Reply to Randal Rauser on Craig and Harris

Randal Rauser has put up a response to my post on William Lane Craig’s misrepresentations of his opponents, focusing on my (very brief) comments on the Craig-Harris debate. Let’s have a look:

In the discussion thread for my article “Would you want an atheist for a neighbor?” R0c1 took issue with my suggestion that William Lane Craig was worth reading. He pointed to Chris Hallquist as one who had persuaded him that “Craig is not a trustworthy source of information on the subjects he debates.” And he provided a link to an essay by Hallquist. I appreciate Hallquist’s work here, and I think he has clearly established that Craig sometimes speaks incautiously and sometimes says things that are inaccurate. But I don’t think the essay establishes that Craig is so unreliable a resource on the matters he addresses that he cannot be read for profit. Indeed, I think that aspects of Hallquist’s analysis reflect that one-sided case building procedure which arises from motivated reasoning and confirmation bias.

A few comments on this. First, from the original thread, it’s not clear to me that R0c1 was disputing the claim that Craig is worth reading. Here’s what Randal originally said:

Look at the frenetic and uninformed screeds that atheists purchase and read by the truckload: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Christopher Hitchens, god is not great: how religion poisons everything, David Mills, The Atheist Universe, Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation. Distortion, caricature, ad hominem, non sequitur and countless other blunders fill these writings. When it comes to philosophy of religion and theology, each of these authors writes with all the sophistication of a college freshman.

I wish that more atheists would seriously engage both with serious atheists like Austin Dacey and Quentin Smith, as well as equally serious theists like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. (Of course I also wish that more Christians were reading intelligent critiques on both sides.)

To which R0c1 said, “Serious like William Lane Craig, seriously?” R0c1 is taking issue with holding up Craig as someone who is clearly so much better than those awful Gnu Atheists, and I agree with him. It’s ridiculous to complain about “distortion, caricature, ad hominem, non sequitur and countless other blunders” and then hold up Craig (who does those things habitually) as someone so much more “serious.”

You can point all that out without denying that Craig is worth reading. For the record, I think that Craig is clearly one of the leading living proponents of natural theology (a sorry commentary on the present state of natural theology), so he is worth reading if you have a serious interest in such things. You just can’t read him the way you might read other authors, assuming their portrayal of the current state of scholarship and their opponents is at all accurate.

Another thing I need to point out: yes, the post Randal links to (and other posts which it in turn links to) are building a case against Craig, in the sense that I’m trying to persuade in a fairly concise manner of the conclusions I’ve come to after years of observing Craig. It’s not the full (boring) story of how I reached that conclusion; I don’t know if that contributes to the perception of “one-sided case building.”

Now, on to what I said about the Craig-Harris debate: we need to emphasize that the view Harris referred to as “psychopathic” is the view that intentionally blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren is OK if it’s what God told you to do–that in fact, it’s not just OK, but a moral obligation. That’s actually Craig’s view.

Furthermore, when I talk about “what Craig insinuated” in my original post, I’m talking about the fact that Craig made a big deal of denying that Peter van Inwagen and Tom Flint are psychopathic. That only would have been relevant had Harris said all religious believers are psychopathic, which he didn’t. By bringing this up in spite of that fact, Craig is insinuating that Harris did say that.

You might doubt that such debating maneuvers can really do much harm, but I suspect they do. It’s hard to remember every detail of the positions someone takes in twelve minutes of speaking, and worse, there’s a lot of psychological research showing that people’s memories of what they’ve experienced can be influence by what other people tell them after the fact. So rhetorical ploy’s like Craig’s may often work.

Now the meat of Randal’s response:

Why is Hallquist “sickened” and “angered”? He doesn’t say but I take it he’s referring to Harris’ appended caveat: “Now, I’m obviously not saying that all that Dr. Craig, or all religious people, are psychopaths and psychotics….” But Craig never said that Harris said he was a psychopath. Rather, Craig accurately describes Harris’ charge that his view is psychopathic. Harris never retreats from that claim. He simply clarifies that having a psychopathic tendency is not sufficient to make one a psychopath. And this is indeed true. Psychopathy is diagnosed based on scoring Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist of twenty traits. Evincing one trait isn’t sufficient to make one a psychopath.

