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Discussion in 'Apologetical Methods' started by christianyouth, Dec 5, 2008.
Hey guys, how would you answer this dilemma?
I think Euthyphro's dilemma ceases to be one when we start with the idea that our God is all- or self-sufficient. That he needs nothing outside of himself and is wholly self-sustaining makes what he is, "good," and thus the fact that holiness or morality stems from his nature is not problematic.
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It is indeed a dilemma when speaking of the gods of the Greeks; but not when speaking of YHWH.
This is non sequitur.
The problem begins when you concede the "what if" - I don't debate "what if" - I debate "what is" and since God is good and morality is a byproduct of His absolute goodness, then there is an absolute source and knowable, practical model for human morality, God. It seems tautological, but there is nothing illogical or accidental about a perfect closed system. As mentioned above - God is - completely self-sufficient and completely good - that does not mean that "not of God" is not allowable, since it is outside the closed system, and completely subordinate to the ultimate purposes of God.
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So then one must define what God's good purposes are - Scripturally, He will glorify the Son through the good and merciful redemption of a people for Himself and glorify Himself in the good exercise of His justice.
I would say that it is a false dilemma. An objective moral standard is not above or below God's character or actions; it is God's character or actions.
The only reason nonbelievers would say that Christian morality is arbitrary is because they desire to bring God down to a creaturely level, violating the Creator-creature distinction. They believe that even He must be subject to something greater.
Of course, in doing so, they are proposing an absurd solution: whence comes this higher external standard? From some being greater than God? Would he have to be subject to some greater standard in order to avoid an arbitrary morality as well? Ad infinitum. The atheist does not offer a dilemma for the Christian at all; he creates one for himself by assigning arbitrary criteria to what must be the case for objective standards.
It seems that if God is good, He cannot but decree what is good -so His decrees are good because He is good.
I'm with Meg, and I'll expand on it.
Moral isn't some sort of metaphysical absolute that never changes. Something is good simply because God says so.
We've discussed the issue here recently with the laws against incest. Adam and Eve's kids, Abraham and Sarah committed what God later told Moses was incest. But it became immoral only when God said it was wrong.
Also the Canaanite genocide. God said killing a child for the sins of the father is wrong, so it's wrong. In the specific case of the Canaanite genocide God told His people to kill small children, so in that specific instance killing a child for the sins of the father became good.
Something is good or bad because God say it is good or bad. There isn't any standard of morality that stands independent of God.
Edit: Ben I see you addressed this as well
Of course, in doing so, they are proposing an absurd solution: whence comes this higher external standard? From some being greater than God? Would he have to be subject to some greater standard in order to avoid an arbitrary morality as well?
But are not God's laws a reflection of His moral character? While I do not deny that morality is what God prescribes, I do deny that He changes actual moral standards. He is immutable.
I would say that God never changes any moral rule, but there is a difference of facts in the application of moral rules. In the Canaanite genocide, were the kids being slaughtered solely for the sins of the father, or was not their slaughter also permitted by the fact that children are still sinners by nature and thus subject to God's wrath? If God said that children should not be punished for the sins of their fathers, and then said that children should be killed explicitly because of the sins of their fathers, then He would be contradicting Himself.
In the case of incest, there might be a difference in prescription due to the fact that the physical maladies of incest did not exist until a significant amount of in-breeding since Adam and Eve's "very good" bodies existed in Eden. I am not sure about this, though.
Deut. 24:6 says
So no, God specifically forbade killing children just because of their fallen nature. That's one of the reasons we orthodox Christians disagree with abortion. If you were to kill one of my kids just because of their fallen nature, you would be sinning.
I think upon reflection you will have to agree that God did indeed say that we can't kill kids for the sins of their fathers. I think you will also agree that God ordered His people to kill kids that were not subject to death under the current law, the law of Moses. But look at 1 Sam 15, which took place during "Sinai"
So you could look at is as a contradiction, but to my mind it would be more reasonable to just say that good and evil are simply what ever God says is good and evil. I like what you said
There just isn't any other standard other than God. He's the center, and He defines good and evil.
Oh no, I meant merely as a reason that God could punish them, possibly through us. I was never trying to say that we are permitted to kill people due to their sinful nature. That would be quite hypocritical.
First off, thanks for pointing out the 1 Sam. 15 chapter. I just have a question regarding what exactly God forbade in Deut. 24:6, because I see a slight difference between the two passages that would imply that God does not change His moral rule, but it again is a difference in facts.
