Tough Questions Answered

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In What Sense Is God the Good?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Classical Christian theism affirms that God is the Good. David Baggett and Jerry Walls explain that

in some important sense we wish to argue that God just is the ultimate Good. This view . . . has a venerable history within Christianity. Thomists, Anselmians, theistic Platonists, and theistic activists, including such contemporary analytic philosophers as Alvin Plantinga and Robert Adams, all concur that on a Christian understanding of reality, God and the ultimate Good are ontologically inseparable.

Notice that last sentence. Ontologically inseparable means that God and the Good are the same thing. If we look at Thomas Aquinas’s view, in particular, we see that the

terms “being” and “goodness” are the same in reference, differing only in sense. A thing is perfect of its kind to the extent to which it is fully realized or developed; the extent to which the potentialities definitive of its kind—its specifying potentialities—have been actualized. In acting, a thing aims at being.

Being and goodness . . . co-refer, picking out the same referent under two different names and descriptions, . . . Since Aquinas took God to be essentially and uniquely “being itself,” it is God alone who is essentially goodness itself. This allows us to make ready sense of the relationship between God and the standard by which he prescribes or judges.

Many atheists still throw the Euthyphro Dilemma at Christians, as if it is a telling blow against the existence of the Christian God. This dilemma, in essence, argues that either moral laws exist ontologically independent of God, or moral laws are arbitrarily commanded by God. Both of those options are problematic for Christians, but as has been stated numerous times by Christian thinkers, there is another option – the moral law is built into God’s nature. In other words, God is the Good.

Baggett and Walls expand this point:

For the goodness for the sake of which and in accordance with which God wills whatever he wills regarding human morality is identical with his nature. Yet since it is God’s very nature and no arbitrary decision of his that thus constitutes the standard of morality, only things consonant with God’s nature could be morally good. . . .

We are inclined to think that the ultimate ontological inseparableness of God and the Good is something of an axiomatic Anselmian intuition; a vision apprehended, not just the deliverance of a discursive argument. That so many solid theists through the centuries have gravitated toward such a view bolsters this impression.

If God is the ultimate Good, such that necessary moral truths are reflective of an aspect of God, then indeed Plantinga is right that to apprehend such truths is to catch a glimpse of God himself. Moreover, if such dependence or even identity obtains or is even possible, then the Euthyphro Dilemma is effectively defused and the moral argument for God’s existence accordingly gains strength.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “Both of those options are problematic for Christians, but as has been stated numerous times by Christian thinkers, there is another option – the moral law is built into God’s nature. In other words, God is the Good”

    From the Iron Chariots Wiki on this point: The question might then be reasonably asked, “Where does God’s nature come from?” Did God create it himself? If so then God’s whims are still behind what he considers right and wrong, and the dilemma still applies. If, on the other hand, God did not create his own nature, then either someone else created it (in which case the dilemma applies to the creator of God’s nature) or the morality contained in God’s nature is inherent in some way (in which case God is not truly the author of right and wrong).

    Michael Martin has argued that theistic objections to the dilemma solve nothing, because it can easily be reformulated in terms of God’s character: “Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape.

    If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    God is uncreated, so questions about who created God’s nature completely miss the point.

    It also misses the point to isolate properties of God and ask whether one property causes another property. They are all simultaneously and necessarily true of God. Christians are not isolating parts of God and saying, “Look, these parts are good and other parts are not.” Everything about God is good. Not just part of God is good. All of him is good.

    The problem with all of these objectors is that they simply don’t understand Christian theology. They argue against a conception of God which we simply don’t hold.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “so questions about who created God’s nature completely miss the point”
    It was saying that was the only other option, regardless of theology. It was ruling it out, saying it didn’t help even it it cited.

    “Christians are not isolating parts of God and saying, “Look, these parts are good and other parts are not.””

    I don’t think the objection suggested that they do. There was nothing in the objection that brought up ‘not good parts’.

    “they simply don’t understand Christian theology”

    I don’t think you’ve shown that.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    I understand Christian theology, as I have been studying it intensely for 8 years, and in fact, have a Master’s Degree in it. When I read your comments above, I can immediately tell that the people you are citing do not understand Christian theology. Anyone who asks questions like “Did God create his own nature?” has no clue what the classical Christian conception of God is.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    I’m not sure I really see how this argument gets around Euthyphro. Basically you are saying that there is a list of things (X) that is in Gods will, and a list of things (Y) that go against God’s will. Things that land in list X are good and things that land in list Y are bad. But where did those lists come from?

    When you say that it is just God’s nature, that almost seems like it is just the way it happened to be. What if some things in the lists had been switched? What if some stuff that we currently see as really terrible had been in God’s nature, would they then be considered good?

    If it had been in God’s nature to rape, would rape be considered good? If so, then it is arbitrary, if no then it is impossible because rape is somehow inherently bad and it couldn’t be considered good. But then it is bad independent of God. And we are back at Euthyphro.

    It seems to me that you have tried to sidestep Euthyphro and you still hit it head on. In your opinion, what am I missing here?

