The Instigator
JustCallMeTarzan
Pro (for)
Losing
33 Points
The Contender
InquireTruth
Con (against)
Winning
40 Points

Christian Doctrine Undermines its Own Morality

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 12 votes the winner is...
InquireTruth
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/16/2009 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,131 times Debate No: 8511
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (12)

 

JustCallMeTarzan

Pro

The proposition on offer is that Christian doctrine undermines its own conceptualization of morality through inconsistent beliefs and practices.

The root of this debate is based on the conceptualization of God as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. This is usually based on verses like "The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness." Other verses point towards other attributes of God, including notions of there not being anything that God doesn't see, that God knows everything, that God is everywhere, that God cannot sin, etc...

However, these attributes play a significant role in Christian morality that often goes ignored.

Omniscience is usually meant to mean that God knows everything. If God knows everything, this includes what you are going to do next. Thus, free will is impossible because you actually CAN'T do otherwise than God KNOWS you're going to do, or else God isn't omniscient.

At this point, the Christian usually interjects that God knows everything there is to know, hoping to save free will and thus morality. However, if God knows everything there is to know, this includes the makeup of your brain chemistry, the prior influences and choices you've made in your life, etc... However, one's choices are influenced, even subconsciously, by all these factors. Choice cannot be based on anything else, because there is nothing else TO base it upon. This is commonly known as the distinction between God knowing the future and knowing everything that is possible to know.

Since one's choice is based only on factors that God already knows, God STILL knows what you are going to do, regardless of the fact that you don't necessarily know WHY you do it.

So in the end, a three-way choice presents itself. God is not omniscient, free will does not exist, or God is punishing people for things he knew they would do, yet did not intervene to prevent them doing so.

Which brings me to my second point, the Problem of Evil.

An omnipotent God could destroy all evil. An omniscient God knows when evil is being done. An omnibenevolent God would wish to destroy evil. However, evil exists. If God is going to allow evil to exist, then we must either give up one of his attributes (probably omnibenevolence), or conclude that evil is not necessarily morally repugnant.

Which brings me to a third point, the inconsistency in the laws of God and the basis of morality.

Christian morality is based on the laws of God. For example, the prohibition on murder is based on "Thou shalt not murder." However, the fact that God himself commits murder on a regular basis suggests that even God does not practice what he preaches. Before one objects on the grounds of tu quo qua, note that the doctrines of Christian morality are based on God's model. This model, as espoused by Jesus fairly clearly states that one should practice what one preaches. Consider the parable of the man whose debt was forgiven, yet refuses to forgive those who owe HIM. This suggests that the dynamic between behavior and ideology is condemnable when it is inconsistent. Thus, according to Jesus, or, if you accept the Trinitarian model, according to GOD HIMSELF, his behavior should be condemned. Furthermore, God's behavior represents an inconsistency present in the doctrines of Judeo-Christian religions. Moral judgments are made based on the criteria that God has set down (the Mosaic Law). However, when analyzing God's actions with the only moral conception available, one can only draw the conclusion that the actions are immoral, yet the Bible and tradition states that the actions are permissible, or even moral.

*******************************************************

Thus, we can structure a three-pronged attack on Christian morality from within its own doctrines:

1) Omniscience necessitates deterministic conceptualizations regarding the causation of behavior.

2) The Problem of Evil represents a challenge to the classification of evil as immoral and/or the attributes of God.

3) The inconsistency between God's behavior and his laws represents a significant hurdle for the conceptualization of Christian morality because the character that gives the criteria for moral judgment can negate the criteria, yet remain moral.

I await a rebuttal.

AFFIRMED.
InquireTruth

Con

===========
Introduction:
===========

I would like to formerly thank my esteemed opponent, JustCallMeTarzan, for initiating this debate. I am looking forward to our future encounters with due anticipation.

My opponent contends that theological fatalism leads to inconsistent doctrine, or doctrine that "undermines" itself.

I will attack my opponent's case from two fronts: (1) It is not true that theological fatalism is certainly true and (2) even if it was, moral doctrine would not "undermine" itself.

===========
Theological Fatalism
===========

My opponent's argument for theological fatalism is a non sequitur – insofar as the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Is it true that knowing the future means that the future is necessarily determined? And that it is determined by something (or someone) other than free will? Determinism perhaps does, but does not NECESSARILY follow from omniscience.

It would be helpful to remember that a Christian understanding of God is a being that is atemporal (outside of time). Now, when considering past events, do we look at them as causally determined, or events that were free-willfully determined? Just like we can look at past events – knowing full well that are doing so in no way causally determines the already free-willfully determined event – so God can look at future events (which, being atemporal, would be like looking at a timeline of past, free-willfully determined events) without the events being causally determined.

