This is a word-for-word transcript of a debate I had on Facebook with a Christian. I left out the initial part that led us into discussing the definition of good, but otherwise made no changes. The Christian’s comments are marked with his initial, P, and mine with M. Enjoy.
P: God is good. We know what is good based on Him.
M: Are you attempting to define good as “that which is consistent with god’s nature”, or “what god says is good”?
P: What He says is good is that which is consistent with his nature.
M: Okay. Since you said that god is good, I assume you think all of his actions are consistent with his nature.
In Genesis, god supposedly kills everyone on earth except eight people, undoubtedly including many children. In Exodus, he kills every firstborn child in Egypt. Later, he explicitly commands genocide, again killing many children.
Based on your definition, since god’s actions include killing children, and his actions are always consistent with his nature, and things that are consistent with his nature are good, we can conclude that killing children is good.
Care to revise your definition of good?
P: God’s goodness is based on Himself. He created us and has subjected us to act as He does. If your ideas about morality contradict His you are still His creature and your are supposed to conform to His standard of goodness.
God is not a murderer therefore I am not to be a murderer.
He was killing those worthy of death therefore if I kill it must be based on worthiness of death.
M: In your worldview, is it not true that all people are worthy of death?
If god was a murderer, would murder be good?
If god’s goodness is based on himself, does that mean it is based on his opinion of what is good, or that things are good simply because he does them? Either way, you’re giving me subjective definitions for good. If it’s based on the opinions or feelings or nature of a sentient being, it is subjective.
P: Everyone is worthy of death by God’s hand and within the Trinity the Son submits to the Fathers will. I am commanded by God to follow the Son by submitting to the Fathers will who commands me to not shed men’s blood if they have not commited a crime worthy of that and I am am not a civil magistrate with authority to do this.
God does not change and he is perfectly just therefore He never would be a murderer.
I think I am willing to say that I base my morality on the goodness of God which is subjective. But though subjective I am commanded to obey His good will and if disobedient there are consequences. He is the creator, I am the creature.
M: Okay, so your morality is not based on what god does, since you think it’s fine for him to kill everyone but you are only allowed to kill people who have committed certain crimes.
So your morality must be based on what he says you should do. Since god does not change, that must mean if he tells people in one place and time that they must do something, that command applies to all people in all places and times. Correct?
If so, then enslaving people as permanent property (Leviticus 25:45-46), and killing people who try to convert you to another religion (Deuteronomy 13:6-11), are both morally right.
If you think these things are morally wrong for us to do, yet morally right for the Israelites to do four thousand years ago, then your morality is not only subjective but also relative. I reject moral relativism.
I did not ask if god could be a murderer, I asked you to consider the theoretical case in which he IS. It doesn’t need to be possible for you to consider the logical consequences if it were true. But I’ll put that question in a format you might be more inclined to answer: Are things morally wrong because god says they are, or does he say they are morally wrong because they are?
P: They were and are morally good. In a theonomic nation I have no problem with the government authorising and controlling these things.
It is a hypothetical scenario that can never happen so I am not going to waste my time.
They are morally wrong because He says so and since He cannot change He would not command otherwise.
M: Aaand there we have it. Your morality has been so overridden by blind obedience to a book that you will claim slavery and murdering people of other religions are morally right actions.
Your definition of good is circular. Why are things good? Because god says so. Why does he say so? Because they’re good. This renders your concept of “good” a meaningless tautology.
I have nothing more to say. Your god is evil by any meaningful definition of the word.
“If you hold onto the idea that what god says defines morality, the statement “god wouldn’t tell us to do something immoral” is meaningless…it’s like saying “god wouldn’t tell us to do something he wouldn’t tell us to do”.”