Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

Using one Christian argument for god against them

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Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#1  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 24, 2012 4:35 pm

I'm brand new to the forum, but I've been going through a 2 year long journey towards atheism, and I'm very familiar with Christian apologetics.

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.

Argument Summary

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
(Logical Contradiction 4 -> 7)

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.
Last edited by Counter Apologist on Apr 25, 2012 1:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#2  Postby Hnau von Thulcandra » Apr 25, 2012 11:28 am

JHendrix wrote:
    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
(Logical Contradiction 4 -> 7)

Well I disagree with your 3a. There are plenty of things which are good and yet not part of God's nature. For example, hope is a virtue for humans, but God who knows the future perfectly is not able to hope. I suppose one might say it is God's nature to be the recipient of hope, though.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#3  Postby CookieJon » Apr 25, 2012 11:38 am

Hnau von Thulcandra wrote:Well I disagree with your 3a. There are plenty of things which are good and yet not part of God's nature. For example, hope is a virtue for humans, but God who knows the future perfectly is not able to hope.

...which means you must also disagree with 2. He's hardly omnipotent if he is not able to hope.

Unless (like the Christians' "good") you define "omnipotent" as "able to do that which he is able to do", rendering the term meaningless.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#4  Postby Mr.Samsa » Apr 25, 2012 11:44 am

CookieJon wrote:
Hnau von Thulcandra wrote:Well I disagree with your 3a. There are plenty of things which are good and yet not part of God's nature. For example, hope is a virtue for humans, but God who knows the future perfectly is not able to hope.

...which means you must also disagree with 2. He's hardly omnipotent if he is not able to hope.

Unless (like the Christians' "good") you define "omnipotent" as "able to do that which he is able to do", rendering the term meaningless.


He'd also have to reject (3), that "Goodness" is defined as god's nature, which means that goodness is something external to god.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#5  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 25, 2012 1:10 pm

CookieJon wrote:
Hnau von Thulcandra wrote:Well I disagree with your 3a. There are plenty of things which are good and yet not part of God's nature. For example, hope is a virtue for humans, but God who knows the future perfectly is not able to hope.

...which means you must also disagree with 2. He's hardly omnipotent if he is not able to hope.

Unless (like the Christians' "good") you define "omnipotent" as "able to do that which he is able to do", rendering the term meaningless.


Yay, replies! I was afraid that this wasn't going to get any discussion. :mrgreen:

For ease of typing, I'm just going to refer to anything that's Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnibenevolent/Wholly Good as "OOO" or Triple-O. Plus I think it just sounds cooler. :P

It is very much arguable, probably plausible, that it is logically impossible for a Triple-O being to "hope", and omnipotence is limited to doing things that are only logically possible. But that brings you right around to the problem you've seen - if you define "Good" as "God's Nature", then that precludes any number of things from being "Good" by this definition, including hope.

The real issue you have here is with 3.

I don't want to setup a false dichotomy, but I'm really not seeing how one can escape the argument unless "Goodness" can be defined outside of "God's Nature". I'm totally open to being shown another option to escape the problems shown here, but as it is I think any apologist would have to give up the Moral Argument or they're stuck with their god being logically impossible via the Problem of Evil.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#6  Postby proudfootz » Apr 25, 2012 1:14 pm

I'm at a loss to figure out how a being with no free will is able to create beings with free will.

I mean, if free will is good - how is it humans supposedly have a good that this god does not have?

If free will is not good then why would a god create it?

It seems theology is constantly creating conundrums for itself as it reels from one ad hoc explanation to another in a futile effort to extract itself from the difficulties posed by its most recent pronouncement...
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#7  Postby Scot Dutchy » Apr 25, 2012 1:18 pm

How can you have a moral argument using something for which there is no proof of its existance?

Everything falls flat or not. First prove existance scientifically.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#8  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 25, 2012 1:20 pm

proudfootz wrote:I'm at a loss to figure out how a being with no free will is able to create beings with free will.

I mean, if free will is good - how is it humans supposedly have a good that this god does not have?

If free will is not good then why would a god create it?