  • Andrew R

    As I already said, it was simply going through all possible options and saying why none escaped the dilemma.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    When you say that it is just God’s nature, that almost seems like it is just the way it happened to be. What if some things in the lists had been switched? What if some stuff that we currently see as really terrible had been in God’s nature, would they then be considered good?

    What you are missing is that the classical Christian view of God is that the good and God are ontologically the same thing, so it is impossible for rape to be in God’s nature. It is impossible for anything bad at all to be in God’s nature.

    When you say, “What if it had been in God’s nature to rape?” I hear you saying something like, “What if we found a square that had three sides?” Both are logically impossible.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    Let’s try a little hypothetical, let’s suppose the devil from our universe ran off, found himself a little piece of void and created a universe of his own. His nature would be woven into that universe. Would the intelligent creatures in that universe see all of the bad things that are in the devil’s nature as moral?

    If we think things are good because they are from the nature of the creator, wouldn’t those people think the same thing of the devil? What the devil does is moral for those guys because it is the nature of the creator.

  • Andrew R

    “It is impossible for rape to be in God’s nature. It is impossible for anything bad at all to be in God’s nature.”

    Bill, that strikes me as begging the question. You are judging the good and bad by REFERENCE to God’s nature, so If rape was in God’s nature, it would be definition be good. What is it about rape that means it would HAVE to be against God’s nature? Is it against God’s nature because it’s bad, or is it bad because it’s against God’s nature?

    If you knew nothing about God or His nature, would you be able to logically work out that rape would be against any good God’s nature? Or would you be completely in the dark as to what might be for or against His nature? Try to leave aside answers that involve our conscience TELLING us what’s in God’s nature, because for many moral questions (albeit rarely for rape) you can two people whose consciences tell them completely different things.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Let me see if this explanation helps. For theists, we look at two different sets of evidence and reasoning.

    First, we look at our strongest moral intuitions. We look at the moral facts that all human cultures seem to have in common. We see that there is a set of moral facts that every person seems to know which transcend all times and places.

    Second, and in parallel, through metaphysical reasoning we conclude that there must be a being (i.e., God) who is the first cause of everything, the uncreated creator, a being that is perfect in every way (these conclusions are arrived at by several metaphysical arguments which we don’t have time to get into now). We reason that moral goodness is a perfection. We conclude that this first cause must be perfectly morally good, since goodness is a perfection and all perfections exist in God.

    So, by examining our own moral intuitions, and by using metaphysical reasoning, we identify God with perfect moral goodness. They must be one and the same.

    If we take rape as an example, we know that rape is morally wrong as well as we know 2+2=4, and so given that God is the Good, it is impossible that rape could ever be part of God’s nature.

    If someone were to tell me that rape was a part of God’s nature, I would conclude that either they have defined rape differently than me, or that they are not referring to the Christian God. Rape (not good) cannot be identified with God (good). That is logically impossible.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    It is not merely that God is a creator that we attribute moral goodness to him. We know from metaphysics that he is perfect in all his attributes (e.g., knowledge, wisdom, power). Since goodness can be perfected, it is perfected in God.

    There is no possible universe where moral goodness is reversed. God’s nature is constant in all possible universes. There are certainly cultures who become confused about moral laws, but they are just wrong, just like the person who believed 9/3 = 5 would be wrong.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    “We know from metaphysics that he is perfect in all his attributes…Since goodness can be perfected, it is perfected in God”

    Perfect based on what metric? You are saying 2 things:

    1. Good is defined by the nature of God

    2. goodness is perfected in God

    It can’t be both, that’s circular. Let me try to illustrate with an example. I’m going to define a word, hausdorffness. It’s doing things that are my personal natural insticts. I am the unique person who has the maximal amount of hausdorffness. This is pretty meaningless right? If I’m the definition of hausdorffness, the fact that I have the maximum amount of that property doesn’t say anything.

    What you are saying about God is basically the same, except the word “good” has a lot of baggage with it. We really have arrived back at Euthyphro, if “good” is some external property and God is the maximal expression of that property, then we are on one side of the dilemma, if God is the source of “good” then it is arbitrary and we are on the other side.

  • Andrew R

    As I already pointed out, people argue about what is moral all the time – I don’t think you can jump from ‘I intuit this is immoral’ to ‘This is against nature’. You say you know rape is wrong in the same way you know 1+1=2, but I don’t think you’ve shown the former to be a logical statement.

    You seem to be saying rape being wrong is an essential logical fact, but I can’t work out if you’re saying:
    1) A perfect being would HAVE to be against rape in the same way someone who’s perfect at maths would to conclude that 1+1=2; or
    2) Rape is only wrong because it’s against God’s nature. If it wasn’t for God’s nature, there’d be nothing intrinsically wrong with it.

    The way you insist a perfect being would HAVE to be against rape suggests option 1. It’s simply not possible to you that you’re not correctly intuiting God’s nature.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    No, what I am saying is that God is the Good. God and goodness are ontologically the same thing. Epistemically we learn about goodness and God through different means, but once we arrive at God by one means and by goodness from another means, we realize that they are the same thing.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Yes, a being is who essentially good would have to be against rape. And I do believe I know that rape is morally wrong with the same epistemological certitude that I know 1+1=2. There is no possible world where rape is morally right.

