God is not a...

…moral agent.

On account of the way we come to discover God’s existence, which is bound with His goodnesd, we see that there is no sense in even beginning to evaluate His actions in moral terms. To be immoral is to violate the will of God. God can’t not do His own will, since this violates the principle of noncontradiction.

I have noticed a pattern across several threads in the past few weeks in which nonbelievers seem to fail to enter into the Christian philosophical worldview in diverse ways because they fail to understand the radical primacy we predicate of God. If we are speaking of anything to do with the true, the good, or the existing, then God is involved as the source and final measure.

It comes down to the way one arrives at His existence, since that demonstration announces that primacy. This is part of why the Summa begins almost immediately with this demonstration.

I submit that there are many useless questions and discussions multiplied by this mistake of failing to see God as radically First.

You are right, we don’t accept your premise, because it is self-contradictory. If something is “absolute”, then it pertains to everyone, across all times and all circumstances. But to make God as exception, you forfeit your right to call “morality” as absolute. Simple, linguistic problem.

Sure you can say that genocide, slaughter, torture, etc… is wrong when performed by humans, but all these are wonderful and moral when performed or ordered by God, but in that case you should also accept that morality is “relative” in conjunction with the being performing, ordering or allowing it.

Can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you say that God is not a moral agent, that is fine. We, skeptics, do not consider him a “moral” agent either. Hmmm… how does the phrase “immoral agent” strike you?

Let me get this right…

You are saying that God can do anything He wants, whether we think it’s right or wrong. And there’s no need for us to lose any sleep about it.

I guess that excludes Him giving instructions for one of us to carry out His will (which always strikes me as odd, coming from an omniscient being) because we wouldn’t really know if it really was God giving the instructions. They may be to do something terrible.

But if you are right and He asks you, then it can’t be immoral, so I’d guess you’d say that, whatever it was, it was fine.

Fair enough.

The above responses are what you get when you remove teleology from the equation. God is not exempt. But he is not human, or a person in the way we think of it, with the same formal and final causes we as humans have and from which morality is defined. And neither is morality simply arbitrary commands. For example, God cannot declare murdering and eating five year olds a moral good. What is good is determined by our final causes and, for the most part, does not require any appeals to God.

I agree, there is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of God in many threads. Constantly personifying God as if He is a micromanager, constantly manipulating the world. Thinking that diseases and earthquakes are evil.

Evil exists when people reject love, patience, charity, protection from evil, and the desire to practice such things. God manifests his existence when we show charity, respect, faith in Him, and the like, to one another and His other creations.

A real problem arises when people confuse the true nature of love, charity, protection, etc… They confuse lust for love, enabling for charity, aggression for protection etc…
Everyone fails at perfect discernment of said concepts, because we are not meant to be perfect. We are meant to seek and learn and help one another so that we can begin to understand God.

You have provided a wonderful example of what I am talking about. You simply assume that we posit a morality separate from and/or prior to God in some sense. We don’t. He is measure and measurer, not measured.

It comes down to understanding and engaging with the notion of radical primacy.

The problem with your analysis is that it doesn’t account for a person’s position or relation which is essential to morality. A child has different moral obligations then a parent. A worker has different obligations then a boss. A citizen has different obligations then a ruler.

Morality is by its nature a duty to a person. You can’t have morality without persons. And those obligations will very based on the condition of the actor.

God has no moral obligations because he is not beholden to anyone. It isn’t that this violates absolute morality because morality by its nature is person dependent. You say:

If something is “absolute”, then it pertains to everyone, across all times and all circumstances.

But the problem is your everyone doesn’t account for the relative nature of morality. That relativity is that moral duties by their nature are relative to the status of the persons.

I think this is would be helpful to our atheist friends on this thread

catholicnewsagency.com/resources/apologetics/faith/if-god-why-evil/

What if I put it like this: morality is nature relative. Chocolate is good for children and bad for dogs. God is not bound to human morality because He isn’t human.

This is pretty much God’s response to Job too. “What is this Divine Morality that you keep holding me to, Job?” To speculate on the morality of the Divine often is like speculating on the behavior of a species you haven’t seen directly.

