons for doing so. What Law would have to prove is that it’s improbable that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. But how could he possibly prove that? God’s justifying reasons might never appear in our lifetime or locale or even in this life. Suppose, for example, that God’s purpose for human life is not happiness in this life but the knowledge of God, which is an incommensurable good. It may be the case, for all we know, that only in a world suffused with natural and moral evil would the maximum number of people freely come to know God and find eternal life.

(http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9162)

So in essence suffering and evil may well be permitted for the ‘greater good’ and we simply are not in any position to know why it is permitted. Craig goes further in his debate with Arif Ahmed and states:

“The premise that pointless suffering exists, or gratuitous evil exists is extremely controversial. We are simply not in the position to make these kinds of inductive probability judgements”

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-NF-LlVFHM)

So here Craig is saying that pointless suffering and gratuitous evil might not exist. If this is true then no act of evil would be ‘ without apparent reason, cause, or justification’ and we can thus conclude that all evil is acted out for a reason, has a cause and a justification. One can assume that Craig’s doubts over the existence of gratuitous evil and pointless suffering tie in with his notion that God permits suffering for the greater good. So the reason and justification for evil is because it is part of God’s plan for the greater good.

Here’s Craig’s argument taken to it’s logical conclusion:

1. Gratuitous evil and pointless suffering might not exist because if God has a plan for the ‘greater good’ then no evil is gratuitous and no suffering is pointless.

2. If this is true no act of evil is truly evil because it is ultimately for the greater good.

Therefore

3. Because of 1 & 2 we have absolutely no way of knowing if an evil act was truly evil or whether it was actually contributing to the greater good.

It follows logically from this that despite Craig’s frequent assertion that ‘we just know some actions are objectively wrong’ – here he asserts that we have absolutely no way of making such a judgement because for all we know there is no gratuitous evil – and therefore the reason for it is ultimately good (according to Craig’s views). Craig has argued himself into the corner that Christian apologists often try to back atheists into.

Craig cannot say whether the murder of 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany was evil because if gratuitous evil does not exist, then this must have happened for a reason, and that reason according to Craig is to fulfil God’s ultimately good plan. Therefore we cannot classify this act as evil, because it may have actually been for the greater good (I apologise for breaking Godwin’s law here, however I’m sure you can forgive me).

In his attempt to escape the problem of evil, Craig has put himself in a position where he can make no moral judgements whatsoever (which runs contrary to his “argument” for objective moral values in which he states that we all ‘just know’ the difference between good and evil). Well done Bill!

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “William Lane Craig Argues Himself Into A Corner

  1. Richard

    I think you are confusing the identification of evil with the justification for evil. Doctor Craig never said that terrible deeds were not actually terrible. Rather, he said that it very well may be the case that God permits suffering because it may be a more effective method of bringing people to His grace.

    In essence, Craig is explaining that the existence of evil and suffering is not at all incompatible with the existence of God. I think you may have misunderstood the argument, friend!

  2. BY

    You are misunderstanding Craig’s position completely.

    On Craig’s position, only atheists have no basis for making moral judgements. Your claim is not true of theists. Divine Command theory, that many theistic philosophers subscribe to, allow for moral judgements just fine. And since divine command theory is logically consistent with Christian theology, this puts the atheist in the uncomfortable position of having to plagiarize moral judgements from a theistic worldview.

    So in the end Divine Command theory allows Craig out of his corner.

    Unfortunately the atheist is still stuck in his.

    • Doctor Bad Sign

      There are numerous problems with divine command theory:

      1. If something is God because God commands it, how is that objective? It is down to the subjective whim of God.
      2. God commands genocide, slavery, child slaughter etc. in the Bible which on divine command theory would make these things good.
      3. The problem outlined in this post still exists, because if I say killed a whole bunch of people, how can you possibly know that God did not genuinely command me to do it?

      • B_Dubb_B

        1. Who says it is “good” because God commands it? I think what you would hear is that something is “right” because God commands it. For example it would be ludicrous to say that it is good to cut off someone’s thumb. But what if they have a thumb infection, or some other problem, which would lead to their death. It would still be “bad” to cut off their thumb, but it would be “right”.

