Continuing the discussion from God, Genocide and Slavery:
I thought this would be better as a new topic. Brief recap: @John_Harshman asked @thoughtful about the Euthyphro dilemma (does God command what is good as determined by some standard outside of him, or is whatever it is that is good so merely because God commanded it?). She replied:
And he responded:
@John_Harshman, something seems off here to me. I think you may be mixing up what makes something true and how we know it is true, though maybe that’s not the right way to articulate what I’m thinking. In response to your questions:
Is what’s good good because his character defines good?
Yes. God’s character is the objective standard of moral goodness. This, however, does not make goodness arbitrary (to forestall a possible objection), because God necessarily has the character that he does - it is not possible for God’s character to be different than it is, and so the standard of goodness is unchanging as well. That alone resolves Euthyphro, as far as I can tell.
(For clarity, I’m not intending here to get into the argument that there is some objective standard of morality and that it is rooted in God’s character; just trying to respond to the objection that this theistic moral theory doesn’t resolve the Euthyphro dilemma.)
do we know his character is good because we have a standard of goodness to which to compare it?
Yes. We have our own subjective standards of goodness, which stem partly from our human natures (which God made us with), and partly from the external influences and internal decisions that factor into the development of our moral beliefs. But our subjective standards of goodness can be more or less accurate, depending on how they agree with or deviate from the objective standard of goodness. Realizing that, we see that when there is some disagreement between our subjective standard of goodness and our understanding of God’s character, one or the other has to change.
(Or we have to jettison this theistic moral theory. But since there are good reasons to hold to that theory, or so I claim, we have to evaluate whether the reasons supporting the supposed inconsistency are stronger than the reasons supporting the moral theory.)
If you have no external standard by which to judge, how do you know what a God of good character would or would not do?
By using our moral intuitions (subjective standard of goodness), comparing them to our understanding of God’s character (from Scripture, say), and seeing if those two are in alignment. If not, evaluate whether it is more reasonable to adjust one or the other. (I.e. on one side, one could argue that God commanding genocide is within his rights since he is not a mere human being. Or on the other side, one could argue that would be an atrocity even for God, and we so should read those texts non-literally, or abandon inerrancy. Or you could argue that none those options is plausible, and it is more reasonable to reject the underlying moral theory.)
Any way it goes, however, I don’t see why the usual response to Euthyphro doesn’t work. God’s goodness is neither arbitrary nor due to conformity with some external standard, and we can know what goodness is and that God is indeed good by cross-checking our moral intuitions and our understanding of God’s character against each other.