After looking at the Moral Argument for the existence of the Christian god (normally used by William Lane Craig, Dinesh D'zousa, etc), it becomes very clear that Christians need to define "Goodness" as "God's Nature". I believe the apologist creates a host of problems for themselves if only the atheist would hold them to their own definitions when other arguments are brought up - specifically the Problem of Evil and the generally accepted Christian response of Free Will.
I've not seen this discussed before, but I'm not exhaustively read - so if this has been done before here or elsewhere, I'd appreciate being pointed to it. I'd also really like to see if the argument I'm going to present can be refuted and/or if I've made any mistakes here.
We know from the moral argument that Christians, especially apologists, will explicitly state that they define “good” as literally “God's Nature”, such that there is no “goodness” that exists that doesn’t directly reflect “God’s Nature”, and as such all evil comes from going against “God’s Nature”. Even if this moral argument is not made, this character is attributed to God by the bible (Ref: James 1:17).
Given this definition, and other Christian/biblical assertions about god, I derive the following argument:
- 1. God Exists
2. God is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Wholly Good
3. “Goodness” is explicitly defined as God’s Nature.
3a. Anything not in God’s Nature is by definition not good (ie. evil)
4. God is perfectly Holy - he can never sin or commit evil (ie. he can never go against his nature)
5. God’s Free Will is limited by his Holiness (Ref Habakkuk 1:13)
5a. God does not have Free Will with respect to morality
6. Since God’s Nature does not entail it, Free Will with respect to morality is evil by definition.
7. God created humanity with Free Will with respect to morality
Longer Argument & Explanation
As I've shown above, from the Moral Argument and the Bible, the Christian apologist needs to define "Good" or "Goodness" as literally "God's Nature".
Now as atheists, we’d reject that definition; but this is actually a critical piece of Christian theology. Further, if the apologist did not define “good” in this way, then this causes significant problems from the moral argument, since otherwise “goodness” could exist as an entity apart from God, and as such he becomes unnecessary to obtain an objective morality.
Further, the apologist must also hold to some key tenants based on this definition and Christian theology:
1. Goodness is explicitly defined as God’s Nature
2. God is perfectly holy – he cannot sin or commit evil
3. This means he cannot go against his own nature.
None of this is new, but here is something I’ve not seen argued before: If we hold the apologist to this definition of good and to the other aspects of the Christian God, then it appears to reopen the logical problem of evil in such a way that the generally accepted free will defense, including the most commonly accepted one put forward by Alvin Plantinga, no longer holds for Christian theism.
This potentially means that the existence of the Christian God can be shown to be logically impossible.
Here is a common statement of the logical problem of evil (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil):
1. God exists.
2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.
3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.
4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.
5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.
6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.
7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.
8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).
Now, in order to defeat this logical contradiction, Plantinga advances a defense, which is a proposition that is intended to demonstrate that it is logically possible for an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God to create a world that contains moral evil.
Here is Plantinga’s summary of his defense (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantinga% ... ll_defense):
“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.”
While this defense normally does show that it is logically possible that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient God can create a world that contains moral evil, it doesn’t really hold up when we use the Christian apologist definition of “good”.
First, the last point in Plantinga’s defense is immediately falsified: “He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.” This is not the case since moral goodness is defined by God’s Nature, so that if God actualized a world and existed in it, then there would be by definition only a moral goodness and no possibility for evil due to God’s holiness.
More importantly however, the core of the defense completely falls apart. There is no “goodness” that can be ascribed to creatures that are significantly free - because God is not significantly free when it comes to performing moral goodness since God’s perfect holiness explicitly prevents God from performing any moral evil. Note this does not attempt to say that God does not have Free Will in the broader context, but it does say that God is not free to go against his own nature and commit evil – which is the aspect of Free Will that was imparted to humanity that is being discussed here.
As such, if creatures that are significantly free morally have value, then God is placing value on something that he does not have, which makes it inherently “not good” by definition. Further, a holy God cannot value anything that is evil.
Alternatively, if the apologist wants to hold that creatures that are significantly free is something that is good, they’d either have to give up the definition of good as “God’s Nature” (which makes goodness something that exists apart from God) or they’d have to show that God is significantly free with respect to moral goodness and evil, which would violate God’s holiness.
I believe this leaves the Christian apologist in a very tight spot in order to coherently defend their faith. Note that this problem is not specific to Plantinga’s Free WIll defense, but applies to just about any Free Will defense, since the crux of the defense there is that creatures with Free Will (with respect to good and evil) are a “Greater Good” or are more valuable than creatures who do not have free will.