It seems theology is constantly creating conundrums for itself as it reels from one ad hoc explanation to another in a futile effort to extract itself from the difficulties posed by its most recent pronouncement...


I wouldn't want to make the argument that the Christian god as described in the Bible or by apologists doesn't have some kind of Free Will. Even with the limit on god's actions by his perfect holiness (ie. he can only do what's good). By the Christian definition he can still have some kind of Free Will - like he could have made all roses blue instead of most being red for example.

The problem comes when you have a Triple-O being that is perfectly holy by its very nature, and it's nature defines what is good (a circular reference in its own right), create things that are by their nature NOT perfectly holy, ie able to go against god's nature, which is what defines what good is.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#9  Postby proudfootz » Apr 25, 2012 1:47 pm

JHendrix wrote:
proudfootz wrote:I'm at a loss to figure out how a being with no free will is able to create beings with free will.

I mean, if free will is good - how is it humans supposedly have a good that this god does not have?

If free will is not good then why would a god create it?

It seems theology is constantly creating conundrums for itself as it reels from one ad hoc explanation to another in a futile effort to extract itself from the difficulties posed by its most recent pronouncement...


I wouldn't want to make the argument that the Christian god as described in the Bible or by apologists doesn't have some kind of Free Will. Even with the limit on god's actions by his perfect holiness (ie. he can only do what's good). By the Christian definition he can still have some kind of Free Will - like he could have made all roses blue instead of most being red for example.

The problem comes when you have a Triple-O being that is perfectly holy by its very nature, and it's nature defines what is good (a circular reference in its own right), create things that are by their nature NOT perfectly holy, ie able to go against god's nature, which is what defines what good is.


That's one of the problems - criticize the naive concepts of this god in the bible or as expressed by common believers (this god is basically a human with super powers) and we get a retreat into apologetics and theology. In practical terms no one seems to act as if the airy 'god of the philosophers' is true - the ground of being or pure act or whatever that means.

The free will defense against evil doesn't work if a god can have free will and still only be constrained to doing good - because then it must be explained why god's creatures could not also have free will and only do good. We're told evil is a necessary condition of free will, thus a world with evil in it is better than one without it because apparently a world with free will is much better than one without.

It seems to me whichever way this gets argued it paints the apologist into a corner.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#10  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 25, 2012 2:37 pm

proudfootz wrote:
JHendrix wrote:
proudfootz wrote:I'm at a loss to figure out how a being with no free will is able to create beings with free will.

I mean, if free will is good - how is it humans supposedly have a good that this god does not have?

If free will is not good then why would a god create it?

It seems theology is constantly creating conundrums for itself as it reels from one ad hoc explanation to another in a futile effort to extract itself from the difficulties posed by its most recent pronouncement...


I wouldn't want to make the argument that the Christian god as described in the Bible or by apologists doesn't have some kind of Free Will. Even with the limit on god's actions by his perfect holiness (ie. he can only do what's good). By the Christian definition he can still have some kind of Free Will - like he could have made all roses blue instead of most being red for example.

The problem comes when you have a Triple-O being that is perfectly holy by its very nature, and it's nature defines what is good (a circular reference in its own right), create things that are by their nature NOT perfectly holy, ie able to go against god's nature, which is what defines what good is.


That's one of the problems - criticize the naive concepts of this god in the bible or as expressed by common believers (this god is basically a human with super powers) and we get a retreat into apologetics and theology. In practical terms no one seems to act as if the airy 'god of the philosophers' is true - the ground of being or pure act or whatever that means.

The free will defense against evil doesn't work if a god can have free will and still only be constrained to doing good - because then it must be explained why god's creatures could not also have free will and only do good. We're told evil is a necessary condition of free will, thus a world with evil in it is better than one without it because apparently a world with free will is much better than one without.

It seems to me whichever way this gets argued it paints the apologist into a corner.


