Monday, November 07, 2011

Steve Hays on the "Genocide" theodicy problem

The central issue in Steve's post seems to be this: 
Why is an outcome that God commands a different theodicean problem than the same outcome which God permits? If we already have an adequate theodicy to explain what God allows, why do we need a different explanation for what God commands? The end-result is the same. 
Critics of the passage have argued that God's ordering the Hebrews to kill Canaanite children is more deeply problematic than, say, having them all die in a flood, or allowing Joshua to kill them without actually telling him to. 
On the other hand, in end-of-life ethics people frequently argue that "pulling the plug" at the request of the patient is justified, while assisted suicide is not. But, as Steve says, the result is the same.
 

24 comments:

finney said...

The difference is one of the moral agent who commits the evil. God gives us free will, making us responsible for our evils. Free-will effectively short-circuits the nexus of causation beginning and ending with us. If God is the moral agent creating evil, the free-will theodicy no longer applies - God is the beginning and ending of that act and he is morally responsible for it.

Really, this only took all of thirty seconds to realize. There must be something I'm missing.

William said...

One of the problems philosophers of ethics have is in working in a vacuum of idealized logic and then applying their logic to the real world, which always contains things the logic failed to include.

One such example is the fallacy that actively causing an event is ethically equivalent to withholding an action which would prevent that event. Ample empirical studies show it is not.

But, as Steve says, the result is the same.

No.

steve said...

First of all, I wonder if the two commenters even read my post.

In addition, I've addressed the distinction between permission and commission on several occasions. For instance:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/11/is-permission-exculpatory.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2011/10/is-god-worse-than-hitler.html

William said...

this article addresses the issue some.

Steve, I was not criticizing your viewpoint, just the idea of that equivalence.

steve said...

You're trying to take shortcuts rather than engage the actual arguments I deploy.

finney said...

Steve,
I don't see how you wiggle out of the fact that in one situation, the causal connection between God and an act is finely attenuated at best, and in the other, God is the actor who produces the effect.

That God foresees all actions by human actors does not make him liable for all actions by human actors. Foreseeability is not the same thing as causation, and it alone doesn't give rise to a duty upon God, especially if there are virtues in God's refraining from acting.

finney said...

Duties to interfere are largely created by relationships between people. Parents are more responsible for their children than bystanders (though bystanders have a duty in the absence of parents), and governments are more responsible for their citizens than another government.

steve said...

finney,

You have yet to address my actual arguments. Seems like you're giving prepared answers to something that wasn't said. Try again.

steve said...

finney said...

"Duties to interfere are largely created by relationships between people. Parents are more responsible for their children than bystanders (though bystanders have a duty in the absence of parents)..."

By that logic, God would have a greater duty to "interfere" than parents.

William said...

Steve, quoting the OP article:
Why is an outcome that God commands a different theodicean problem than the same outcome which God permits? If we already have an adequate theodicy to explain what God allows, why do we need a different explanation for what God commands? The end-result is the same.

If commanding and permitting are not generally the same ethically, your assertion is incorrect, since it is based on a false equivalence.

This is not to say we don't still have a theodicy to deal with.

steve said...

William said...

"If commanding and permitting are not generally the same ethically, your assertion is incorrect, since it is based on a false equivalence."

Having you actually read my posts? Or are you simply bouncing off of Reppert's summary?

Thus far, neither you nor finney has engaged my actual, specific argumentation.

William said...

Steve, quoting your article, but trimming it less well:

ii) I don’t understand why professing Christians like Reppert find literary accounts of corporate judgment in Scripture so problematic. After all, there’s nothing in Joshua that doesn’t happen in the real world, in terms of mass fatalities. In the real world, women and children die in war (not to mention natural disasters). Why take offense at the accounts, but give comparable events a pass?

Why is an outcome that God commands a different theodicean problem than the same outcome which God permits? If we already have an adequate theodicy to explain what God allows, why do we need a different explanation for what God commands? The end-result is the same.



If commanding and permitting are not generally the same ethically, your assertion is incorrect, since it is based on a false equivalence.

finney said...

"By that logic, God would have a greater duty to "interfere" than parents."

Not unless God has parents be responsible stewards of their children.

steve said...

finney said...