So then let us ask: Does Craig’s ethical view evince at least one psychopathic trait? Unfortunately for Harris, the answer is a resounding no. If you read through the twenty traits on the Psychopathy Checklist you’ll find qualities like callousness, shallow effect, grandiose sense of self-worth, and lack of empathy. But you won’t find adherence to a divine command theory of meta-ethics among them.

This means that Harris was clearly incorrect to accuse Craig of having a psychopathic trait in virtue of the meta-ethical theory he defends. And that’s no small error. It’s not far off falsely accusing somebody of having a “pedophilic tendency”. So where’s the outrage at this smear of Craig?

I almost have a hard time believing Randal is serious here. When he talks about “adherence to a divine command theory of meta-ethics,” what he means is believing that blowing up a bus full of children is right if that’s what God told you to do. That may not be explicitly listed in the Psychopathy Checklist, but neither are things like actually blowing up a bus full of children. And being willing to approve of such an act just because you think God approves certainly sounds like something that would require a shocking degree of callousness and lack of empathy.

Yet as Harris says in the debate, “this to me is the true horror of religion. It allows perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions, what only lunatics could believe on their own.” The horror here is in the fact that there may people with a perfectly normal helping of empathy, who would normally never think of hurting a child, but who would approve of blowing up a bus full of children if they thought God wanted it.

Importantly, I’m fairly certain that not all religious people take that position, but quite a few do, and Craig is one of them. And rather than address the obvious objections to his view, Craig chose to insinuate that Harris was calling all religious believers psychopathic.

  • Diego

    Of course, many of the things Randall says about Dawkins and gang are also on point.

    And as to Harris specifically, he defends a right to kill people for Beliefs, makes excuses for nuclear war, blames the Jews for their own victimhood because they did not assimilate “fast enough”, torture, and profiling.

    Most lately he is shilling for gun rights.

    Oh, I know he has his reasons for all this, but he is not helping atheism with all that.

    • Chris Hallquist

      I’ve been thinking of writing a long blog post on Harris, but for now, I’ll just link to this.

    • machintelligence

      Already we have wheeled out the “not helping” argument. Mr. Harris’ opinions are his own and he is not required to change them to whatever you hold to be those of a politically correct atheist. Helping atheism (whatever that may be) is not his job.

    • RobMcCune

      Randall has a reply to this post that makes exactly those points, and addresses very little of Chris’s post.

  • Pingback: Who’s psychopathic now? Another response to Chris Hallquist

  • MNb

    “Craig’s ethical view ,,,”
    Let’s see.
    Craig’s DCT is definitely callous towards the relatives of the victims of terrorists who claim that their commanded them.
    “God told me so, so I am doing the right” thing is definitely shallow.
    The grandiose sense of self-worth is something I can’t evaluate.
    Finally I never have noticed that Craig felt empathy for the victims, being them Kanaanite babies, Elisabeth Fritzl or those who died from a terrorist act.

    That’s three out of our. Thanks, Randal R.
    Recently I have more or less befriended a couple of JW’s. They are very nice and helpful. Of course they try to convert me, which is amusing as long as it doesn’t take too much time. Regarding the Kanaanite babies they also use the DCT. It’s beyond me how they combine that with their pacifism. I didn’t get a coherent answer of course, but flatter myself with the thought they have something to talk about in their Kingdom Hall.

  • http://carnedes.blogpost.com LordGriggsSkepticGriggsyCarneadesHume

    Plantinga and WLC engage in solecistic, sophisticated sophistry of woeful, wily woo! They reason in the manner of schizophrenics, ever finding further bad reasons for their absurd arguments.