I think we're in agreement here. It seems like the argument I have in the OP has been done before, I've just not seen it argued against any apologists in a debate, like say WLC, when they use the Moral Argument, which according to their own books, is the most successful argument they've got for convincing people of the existence of their god.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#11  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 27, 2012 12:50 pm

In doing some research on this, I found that I'm certainly not the first person to make this argument. It was done by Wes Morrison in a paper here.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#12  Postby John P. M. » Apr 27, 2012 1:28 pm

I don't really have much to add to the discussion, at least not at this time, other than to point out that if 'good' equals 'God's Nature', then the word and concept 'good' loses its meaning (to us humans anyway).

What I mean is that we couldn't then really look at an action and say 'it is good to do so', unless we had some precedence that God had once done exactly that thing, or commanded it. We would have no idea on our own what 'good' is.

Further trouble / complication comes when one considers that this God supposedly has been OK with detailing, doing or commanding things that we feel in our guts are wrong. These things are then not wrong, since they emanate from God's Nature, which is 'good'.

We would have no right, and for that matter no clue from which to say that this God was wrong in those instances; we should be unable to judge the actions one way or another.

Now because of that, we're left not knowing what is 'good', or what is 'bad'. We have some internal sensibilities, and one could point to them as a moral compass I suppose, and as the sense of good/bad that God has given us, but evidently those sensibilities do not inform us of what actions this God supports. If they did, certain cases of slavery and genocide would not trigger negative emotions in us, we would instinctively look at them as the most wonderful things to happen in our history (maybe they never happened as the case may be, but that's a little beside the point here). They would be good, and we could have no clue to the contrary.

All this in turn makes the story of how we gained 'knowledge of good and evil, becoming like God', seem out of sync and rather peculiar. If we take all this for granted for the sake of argument.

It seems to me. Maybe I'm missing some apologetics. :ask:
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#13  Postby Mick » Apr 27, 2012 1:57 pm

JHendrix wrote: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”.


What do you mean by define? Neither Swinburne, Plantinga, Feser nor Craig make a semantic point here. Craig, who comes the closest, only that's that moral wrongs and rights are constituted by His commands, which, in turn, are expressions of His nature. God is goodess itself, though this is not to make a semantic point. It's ontologistic, though we can sometimes speak about defining things themselves rather than words, which is why I asked you what you meant by define.


Now as atheists, we’d reject that definition;

There's no necessary reason for atheists to reject this definition unless they think that goodness exists.

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.


Your modalities are confusing me. That objective morality could (in the broadly logical sense) exist apart from God does not entail that God's existence is not an actual condition for objective morality. Perhaps if this latter necessity is understood in a broadly logical sense, then it'd follow, but then it wouldn't be half as interesting, since not every such moral argument depends on there being a logical dependence, or whatever.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#14  Postby Cito di Pense » Apr 29, 2012 1:00 am

Mick wrote:
There's no necessary reason for atheists to reject this definition unless they think that goodness exists.


In general, someone (atheist or otherwise) with an IQ somewhat higher than that of a developmentally-disabled gastropod will reject the definition because it is necessary to the circularity of the argument. Circular argument is a necessary property of theology, and there is just no percentage in calculating theology for an evil god.

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.


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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#15  Postby Mick » Apr 29, 2012 1:28 am

The definition is not circular, or at least I don't see why it would be. In any case, my point stands: A diehard atheist can consistently uphold a divine command metaethic. He'd just need to ensure that he does not believe that there are moral truths.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#16  Postby proudfootz » Apr 29, 2012 1:36 am

John P. M. wrote:I don't really have much to add to the discussion, at least not at this time, other than to point out that if 'good' equals 'God's Nature', then the word and concept 'good' loses its meaning (to us humans anyway).

What I mean is that we couldn't then really look at an action and say 'it is good to do so', unless we had some precedence that God had once done exactly that thing, or commanded it. We would have no idea on our own what 'good' is.

Further trouble / complication comes when one considers that this God supposedly has been OK with detailing, doing or commanding things that we feel in our guts are wrong. These things are then not wrong, since they emanate from God's Nature, which is 'good'.

We would have no right, and for that matter no clue from which to say that this God was wrong in those instances; we should be unable to judge the actions one way or another.