        2. Again, it wouldn’t make these things “good”, it would make them “right”.

        3. That doesn’t speak of ontology. Craig’s points are about ontology (what actually *is* right/wrong). And you are overlooking the reasons for God commanding such (assuming that God exists).

        The ancient Near East was a far different place and time. There are many reasons why it may have been necessary then and there, but wouldn’t be now. So you would simply be lying if you claimed that God said to do such now and here. Some factors that you do not take into account (but not exhaustive) include: the corruption of the smaller population; the turning of Israel away from God; the likely (requisite) retribution of the Canaanites; the possible marriages to the daughters of the Canaanites; the destruction of their pagan practices (such as sacrificing children to their gods by making them walk into fires)…

        Finally, what if the story was meant to convey a moral point, or symbolize the destruction of their pagan ways and gods, which is actually evidenced elsewhere in the BIble and more closely matches an archaeological account of history? This would mean that the story is most probably not meant to be taken literally.

      • Laurens

        1. Who says it is “good” because God commands it? I think what you would hear is that something is “right” because God commands it. For example it would be ludicrous to say that it is good to cut off someone’s thumb. But what if they have a thumb infection, or some other problem, which would lead to their death. It would still be “bad” to cut off their thumb, but it would be “right”.

        There is not much difference between saying something is good because God commands it, and something is right because God commands it. In your example you could just as easily say it was a good thing to do to cut someone’s thumb off because of the infection because you prevented harm from that person. In other words you did them good by doing so. Perhaps you can make yourself clearer by elucidating the exact differences between the terms ‘good’ and ‘right’.

        Also there is no rational consideration of the consequences of actions implied in God’s commands in the Bible. It does not say ‘Thou shall not kill, except in these instances…’ each command is absolute so far as we can tell (despite being contradicted several times), so would this not mean that it would be right in every instance? The Bible says a child should be killed for striking their parents, this implies it is right to do so regardless of the circumstances, whether that would be self defence, or simply because the child is too young to realise that they shouldn’t be doing so. I’ve seen very young children strike their parents, is it right that they should be killed? Clearly not, because they haven’t fully understood that it is not a very nice thing to do. Yet the God of the Bible does not take into account such nuances, he simply makes the blanket commandment that the child should be killed and no exceptions are put forth. Can you really consider this the right thing to do in every instance?

        3. That doesn’t speak of ontology. Craig’s points are about ontology (what actually *is* right/wrong). And you are overlooking the reasons for God commanding such (assuming that God exists).

        The ancient Near East was a far different place and time. There are many reasons why it may have been necessary then and there, but wouldn’t be now. So you would simply be lying if you claimed that God said to do such now and here. Some factors that you do not take into account (but not exhaustive) include: the corruption of the smaller population; the turning of Israel away from God; the likely (requisite) retribution of the Canaanites; the possible marriages to the daughters of the Canaanites; the destruction of their pagan practices (such as sacrificing children to their gods by making them walk into fires)…

        First off you are appealing to context here, by saying morality is relative (i.e. not the same standard for different eras). Does this not go against the idea that there is an objective moral standard that applies universally in all instances?

        Secondly, when is it ever okay to own another human being as property (Exodus 21)? How is that moral in any time and place? When is it ever moral to sell your daughter to her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)? Sure you can appeal to this relativistic standard of morality in some instances, for example I would agree that in ancient times in might have been the right thing to do to cast out diseased people because there was no adequate medical care, and therefore it was in the best interests of a greater number of people. However I do not think it is ever permissible to state that at some time or place it was reasonable to sell your daughter to her rapist and that this was right. Those kinds of things are wrong, always have been and always will be. There is NO justification for it no matter how much you say it was a different time and place.

        Finally, what if the story was meant to convey a moral point, or symbolize the destruction of their pagan ways and gods, which is actually evidenced elsewhere in the BIble and more closely matches an archaeological account of history? This would mean that the story is most probably not meant to be taken literally.

        What possible moral point could it be making either way? Why is it less wrong if it is allegorical or an analogy?

      • B_Dubb_B

        “In your example you could just as easily say it was a good thing to do to cut someone’s thumb off because of the infection because you prevented harm from that person. In other words you did them good by doing so. Perhaps you can make yourself clearer by elucidating the exact differences between the terms ‘good’ and ‘right’.”