My opponent must answer this question: Is there no possible way that a being, who is atemporal and omni-excellent (this includes all attributes ascribed to said God in my opponent's first round) could know future, free-willed actions?

Unless my opponent can show the hidden premise that creates a necessary contradiction between free will and omniscience, his point cannot stand.

"This is commonly known as the distinction between God knowing the future and knowing everything that is possible to know."

Since my opponent accepts the latter as an acceptable Christian rendering (but still thinks it falls by its own merits) then I will show how this does indeed bolster the Christian argument. God will only be able to see narrowly into the future. This means, while God may know you are going to make a poor choice, he neither wanted you to make it, nor created you with the knowledge that you would. He simply allows it to happen because his will (to allow free will) has made it possible.

===========
If it were true
===========

If it were true that God causally determined us it would make no difference. The Bible teaches that to think God can do wrong is "unthinkable" (Job 34:12), because "God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5), and "God is love" (1 John 4:16). God makes the rules, not us. If we think he's wrong, we're wrong – that is Christian doctrine. God is the metric by which we judge. It must be good and just by the mere fact that God did it. To say differently would place morality outside of the character of God and therefore necessitate the explanation and origin of this alternative and transcendental entity that is morality – a burden that would be my opponent's. How does this undermine Christian morality?

===========
The Problem of Evil
===========

"An omnipotent God could destroy all evil."

This is an unsubstantiated premise and needs to be SOUND in order for his argument to hold water.

Moreover, my opponent's argument assumes that evil exists. My opponent is either engaging in the traditional begging of the question, that is, his premise (evil) depends on the truth of the very matter in question, or he is presupposing an alternative objective standard by which we may determine evil. Such a presupposition will not be granted and needs to be explained.

Since my opponent's argument requires that evil ACTUALLY exist, I will let him prove that evil exist beyond the subjective whims of human conception.

Moreover, since the Bible teaches that it is "God [who] declares what is right," (Isaiah 45:19), it is possible that what we perceive to be evil, is in fact, no evil at all. Take for example a man who slowly awakes to find woman cutting his stomach. The man will rightly fuss that such an action is evil! But say he finds out that the woman is a doctor who is trying to remove a malignant mass that will ultimately kill him. Will he not then realize that what he perceived to be evil was not evil at all?

Furthermore, my opponent cannot use an alternative understanding of evil without defying the resolution. The resolution states that Christian doctrine undermines itself. In sum, the only way for my opponent's argument to have a sound premise would be for his conclusion to be wrong. Moreover, my opponent must show that Christian doctrine explicitly states that an omni-excellent God would necessarily eliminate evil.

===========
The Beef
===========

I labeled this section "the beef," because it is the only area where my opponent is actually addressing something pertinent to the resolution. My opponent suggests that since God commits actions in violation of His own edicts, he undermines Christian morality.

The problem is that, consistent with Christian doctrine, "God's ways are not our ways" (Isaiah 55:89). God's requirement to obey his own edicts is not inherent in the preaching of Jesus. Jesus expounds on the ways that humans must follow – these ways are not God's (as Christian doctrine states). Moreover, the judged cannot condemn the judge. My opponent's singular example is of God murdering – however this is not true. Murder, by definition, is unlawful killing. So even if my opponent's case were true, he would have to show that God's actions were unlawful.

===========
Broken Prongs
===========

My opponent's three-pronged attack fails on all fronts.

"1) Omniscience necessitates deterministic conceptualizations regarding the causation of behavior."

This is far from necessarily true, and even if it were, it in no way "undermines" Christian doctrine of morality.

"2) The Problem of Evil represents a challenge to the classification of evil as immoral and/or the attributes of God."

My opponent must show that Christian doctrine undermines itself, not that using a non-biblical conceptual framework of evil undermines our understanding of evil. Christian doctrine is consistent on its understanding of evil and God. My opponent has too many hidden premises that need to be shown.

"3) The inconsistency between God's behavior and his laws represents a significant hurdle for the conceptualization of Christian morality because the character that gives the criteria for moral judgment can negate the criteria, yet remain moral."

My opponent contradicts the resolution by trying to insist that our ways are the same as God's ways – this is clearly not Christian doctrine. Moreover, he has not adequately shown that God breaks his own commandments. His singular example is sorely wanting because he requires proof that God was unlawfully killing – and, unfortunately, or rather fortunately, the only person who can judge that is… well, God. Sorry.

