What does theology study?

If you believe that empiricism is “circular reasoning” I am sure I can do nothing to help.

If that’s so, then “god is fully good” is a nonsense statement – it means absolutely nothing because we have exempted god from moral standards. But, of course, you have given no good reason to think it is so.

I’ll just leave that there. The moral bottomlessness that could ask that sort of question is instructive.

Fine. So if we correct this statement to “murdering innocent children is usually wrong, but when it is done by God you can’t even consider it murder and it isn’t wrong,” we’re there. Such a statement is obviously morally deplorable and it means that the statements “God is good” and “God simply kills whoever he wishes to kill, for whatever reason, and nobody may even hold a valid opinion about the morality of that” are rendered consistent.

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So you don’t have any reason why murdering innocent children is wrong. When somebody asks, you simply say that it’s “obviously morally deplorable.” Are those words even meaningful in your context? Why am I not allowed to accuse you of wishful thinking?

At least I have some justification why I think murdering innocent children is wrong. Namely, each human being is made in the image of God and endowed with value, dignity, and rights as royal representatives of God (Genesis 1:26-27). And children are human beings, so they, too, are made in the image of God, and we are not allowed to kill them (Genesis 9:6).

You can think that my justification is wishful thinking, just like my belief in God is, but at least I sincerely believe in it. Whereas you seem to have a set of moral beliefs which you believe in strongly, but without a clear foundation.


Well, in reality, what you’d like to do is go down some blasted rabbit-hole arguing about the basis of morality. The fact is that morality is complicated. It’s clearly got some neurological basis, some social basis, and some basis in individual moral reasoning. My telling you why I regard murdering children as wrong seems like the sort of thing that ought to be profoundly unnecessary, as the most basic human decency would make the question pointless. But plainly you’d like to do the three-year-old thing and, whatever the answer is, keep asking “why?” as though this exposes some sort of basic flaw.

Your justification makes no sense – it’s not based upon any set of demonstrable facts. That is what I would call “without a clear foundation.” And when it becomes evident that you think that some child-murders (or do we need another term for when a sufficiently large ghost does it? “Enhanced extermination techniques?”) are just fine, it seems to me that you expose the rottenness at its core.


My justification makes complete sense within my worldview, my belief system, which I and my faith community (consisting of billions of people) believe in strongly. Now, maybe the whole belief system is bunk, but at least there is a system and we live our lives assuming it’s true. Killing children would be heinous sin, which separates one from God and has eternal consequences. It would violate the very purpose that God made each of us for.

I’m not concerned that my justification doesn’t make sense according to your evidential criteria, especially given that even you yourself don’t seem to have a justification that makes sense according to those criteria.


Yes. And that’s just the sort of chasing-each-other-in-circles which so nicely characterizes a lot of theological reasoning. It is possible to construct internally consistent systems upon false premises. But it is not possible to mount a reasonable defense of those systems to people who do not share your premises.

Well, as I’ve said, there’s no point in trying to explain why murdering children is always wrong to someone who has engaged in the sort of extreme moral relativism you have demonstrated here: wrong for some, but when done and looked at from a god’s point of view, not wrong at all. Moral relativism is tolerable within reasonable limits, but holy cow – that really blows the doors off. I am sure that my views on morality are not comprehensible to anyone who would attempt to justify the murders of children, by gods or otherwise.

As I have said, the phenomenon of morality has neurological, social and individual characteristics. My feelings about murdering children are one thing, and the reasons I would give for those feelings are undoubtedly related to the underlying neural and social features of morality. Trying to map out the landscape of why there is morality and why it takes the particular forms it does is not helpful to deciding whether murdering children is wrong, though it may provide some insight into human practices and institutions.

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That does rather assume that there are such things as “innocent children”. Also slightly ironic for me given that New Zealand has just passed a law allowing abortions up to 40 weeks.

Do you really mean that it means little if we agree that murdering innocent children is wrong? Can I then infer that it also means little if we disagree about that?

Define “makes sense.”