        That never makes the action good, it only makes the result of the action good. So the action of cutting off someone’s thumb is still bad, even if it brings about a greater good. But it would be right to do such. The difference between good and right is that good is the moral value of a thing, usually measured in terms of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, while right is the moral obligation of a thing. I would be morally obligated to amputate the thumb of a person who would die from infection, but that doesn’t make the cutting off of thumbs good. So we must separate the action from the result.

        Let’s use William Lane Craig’s example since we were speaking of his position. It would be good to be a doctor. But it would also be good to become a firefighter, police officer, home-maker, lawyer… However, we are not obligated to become all of those.

        “Also there is no rational consideration of the consequences of actions implied in God’s commands in the Bible. It does not say ‘Thou shall not kill, except in these instances…’ each command is absolute so far as we can tell (despite being contradicted several times), so would this not mean that it would be right in every instance? The Bible says a child should be killed for striking their parents, this implies it is right to do so regardless of the circumstances, whether that would be self defence, or simply because the child is too young to realise that they shouldn’t be doing so. I’ve seen very young children strike their parents, is it right that they should be killed? Clearly not, because they haven’t fully understood that it is not a very nice thing to do. Yet the God of the Bible does not take into account such nuances, he simply makes the blanket commandment that the child should be killed and no exceptions are put forth. Can you really consider this the right thing to do in every instance?”

        I think that you need to realize that there is a difference between rational consideration and conveying rational consideration. Just because it is not written that there was rational consideration does not mean that there was no rational consideration.

        The Bible doesn’t say “thou shalt not kill” per se, at least in the original language. Instead the meaning of that command is “thou shalt not murder” in the original Hebrew. This is made obvious by context. Two chapters later it says, in Exodus 22:2, “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account.” There are other times we are commanded to kill. Surely God wouldn’t command not to kill and also to kill. It is obvious that it refers to unjustified killing (murder).

        Also, I think that it is fairly obvious that God issues different commands at different times to different people. And some of these commands are universal and others are not. For example, God commanded that certain people should utterly destroy the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (Deuteronomy 20:17). But it would be a mistake to think that this is a universal command. And God does have reasons for such a command, in the following verse, Deuteronomy 20:18, some such reasons are even listed.

        However, it remains true that it is never okay to murder, steal, commit adultery, and testify falsely against someone. It is fairly easy to determine, if one honestly tries, which commands are intended to be universal and which are not.

        Acts 15 shows that the laws of Moses do not apply to the gentiles, for the most part. However, one should still use his reasoning. Reasons for these things being made law included, but were not limited to, the corruption of the world, the absence of greater revelation, practical matters (such as preventing wars and retaliation), maintaining order… A child striking their parent, for which a case can be made that the text was referring to greater bodily harm than a slap, could easily instill a spirit of rebellion in nearly an entire community of youth. And the consequences at that time, with such a low population and other social/cultural considerations, could have dire consequences. Today, the ramifications of such an action are far less threatening.

        Another thing that you don’t seem to be considering is that what God takes into account is not necessarily what man ought to take into account. God may have taken these “nuances” into account and seen fit to give a universal command (such as “thou shalt not murder”). Just because God gives a universal command, without provision for man to take “nuances” into account, doesn’t mean that God didn’t consider them. For example, in issuing the universal command “thou shalt not steal”, is it necessary that God did not take into account the fact that some might steal to survive? No! However, it is still never okay to steal. This should not have been left up to man to decide, especially in the context of the ancient Near East.

        “First off you are appealing to context here, by saying morality is relative (i.e. not the same standard for different eras). Does this not go against the idea that there is an objective moral standard that applies universally in all instances?”

        I’m not saying that “morality” is relative, especially since I believe that we should distinguish between moral values and duties and so would not use a blanket term such as “morality” in this case. I’m saying that certain obligations, from a worthy moral authority, are for certain people. God may have issued a command to some people to destroy another people, giving them a moral obligation to do such, without there being any such command, or obligation, for others. So I am not saying that our culture changes what is right and wrong. I am saying that the issuer of such obligations is free to determine what is right or wrong. And that according to His knowledge and wisdom does do such. Some obligations, therefore, can still be universal.

        “Secondly, when is it ever okay to own another human being as property (Exodus 21)? How is that moral in any time and place?”