  • Andrew R

    Thanks Bill. I agree with you. Any God that supported rape wouldn’t be morally perfect, and wouldn’t be the Christian God. But this does suggest that rape would be wrong with or without a God – it is simply inherently bad, couldn’t be any other way, like 1+1=2. In the Euth Dilemma, you’ve effectively chosen the option ‘God says it is bad because it is’.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    No. You are still not getting the difference between epistemology and ontology. I can know (epistemology) that rape is wrong in every possible world without knowing what the source of that truth is (ontology).

    What you seem to be saying is that because I know that rape is wrong, or I know that 1+1=2, and that they are true in every possible world, they must be truths that exist independently of God. But that conclusion just does not follow at all.

    In fact, if you go back and read the series of recent blog posts I’ve written, I have gone over this very issue several times. In particular, you need to re-read the post titled “Can We Know Moral Values Without Knowing God?”

    The way I come to know a certain truth has absolutely nothing to do with the source of that truth. We can all agree that rape is wrong in every possible world, but what I want to know is why. Why is it that rape is wrong in every possible world? What guarantees this truth? Where does this truth come from?

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    Bill, let me back up a second here. You have said a number of times that the problem is that God and good are ontologically the same thing. What exactly does this mean?

    God is a supernatural being, he created the universe and does a bunch of other stuff. Good is basically a list of things that are morally acceptable. It can’t just be that God and good are exactly the same. It would seem to make sense that “good” is a list of things that God has, not that God IS good.

    I think this idea that “god and good are ontologically the same” might be the source of our miscommunication here. Any idea how to help me understand?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    The definition I am using for good is “that which is desired for itself.” A thing is desired because another thing’s nature/essence points it to the thing desired.

    So the ultimate good, for human beings, would be the thing that is ultimately desirable. It would be the one thing, that after a human had it, he would never want anything else because he would be completely and totally satisfied. In Christian theism, that being is God.

    The list of human behaviors that are morally acceptable are certainly part of the good, but they are a subset, not the whole thing. A human behavior is morally acceptable insofar as it is properly aimed toward that which is ultimately desirable for human beings, and that which is ultimately desirable for human beings is God.

    So my definition of the good encompasses far more than yours. To list a bunch of human activities and say that they completely constitute the good would be incomplete.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    “The definition I am using for good is “that which is desired for itself.” A thing is desired because another thing’s nature/essence points it to the thing desired.”

    Apologies, but I find this definition somewhat confusing. Who is doing the desiring, and why does desire translate to good? And what does “desired for itself” mean?

    You said that God is ultimately desirable, so therefore he’s ultimately good? Does the fact that he is desirable make him good? Certainly this is not what you mean is it? Junkies desire heroin but it is not something we would call good. (I’m sure it feels good at the moment, but that’s not what we are talking about when we say good right?)

    Sorry if I’m just being thick, but I don’t understand. I suspect it might be that “desired for itself” phrase that is the source of my problem here.

  • Andrew R

    “But that conclusion just does not follow at all.”

    I think it does. If it is so in all possible worlds, then that includes worlds with a different God or no God at all. If the Islamic God was the real one, would that mean that all the things He decreed to be “Good” are good, even when that contradicts the “Goods” decreed by the Christian God?

    If yes, then you’re saying that if turns out we were created by a(nother) God who favoured rape, then rape would be good. You obviously don’t believe that – you’d say rape would still be wrong, yes?

    If so, then that seems to say that you see the wrongness of rape as a truth existing independently of the Christian God.

    Also, 1+1=2 must, to my mind, exist independently not just of the Christian God but of any other God and indeed any other thing, simply because it couldn’t be anything else. What else COULD 1+1 equal, regardless of any God? It’s not going to equal 3, or 4 or 3.1416 or anything else.

    “In particular, you need to re-read the post titled “Can We Know Moral Values Without Knowing God?””

    I did read it, and commented on it too.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    X is desirable when it fulfills the purpose or goals of another thing, Y. The purposes of Y are built into Y’s nature or essence. So when I say that God is the good for man, I am saying that based on human nature, God is the ultimate purpose for a human. Put another way, we are designed for God.

    When I use the word “desire” I do not mean merely the subjective sense of the word. In metaphysics, non-human things may “desire” things in that they tend toward those things which fulfill their nature.

    “Desired for itself” refers to a thing which is desired not as a means to an end, but as end unto itself. For example, money may be desirable, but it is not desirable for itself, as the only reason we desire money is to buy other things with it.

    I realize that these metaphysical concepts can be confusing, and if you really want to understand them, I would recommend reading “The Last Superstition” by Edward Feser, or maybe his book “Aquinas.” Both of these books give introductions to classical Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    According to Christian metaphysics, God must exist in all possible worlds, just as rape is wrong in all possible worlds. So when you say that we should consider a world where God does not exist, that simply makes no sense.