To my reading, this:

…makes about as much sense as saying: “Killing children makes Argleflargle more Flippitysnoot. And since the amount of Flippitysnootiness exists in an inverse relation to the amount Squinchiness, killing children decreases the Squinchiness content of the universe. And no one wants that, we can all agree.”

Is killing children still a heinous sin if God commands it be done? Or some-one representing God commands it be done? Whether in God’s name or not.

Exactly how do you know what purpose God has in mind for people?

You are, as most apologists do, avoiding the hard questions.

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Indeed it does. But assuming that there are a lot of babies who deserve death for their wickedness might be less defensible.

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A very apt question. All I can say about that is that I would rather be Prometheus, and suffer the wrath of an evil god, than be its servant.

A lot of these excuses for gods seem to me to be a kind of Stockholm Syndrome phenomenon. If one is sure that the universe is held firmly in the grip of a vast, immensely powerful evil, and if one is also sure that this evil being wishes us to praise it and will punish us for criticizing it, then one may take the easy way out and praise evil. After doing it a while, one may identify with one’s captor and cease to even think of it as evil. The Twilight Zone episode “It’s A Good Life” presents an analogous situation.

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You say that now, but wait until you’re staked to a rock with vultures tearing at your liver.

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Indeed. But, you know, I spent nineteen years as a civil rights lawyer, so my ability to distinguish between pain and an enjoyable experience is forever damaged. After one has displayed one’s middle digit to a sufficient number of authority figures, one does get used to the idea that while might may not make right, it does sometimes win anyhow.

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Yeah, don’t ya just hate it when that happens?

I sure do.

That would be a hard belief to defend indeed. I prefer another position entirely, that a “right to life” exists only in the human imagination and the clay has no claim on the potter.

Well, in legal-postivist terms, one can only be said to have a “right” where one has the power to enforce it. Instead of “ubi jus, ibi remedium,” the legal positivist says “ubi remedium, ibi jus.” So if indeed the universe is ruled by a murderous force, one can have no “right” to life in that positivist sense. But usually when we are speaking of morality we are not merely speaking about who CAN do what to whom, but about “should” statements. “Might makes right” may be a substitute for morality, but it surely is not itself a system of morality.

As for the clay and the potter, if moral statements flowed only from “I made this, so I can destroy it if I choose,” sure. But if moral statements take into account such things as suffering, pots don’t suffer and so it’s a very poor analogy.

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I have no idea what that means, but I trust that you do and I’m happy to take your word for it :wink:

Yes, but usually when we are speaking of morality we are speaking of morality between one creation and another.

Of course, all analogies fail at some point or they wouldn’t be analogies.

I believe you, and I believe you have the right to make that choice. I may not agree with you, but I will defend your right to believe it and say it.

Yes, I can see what you mean by that, and you might be right. But the Stockholm Syndrome refers to one creation having power over another creation, so it might also be a very poor analogy.

Well, no. We have no evidence that things in the world are “creations” or telling us what the origin (assuming they exist) of the paranormal entities described in the Bible might be. Perhaps, if those things were first factually established, one could then attempt to make a judgment about their moral implications, but we’re not there.

It bears mentioning that we don’t use these sorts of excuses for other moral lapses. We do recognize that someone who is helpless may be entitled to do something otherwise wrong (e.g., killing one’s attacker). We do recognize that people who are mentally enfeebled or insane may bear diminished moral responsibility. But we never – not, at least, in any system which is usually deemed to be admirable – make the excuse that the wrongdoer was so very powerful, and so very superior in nature to his victim, that whatever he does is right. There’s no evident reason why one would do this for a paranormal entity when one would not do it for a person.

Again, no “creations” involved here. But the Stockholm Syndrome occurs in the captive, not the captor, so it doesn’t really matter whether the captor is human or a paranormal being.


Absolutely! And that is the end result of apologetics and why I don’t waste my time trying to proselytise others. It literally makes no sense to you. I can’t imagine a better example of 1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV: The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

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You’re right, we’re not there. You have your beliefs based on your premises, and I have mine. I accept that given your premises your beliefs are logical, rational, and internally self-consistent. I respect your efforts to act conscientiously in light of your beliefs. Shalom.

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