        Exodus 21 obligates (relating to moral rightness) no man to take slaves. Rather, it says how slaves are to be treated. And slaves were not generally treated the same as the way we think of slaves being treated today. They were usually hired servants. There is also no comment on the moral praiseworthiness (relating to moral goodness) of owning slaves here. So this is just a bad example on the topic of “morality”.

        “When is it ever moral to sell your daughter to her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)?”

        Well, this is not speaking of selling the daughter to the rapist. Notice that it comments on the divorce of the two individuals. This is speaking of paying the bride price for marriage (a sort of reverse dowry). In Jewish law it was ALWAYS required for marriage that the father of the bride, or the bride herself if of a consenting age, to consent for marriage. So this could be turned down by the father or the bride.

        “Sure you can appeal to this relativistic standard of morality in some instances, for example I would agree that in ancient times in might have been the right thing to do to cast out diseased people because there was no adequate medical care, and therefore it was in the best interests of a greater number of people.”

        Culture doesn’t determine obligation. The proper moral authority determines obligation.

        “What possible moral point could it be making either way? Why is it less wrong if it is allegorical or an analogy?”

        I already mentioned that it could be symbolic of the total destruction of their pagan religion. If the story is not meant to be taken literally, then there can be no wrong or right (moral obligations) to carry out a command which is meant to be understood non-literally. An obligation is a command. Therefore, if there is no command, then there is no obligation. And the commands of God, being the arbiter of obligation, can’t be subject to any moral obligation himself. This is not to say that He can be evil. Rather, God acts in accordance with His nature, which is the good, and gives commands accordingly. So if God did command such, then it is literally impossible for the command to be right or wrong. It is only the actions of the people in light of the command which are right or wrong.

        I hope that this has cleared up my position and answered your questions. By the way, please forgive any mistakes I may have made. I’m too lazy to double check what I’ve written.

      • Laurens

        I get what you are saying with the thumb example. However there are still Biblical examples that provide challenges to this. So I see you point that killing is never good, but it can be right. Lets apply this to a Biblical example; “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” so we can agree that this doesn’t mean its good to kill a witch because killing is never good, however can we really say that it is right either? I mean being a witch is not a real crime, people can’t do black magic or any kind of magic, it doesn’t exist, it’s a superstition. So how can killing someone for something that is not even really a crime be right, even if we grant it is never good?

        I am fine with your definitions here. However there is still a problem if we accept the Biblical God’s commandments as being ‘right’ if not necessarily ‘good’. Killing someone might not ever be good, but it might be right in certain circumstances, self defence for example. However can killing someone for following a different God or collecting sticks on the Sabbath as mandated in the Bible ever be right? There is no greater good in any of these instances. You are not preventing great harm by killing someone for doing work on a day that is designated as holy, or worshipping a different God, its senseless and there is no rational justification for it.

        Sure Exodus 21 doesn’t explicitly command that one should keep slaves. But it does state that you can beat them, and exactly how you are supposed to treat them (as your property). Why is God okay with people owning other human beings as property? Surely a loving God would command that people do not own other human beings? I see no way of perceiving this as being something ‘bad’ that is ‘right’ in a given context. There is no greater good cause that would rationalize owning another human being as property, and the circumstances and rules around which you are allowed to beat them. And before you answer, just think for a moment about all the lives that have been torn apart and ruined because of slavery throughout history, do you really want to apologise for a God that finds this acceptable in any context?

        If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

        Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

        Regardless of whether this deals with rape specifically. There is no consideration of the daughter’s wishes in all this. She is treated as a piece of property being exchanged from her father to another individual. Why can’t she be given the choice whether or not she has to spend the rest of her life with this person? Again I ask, in what context is it right, or a moral obligation to treat another human being as property?

        Even with your distinction between right and good, and your appeals to context etc. There is much in the Bible that is flat out immoral in any context. If we are to agree that morality has something to do with the best interests and well being of individuals, then there is no justification for slavery. If we hold any notion of justice, we should see that it is not fair to kill children for the crimes committed by their parents. You know this is wrong. You would never kill a child for what their parent has done, yet in the Bible we read that God commands infants and children to be wiped out (as well as livestock) because of immoral things done by the group of people they happen to belong to. This isn’t right in any time or place, and I think you know that, but you are forced to apologise for these things because they are condoned by the God that you believe in.