    It is interesting, though, that you have no problem admitting that some moral facts and mathematical laws exist in all possible worlds, but God does not. In a material universe governed by the laws of physics, where did math and moral facts come from?

  • Andrew R

    Again, can you tell me how a world where 1+1=3 would work?

    “…you have no problem admitting…but God does not”

    You’re saying the CHRISTIAN God must exist in all possible worlds. What do you even mean by ‘all possible worlds’ then, if your own God has to exist in all of them? That’s quite a restriction! You’re even allowing for the existence of the Islamic God even as a hypothetical?

    I guess a Muslim might equally claim that Allah must exist ‘in all possible worlds’, and someone else might claim their own ‘rape approving God’ must exist in all possible worlds.

    It kind of renders the phrase ‘in all possible worlds’ meaningless.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    “”Desired for itself” refers to a thing which is desired not as a means to an end, but as end unto itself.”

    that does make some sense, and the example with money does help quite a bit. However, I’m not sure this definition seems to line up well with what we normally think of as good. Money isn’t “good” in this sense, because we don’t want money for money, we want it to get other stuff.

    But what about the heroine I mentioned earlier. The junkie doesn’t want the heroine to get something else, he wants the heroine for the heroine. You might say that he wants the heroine to get a good feeling out of it, but then by that logic many things that we would normally think of as good could be dismissed with similar reasoning.

    Just to get my brain oriented properly here, can you give an example of something that is good in this sense other than God?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    Heroin, not heroine!

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com/ Hausdorff

    lol oops. Thanks, I fixed it.

    I was so careful the other day to not make that mistake. Guess today I’m off my game

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Physical pleasure, or wisdom, or virtue are all things that might be desired for themselves. However, the Christian teaching is that even these things, when had by humans, still do not completely satisfy us. We always want something more, whether it be more pleasure, more wisdom, or more virtue. It is only in God that our desires can be completely satisfied. This makes logical sense, because pleasure, wisdom, and virtue all come from God, ultimately.

  • The Thinker

    First, defining god as the source of “good” is mere theological wordplay. It doesn’t demonstrate that “good” cannot exist independently of god. Even if goodness is an essential property of god, it is a property that can apply to other things independently of god’s existence. Just think of how being hot is an essential property of fire – fire must be hot, it cannot be cold. But “hot” can apply to many other things independently of fire. For example, microwaves cause things to be hot and so does friction.

    Second, why call something good? Epistemologically, we know in the moral sense that certain things are good because they positively benefit beings affected by them. Moral actions like love, kindness, fairness, and generosity positively benefit all beings affected by them, not just physically but emotionally as well. That’s why they’re morally good. If the theist thinks objective moral values are founded on the existence of god, he has to explain how these moral actions would not positively affect beings in a universe with no god, or how these actions would somehow be different enough that their goodness could be considered subjective. All things being equal, in a godless universe the affects of morally good actions would be exactly the same. Therefore, these morals are good in and of themselves and do not require the existence or the commands of a deity to make them objectively good.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Goodness without God is merely prudential, not categorical. Only a perfect moral lawgiver can make morality categorical. Even Kant agreed with this.

    For classical theists, goodness is not an essential property of God. God is goodness. They are ontologically the same.

  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

    Like I said, it’s all mere theological wordplay that isn’t demonstrated anywhere. If god is good and the two are one in the same, then why is it that god is not morally obligated in any way to adhere to his own supposed ‘perfect’ moral standards? Christians say god can violate his own objective perfect moral standard whenever he wants. And that means god cannot be morally perfect and good. If he were goodness itself, he’d have to adhere to his own standards that he commands.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Please read my blog post titled, “If God Can Kill, Why Can’t We?”

  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

    Right, the old “God can kill anyone he wants whenever he wants because he’s God” idea. Heard that already. Still not logically coherent with moral perfection.

    And you have not at all demonstrated that good cannot exist independently to god.

  • http://www.atheismandthecity.com/ The Thinker

    Here’s a challenge to you on goodness.

    1. Define goodness
    2. Describe an act of goodness and why it is good that does not refer to god
    3. Show how it would not be good in a possible world where god does not exist

  • Alex

    I was thinking intensely about this last night. This thinking led me to write out the following formulation – of Euthyphro and “the problem of evil.” Continued thinking and serching about this today led me to this website:

    Definition of Good: That which is in harmony with God’s nature.
    Does Good require a person?
    If Yes: Because God’s nature is the basis for the very definition of Good.
    If No: It hard to see how to say “no” to this question, given the original definition. But, if it were possible, then morality could be based in whatever this “transcendental” God is.

    *note – This does not address how or why God’s nature
    is considered Good by God. In other words, what standard would God have used to deem his nature good? It is a fact that, at least at some point, God’s nature was declared Good. So, the question is did the initial declaration of his nature as good make it Good? Was it arbitrary? Or, did God appeal to some outside authority, standard, or existence? This is the Euthyphro dilemma. It has never been adequately addressed.

