Bridging the Gap in Communicating about Morals
by Randy Everist
. These concepts are key to understanding the dialectic of a particular topic. The purpose of this article is to bridge a communication gap between the skeptic and the Christian. On the one side, the Christian is saying that there is an issue with a skeptic’s claiming that God is not really good, or the problem of evil eliminates (or renders extremely unlikely) God. The problem, she says, is that evil is an objective moral value, and the skeptic doesn’t (in these hypothetical cases, anyway) believe in objective moral values! On the other side, the skeptic is saying that, on their view, God is still bad. It’s my assessment of this issue that both sides are talking past each other, and that both sides are correct, in particularly relevant ways. I think the application of the distinction between internal and external critiques will be helpful here.
First, the atheist is correct when he claims that this kind of criticism (the problem of evil, or God’s not being good) does not thereby commit him to objective moral values, and hence, God. Why do I say that? Because the atheist’s critique can be said to be an internal one for Christianity. The most common type of criticism in this form is to assume the truth of the claim/proposition/worldview and reduce it to absurdity (or deduce from it a contradiction). This is what, typically, the skeptic is doing here. He is assuming that God is good, takes the conception of God and tries to show that what God is doing is not compatible with a good God. It can be said to be a critique examining what would be the case were certain premises taken as
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true (a counterfactual discussion, if you will). That alone no more commits the skeptic to the claim that there are objective moral values any more than it commits him to God’s existence (since in order for one to assume God is good, he must assume God exists, for God cannot be anything if he does not exist). We should not attempt to rebut the skeptic by insisting he has agreed to God’s existence, and we should not attempt to rebut the skeptic by insisting he has, in this critique, thereby committed himself to objective moral values.
Now we get to the fun part. Second, the Christian is correct when she claims that the skeptic is borrowing objective morality from the Christian worldview in order to condemn God. “Wait a minute!” I can hear you exclaim. “That totally contradicts what you just wrote!” True, if I mean the two situations to be in the same sense (which I don’t). For many, if not most, of these skeptics (and certainly the ones in the imaginary scenario I am devising) believe in objective moral values (and over 99% of them certainly behave as if they do). Therefore, they really should feel the force of the moral argument for God’s existence from evil…