===========
Conclusion
===========

My opponent needs to remember that he is trying to show how Christian doctrine undermines its own morality. He cannot introduce non-biblical ideas into the debate in hopes of undermining biblical morality, as this is not Christian doctrine.
Debate Round No. 1
JustCallMeTarzan

Pro

My opponent's rebuttal is part on-topic, part red herring. His second contention concerning the problem of evil is immaterial - no part of my original argument hinges on the problem of evil itself. My opponent is simply attempting to draw myself, and you, the reader, into an unnecessary semantic argument about who gets to define evil.

******************************************************

>> "It is not true that theological fatalism is certainly true..."

IT states that determinism does not necessarily follow from omniscience. There are three possibilities here:

1) God is completely temporally omniscient in linear time.
2) God is completely omniscient in the "possible-to-know" sense in linear time.
3) God is completely omniscient in non-linear time.

From his rebuttal, it seems he has accepted the third option, while rejecting the first two. His statements endorse the notion that God sees all events as part of a nonlinear spread (as opposed to a continuum) where he can view causality as a sort of tree of events. My opponent's question, or rather, the last part of it, is a sample of begging the question ("could know future, free-willed actions?"). Whether or not the actions in question are free-willed is part of our investigation... as such, my opponent really should rephrase the question.

However, to answer what I think he wants to ask, omniscience does indeed necessitate determinism. Consider that all stimuli governing what we perceive as choices are empirical facts. For example, whether we "chose" a red or blue shirt in the morning is entirely dependent on the balance of chemicals and which neurons are firing in our brain. Whether or not we are conscious of these factors is immaterial - an omniscient God would be aware of all empirical facts. The awareness of all these empirical facts allows God to "calculate" our choice with absolute perfection.

If God knows all these factors as well as our choices, we are faced with a variety of circumstances. We cannot act in a way contrary to the outcome of God's calculation, for to do so would show God's calculation to be wrong, negating the factor of omniscience.

Another problems arises with my opponent's contention about God's status as being outside time. If God is outside time, the phrase "narrowly into the future" that my opponent uses is utterly meaningless. If God is outside time, linear conceptions either mean nothing or are binding - my opponent cannot have his cake and eat it too...

***************************************************

My opponent responds to my main argument by stating that God's ways are not our ways. However, he does not respond to the contention I made that Jesus' teachings represent a general rule that humans should practice what they preach. Jesus, being fully human (and fully divine) would be bound by this general rule. Jesus, also being God would be bound to this general rule.

Silliness like that aside, the problem still remains that Christian moral code is delivered with God and then later, Christ as the model for moral righteousness. However, when the model breaks with the code, EVEN IF IT IS ALLOWED TO (wish we had italics), this represents a problem for the moral system. Why? Because it simply doesn't give a clear/salient example of what the standard of morality actually is. My opponent tries to squirm around this by stating that the judged cannot judge the judger... which is compelling only for Christians. That's nice, but as an atheist, I am not bound by any of these silly laws, and I can judge God and his immoral actions all I please.

******************************************************

Some responses:

>> "Take for example a man who slowly awakes to find woman cutting his stomach. The man will rightly fuss that such an action is evil! But say he finds out that the woman is a doctor..."

This example leads us into the standard Christian fallacy of assuming that anything that happens is part of God's larger plan. The argument basically avoids the problem of evil by stating that all evil is part of God's plan and will eventually be rectified. Which of course leads us to ask... Why can't God bring the same end about with less suffering? Should be easy for an omnipotent God...

>> "In sum, the only way for my opponent's argument to have a sound premise would be for his conclusion to be wrong."

Oh come on - this is textbook poisoning the well. My opponent continually references "hidden premises" and such. The argument is fairly clear. Christian doctrine lacks a clear example for its moral code and the doctrine itself leads one away from moral responsibility.

>> "My opponent contradicts the resolution by trying to insist that our ways are the same as God's ways"

False - I explicitly set up the argument to avoid a tu quo qua, and on top of that, the argument does not rest on God's ways being the same as our ways - it rests on a lack of a relate-able example for moral behavior and the fact that Christian doctrine leads to empirical determinism, which leads to a lack of ultimate responsibility.

>> "he requires proof that God was unlawfully killing – and, unfortunately, or rather fortunately, the only person who can judge that is… well, God. Sorry."

What my opponent means to say is that Christians can't judge God. In order to say that God is the only one who can judge himself, he must provide some sort of binding reason why nonbelievers are not allowed to judge God. What is required is not proof that God engaged in unlawful killing... Consider the case of the Biblical flood - certainly thousands of innocent babies were killed. What is required is proof that these are LAWFUL killings.