    Definition of Evil: That which is out of harmony with God’s nature.
    Does it require a person?
    If yes: Then from eternity, when there was only God,
    only God could have been the person required for Evil.
    If no: Then the solution to the “Problem of Evil” – that God allows the personification of Evil because it is necessary for Good, is demonstrably false, as Good existed from eternity without embodied Evil.

  • Alex

    “Ontologically inseparable means that God and the Good are the same thing.”

    Let’s see what God’s (supposed) word tells us about “good.” Here I think Bill has provided firm foundation for pantheism.
    Genesis 1:
    4 God saw that the light was good (God = good = light)

    10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. (God = good = dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters.)

    12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. (God = good = vegetation)

    etc. …..

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    I’m late to reading all this. Apologies for putting my two cents worth late. Yet, I sympathize with both sides of the argument and I might be able to offer an angle that might bring clarity (or maybe not and I’m just mudding the waters more).

    The Euthyphro Dilemma as stated in its classical argument is indeed a false diemma given that what is good is defined by God’s own nature. What is good isn’t defined by God’s arbitrary choosing (at least in Judeo-Christian theology). And what is good doesn’t define God and limit Him in anyway in the sense of being over Him in a way He must submit to something beyond Himself. It seems the argument in the comments is about the definition of good rather than how it relates to God. The Euthyprho is about how good relates to God.

    Given the issue of definition, I actually see what those arguing against Bill are saying. Why is it that God’s nature, which is the basis for definition of what is good, indeed good? If it so happened, that rape was consistent with God’s nature, then rape WOULD be good by definition from His nature. But, what determines God’s nature and how should we understand that it should be called “good”?

    So, what do we mean when we say “good”? In the positive, we tend to mean that there is harmony, order, truth, justice, beauty, and so on. In the negative we say it lacks corruption, harm, unfairness, etc. God is harmonious with Himself as a simple being. God is truth as the creator and sustainer of reality. Rape, on the other hand, is distructful, harms another person, is not loving, is a holding of power of one over another in an unjust way, and so on. Such as act does not represent the nature of God – as harmonious, loving, and just. Thus, rape is morally wrong by defintion of the very being of God.

    Thus, we can reason from the nature of God that certain acts are not good. Given we have been created in the image of God, even if that image is now marred, we know in our conscience, that certain acts are wrong. It is by that image that we can know that we are guilty before a holy God. Yet, the turning of that image for self glory (the wrong reference is how it is marred) is why we tend to do things opposed to the image of God, even if we know better. That image is how we know intuitively what is good and how it also aligns with the nature of a holy God. When we oppose that knowledge, we oppose the very nature of God. So, when it comes to understand what is good, it is important to know that God Himself is the standard of good and the standary by which Jesus lived a perfect life without sin. He is the standard by which we are made righteous by His death and resurrection, cleansed of all that is not good, and able to be in union, now, and for eternity, with the almighty Creator. The reference of the image is then corrected, repaired, and knowledge is made complete.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “The Euthyphro Dilemma as stated in its classical argument is indeed a false diemma given that what is good is defined by God’s own nature.”

    I believe that’s still one of the two options.

    ” If it so happened, that rape was consistent with God’s nature, then rape WOULD be good by definition from His nature”

    Do you not see how that comes across as saying the wrongness of rape is arbitrary?

    “Rape, on the other hand, is distructful, harms another person, is not loving”

    Wouldn’t all those things still be true even if there was no God? Why, then, say that God is necessary to declare that rape is wrong?

    “We know in our conscience, that certain acts are wrong”

    If our consciences still ‘told’ us rape was wrong if there was no God, then would it still be wrong? Or would our consciences then not be trustworthy? And how come there’s so much argument between humans (and even between practicers of the same religion) about what is the right thing to do? Some people’s conscience is telling them gay marriage is fine, others have their conscience telling them it’ll send us to hell! If our consciences can so mislead us, how can we trust them at all?

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    Andrew,

    You can’t entirely trust the conscience since it is corrupted, but in general, it is there to guide us. If the conscience was sufficient, things would be simpler.

    As far as saying good is defined by God’s nature is still one of the two options (if that is what you are saying), then I think you may not being seeing the two sides of the dilemma as they are stated classically. In one, God is above the law. In the other, the law is above God. This middle, is not in the dilemma, but is the resolution of the delimma and the traditional view of God, which is that God’s nature is the definition of the law. The law as is applies to human activity is derived from His nature of love and justitce. From that, I was agreeing that I see how good may seem arbitrary just to say it corresponds to God’s nature. (Although God’s nature is not arbitrary, but it seems aribitrary to call His nature good.)

    I agreed that rape would be good by definition if it is simply a matter of saying what God’s nature is is good. But, then I showed why God’s nature is good and how rape, by its nature, is opposed to that nature. That was the key part of what I was saying. God’s nature truly is good, not just by definition, but by His actual nature overall. If anything could be argued then, it would be whether God is actually simple, the basis of truth, etc.

