Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, part 8
Former Christian turned atheist DaGoodS (DGS) has compiled a list of eleven questions that he doesn’t think Christians can answer. I’ve decided to take him on, since I’m a sucker for questions that Christians supposedly can’t answer. Hopefully, DGS and I can learn something from each other.
I have temporarily skipped questions #7 and #8 so that I can do a little bit more research. These are questions that lie outside the area I generally consider my specialty (philosophy), so I want to do some research. Since I didn’t want to lose my incredible momentum of posing, I thought I’d work ahead to give me some time.
So, let’s cover question #10:
What law, moral code or justice system was God following when He absolved David of his sin? More importantly, what moral code or justice system was God following when He killed a baby as punishment for a sin He absolved? (2 Sam. 12:13-18)
This question is asked only from a complete ignorance of God’s ontology. Let’s cover divine simplicity, but let’s start essentially by isolating God from the universe.
First, when you apply an adjective to someone, some external quality is modifying or describing this person–in addition to this person’s ontological make-up (e.g. the indelible qualities that make him human). If I say that someone is moral, for example, I’m using some generally accepted definition of “moral” and saying that this person’s behavior and attitudes usually conform to it.
Let’s look at an extreme example. If this hypothetical person is a serial killer, I might still apply the same adjective, albeit with the caveat that he is moral except for the fact that he hunts innocent people as others hunt deer or venison. He has a deep scar in his psyche that causes him to do that, but it doesn’t change the fact that, outwardly and consistently, in all other areas of his life, he is moral as far as we can define the term. He has no traffic tickets, he never picks fights, he’s never late for an appointment, he finances his mother’s stay in a nursing home because she has no health insurance or estate. He has a wife that he never cheated on, and he’s raised his kids to do unto others as you’d have others do unto you. He gives to charities and volunteers to coach softball on the weekend.
Another example. A girl has an excellent figure, breasts that aren’t too big for her frame, smooth and toned legs that are slender yet athletic, and long hair that she obviously conditions and styles with great care. She has an extremely outgoing personality, and is polite yet witty with a hint of sarcasm. Her eyes are deep, contemplative, and mysterious. In short, men who look at her find her quite sexy.
However, she doesn’t shave her armpits, which becomes immediately noticeable because she favors shirts that bare her shoulders with the thinnest spaghetti straps. So, once again, you see that she is sexy with one caveat.
So, what have we learned? We are touching on Plato’s theory of forms ever so slightly. In all of our minds are universal forms. These are molds, external to the objects we perceive in the material world, that we use to classify and identify material objects. Check out this illustration:
Despite the numerous and obvious differences between these objects, I intuitively know that these are all chairs. Platonic forms at work: everyone has something like a blueprint in their brains for a “chair.” It’s similar to a blueprint in that it defines what a chair looks like, but it also contains negative data (i.e. it also defines what a chair isn’t).
Platonic forms are objects of conception, not objects of perception. Platonic forms, in other words, are only mental constructs we conceive in our heads. They are then automatically placed upon an object when we perceive it, that we may know what we’re looking at.
What to take away from this is that an object which we perceive is modified by factors external to it–the Platonic form.
Now, back up to before the universe existed. There is no time, no space, not even a vacuum. The only anything in existence is God. God, therefore, must subsist solely as himself, in himself, for himself, but he isn’t by himself. The full Trinity is present: Father, Son, and Spirit, coexistent and coeternal.
Tying this together, we discover that God can never, by virtue of his eternal nature, be defined by anything external to himself. The morality God possesses is an integral part of himself–which means his nature defines what morality is. This means that God is Plato’s form of the Good, the elusive source of morality and ethics Plato searched for but could never find.
The original question, “What moral code or justice system was God operating under . . . ?” is meaningless. We don’t define God by any moral code, nor do we constrain his actions to any specific ethical theory. That would be attempting to define God by something external, and nothing is external to God at the outset. In the beginning, there was only him (since he is before all). God therefore defines morality, and as such is not constrained by it, nor can it imposed on him. Rather, he imposes it on us.