>> "He cannot introduce non-biblical ideas into the debate in hopes of undermining biblical morality"

The case of empirical determinism by itself satisfies the resolution. However, in order to actually evaluate Christian morality EITHER WAY, one must examine the case non-biblically. To "evaluate" biblical morality in a biblical context is begging the question - evaluation is not possible when one is told what the answer is before an inquiry is made.

*******************************************************************************

I'll combine/reword the second and third prongs of my argument so that we have two main contentions:

1) Omniscience necessitates deterministic conceptualizations regarding the causation of behavior.

2) Christian morality cannot be properly conceptualized because the exemplar giving moral criteria is himself above the moral law. The manner in which he is placed there challenges the conception of what is evil or the attributes of God himself.

In order to support his contentions my opponent must show:

1) Free will is possible given God's knowledge of empirical facts.
2) The manner in which God is placed above the moral law presents no challenge to the conceptualization of morality or evil.

AFFIRMED.
InquireTruth

Con

===
Intro
===

I need to remind Tarzan that his burden is to show that Christian doctrine undermines its own morality, not that secular or non-Christian understandings undermine Christian morality.

"into an unnecessary semantic argument about who gets to define evil."

Not at all! Since my opponent has insisted that evil was indeed a problem, certainly the premise that evil exists must be shown as true! Since my opponent has furnished no evidence for the actual and objective existence of evil, how can there by shown that there is a problem?

===
Determinism
===

My opponent insists that omniscience necessitates determinism. He has not fully understood my argument and has consequently avoided it (perhaps my lack of clarity is to blame).

I know the outcome of past events. All past events must be exactly as they are – for indeed, they have already taken place! However, I know, for instance, that my friend misplaced his foot on the second step of my stairs and sprained his ankle. I neither determined the action, nor wanted it to happen. I know that my friend's incident was the result of his free action. If God is outside the dimension of time, he could see all the things that we have CHOSEN to do. How is this NOT, at bare minimum, possible? Also, I am not affirming any particular view in terms of God's omniscience, since all that is required is that at least one view be possible.

Moreover, it is Christian doctrine that humans have free will. This is evidenced by when God used the Hebrew word Timshel when talking to Cain before he killed his brother: "thou mayest." God told Cain that he could either choose to kill his brother or not. My opponent has taken the Christian Doctrine of omniscience (though I am not sure that he has a firm grasp of biblical omniscience) and tried to show that it necessitates determinism. But this is NOT a Christian doctrine! Christian doctrine states that we have free will! Therefore my opponent is not showing that Christian doctrine undermines itself, but that his non-biblical, non-doctrinal deduction from a singular Christian doctrine undermines morality – this is in contradiction with the resolution.

Since Christian doctrine states that (1) God is omniscient and (2) we have free will, then my opponent cannot substantiate his claim of determinism without moving outside of resolution.

Furthermore, God can remain omniscient without knowing the future. How? Capacity does not necessarily indicate full utilization and possession does not dictate use. Since determinism requires that the future be known, and it is possible for an omniscient God to not know the future, my opponent's point is bunk. Possession of all knowledge is not equal to the utilization of all knowledge. For instance, I am holding the book, "Les Miserable" in my hand. I paid for it and read it through in its entirety. I not only possess the book in real and legal sense, but now it can be said that I possess all of the knowledge contained within it in every relevant meaning of the term. But can I recount the first sentence on page 1221? No, not without taking action and looking at it. This properly illustrates the vital difference between capacity and action.

===
The Beef
===

"Jesus, also being God would be bound to this general rule."

My opponent's reasoning quickly eroded with the abovementioned quote. Jesus, in his humanity, could be said as being bound by said rules – but that was during his earthly incarnation. My opponent must prove that God (doctrinally referred to as spirit, not human) is bound by those rules. Since Christian doctrine teaches that God is NOT bound by our ways, my opponent is sourcing something outside of the resolution and his forcing an interpretation that is not required by the text.

My opponent goes on to state that he is an atheist and can judge God all he wants… Okay. My opponent may do as he pleases, but it is not within the scope of the debate. My opponent must show that Christian doctrine undermines its own morality. His very tenuous argument that there is no salient/clear example as to what the moral code actually is, is irrelevant. This undermines Christian morality how? More importantly, it does not take an exemplar for a clear understanding to be had. What is unclear about "thou shall not steal?"

===
Responses to responses
===

"Christian doctrine lacks a clear example for its moral code and the doctrine itself leads one away from moral responsibility."

Prove that Christian doctrine requires an example (though Jesus was a pretty dang good one), and explain exactly what doctrine leads people away from moral responsibility. Moreover, explain what this moral responsibility is and where it stems.