    You say a lot about if God doesn’t exist. If He doesn’t, then good is arbitrary to human whim. A society could decide for themselves that rape is good because they don’t look at the full picture. When even a group of Christians call something good that is opposed to God’s created order, they are not resorting to good by the nature of God, but by their own decisions, which often are lacking complete understanding. Without God, there is no possibility of an absolute good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “A society could decide for themselves that rape is good because they don’t look at the full picture”

    A society can still decide that rape is good. But regardless of their decision, it would remain true that it is: “distructful, harms another person, is not loving”

    “I think you may not being seeing the two sides of the dilemma as they are stated classically”

    I think the dilemma still applies.

    I’ll post the same quote from the Iron Chariots Wiki:

    “The claim that God would not command evil because it goes against God’s nature does not actually change the problem, but only reorganizes it. The question might then be reasonably asked, “Where does God’s nature come from?” Did God create it himself? If so then God’s whims are still behind what he considers right and wrong, and the dilemma still applies. If, on the other hand, God did not create his own nature, then either someone else created it (in which case the dilemma applies to the creator of God’s nature) or the morality contained in God’s nature is inherent in some way (in which case God is not truly the author of right and wrong). Michael Martin has argued that theistic objections to the dilemma solve nothing, because it can easily be reformulated in terms of God’s character: “Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character?” The structure of this modified dilemma is exactly the same as before, and it appears to be if anything harder to escape.

    If we identify the ultimate standard for goodness with God’s nature, then it seems we are identifying it with certain of God’s properties (e.g., being loving, being just). If so, then the dilemma resurfaces: is God good because he has those properties, or are those properties good because God has them?”

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    I’m agreeing there is the question about definition of good (is good good just because God is said to be good? Why is He good?), but the response in the wiki is bogus since it separates God’s nature from Himself. How can God create His own nature and How can a nature exist apart from God existing that had to come from somewhere else? That can’t be done and surely wasn’t written by a philosopher. God’s nature is coexistent and essential with His existence, which is eternal. Whereas, Martin’s comment I think is a good question. This question about defintion is NOT a dilemma however, it is a question. A dilemma has two contrary positions, either one a problem.

    The matter of definition doesn’t seem all that difficult. If good has to do with harmony, love, justice, and so forth, then God is good because He has those properties. While God is good because He has those properties, we also look to Him to now what is good, as we are limited in having perfect knoweldge about what is good. The definition of good is not above God, even if it may seem so, anymore than mathematics would be above God. What is good and mathematics stem from proper relationships. Relationships wouldn’t exist if there were no God since He is ultimate existance/being. Thus, good would be meaningless if there were no God because there would also be no existence anyway. In any existence, there are relationships in space, time, between entities, etc. If there are relationships, then there is a matter of good relationships. Thus, good really stems from existence itself, which comes from there being a God. In that sense, good exists because God exists, but God is good, because He has proper relationship within His own nature – not just because He told some prophet He was good. This is not a dilemma, but a matter of the nature of definitions that is a curious philosophical problem beyond the question of why God is good. Why is 3+3=5? It is the same issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “Why is 3+3=5? It is the same issue”

    Then we possibly diverge here*. For me it is nonsense to say that God is required for 3+3 to equal 6, as it suggests without God it might equal something else. 3+3=6 must exist as an essential fact apart from God and apart from anything else, or it becomes contingent.

    “Thus, good really stems from existence itself, which comes from there being a God.”

    I don’t believe existence does come from God. Or at least I don’t believe it NECESSARILY comes from a God. I think it’s quite possible that existence itself is necessary in the same way that the laws of logic or maths are.

    “If good has to do with harmony, love, justice, and so forth, then God is good because He has those properties.”

    Sure, a ‘Good God’ would necessarily have those qualities, meaning it doesn’t make sense to talk about a rape-approving God who is also good. So we can say “Rape is not in God’s nature because rape is wrong”, rather than “Rape is wrong because it is against God’s nature”.

    *[I'm guessing you meant 6, not 5]

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    I meant 3+2=5, but it was an arbitrary example, so 3+3=6 is just as good.

    My math example was to bring up the philosophical problem of definitions, not that God is required for it to be true, although He is, by the reason that I gave that God must exist for “good” to have any meaning.

    “So we can say ‘Rape is not in God’s nature because rape is wrong’,
    rather than ‘Rape is wrong because it is against God’s nature’.” As I see it, either one is saying the same thing! How do you know it is wrong if you are not comparing it to God’s nature? I challenge you to show me how you know that rape is wrong without resorting to God’s nature. Whatever you say, I bet you ultimately resort to His nature. The only difference, is that I think you will try to say God’s nature can exist apart from God Himself (based on the logic you’ve used so far). And I think you’ll say that because you don’t see that existence is an attribute of God.

