On Victor Reppert's (VR) Dangerous Idea blog, he quotes some C. S. Lewis to show that atheists
can't call the universe evil unless it is a moral agent. In addition, those hot headed atheist critics of God
should be commended for validating the theistic basis for morality and that their fervor is equal to how validated divine morality is.
VR never responded (link
), but an anonymous Catholic Christian defended God's good name by saying (link
) we don't know enough about him to know if he is evil or not. And he apparently thinks that all that atheist talk about morality for some reason always sounds theistic. He tried to deny that we have any idea what hell will be like. He's clueless about how to tell the creation we have from a perfect creation. Anon also complained that all the imperfect people he cares about wouldn't exist in a perfect world. He never got back to me.
Steve Lowell stepped up (link
) to actually engage the arguments where they were without Anon's implausible denial. He wants to see C. S. Lewis' original argument through to show that the hot criticism does validate Christian theistic morality if morality doesn't stand up apart from theism. Somehow the subjective passions of Christianity's critics proves that morality is embedded in the fabric of reality. Now, if this were poetry, I'd be pleased, but this apparently passes for epistemology. :S In the previous comment archive (link
) we went back and forth on what I would consider a sober evaluation of what morality is versus the magical conceptions of it. And here, Steve tries to pull things back to the original argument from atheist hotness.
Okay. It seems to me that you did start off by granting "for the sake of argument" that morality can't be grounded outside of God. All I've been saying is that if you grant that, then Lewis's argument about "hotly criticizing divine justice" will go through.
If you think that your moral judgments aren't to be taken seriously then obviously your moral judgments about God are included in that. Alternatively if you think that the only way you could take your moral judgments seriously is if moral truths are grounded in God, and that that would make God out to be immoral (on a some variation of the problem of evil) then your criticisms are of a form that cannot be called "hot" because after making the criticism you jettison the only ground (namely God) which allows you to take those criticisms seriously.
In short, I've defended Lewis's argument using the tools which you were granting "for the sake of argument". Now come clean ... do you now think Lewis's argument in the initial post stands or falls with the claim that morality cannot be grounded outside God? If so, then my work is done. If not, then why not?
Now one may still say that the argument fails because it's false that morality cannot be grounded in God. You seem to be saying that ... but I just want to make sure we agree about the dialectic before we begin to think about that.
On Plantinga on the problem of evil I'd particularly recommend his earlier stuff: Part II of God and Other Minds
and Part I of God, Freedom, and Evil
Hey Steve,"Okay. It seems to me that you did start off by granting "for the sake of argument" that morality can't be grounded outside of God. All I've been saying is that if you grant that, then Lewis's argument about "hotly criticising divine justice" will go through."
Right, and as I've mentioned, it "goes through" to Zoroastrianism. In other words, we accept that morality can only be grounded in theism, we come across a vast landscape of theistic claims, we compare them to the justice ratio in the universe with the obvious expectation that a supremely good and powerful deity would make something that can't break down, rightly reject the Christian hypothesis for being incoherent and implausible and note that a religion like Zoroastrianism better explains the injustice and apathy of the universe. In which case we would be grounding our morality on that Zoroastrian ominipotent good god who is held at bay by the omnipotent evil god in order to "hotly criticize" the hypothetical Christian god who has no such legitimate excuse for his omnipotent hands being willfully tied around his immaterial back.
So, that's why Clive's argument fails, because it validates something like Zoroastrianism rather than Christianity.
I'll keep trying to find an online copy of Plantinga's books you've referenced.
Steve Lowell responded:
Thanks for picking this up even though it's gone "off the bottom" of the first page on the blog.
I disagree about "going through to Zoroastrianism" on two counts. Firstly, it only does that if something like the logical argument from evil succeeds, which it doesn't. Secondly, Zoroastrianism/Dualism/Manichaeism are forms of religion that the moral argument (or the idea that morality requires God) cannot lead to. If good is no more "ultimate" than evil, then we have no more reason to follow the one power than the other (and I'm not just talking about prudential reasons here), in which case morality isn't binding at all, in which case we again can't take moral criticisms seriously. Alternatively, if they are both equally ulimate but there is some moral standard external to the two powers which condemns the one and justifies the other, then the standard hasn't been explained by reference to these powers and so the original argument to the need for a God to explain the moral code can be reiterated to demonstrate the existence of a third good power above the two warring powers and that will be the "real God". This is all in Lewis.
In terms of finding Plantinga's work online, it's obviously available to purchase, but I wouldn't expect to be able to read it online as that would infringe copyright.
Wonder if we can get Vic to bump this thread back to the first page?
Hey Steve,"Firstly, it only does that if something like the logical argument from evil succeeds, which it doesn't."
Perhaps you could elaborate. "Secondly, Zoroastrianism/Dualism/Manichaeism are forms of religion that the moral argument (or the idea that morality requires God) cannot lead to."
I guess I don't quite understand. The Zoroastrian-esque good god would have the exact same pattern you currently recognize as "good" as whatever deity you want to throw on top of both good/evil deities. It's essence would be external and immutable and in the case of some versions of Zoroastrianism would be as ultimate as it gets. What is the point of having a more powerful *copy* of the same brand of essence? How does that change anything *qualitatively* about its goodness?
I'm not even sure what "ultimateness" has to do with anything as though something being greater in nature necessarily implies more than might makes right. As long as there is one lone super power, whatever that superpower does is by definition good in Lewis' book? Eek... How does whether or not you can do something about an evil in society have any implication on judging it to be wrong or not? Is murder, rape, and rock and roll somehow appropriate if the only police station in town blows up? It just seems like a nonsensical red herring you can throw at non-theism.
If morality has to be binding it appears that the Christian God cannot be considered good because that God can't be held accountable for any of his actions and the argument appears to undermine itself. Perhaps that's why Zoroastrianism would have to be true so that there would be a comparable superpower to hold it accountable in some sense like Democrats vs Republicans? hehe Maybe there's some standard response to this, but I'd like to know what it is.
I recognize that these are all objections to Lewis' moral framework (a-qualitative, pro-brute force, and pro-judicial convenience) and not to its own logic on its own terms. It just needs to be stated that we are very far away from any moral paradigm I would consider meaningful. However, if we are going to accept Lewis' arbitrary stipulations about what an objective moral standard must entail (since that appears to be where you want to go with this), then it naturally creates unresolvable problems *either way* you go and therefore doesn't lead anywhere. A more ultimate God presiding over the Zoroastrian duo (or just a fallen creation) doesn't explain why it allows for the unnecessary tug of war when the entirety of what was created just should have been perfectly good all along and apparently according to you and Lewis (and we'll just take that interpretation for granted), a duo of gods isn't something this conception of morality can point to. It seems to me that this superfluous metaphysical framework that has been imposed on whatever we thought we were talking about in the first place (i.e. morality) has to jettison its issues in order to not get entangled in itself.
To return to the original issue of "hotness," I suppose if we are still taking all of this seriously for the sake of argument, it would logically generate ambivalent and confused criticism. Perhaps that's all you are looking for here, and I suppose that is fine. That issue seems to be the least relevant of them all in my opinion as though the subjective attitudes of some critics of a religion proves anything.
BTW, Google books has many of the pages from at least one of Plantinga's book, but not all of them. I was hoping to get lucky. :D