When God said that we should not punish children for the sins of our fathers, didn't He mean that absolutely speaking? That is, "Don't decide for yourselves that it is permissible to kill children based on their fathers' sins." This would only imply that man is morally proscribed from killing people for others' sins. Then, in the 1 Sam. 15 passage, humans are killing people for others' sins, but only as a tool of God; i.e. it would be tantamount to a natural disaster or something, since it happened explicitly by God's permission.
So, the two moral precepts would be different: Deut. 24:6 teaches that man may not kill people for others' sins, while 1 Sam. 15 teaches a different principle, that the Amalekites actually had sin of their own which they chose not to repent for. Their sin was viewed as belong to their nation, and it was unaccounted for, warranting their destruction. It was not purely because of someone else's sin. Here is part of David Guzik's commentary on 1 Sam. 15:3:
If someone brings up the question in the opening post out of hostility, as is often the case, trying to prove that Christian concepts are inconsistent and impossible, it can be helpful to ask them the same question:
Where do you get your ethical ideas? If they come from your self, they are arbitrary. If there is some higher moral standard that exists independently, then it is higher than you. What is it?
And then of course, whatever they say it is, you can ask them why that has the authority to issue moral precepts without receiving the charge of arbitrariness that is imposed upon God Himself by them.
The most common answer to our question would be "reason" but that simply pushes the question back further as the unbeliever usually presupposes that pleasure is good and suffering is bad. When confronted about that, the answer to that is usually rooted in personal preference (e.g. "I prefer pleasure to pain"), which of course reduces to moral subjectivism, an easily destroyable concept.
On the human level, the Euthyphro dilemma works perfectly. If we get our ethics or beliefs from ourselves, they are arbitrary. If they come from some outside source, then we are beneath it.
On the divine level, it doesn't work because God can issue moral judgments from himself without being arbitrary. This is because his innate perfection eliminates the error and subjectivity that make "arbitrary" such a negative word.
The problem is confusing the human with the divine.
I think you need to remember that the Canaanite "genocide" was an act of divine judgment. Their wrath had been stored up. God was destroying them, using the Israelites as his instruments. God was executing his just judgment against them as the judge of all men. So even children could be judged because they were guilty in Adam (Rom 5:12-21).
It's the same with capital punishment. It is God's judgment upon the offender, mediated through an appointed intrument, the civil authority. The average Joe cannot act in this capacity.
So there is no moral dilemma for God in the instances you cited. He was executing justice against sinners consistenly with his own holy and righteous character, through his appointed instrument. The question we need to ask is why aren't we slaughtered too....
Everything you say is true, but doesn't take away from the point. The magistrate may not punish a kid because of Adam. Period. The State is forbidden to.
But with capital punishment the magistrate is allowed to, and commanded to under certain circumstances.
It is God's judgment upon the offender, mediated through an appointed intrument, the civil authority. The average Joe cannot act in this capacity.
So there is no moral dilemma for God in the instances you cited.
I think we may be on the same page. Sorry if I was unclear in that I sounded like I was saying God betrayed His own moral code. My point was that God is His own moral code. So, under no circumstances may the magistrate commit or order or turn a blind eye to genocide, since God said it's immoral. In the case of the Canaanite genocide, it became moral simply because God ordered it as a one time action.
According to the OP, Euthyphro's dilemma can be expressed with the following question:"Is what is moral commanded by God because it's moral, or is it moral because it's commanded by God?"
My response is that Euthyphro’s dilemma is a false dilemma. God does not arbitrarily decide what is moral or immoral. Moreover, there is no moral standard that is higher than God. God’s good character is the foundation and standard for morality. God is good and He is the standard of goodness. Something is moral if it reflects God’s character. Something is immoral if it is contrary to God’s character.
Some people will push Euthyphro's dilemma further by asking, "Is the character of God good because it is God's character or is it God's character because it is good?".
I have two responses to those people who would ask that question:
1. The people who ask that question cannot escape a similar dilemma. Are moral values good because they are good or because they conform to an independent standard of goodness?
2. There has to be a self-sufficient, self-explanatory stopping point or else the process of giving explanations will never come to an end. If you think that God’s good character is an arbitrary stopping point, would the fact that moral values are good because they are good be an arbitrary stopping point as well?
The problem really comes down to our limitations as creatures to know the answer. God has to tell us what he is like because we can't discern it on our own with our fallen finite minds. Either we believe what God says about himself, or we do not and end in all the moral chaos.