  • Pingback: Would you commit genocide if you thought it was the right thing to do? « The Verbose Stoic

  • eric

    I’m guessing there are some points of agreement between you and RR. For example, you’d probably both agree that someone who hears and acts on voices telling him to kill people is a psychopath. If that person accepts DCT and thinks the voice is God, that’s no excuse – they’re still a psychopath.
    The question is whether to apply the label to people who accept DCT in principle but never hear voices, never act on a ‘command from God,’ and never transgress normal social, ethical, or legal rules.
    Frankly, I’d probably disagree with applying such a label to such people. There are a lot of people who accept crazy things “in principle” but live perfectly normal lives. We do not find them legally insane, restrict their rights, or put them in institutions merely beacuse of their (vernacularly) crazy yet pragmatically insignificant internal beliefs. So, we should not do it with a belief in DCT either. Our response to a DCT believer should be the same as our response to someone who thinks aliens probed him last summer – ‘whatever dude, just don’t break the law.’

    • http://randalrauser.com Randal Rauser

      Eric, I would think the person who was hearing those voices was probably schizophrenic or suffering from some other psychosis. That’s a completely different diagnosis than psychopathy. A psychopath is a perso who lacks empathy for others. Their condition is identified by way of twenty measurable criteria on Robert Hare’s psychopathy checklist. One of my concerns in this whole discussion is that terms like “psychopathic” are being tossed around as emotive epithets with no concern for their actual definition.

      (Incidentally, psychopathy isn’t yet a formally recognized diagnosis in the DSM, though from what I hear that may change in the latest edition.)

      • eric

        I don’t think the terms are exclusive; if someone is running around killing other people because he hears voices telling him, he could be both schizophrenic and meet most or all of Hare’s 20 criteria.

        But the main question is whether “the view Harris referred to as “psychopathic” is the view that intentionally blowing up a bus full of schoolchildren is OK if it’s what God told you to do…”
        My bold; note Harris’ original position was about whether a view was psychopathic, not a person. Most of Hare’s 20 criteria are simply not going to apply to a view, or apply very poorly. Given the poor fit, we have a choice; one can insist the term ‘psychopath’ never be applied to ‘views,’ one can use a more limited or adapted version of Hare’s list, or one can go with a non-list (i.e., vernacular) definition. I think choices 2 or 3 would both support Harris’ contention. The view that it’s perfectly acceptable to kill anyone, at any time, regardless of circumstances merely because you perceive God told you to cetainly shows a lack of empathy with other humans.

  • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matthew Flannagan

    I almost have a hard time believing Randal is serious here. When he talks about “adherence to a divine command theory of meta-ethics,” what he means is believing that blowing up a bus full of children is right if that’s what God told you to do. That may not be explicitly listed in the Psychopathy Checklist, but neither are things like actually blowing up a bus full of children. And being willing to approve of such an act just because you think God approves certainly sounds like something that would require a shocking degree of callousness and lack of empathy.

    Actually I believe Craig’s position in the debate was that an action is wrong if and only if it is contrary to the commands of a loving and just God one who is essentially “God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so forth” and also displays traits of being rational and omnsicent. So actually what is entailed is that blowing up a bus of children is right only if a person who was fully informed, rational, loving, just, compassionate, fair and impartial would knowingly endorse the action. It’s only under those circumstances that blowing up a bus is permissible.

    Perhaps you can show how this position, when its accurately portrayed, is psychopathic. The situation are by definition situations, which may well be impossible, where blowing up a bus is not unloving, not unjust, not based on false information, not unfair, not irrational, situations where in fact killing the children is what an impartial compassionate person would knowingly due after a fully rational consideration of the facts. Are these the situations pscoypaths typically kill people under?

    I am a little surprised a person who is so concerned about Craig misrepresenting others views, choose to omit these qualifications, standard in the literature on divine command ethics and repeated often enough by Craig himself, would omit to tell his readers this.

    • RobMcCune

      So is there room in divine command meta-ethics for an individual to discern whether or not a particular divine command has the qualities you mention and judge whether or not they should follow it? If not Chris hasn’t omitted anything important, divine command still boils down to orders from God.

      • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matthew Flannagan

        “So is there room in divine command meta-ethics for an individual to discern whether or not a particular divine command has the qualities you mention and judge whether or not they should follow it?”

        Yes, in fact the three of the most important books on divine command ethics in the literature have chapters devoted to this issue. Philip Quinn’s “Divine Commands and Moral Requirement”, for example has a response to James Rachels where he discusses this question. Robert Adam’s has a chapter discussing that issue in Finite and Infinite Goods, and Stephen Evans also has a section on it in his book “Kierkegaard and the commands of love”. Quinn also has a section on it in his “Oxford Guide to Ethical Theory” chapter on Divine Command Theory.
        Like I said the issue has been discussed frequently in the literature on the topic. Anyone who has read the main works on the topic in the last 30 years would not have missed this.

        “ If not Chris hasn’t omitted anything important, divine command still boils down to orders from God.”
        Yes it boils down to commands from “God” where God is specifically understood as an essentially loving and just rational omniscient an so fully informed person. So what it entails is that one can do an action only if a loving and just rational person could knowingly endorse the action in question.
        So a divine command theory entails that blowing up a bus is permissible only in situations where a who person was fully informed, rational, loving, just, compassionate, fair and impartial would knowingly endorse the action. Your welcome to show me how its possible that these situations obtain and as Chris suggests the action be one that “required a shocking degree of callousness and lack of empathy to approve”

        Can you show be how an action can be knowingly endorsed by a fully informed, rational, loving, just, compassionate, fair and impartial person and also be one that could only be endorsed if the person who approved of it lacked these traits? Which is in effect what he argued above.

        Simply relabeling a position as “ordered by God” and omitting to spell out the details of a theory does not make a contradiction true does it.

        • eric

          So what it entails is that one can do an action only if a loving and just rational person could knowingly endorse the action in question

          So, according to you, DCT does not support the Israelite massacre of the Amelekites? Help me out here; one of the whole points of DCT is to defend/make justifiable such biblical commands by God. But you seem to be implying that it doesn’t and can’t, since (a) such a command is at odds with a perfectly loving God and (b) the bible does not provide enough background for any rational person to come to a certain conclusion that killing all the noncombatants except the young women – who you take as slaves – is justified.

          I believe Craig DOES support that massacrue as morally justifiable based on DCT, so either (a) your view of DCT is wrong or (b) his is.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matthew Flannagan

            Actually that’s a false dictomoy: A DCT is the thesis that moral obligations are constituted by the commands God: where God is understood as an essentially just, rational, loving and just person.

            If in addition to a DCT, you believe that God, a loving and just rational person has commanded the killing of Amalekites then you will accept that it was permissible. If on the other hand you don’t believe a loving and just rational person could command such thing you wont believe that.

            The issue of Amalekites then comes down to whether you believe this additional claim, it has nothing to with a DCT.

        • RobMcCune

          You’re telling me that divine command theory has an objective set criteria that determine if a divine command is moral or not? How can it be called divine command meta-ethics if divine commands can be unethical according to it’s own standards? Well I am surprised to say the least that divine command theorists chose hold divine commands to an external good rather than pick the option that divine commands are good arbitrarily.

          Yes it boils down to commands from “God” where God is specifically understood as an essentially loving and just rational omniscient an so fully informed person.

          Then whatever God commands is loving, just, and rational, whatever that command happens to be, including blowing up buses. Craig’s rationale, for example, is that the little children go to heaven (loving and fair) meaning the real victims are the people ordered to carry out the act(rational). So at least one prominent advocate of divine command theory who believes God possesses the traits you mention has tried to justify the mass murder of innocents.

          There aren’t two ways about it, either a divine command can order the destruction of innocent life and be a moral obligation, or divine commands aren’t the basis for morality. It’s an accurate description, even if it’s not that good of a counter argument.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matthew Flannagan

            RobMcCune

            Instead of asking me, you could actually go away and read what divine command theorists advocate before you post attacks on there position online.