Christi pax,

Lucretius

Yes, something like that. God is not a respecter of persons, as Scripture says, but certainly that doesn’t mean that He is not a respecter of natures/offices which create obligations.

OK. Let’s analyze what you said. In the Euthyphro dilemma you choose the “second” thorn. Whatever God says, orders or does is - by YOUR definition - moral. That makes “morality” a whim of God.

Some apologists try to wiggle out by saying that “God is goodness itself”, so there is no real dilemma at all. Of course this is a simple circular reasoning, just another logical fallacy. You cannot define God’s goodness into existence.

The next problem is that you must prove God’s existence - beyond any doubt whatsoever. Reference to the “sacred scripture”, to the “sacred tradition” and the “magisterium” are simply insufficient. Then, if are successful in proving God’s existence, you also need to prove that God actually presented his moral norms to us.

Of course the final conclusion is: “God is the strongest bully on the block, so we had better shut up and obey, or else infinite torture will follow”. Sorry, not something that is rational and logical for me.

That is not a good approach. According to the Catholic teaching we have been formed in “God’s image”. There is only one feature which we can share with God, and that is the “knowledge” of good and evil. And that makes us “moral agents”.

You use the same approach as e_c. God is the biggest bully, whatever he says must be obeyed. And that is not an acceptable basis for morality.

I have noticed you like to appeal to that dialogue. Plato is not a friend of yours in this. When is the last time you actually read him? I thought you didn’t like to engage with “ancient arguments” as you put it…

Divine Arbitration and natural law are not opposed. You have consistently botched that. But that’s not the point of my thread. Nor is it the problem of universals, which Euthyphro also touches on. The point is that whole “God is goodness” stuff, which follows immediately upon a demonstration of His existence.

We can here stick with the first three of the Five Ways. The fourth and fifth sort of beg the question for our purposes.

Other Attributes that follow are simplicity, truth, and infinity. Actually, the hinge is simplicity. Without grasping that, you’re toast. God has no parts… Essence, Existence, Substance, and all predicates are One. That’s the key to unlocking the primacy issue.

God is not defined as goodness by simple declaration. This is an attribute derived at by rational argument about what is necessary for a the being that satisfies each of Aquinas’ five ways, which do not make any appeal to revealed theology, the being which we realize can only be the one we’ve referred to as God.

Likewise, again, the concept of “being” being good and a deprivation of or failure to instantiate properly a being being a deprivation of good (what we’d call evil in moral situations) follows again from rational arguments concerning the nature of change and being and whether we have a realist conception of nature or not.

It’s not like a simple declaration was made that “good is a deprivation of evil” and people nodded their heads saying “yeah, that sounds good.” It’s conclusion from a direct inquiry into being, change, goodness, etc… that led to these conclusions. What circuksr reasoning or logical fallacy is there? Please enlighten me?

It’d be nice if it wasn’t asserted that these statements are baseless or simply declared by fiat out of convenience when they’ve been the subject of countless pages of argumentation and there’s easily accessibke reference material on the subject.

The next problem is that you must prove God’s existence - beyond any doubt whatsoever. Reference to the “sacred scripture”, to the “sacred tradition” and the “magisterium” are simply insufficient. Then, if are successful in proving God’s existence, you also need to prove that God actually presented his moral norms to us.

Oh please. This standard of proof isn’t required to believe evolution (which I do) or to argue that same sex attraction is biological (something I personally think likely) or whether it’s okay to terminate human life in the womb by millions. What the arguments are are rational, strong (if not 100% refutable), believable, and address the nature of reality far better than the philosophy of the moderns.

That is not a good approach. According to the Catholic teaching we have been formed in “God’s image”. There is only one feature which we can share with God, and that is the “knowledge” of good and evil. And that makes us “moral agents”.

We have an intellect, and are rarional beings, with the capacity and direction to discern and know truth.

:rolleyes: Calling it circular reasoning doesn’t make it such. God’s Will is His Intellect, and His Intellect His Will, so asking if the standard of goodness is outside God or arbitrarily defined by God missed the point. How are we assuming anything to prove it?