Now because of that, we're left not knowing what is 'good', or what is 'bad'. We have some internal sensibilities, and one could point to them as a moral compass I suppose, and as the sense of good/bad that God has given us, but evidently those sensibilities do not inform us of what actions this God supports. If they did, certain cases of slavery and genocide would not trigger negative emotions in us, we would instinctively look at them as the most wonderful things to happen in our history (maybe they never happened as the case may be, but that's a little beside the point here). They would be good, and we could have no clue to the contrary.

All this in turn makes the story of how we gained 'knowledge of good and evil, becoming like God', seem out of sync and rather peculiar. If we take all this for granted for the sake of argument.

It seems to me. Maybe I'm missing some apologetics. :ask:


It seems with all these ad hoc arguments theists engage in to escape dilemmas created by this or that pronouncement always seems to create even worse dilemmas for them down the road, which in turn requires new ad hockery to rescue them.

This is why more ink has been spilled in the service of proving there is a simple, obvious god than in any other human endeavor (excepting perhaps general bureaucracy).
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#17  Postby Counter Apologist » Apr 29, 2012 4:47 am

Mick wrote:
What do you mean by define? Neither Swinburne, Plantinga, Feser nor Craig make a semantic point here. Craig, who comes the closest, only that's that moral wrongs and rights are constituted by His commands, which, in turn, are expressions of His nature. God is goodess itself, though this is not to make a semantic point. It's ontologistic, though we can sometimes speak about defining things themselves rather than words, which is why I asked you what you meant by define.


By define I mean what Craig and Plantinga call their moral ontology, ie. what it's based on. This means that things are "good" because they part of god's nature. I've not read Swinburne or Feser, but based on the paper I linked, it appears at least Swinburne makes the same move.

If you read Craig, you'll see that he makes it very clear that his commands make up our moral epistemology (ie. how we know what is good and bad). Reference.

It appears you're well aware of the difference, and I'm failing to see how my points above still do not stand.

Mick wrote:
There's no necessary reason for atheists to reject this definition unless they think that goodness exists.


I'm sorry, but huh? Atheists would reject the morality's ontology being rooted in god's nature, because we don't believe in a god. We can very much believe that goodness exists, we just don't believe that "goodness" is derived from god's nature.

Mick wrote:
Your modalities are confusing me. That objective morality could (in the broadly logical sense) exist apart from God does not entail that God's existence is not an actual condition for objective morality. Perhaps if this latter necessity is understood in a broadly logical sense, then it'd follow, but then it wouldn't be half as interesting, since not every such moral argument depends on there being a logical dependence, or whatever.


Ironically, I'm not sure I'm following you here. :)

To make sure I understand what you're saying, you're saying that there could be some objective standard for morality that exists apart from god, but that for it to actually exist, it requires that god exists? Kind of like how theists will argue that everything depends on god's existence.

I'm sure that could be argued, but it wouldn't really support the moral argument for god that's used by at least Craig. Further, it would undermine a lot of Christian theology, as well as contradict what the other apologists say about the basis of morality.

The paper I linked earlier by Morrison did go into this in detail. I rally would like to see if there was a reply to that.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#18  Postby Cito di Pense » Apr 29, 2012 12:07 pm

Mick wrote:The definition is not circular, or at least I don't see why it would be. In any case, my point stands: A diehard atheist can consistently uphold a divine command metaethic. He'd just need to ensure that he does not believe that there are moral truths.


I can understand assuming god exists so that we can have a conversation about the characteristics of god, and I can even understand assuming that the god we're discussing is the god of the Pentateuch, which is where these ideas about free will and divine command come from. But you see what a game that makes of trying to dress up one of these ideas as a "divine command metaethic". That goes for "moral truths" as well, in the 'objective' sense.

I don't think anyone who assumes that there are 'objective' "moral truths" should have any problem explaining where they come from. I don't think a 'personal sense of conviction about moral truths' qualifies as 'objective', and I don't think an 'argument' in which you assume your conclusion is anything but circular.