            You’re telling me that divine command theory has an objective set criteria that determine if a divine command is moral or not? How can it be called divine command meta-ethics if divine commands can be unethical according to it’s own standards? Well I am surprised to say the least that divine command theorists chose hold divine commands to an external good rather than pick the option that divine commands are good arbitrarily.

            Again if you read what divine command theorist write you would know this and you would not put obvious caricatures like this online.

            Divine command theorists hold that moral obligations are constituted by the commands of God: where God is understood to be posses certain character traits essentially, such as beinmg loving and just, impartial omniscient person. Two things follow from this.
            First, it cannot be coherently claimed that God commands anything arbitrarily, because there are certain actions that a loving and just person would not command, note this is not God’s commands conforming to some “external standard” of what is right and wrong, its simply conceptual truths about what people who are loving, and just and compassionate and impartial do and do not command. This does mean however that our understanding of what is loving just impartial and so place a constraint on what commands one can rationally attribute to God. This point is the subject of much discussion in the literature so its simply inaccurate to pretend divine command theorists don’t claim this.

            Second, this does not entail that “ divine commands can be unethical according to it’s own standards?” what it entails is that commands to do actions which are arbitrary carious, creul and so on, are not actions which can be rationally attributed to God, they are not legitimate divine commands. Again this was pointed out by Quinn early on in his response to Rachels over 30 years ago.

            Then whatever God commands is loving, just, and rational, whatever that command happens to be, including blowing up buses. Craig’s rationale, for example, is that the little children go to heaven (loving and fair) meaning the real victims are the people ordered to carry out the act(rational). So at least one prominent advocate of divine command theory who believes God possesses the traits you mention has tried to justify the mass murder of innocents.

            Well, Craig has never defended blowing up buses as far as I know, but you are correct that if a loving and just fair impartial person ( such as God) commanded blowing up buses, then blowing up buses is fair, loving, impartial and so on, that’s simply an analytic truth. Similarly it’s an analytic truth that if a rational emphathic fully informed human being blow up a bus then blowing up the bus was emphatic, rational and no based on ignorance. Of course it does not follow from that, that blowing up buses is impartial fair and just, nor does it follow from that that God ever did or has commanded it, nor does it follow we are ever justified in believing God has. In the real world we are rightly very dubious that blowing up buses is impartial fair loving and just and as such rightly dubious that God commands it.

            Moreover if the objection is simply that one divine command theorist has tried to justify mass murder. I am not sure that’s much of an objection, Peter Singer for example has used secular utilitarianism to justify infanticide . Micheal Tooley has appealed to secular deontology to justify infanticide. Utilitarianism has been used to justify torture, nuclear attacks on civilian centres and so on. Kai Neilson one of the most widely anthologised critics of religious based morality has defended terrorism, and Randall Rauser has a list of mass killings Sam Harris has argued are in principle justified on his blog. So if the issue is just that one proponent of the view has defended killing, your going to have to reject a lot of secular ethical views. Will you? Or is this just a case of carefully selective outrage

        • Nox

          What you are describing is something being right because it is “ordered by god”. That is hardly a misrepresentation of divine command theory. That god can just arbitrarily declare anything right without basis is not how divine command proponents usually phrase it, but that is exactly what they are saying.

          Things are not made fair or unfair by who commands them. It is by the people who are affected that something can be measured as fair or just. A statement is not made true or untrue by who says it. It is true or untrue because it reflects reality or does not. I can see how belief in an infallible god leads people to rule out the idea of god being wrong. But this is just one more reason why belief can compromise the reason of even intelligent people. If you rule out god ever being wrong, you would simply have no way to detect if god (or his human representatives) were wrong (or lying to you).

          Why should right and wrong be determined by different rules (aside from the fact that many people mistakenly define right as “god’s will” and wrong as “not god’s will”)? Leaving aside the complete lack of any evidence for god even existing or being any particular god, if there were a fair, loving, just, rational god, it would not command certain things. And if it did command certain things, it would be disqualified from having those adjectives accurately describe it.