"Not unless God has parents be responsible stewards of their children."

What about God's stewardship responsibilities?

steve said...

William,

You're disregarding various examples I give where allowing something to happen is morally equivalent to doing something. Conversely, there are situations where doing something is morally preferable to merely allowing it.

You keep oversimplifying the issue.

William said...


You're disregarding various examples I give where allowing something to happen is morally equivalent to doing something. Conversely, there are situations where doing something is morally preferable to merely allowing it.



I agree with the above, but my point still applies.

You keep oversimplifying the issue.

Unless you have a reason to believe that:
(A) for God, allowing to occur and directly causing are the same?

Ah, now we are in the real theodicy territory, and though i don't agree with (A) above, I would admit that the speculation here is too complicated for me to decide.

finney said...

"What about God's stewardship responsibilities?"

Clarify for me what exactly those are? I'm not denying them altogether, I just want to be clear as to what actual concrete promises he has beyond spiritual growth and relationship.

finney said...

Permitting us to do X also permits us to do Y, which is better than X. By giving us the choice to do X, God enables us to do Y. If God does X, he prevents us from doing Y, and excludes our possibility of doing a better thing.

Edward T. Babinski said...

What does "God permits" mean?

Isn't Steve a Calvinist? If so, everything is "God's Will." God made everthing, is in everything, knows everything, past/future/all is known. So everything that happens is God's Will. Allah be praised, I mean Yahweh.

However I've seen some Calvinists gerrymander the hell out of "God's Will," including labeling some "parts" of it "God's Permissive Will," as if it isn't all Permissive and all Willed.

At any rate I agree in a sense with Steve, God ordering people to bloody their swords in mass slaughter (praise Yahweh, don't let any of the little ones get away either), is not unlike God creating a cosmos in which half of all fertilized human eggs are naturally aborted by the first month of pregnancy. That's a helluva slaughter come to think about it, and its still going on now. Most women don't even know they have "lost a zygote or early embryo" during the first month of pregnancy. And speaking of losses, Buffon noted in the 1700s that even of the children who were born, half of them died before reaching the age of eight. Again, that's a helluva lot of slaughter.

So in the end how exactly are we to prove the "Goodness" of "God" knowing the fact that "God" allegedly designed nature to work on the basis of unbelievable slaughter (I haven't even mentioned the unbelievable slaughter due to predation, parasitism and deadly diseases, and even "mass extinction" events in the geological record), let alone tales of "God's commands" to commit mass slaughter?

Looking at the evidence from nature the most one can conclude is that life may arise and evolve in tiny regions of a vast cosmos, but only at the expense of vast death as well, life and death in equilibrium, and life existing only in miniscule portions of a cosmos filled with deadly radiation.

Such evidence is not exactly "comforting."

The thought that with all the death in nature that one is also, on top of that, commanded (by Joshua) to kill even more, and if one should use one's free will to object to such a command, and refuse to slice through the womb of a pregnant Canaanite women trembling beneath a blanket, then you could be under a curse for disobeying "God" seems quite abominable.

William said...

Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain. But if we describe a word to compass these things, a world that is a long, brute game, then we bump against another mystery: the inrush of power and delight, the canary that sings on the skull.

--Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Ilíon said...

Mr Babinski,
God doesn't simply *know* the wickedness that you commit, God doesn't simply *permit* the wickedness that you commit; rather, in upholding your continued existence, God is being made to *participate* in the wickedness that you commit -- that is why he's going to kill you unless you repent you wickedness.

Anonymous said...

"God is being made to *participate* in the wickedness that you commit -- that is why he's going to kill you unless you repent you wickedness."

I think I hear God roaring with rage right now. Man, he is pissed!

BenYachov said...

>...... and refuse to slice through the womb of a pregnant Canaanite women trembling beneath a blanket, then you could be under a curse for disobeying "God" seems quite abominable.

Of course the fact that women if she lived would give birth to her child put it on a metal Altar of Baal or Molack heat is up till the baby catches fire and dies a gruesome painful immolation death instead of a quick death by sword is much better I take it?

Of course unless ED is PROLIFE & not pro-abortion he has no moral standing to criticize IMHO.

Claire said...

Authentic Theodicy?