      • B_Dubb_B

        ““Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” so we can agree that this doesn’t mean its good to kill a witch because killing is never good, however can we really say that it is right either? I mean being a witch is not a real crime, people can’t do black magic or any kind of magic, it doesn’t exist, it’s a superstition. So how can killing someone for something that is not even really a crime be right, even if we grant it is never good?”

        I guess that would depend on what you mean by “real crime”! I would say that IF God exists, THEN He would surely be a greater moral authority than any judges or any man/men at all. I don’t think that witches do black magic, or any kind of magic for that matter. But that doesn’t mean that they have no power. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t transgress the laws of God (even if they have no real power). And I would think that you would grant that if God created man, just as if I build a computer, then He has the right to determine what happens to man. So even if there is no reason we can see, God is still free to choose what He wants for His creation; and God would be a greater authority than any man or group of men. But what if witches have power from Satan? Or what if there is a reason that we don’t know about? Who are we to say that it is not right.

        Furthermore, I think that this command is not universal. I think that it was one of those commands which was necessary in the ancient Near East that is not necessary today. I’ll grant that this doesn’t mean that it is not still a command to us, but then I would look at Acts 15. The law of Moses, except the universal commandments in Exodus 20 and summarized in Luke 10:25-36, was said not to apply to the Gentiles by the Council of Jerusalem. This was proclaimed by Peter who was given the power to be the ultimate authority in these kinds of matters (Matthew 16:19). The binding and loosing is a Jewish term that refers to indisputable, final authority. Finally, even if it weren’t the case that this does fall under those laws of Moses that were deemed unnecessary, which I’m certain it does, then we have to go back to asking ourselves if it seems like it was intended to be universal or not. And this commandment was given at a time and place where breaking the law of God was a capital crime. But it is no longer a capital crime, save perhaps some of the universal commands from Exodus 20 (because these don’t depend on things like culture, time, place, or the sacrifice of Jesus), to break God’s laws. Most of these laws were parts of the covenant with Israel and simply do not apply to us today (even to Israel since there was a new covenant with Jesus). Have a read of Keil and Delitzsch on Exodus 20-23 if you would like. It is very enlightening. Here is a good place to read it:

        http://kad.biblecommenter.com/exodus/20.htm
        http://kad.biblecommenter.com/exodus/21.htm
        http://kad.biblecommenter.com/exodus/22.htm
        http://kad.biblecommenter.com/exodus/23.htm

        “However can killing someone for following a different God or collecting sticks on the Sabbath as mandated in the Bible ever be right? There is no greater good in any of these instances. You are not preventing great harm by killing someone for doing work on a day that is designated as holy, or worshipping a different God, its senseless and there is no rational justification for it.”

        Like I said above, if God exists, then He alone is qualified to determine what ought or ought not to be done with His creation. But we can rest easy knowing that God is always perfectly good (by his very essence) and perfectly just (being part of being perfectly good). So God will not command gratuitous suffering, anything that is evil, or anything that is unjust. He cannot act contrary to His nature.

        Worshipping another God is the worst crime that there can be. It is spitting in the face of the one that created all. So if God exists, then it would be right (at any time and place) to do as He wishes with those people that deny Him. This doesn’t mean, however, that we are to do so today. Jesus came to die specifically for the purpose of sparing our lives both spiritually and physically. Jesus fulfilled the terms of the old covenant and a new covenant was born. So yes, there is a time and place in which it is right, if God commands it (for right is what is commanded by a worthy moral authority), to do these things.

        And keeping the Sabbath applies only to the Israelites. It is part of a covenant with them to remind them of who their true God is that delivered them out from Egypt.

        “Sure Exodus 21 doesn’t explicitly command that one should keep slaves. But it does state that you can beat them, and exactly how you are supposed to treat them (as your property). Why is God okay with people owning other human beings as property? Surely a loving God would command that people do not own other human beings? I see no way of perceiving this as being something ‘bad’ that is ‘right’ in a given context. There is no greater good cause that would rationalize owning another human being as property, and the circumstances and rules around which you are allowed to beat them. And before you answer, just think for a moment about all the lives that have been torn apart and ruined because of slavery throughout history, do you really want to apologise for a God that finds this acceptable in any context?”