    You said, “I don’t believe existence does come from God. Or at least I don’t believe it NECESSARILY comes from a God. I think it’s quite possible that existence itself is necessary in the same way that the laws of logic or maths are.” How is it that existence is necessary in the same way as laws of logic or maths and yet you don’t believe it necessarily comes from a God? The key word you used was “a”, as if the existence of God is aribtrary and unlreated to existence itself. God IS existence, or God is not God. If there is an existence, then there is at least “a” God. Math and logic are based on relationships of existence. Thus, they cannot exist without there being at least “a” God. What you may want to say, is that you don’t believe existence is dependent on the God of the Bible, thinking that God as aribitrary. But, you contradict yourself when you say there can be an existence and yet no God. There is a possiblity that the God of the Bible is not the God of existence, however, the Bible says that God’s name is “I am,” the very Being. So, some justification has to be made to show that the God of the Bible is the God of existence (which I believe to be the case), but it is contradictory to reject “a” God and yet believe in necessary existence!

    If there is existence, there must be “a” God, and if there is existence, there is a definition of “good”. They all go hand in hand. None-precede the other. The only question is whether the religions of the world have the right “God” or whether they have distorted the God of creation into their own liking?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Ryan/511764596 Andrew Ryan

    “I meant 3+2=5, but it was an arbitrary example”

    You said 3+3=5 – Sorry Walt, it isn’t!

    “Whatever you say, I bet you ultimately resort to His nature”

    No, because if it is only wrong because of his nature, it makes it contingent – it suggests that if God was fine with it, I would be too. Walt, I would be against rape even if it turned out we were both wrong, and there’s a God who gives rape the big thumbs up. I would say: “That sucks, there’s a God and he likes rape”. I wouldn’t say: “Well, I guess rape is good after all”.

    “If there is existence, there must be “a” God”

    I don’t see why.

    “But, you contradict yourself when you say there can be an existence and yet no God.”

    I do not contradict myself. Saying something you disagree with is not the same as contradicting myself.

    “Math and logic are based on relationships of existence. Thus, they cannot exist without there being at least “a” God.”

    Why not?

    “How is it that existence is necessary in the same way as laws of logic or maths and yet you don’t believe it necessarily comes from a God?”

    If it’s necessary then it doesn’t come from anything. That’s what necessary means, in this context.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    I’m prone to typos, so 3+2=5 is what I meant despite what I typed. But 3+3=6 works as well.

    I said, “Thus, they cannot exist without there being at least ‘a’ God.” You said, “Why not?” Then I have to ask a basic question, what is God? You seem to be using a title that doesn’t correspond with essence of being. You are not thinking of a God of creation, but a God of imagination, like in fairy tales. Maybe that is the reason you are skeptical? I’d be skeptical too if God was a man with a beard that lived up in the sky. Rather God IS the essence of existence which gave rise to creation (in contrast to pantheistic idea where the world itself is God or a panentheistic one where the world is God’s body). That God exists practically by defintion. The question when it comes to matters of faith is whether that God is the God of any religion.

    I still say you can’t know rape is wrong without knowing an order of things. That order is established by God. Otherwise it is entirely arbitrary, by so called chance. Without an objective standard by the order of creation we can believe something to be right an wrong all we want, but we have no way of saying it to be true such that another person ought to abide by it (except by civil law, and then what makes it enforceable other than that one has more power/might over another? In that case, the beasts can rule and we have no reason to say they are wrong in how they rule other than that we don’t like personally what they do).

  • Andrew Ryan

    I was just yanking your chain about the math!

    “That order is established by God. Otherwise it is entirely arbitrary, by so called chance.”

    To me, saying it is established by God’s nature seems equally like leaving it to arbitrary chance.

    “That God exists practically by defintion.”

    I don’t know Walt, this seems like playing with words. I can define Allah as a cloud, and say that because you believe in clouds, that means you believe in Allah, but it’s not a very meaningful assertion. It’s a big stretch to define God in such a way that I’m not longer an atheist.

    “we have no way of saying it to be true such that another person ought to abide by it”

    Referring to a God’s law gets you no closer to getting other people to abide by your laws. It just leads to arguments about which God is real and what that particular God wants. The Lemon Test works pretty well in America – you justify any law without reference to God, based on basic ideas/axioms (such as fairness) that we all already agree on.

    If you had a man who lacked a basic idea of what ‘good’ meant, I don’t see how you’d convince him that God was ‘good’. Your argument comes down to Him having a simple nature, and being true to that nature. Right, but what makes it ‘good’ and what do you mean by calling it ‘good’?

    “what makes it enforceable other than that one has more power/might over another?”

    Same with God, isn’t it? It’s just ‘might is right’ at the end of the day.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    “To me, saying it is established by God’s nature seems equally like leaving it to arbitrary chance.” Arbitrary would mean it could have been different. If God is the essence or foundation of reality, things aren’t arbitrary at all, but the necessary outcome.

    You don’t have a sound basis to define Allah as a cloud. You cannot philosophically arrive at that and also see it agrees with anything Mohammad taught. Whereas, you can philosophically arrive at God as the source of or basis for reality and see it also agrees with the core of most religous thought and corresponds perfectly with one particular strand of religious thought and so called revelation. Just as the study of linguistics can reveal a core single ancient language, one can see a core to most of the world religions. These religions may contradict at may points, but at the core, there is a common thought. As well, it agrees entirely with what is considered the revealed religions of Judaism and Christianity. So, I think I have better footing on the defintion I use for God, which corresponds with the Bible, and gives a justification for why God is good, than any other definition.