A diehard atheist cannot uphold any set of principles having the word 'divine' attached to it. All a person has to do to discourse in terms of moral truths is to believe that a principle of 'good' or of 'evil' applies to actions under the moral rubric. This thread is asking a specific question about the 'free will defence', and the question of objectivity depends circularly on the objectivity of free will. I don't know where you get this particular concept of ethics except from the Pentateuch, and so you have to be talking about the god of Abraham.

If you do not ask why the god of Abraham has created human beings simply to enact a morality play, you're just assuming your conclusion. As always, some or all of the god's ways are mysterious to us. Now that we have our assumptions straight:

JHendrix wrote:the Christian apologist needs to define "Good" or "Goodness" as literally "God's Nature".

Now as atheists, we’d reject that definition


The Christian apologist could certainly try this, but the Pentateuch alone will not do to suggest why we might do it, although we need the particular sort of free will found in the Pentateuch in order to begin the free will defence.

JHendrix wrote:To make sure I understand what you're saying, you're saying that there could be some objective standard for morality that exists apart from god, but that for it to actually exist, it requires that god exists? Kind of like how theists will argue that everything depends on god's existence.

I'm sure that could be argued, but it wouldn't really support the moral argument for god that's used by at least Craig. Further, it would undermine a lot of Christian theology, as well as contradict what the other apologists say about the basis of morality.


I think what you can glean from that is that one can start by assuming an objective standard for morality, but without an enforcement, it would be meaningless, especially in the presence of free will.

As things appear to stand, you have to be an optimist to say that on balance, more good is done than evil. Again you get the circularity, because you cannot do any accounting unless there is an objective means of doing so. I can say I prefer freedom to slavery, but that doesn't mean that a principle of free will is in operation.
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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#19  Postby Mick » Apr 29, 2012 7:58 pm

JHendrix wrote:By define I mean what Craig and Plantinga call their moral ontology, ie. what it's based on. This means that things are "good" because they part of god's nature.


You should use a different word than define for this, it invites confusion.

I've not read Swinburne or Feser, but based on the paper I linked, it appears at least Swinburne makes the same move.
Doubtful. Swinburne doens't think that objective morality depends upon God, although our knowledge of it is more likely if God exists than not.

If you read Craig, you'll see that he makes it very clear that his commands make up our moral epistemology (ie. how we know what is good and bad). Reference.


No, Craig's point is one of ontology, not epistemology. He's made that distinction clear. Moral obligations are constituted by His commands, although how we know of them is a different issue.


I'm sorry, but huh? Atheists would reject the morality's ontology being rooted in god's nature, because we don't believe in a god. We can very much believe that goodness exists, we just don't believe that "goodness" is derived from god's nature.


Definitions are not existential statements; and hence a definition of goodness as God's nature itself need not have any existential commitment. Likewise, when we define God or Harry Potter or whatever singular term, we are not commited its existence unless that which we define them as exists. Thus, when we say something such as God is goodness itself, we need not believe that God exists unless we believe that goodness exists. If we don't believe that goodness exists, say, we atheists and moral skeptics, then there's no problem at all.


Ironically, I'm not sure I'm following you here. :)

To make sure I understand what you're saying, you're saying that there could be some objective standard for morality that exists apart from god, but that for it to actually exist, it requires that god exists? Kind of like how theists will argue that everything depends on god's existence.

I'm sure that could be argued, but it wouldn't really support the moral argument for god that's used by at least Craig. Further, it would undermine a lot of Christian theology, as well as contradict what the other apologists say about the basis of morality.

The paper I linked earlier by Morrison did go into this in detail. I rally would like to see if there was a reply to that.

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Re: Does the Moral Argument undermine the Free Will Defense?

#20  Postby Cito di Pense » Apr 30, 2012 6:20 pm

Mick wrote:Definitions are not existential statements; and hence a definition of goodness as God's nature itself need not have any existential commitment.


Ex-recto assertions are not ex-recto assertions, either, I suppose.

Definitions are definitions, and existence is existence. Profound, Mick, simply profound. Like it or not, you still have to say what you mean by 'existence'. I think you mean that you are able to talk about it. Just wait until aphasia sets in. One little stroke.
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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