        It doesn’t state that you can beat them, at least to my knowledge, anywhere in the Bible. Can you please provide a reference. I think that you are referring to where it says in Exodus 21 that anyone who beats their slaves is not to be punished if they do not die. This is not saying that it is okay to beat slaves; rather, it is saying that the masters should be spared capital punishment. Notice that it comes on the heels (so to speak) of verse 12 which dictates that any man who strikes another so that he dies should be killed. Notice also that the rest of the chapter shows that any injury, which did not lead to death, was to be recompensed. You can see more about the recompense to slaves in verses 26-27. They would earn their freedom in recompense for these injuries. But this doesn’t mean that only if they loose an eye or a tooth. These two things are just examples. The loosing of an eye would seem to be a practical reason for freeing a slave. How can they work well with one eye? But the losing of a tooth shows that if any significant injury befalls them, even as minor as the loss of a tooth, then they shall be compensated with freedom.

        I don’t know why God is okay with owning another human being as property. But if God exists, which I think can be demonstrated sufficiently, then it doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out why. But I don’t think that the type of slavery that we envision is the type of slavery that is spoken of in the Bible. Even in Exodus 21:16 we see that anyone who forces another into slavery is to be killed. This type of slavery had people selling themselves into slavery to take care of their families and pay off debts. The new testament, which is the new covenant, also condemns slave traders (1 Timothy 1:8-10). So I think that the type of slavery that is condoned is far less objectionable (though perhaps still distasteful today).

        And owning slaves, as I said before is not commanded. This means that it is not “right”. What is right is what we are morally obligated to do. So the rest of what you say here is not applicable really.

        I think that it would be unwise if we let our emotions cloud our judgment. One should believe in God if He exists. This is independent of whether or not we like the way He seems to be. And I make no apology for God according to the modern connotation of the word. But yes, I think that if God exists, then I think that I should try to show that He exists whether or not people think badly of Him. But remember, I’m not saying that God is bad. The accusations that are levelled against Him fail. God doesn’t say that we should have slaves, even though He may permit it. The slaves he permits us to have are not to be taken against their will (Exodus 21:16). They are to be treated humanely (Exodus 21:20-21, 26-27). The slaves were at least sometimes of the same people (Exodus 21:2).

        “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days. Regardless of whether this deals with rape specifically. There is no consideration of the daughter’s wishes in all this. She is treated as a piece of property being exchanged from her father to another individual. Why can’t she be given the choice whether or not she has to spend the rest of her life with this person? Again I ask, in what context is it right, or a moral obligation to treat another human being as property?”

        There is consideration of the daughter’s wishes in this. As I explained previously, it says that “she shall be his wife”. This means that they are to get married. But to get married requires, under law, the consent of the daughter or the father (if the daughter is not of consenting age). So it is just a misunderstanding, probably due to some form of anachronism, of the text. And the moral obligation is not to treat them as property, it doesn’t say that anywhere (or even imply that). Also, if it were to say that our moral obligation is to treat them as property, then that still wouldn’t necessarily be bad. We think of the phrase “treat as property” in a much different way than an ancient Near East culture. Today it has a connotation of being completely worthless and replaceable. But this is due to modern wealth and lack of want. It would be very difficult to make the case that property was treated with such little regard as is done today. Property actually had substantial value then, especially people! So if it did say to treat as property, which it didn’t, then it probably would mean to treat them well as if they are extremely valuable.

        Even with your distinction between right and good, and your appeals to context etc. There is much in the Bible that is flat out immoral in any context. If we are to agree that morality has something to do with the best interests and well being of individuals, then there is no justification for slavery. If we hold any notion of justice, we should see that it is not fair to kill children for the crimes committed by their parents. You know this is wrong. You would never kill a child for what their parent has done, yet in the Bible we read that God commands infants and children to be wiped out (as well as livestock) because of immoral things done by the group of people they happen to belong to. This isn’t right in any time or place, and I think you know that, but you are forced to apologise for these things because they are condoned by the God that you believe in.

        I agree that there is much in the Bible that is immoral in any context. But I don’t think that you’ll find that any of it is on God’s part. Even if morality does have something to do with the best interests and well being of individuals, that doesn’t mean that those are the only considerations in regard to morality. So slavery could, though I’m not saying that it is, be justified by the command from a more worthy judge of these matters whose essence is good.