          Thus the god in question would not be a morally right god, and the idea of basing our definition of morally right on his commands would fall apart (and that is even if you grant the nonsensical starting premise of measuring your actions against what someone else wants you to do instead of what would be useful or benevolent actions).

          If your god commanded something that was wrong, would it become right?

          If your answer is yes, you have accepted the same faulty premise as Craig. And are left stuck in the same morally malfunctioning position. If god (or your pastor, or a voice in your head, or your own interpretation of the bible) told you to blow up a bus full of children, how would you know it was wrong?

          If divine command theory were valid, it would mean god could call anything it wants morally right, and humans can call anything they want the morally right will of god. And any action could be called right (any actions, blowing up a bus full of children, killing all the firstborn children in Egypt, f*cking anything). Which would render the concepts of right and wrong completely meaningless.

    • hf

      Craig’s position in the debate was that an action is wrong if and only if it is contrary to the commands of a loving and just God one who is essentially “God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so forth” and also displays traits of being rational and omnsicent.

      This is a flat lie, and a transparent one at that. Like eric points out, Craig purports to believe in a God who commanded the slaughter of children, willing mothers to wail in grief and beg for mercy as men with swords killed them and cut open their babies’ heads. You could imagine what mathematicians would call a non-standard model of a “loving” deity that would commit such a crime, but you would need to endorse strong limits on the deity’s power (which Craig does not) or else use a literally Orwellian interpretation of the word “love”. The latter seems like C’s preferred solution. And it places no limits on the horrors God might command.

      Look, why would you make such an obviously false claim? What horrible result would happen if you admitted Craig’s deception?

      • hf

        That Wiki entry seems like a lousy explanation of non-standard models for arithmetic, by the way. Just go here if you care.

      • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matthew Flannagan

        Craig’s position in the debate was that an action is wrong if and only if it is contrary to the commands of a loving and just God one who is essentially “God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so forth” and also displays traits of being rational and omnsicent.

        This is a flat lie, and a transparent one at that.

        Actually it’s not a flat lie, its based on years of reading all the literasture on DCT including the work of Craig, in fact much of what I from Craig himself.

        Our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a just and loving God. For any action A and moral agent S, we can explicate the notions of moral requirement, permission, and forbiddenness of A forS as follows:
        A is required of S if and only if a just and loving God commands S to doA.
        A is permitted for S if and only if a just and loving God does not command S not to do A.
        A is forbidden to S if and only if a just and loving God commands S not to do A.
        Since our moral duties are grounded in the divine commands, they are not independent of God nor, plausibly, is God bound by moral duties, since He does not issue commands to Himself.
        If God does not fulfil moral duties, then what content can be given to the claim that He is good? Here Kant’s distinction between following a ruleand acting in accordance with a rule has proved helpful. God may act naturally in ways which for us would be rule-following and so constitutive of goodness in the sense of fulfilling our moral duties, so that God can be said similarly to be good in an analogical way. This fact also supplies the key to the arbitrariness objection. For our duties are determined by the commands, not merely of a supreme potentate, but of a just and loving God. God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so forth, and His commandments are reflections of His own character. Thus, they are not arbitrary, and we need not trouble ourselves about counterfactuals with impossible antecedents like “If God were to command child abuse . . . .” God may be said to be good in the sense that He possesses all these moral virtues–and He does so essentially and to the maximal degree! [ William Lane Craig “Philosophical Foundations of a Christian World View,”p 531

        The same point is made in his latest essay on the subject, this most “Gruesome of Guests” p 172, where he notes that claims that his theory is that God’s commands are constituted by the commands of a loving and just God and claims to the effect that “if God commanded rape rape would be permissible” are claims with impossible antecedants, like wondering whether if there was a round square its area would equal the sum of its parts.

        In fact in the very debate Chris cites above Craig is clear on this

        Second, theism provides a sound foundation for objective moral duties. On a theistic view objective moral duties are constituted by God’s commands. God’s moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commandments which constitute our moral duties or obligations. Far from being arbitrary, God’s commandments must be consistent with His holy and loving nature. Our duties, then, are constituted by God’s commandments and these in turn reflect his essential character.