The next problem is that you must prove God’s existence - beyond any doubt whatsoever.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Reference to the “sacred scripture”, to the “sacred tradition” and the “magisterium” are simply insufficient.

I don’t exactly know what you are doing here, but it sounds like you saying these things don’t count as evidence. Is this true?

Of course the final conclusion is: “God is the strongest bully on the block, so we had better shut up and obey, or else infinite torture will follow”. Sorry, not something that is rational and logical for me.

I don’t see how this is rational, but this isn’t the Christian God: the Christian God fills our heart with Grace, and with this we act for the good of ourselves and others, which we know by examining our own nature. The Law isn’t forced onto us on the inside, but rather exists as a seed in our hearts, which Grace waters and grows.

That is not a good approach. According to the Catholic teaching we have been formed in “God’s image”. There is only one feature which we can share with God, and that is the “knowledge” of good and evil. And that makes us “moral agents”.

Intellection and free will is the Image of God. Grace is the likeness.

You use the same approach as e_c. God is the biggest bully, whatever he says must be obeyed. And that is not an acceptable basis for morality.

The funny thing is that secular atheism believe the same thing, but puts the state, corporations, and the other powers that be in the position of God. What is " an acceptable basis of morality?"

Christi pax,

Lucretius

Lucretius - Yes! That last bit. Or, oneself. Because one only ought to do something according to the good of some order, and an order needs an orderer. God, government, economics, self, etc.

But the discussion about the justification of moral systems is straying from the topic. I started another thread on that… For some reason it is still popular.

I’d like to see Solmyr or Bradski engage the passage from Thomas.

We will immediately see the issue of radical primacy come to the fore.

So as far as we are concerned, God is amoral. There is no right way or wrong way. Just God’s way. But is anyone thinking about a particular action that God has taken that needs someone to mount a case for His defense? If He can do no wrong, then why the need?

It can’t be for the benefit of atheists, because (try not to forget this), we don’t believe He exists. So all those stories about drowning people and ordering the massacre of women and children (and I don’t understand why they say He did the first all by Himself but needed someone else to do the second) didn’t really happen.

‘Things are in motion, therefore…something started all this’.

I wonder how you would approach the argument if Aquinas was a Hindu or a Bhuddist. Or even a deist.

I would like to see that demonstration.

The “five ways” all have quite elementary problems. But even if one would be correct, it would never prove the existence of the Christian God… at best it would demonstrate a faceless, deistic “first cause”, or “unmoved mover” - or let’s change that to “unmowed mower”? :slight_smile: At least that would be without contradiction.

The “simplicity” leads to a very important contradiction when it is combined with “omniscience”. The word “truth” is a concept not an entity. And “infinity” is even worse. The word “infinite attribute” is a logical nonsense.

So many logical errors. “Order” does not need an “orderer”. “Design” would need a “designer”.

God isn’t moral, but He’s not amoral either. From his point of view, your words are “small words, from a small being, trying to attack what he doesn’t understand*” We haven’t seen God as He is, and so can only understand His analogical thing like morality by its footsteps, which isn’t much.

But is anyone thinking about a particular action that God has taken that needs someone to mount a case for His defense? If He can do no wrong, then why the need?

Because humans are fools. Remember what Socrates said: “only God is wise.”

It can’t be for the benefit of atheists, because (try not to forget this), we don’t believe He exists. So all those stories about drowning people and ordering the massacre of women and children (and I don’t understand why they say He did the first all by Himself but needed someone else to do the second) didn’t really happen.

I think theists have demonstrated the existence of God. See the Five Ways, for the easiest and mostly obvious proofs.

Christi pax,

Lucretius

*100 points to the person who gets the reference :thumbsup:

It actually was first written down by Aristotle, who was none of these things.

Also, deism is the belief in a god, not God. Deists reject the framework of common sense, and reduce everything to artifacts. The Unmoved Mover isn’t a god. Buddhists would also reject the argument, because of another kind of metaphysics.

Christi pax,

Lucretius

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