        And I may see something as wrong, but that doesn’t mean that it actually is wrong (though I’m not saying that it’s not). And that definitely doesn’t mean that it was never right. Commands can change. And there are all sorts of factors to be taken into account. What makes you think that it wasn’t necessary at that time to prevent the corruption of the world, future retaliation, and possibly even wars? And to pronounce that it ISN’T right in any time or place, without taking these things into consideration, would be the epitome of arrogance (and frankly tendentious).

        And I have but one last point to make. I’m not forced to apologize for anything. I think that you are wrong because you refuse to take everything into consideration. I think that it will lead ultimately to your eternal punishment. And I feel that it is my moral obligation to do what I can to try to help those that are in trouble (and prevent those who are in trouble from leading others into the same trouble). Once again, please forgive any mistakes due to my not double checking my writing.

      • Laurens

        “ IF God exists, THEN He would surely be a greater moral authority than any judges or any man/men at all.”

        I don’t think this necessarily follows. If you could demonstrate that a God exists, it would not follow from this that such an entity would be a greater moral authority than any man. It might well be the case that a completely indifferent God exists—a God that has no concerns over our moral lives—or it might be the case that a malevolent God exists.

        “I don’t think that witches do black magic, or any kind of magic for that matter. But that doesn’t mean that they have no power. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they don’t transgress the laws of God (even if they have no real power). And I would think that you would grant that if God created man, just as if I build a computer, then He has the right to determine what happens to man.”

        Not necessarily. I would use a better analogy of having a child. I believe that a parent does not have a right to determine what happens to their child—at least not at the level you are professing. It is not my right to sell my child into slavery, or conduct unethical scientific experiments on it for example. The child has its own individual needs and should be granted the autonomy to determine what happens in it’s own life. I do not accept the premise that God has ultimate authority over man simply by virtue of having created them.

        “Furthermore, I think that this command is not universal. I think that it was one of those commands which was necessary in the ancient Near East that is not necessary today. I’ll grant that this doesn’t mean that it is not still a command to us, but then I would look at Acts 15. The law of Moses, except the universal commandments in Exodus 20 and summarized in Luke 10:25-36, was said not to apply to the Gentiles by the Council of Jerusalem.“

        Was it not Jesus himself who said the following:

        “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

        “It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.”

        “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

        These verses appear to implore the followers of Jesus to pay attention to even the smallest part of the Old Testament laws. I know that the verses you quote go against this, but this highlights an important issue with regarding the Bible as any kind of moral authority. It contradicts itself on multiple points. Also why are so few of the Old Testament laws applicable universally? There are 613 laws in the Old Testament, but 603 of these are not universal? Why does God only seem to care about a small group of people living in the Near East at a specific moment in history? To me this speaks volumes about the fact that the Bible was written by those people and not by the omnipotent creator of the universe.

        “Like I said above, if God exists, then He alone is qualified to determine what ought or ought not to be done with His creation. But we can rest easy knowing that God is always perfectly good (by his very essence) and perfectly just (being part of being perfectly good). So God will not command gratuitous suffering, anything that is evil, or anything that is unjust. He cannot act contrary to His nature.”

        I’d like to refer you once again to the point I made at the start; creating a life does not give one the right or obligation to have complete control over it.

        Here lies another contradiction too. You say that God is perfectly just, but I also presume you believe that God is also merciful? His act of sending Jesus down to die for our sins is perceived as being a merciful act by many Christians at least. However perfect justice is antithetical to any kind of mercy. Mercy is the suspension of justice, thus you cannot be perfectly just and merciful. Also I would posit that punishing anybody eternally for a finite crime is not justice.

        Is goodness defined by God’s nature? In other words whatever he says is good goes? So if God told you to slaughter a baby that would be good? Or is God’s nature defined by goodness? In which case you are appealing to a standard of goodness that exists irrespective of God, making God unnecessary.

        “Worshipping another God is the worst crime that there can be. It is spitting in the face of the one that created all. So if God exists, then it would be right (at any time and place) to do as He wishes with those people that deny Him. This doesn’t mean, however, that we are to do so today. Jesus came to die specifically for the purpose of sparing our lives both spiritually and physically. Jesus fulfilled the terms of the old covenant and a new covenant was born. So yes, there is a time and place in which it is right, if God commands it (for right is what is commanded by a worthy moral authority), to do these things.”