    Yes, I do rely upon God’s simplicity for Him being good, but I’m also saying that in that simplicity is harmony and perfect relationships. It is this harmony and perfect relationships that provides “goodness.” If human beings lives with harmony and perfect relationships, don’t you think that would be good? As stated earlier, God is good because He has this. But also, we, in a world of chaos and fragmentation, can only know what is good by looking to God (and to some degree our own consciences which, while corrupted, reflets the image of God).. It is rather circular, but that was what I was getting at earlier with regard to the philosophical issues of definitions. In other words, we have a notion of what is means for something to be good and can see that God is good. Yet, that notion came from God. If rape were somehow consistent with God’s nature, we wouldn’t know it to be evil since we would have been made by God, with His image. However, if we can accept such notion, then good is indeed arbitrary. Yet, simplicity and harmony in God’s character can only yield that rape is evil. Only a simple immaterial being can have no boundaries in time and space and be uncaused. That being must exhibit harmony, or it destroys itself, in which case it can’t be boundless in time and a simple being. So, in this sense, God must be good in order for Him to be eternal. His must be eternal to be the basis for creation and Himself uncaused.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Whereas, you can philosophically arrive at God as the source of or basis for reality”

    OK. You CAN. But I don’t.

    “If rape were somehow consistent with God’s nature, we wouldn’t know it to be evil since we would have been made by God, with His image.”

    As I already pointed out, people disagree on moral issues all the time. And I would find it absurd to call a rape-approving God ‘Good’. If anything qualifies for the word ‘evil’ it’s rape, otherwise the word is meaningless. Just having empathy for the feelings of others, and figuring that it makes sense to treat others as you wish to be treated, should be enough to convince you to oppose rape. If you’ve got sisters, or a mother, or daughters, you can imagine how you’d feel if they were raped, and you can see how rape would affect others.

    “So, in this sense, God must be good in order for Him to be eternal.”

    At best you’ve argued that a God must be consistent with His own nature. Why call that good? And why assume that it would otherwise destroy itself? And why assume that we couldn’t have been created by a God that has indeed long-since destroyed itself?

    We may be approaching the point of the conversation getting circular…

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    You’re right, the conversation is not moving.

    I’m not making many “assumptions.” These are like 3+3=6. Is that an assumption? It is beyond me why you don’t see simplicity and harmony as good? As well, why existence can’t destroy itself. Why it must precede the creation of matter. And so forth. It seems intuitivly obvious, just like why rape is bad. It seems you just don’t want to accept what is obvious and want to keep the resistance up. I can understand one having issues with the God of religion, even though I accept the God of Christian faith to be the true God. But, I don’t understand denial of at least that which is obvious when you think about it. Granted it is not obvous if one doesn’t think about it.

    Also, people disagree on moral issues from their own perspectives and what they want to believe. That does mean there is no absolute truth or good.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “It is beyond me why you don’t see simplicity and harmony as good?”

    It’s not that I don’t, it’s that I don’t see why a God is needed to make it so. If you’re using the goodness of simplicity and harmony to explain the goodness of God, you could equally use the same idea to argue for the evilness of rape.

    “It seems intuitivly obvious, just like why rape is bad.”

    But you’re the one saying it can’t axiomatically be bad, that it needs an explanation for its badness, that it can’t simply be bad unless it’s against God’s nature.

    “Granted it is not obvous if one doesn’t think about it.”

    Not fair, Walt. I’ve thought about this a lot.

  • http://walttuckerministry.shutterfly.com Walt Tucker

    “you could equally use the same idea to argue for the evilness of rape.” It is the same idea. Rape is wrong for the same reasons God is good. But rape does not exist on its own right. It exists in contrast to what is good in a created order. That order ultimately comes from existence itself. And existence is the very nature of God. If you want to call it a different name, that is your perogative. But a boundless non-material entity is ultimately required to explain why there is anything. So, yes, the evil of rape can be seen by the same argument for the goodness of God. But rape would not even be possible, or any evil for that matter, if there was not a basis for all that exists.

    “But you’re the one saying it can’t axiomatically be bad,” My response above applies here as well.

    “Not fair” Ok. But there is no better explanation. If you say there is no need for there to be a God who is good by His own nature, then how is there any order in the universe? Science can only describe the laws that exist. It can’t answer why they exist. Where it does attempt to answer why, it just backs the problem up to why there is anything. I’m not postulating there must be a God because we have no explanation. Rather, I’m postulating there is a God because it simply must be if there is anything at all. I think the hangup between you and me is that you may not be willing to call the cause of the universe God. Since that cause must be boundless and immaterial, I find it meets the definition of God that is at the ancient core of religions. So, I have no problem calling the cause God. Logically it makes perfect sense!

  • Andrew Ryan

    Thanks for the discussion Walt. I could go on, but we’ve probably said everything we can say. So (apart from these four sentences) I’ll let your above post count as the last word. All the best.

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