        Craig also makes the point on his website

        Voluntarism is a view, defended by a few theologians, according to which moral values and duties are based entirely on God’s sovereign will. There is no further explanation behind God’s choice of moral values. He arbitrarily chooses what will be good and what evil.
        The vast majority of Christian thinkers have not been voluntarists. I think voluntarism is more naturally at home in Islam than Christianity, for on the Muslim conception of God His power trumps everything, even His own character. By contrast Christian theologians believe God to have certain essential virtues, such as love, fairness, impartiality, compassion, and so on. These are as essential to God as having three angles is to a triangle.
        One of the positive insights of voluntarism, I think, is that duties arise in response to an imperative. A command by a legitimate authority creates an obligation or prohibition for us. Good and bad alone is not sufficient for right and wrong because good and evil do not create obligations or prohibitions for us. Many things would be good for us to do, but that doesn’t imply that we’re obliged to do them because they may be mutually exclusive and so impossible to do. So voluntarism correctly locates the source of our moral duties in God’s commandments.
        Where voluntarism goes wrong is in thinking these commands to be utterly arbitrary. They are not arbitrary but grounded in the nature of a just and loving God. Therefore, most divine command theorists are not voluntarists.

        I can multiply examples if you like. The blatant lie comes from the internet atheists who continually attribute to Craig and divine command theorists a position they do not hold. This is particularly disenegious given the literature on DCT is there for all to read and a simple perusal of it would show this caricature was inaccurate.

        Like eric points out, Craig purports to believe in a God who commanded the slaughter of children, willing mothers to wail in grief and beg for mercy as men with swords killed them and cut open their babies’ heads

        Actually I am reasonably familiar with Craig’s writings on God and Morality and have not come across any place where he states he believes God commanded the slaughter of children and demanded that mothers wail and beg in grief and mercy while they did so, that sounds a like a clear embellment of Craig to me. Craig did however in at least one place say he does not believe this.

        I’ve come to appreciate that the object of God’s command to the Israelis was not the slaughter of the Canaanites, as is often imagined. The command rather was primarily to drive them out of the land . The judgement upon these Canaanite kingdoms was to dispossess them of their land and thus destroy them as kingdoms. Had the people fled before the advancing Israeli army, there was no command to pursue them and hunt them down. No one had to die. Only those who remained behind were to be utterly exterminated for the reasons I described. We don’t really know for sure if those who remained behind included women and children or just soldiers. But I’m assuming a “worst case” scenario for the sake of argument.

        Craig does claim that in rare circumstances where there is some greater good involved God could command the killing of children. But that’s quite different to the claim that there are no moral restraints on Gods commands.

        His position has always been that it’s the commands of a loving and just God that constitute moral obligations and hence its only actions which a loving and just person aware of the all the facts would knowingly endorse that can be commanded by God, he also is clear that killing could only be commanded by God in rare circumstances for the sake of some greater good precisely because he has these limits on what he can attribute to God.

        But I am sure that’s a lot less shocking and dramatic than what you claim and it does not enable you to quote Sam Harris . Who also believes you can kill innocent women and children in rare circumstances for some greater good.

  • http://carnedes.blogpost.com LordGriggsSkepticGriggsyCarneadesHume

    Might you press and update Rachel’s argument?
    God speaks with such a forked tongue: all the sects disagree so much with each other, so which would be His real one? None say deists. They don’t need Him for morality.
    Anyway, the truth as this gnu atheist declaims is that putative God would not have any rights over us, no right to judge us or to punish us! Per Lamberth’s argument from autonomy, we are independent beings, not His pottery, His ” things” to which He gives purposes. What blasphemy against humanity!
    Just as with the descriptions- laws- of Nature], He’d only be the secondary cause concerning morality: they and morality exist independently of Him.
    Chris, vet this so it won’t be a noseeum argument,please! I learn yesterday that is why Wykstra calls some arguments.

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