        Worshipping another God is worse than raping a child? I have to ask whether you can be morally serious and hold to such a view?

        “It doesn’t state that you can beat them, at least to my knowledge, anywhere in the Bible. Can you please provide a reference. I think that you are referring to where it says in Exodus 21 that anyone who beats their slaves is not to be punished if they do not die. This is not saying that it is okay to beat slaves; rather, it is saying that the masters should be spared capital punishment. Notice that it comes on the heels (so to speak) of verse 12 which dictates that any man who strikes another so that he dies should be killed. Notice also that the rest of the chapter shows that any injury, which did not lead to death, was to be recompensed. You can see more about the recompense to slaves in verses 26-27. They would earn their freedom in recompense for these injuries. But this doesn’t mean that only if they loose an eye or a tooth. These two things are just examples. The loosing of an eye would seem to be a practical reason for freeing a slave. How can they work well with one eye? But the losing of a tooth shows that if any significant injury befalls them, even as minor as the loss of a tooth, then they shall be compensated with freedom.”

        Either way it does not say “do not beat your slaves” or better yet “do not keep slaves”. Saying you will be punished if you beat your slave to death is like me saying “don’t eat all of that cake”, making it implicit that I am okay with you eating some of the cake. This is simply a ridiculous discussion to have either way… God is okay with people keeping, and at least implicitly okay with people beating their slaves.

        “I don’t know why God is okay with owning another human being as property. But if God exists, which I think can be demonstrated sufficiently, then it doesn’t matter if we can’t figure out why. But I don’t think that the type of slavery that we envision is the type of slavery that is spoken of in the Bible. Even in Exodus 21:16 we see that anyone who forces another into slavery is to be killed. This type of slavery had people selling themselves into slavery to take care of their families and pay off debts. The new testament, which is the new covenant, also condemns slave traders (1 Timothy 1:8-10). So I think that the type of slavery that is condoned is far less objectionable (though perhaps still distasteful today).”

        So the Bible says we should not kidnap? What about the occasions in which people are told they can keep virgins for themselves? We’re supposed to accept that they willingly gave themselves up for purposes best left unsaid? I do not buy your argument that the slavery in the Bible involved people willingly submitting themselves to it, does it ever explicitly say so?

        “I agree that there is much in the Bible that is immoral in any context. But I don’t think that you’ll find that any of it is on God’s part. Even if morality does have something to do with the best interests and well being of individuals, that doesn’t mean that those are the only considerations in regard to morality. So slavery could, though I’m not saying that it is, be justified by the command from a more worthy judge of these matters whose essence is good.

        And I may see something as wrong, but that doesn’t mean that it actually is wrong (though I’m not saying that it’s not). And that definitely doesn’t mean that it was never right. Commands can change. And there are all sorts of factors to be taken into account. What makes you think that it wasn’t necessary at that time to prevent the corruption of the world, future retaliation, and possibly even wars? And to pronounce that it ISN’T right in any time or place, without taking these things into consideration, would be the epitome of arrogance (and frankly tendentious).”

        Okay so you are essentially saying that God may command or allow things that we perceive as wrong for the greater good? So if I were to bomb an orphanage, you couldn’t really know that God didn’t tell me to do so, or cause me to do so because it might actually have been necessary for the greater good? If that is the case then you cannot ever make any moral judgements of your own, for what you perceive as evil may actually be ultimately good.

        “And I have but one last point to make. I’m not forced to apologize for anything. I think that you are wrong because you refuse to take everything into consideration. I think that it will lead ultimately to your eternal punishment. And I feel that it is my moral obligation to do what I can to try to help those that are in trouble (and prevent those who are in trouble from leading others into the same trouble). Once again, please forgive any mistakes due to my not double checking my writing.”

        I will end this comment with a question. I have never hurt, killed, or deliberately caused harm to anyone. I have strong moral principles that I live by. I cannot make myself believe that there is a God. I cannot lie to God and pretend to believe (as he of all people should see right through that). Am I really to be punished eternally simply for having honest doubts about God’s existence? Why would you worship a God that does that? I’d rather burn forever than worship a God who does that to people.

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