"it rests on a lack of a relate-able example for moral behavior and the fact that Christian doctrine leads to empirical determinism, which leads to a lack of ultimate responsibility."

Jesus was a relatable example (though it still stands unproven that an exemplar is necessary) that could only reasonably be said to have been bound by human ways in his humanity – since Christian doctrine asserts that GOD is not bound by our rules. Even still, it has not been shown that God broke any rules! Furthermore, Christian doctrine leads to free will – that IS what it teaches after all.

"What my opponent means to say is that Christians can't judge God. In order to say that God is the only one who can judge himself, he must provide some sort of binding reason why nonbelievers are not allowed to judge God."

The binding reason in this resolution is that it is Christian doctrine. "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?" (Romans 9:20). Remember, it is Christian doctrine that needs to be shown to undermine its own morality – not the misguided assertions of nonbelievers.

"Consider the case of the Biblical flood - certainly thousands of innocent babies were killed. What is required is proof that these are LAWFUL killings."

If you are right on this point, then you are wrong in the debate because Christian doctrine teaches that God is perfect and all his ways are right and just. Therefore, if God committed unlawful killings (which would require him being bound by these commands, which is tantamount to saying that a game designer ought to be bound by his own programming), it would contradict Christian doctrine and consequently contradict the resolution. Christian doctrine needs to be shown as undermining its own morality!

===
Other Responses
===

"1) Omniscience necessitates deterministic conceptualizations regarding the causation of behavior."

This is not necessarily true or shown to be true. Moreover, to even by considered true the future must necessarily be known. Since omniscience does not require that the future be known, insofar as capacity does not necessitate or require use, it is possible that an omniscient God does not know the future.

"2) Christian morality cannot be properly conceptualized because the exemplar giving moral criteria is himself above the moral law. The manner in which he is placed there challenges the conception of what is evil or the attributes of God himself."

What exactly does proper conceptualization look like? Moreover, is it possible for a being to create a system or dimension in which all entities therein are bound by rules and laws that the creator himself is not bound by? Since we can conceptualize, for instance, a game designer producing such a system, why is it so hard to imagine ourselves as part of a very similar system – where rules and laws apply to us but not the being that created them?

"In order to support his contentions my opponent must show:
1) Free will is possible given God's knowledge of empirical facts."

I need only show that Free will is Christian doctrine. It is Christian doctrine that needs to undermine its own morality, right?
Debate Round No. 2
JustCallMeTarzan

Pro

JustCallMeTarzan forfeited this round.
InquireTruth

Con

My opponent unintentionally forfeited his final round – since his absence is understood and not typical, I request that the readers not consider his forfeiture when voting.

We can consider this a two round debate.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
InquireTruth
I was looking forward to your response, perhaps another time? I hope you had fun in New York (DDO would be far from my mind as well).
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
My apologies - I was in New York City... DDO wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind... Thought I had one more day =(
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
InquireTruth
an* not in for my first comment.
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
InquireTruth
Ha ha, fair enough, I hope you leave me SOME wiggle room. Again, I'm sorry.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
Sure... but now that you're taking it, I may tweak the argument a little ;)
Posted by InquireTruth 5 years ago
InquireTruth
I'm so sorry Tarzan, but I will be unable to respond. Will you please send me a challenge. It has been in unexpectedly hectic week.
Posted by Lexicaholic 5 years ago
Lexicaholic
Or not, I see IT took this one. Darn it all. X(
Posted by Lexicaholic 5 years ago
Lexicaholic
I would have argued that Christian doctrine can not undermine its own morality because Christianity, being a philosophical construct dependent on human conceptualization, and Christian morality, being a construct dependent on Christian practitioners' understanding of the concept, is not an element inherent in the doctrine itself. Doctrine can always be altered as the experiencers of the morality deem fit, because there are no absolute morals in reality limiting a practitioner's justifications. Because doctrine can be constantly reworked, it can not undermine its generative morality, although its edicts may not be rationally related to the purported aims of the doctrine's preparers.

But as you said, no semantic arguments.

I might have a way of arguing this legitimately ... I'll have to think about it, as it would be fun to debate you.
Posted by JustCallMeTarzan 5 years ago
JustCallMeTarzan
No semantic argument is ever acceptable in a serious debate. We all know what the resolution means. Playing word games is just dishonest debating. Now if the resolution is poorly worded, that's a different story... but in this case, I'm not sure I see a semantic opening.
Posted by Lexicaholic 5 years ago
Lexicaholic
I might be willing to play devil's advocate... I mean God's advoc... I might be willing to give this a try. It would probably involve a semantic argument as well as a philosophical argument though, and be very wordy. Would this be acceptable?
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