The moral duties of William Lane Craig

Over at Evangelical Realism, we’re discussing William Lane Craig’s “Argument from Moral Duty” for the existence of God. As usual for such Sunday posts, it’s about 2,000 words, so probably well past the “tl;dr” limit for a lot of people. If you’d like to jump to a shorter excerpt near the end, though, Dr. Craig offers an interesting response to the Euthyphro Dilemma, and I thought some of you might enjoy the abbreviated list of problems his answer creates. Craig’s answer is that there’s a third way out of the dilemma: that God is good by nature, and therefore His will is good. Take that Socrates.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    that God is good by nature

    Doesn’t that concede the point that a measure of goodness exists independent of God?

    • Deacon Duncan says

      That’s one of the problems: either some standard of goodness exists apart from God, or the phrase “good by nature” is meaningless.

  2. Elipson says

    Indeed, and if god is by nature, and not dependant on an external definition of goodness, how did his good nature come about? It seems unlikely that he created himself as good.
    In general I am somewhat puzzled by Craig’s insistence that there be one true moral code. Each and every moral system developed to date, has some area where it chaffs. What makes Craig think that there is one moral system that can perfectly prescribe the correct moral action in each and every circumstance?

  3. sailor1031 says

    Your point that goodness is subjective probably flies right past Craig. The scary thing in his thinking is that because, to him, there is only one objective goodness his personal standard of goodness, dictated somehow by ‘god’, is the correct one – all others are wrong.
    So come the fundamentalist revolution Comrade, we’ll be back to stoning, genocide, murder of children for disobedience (oh wait that sometimes happens now doesn’t it?), not allowed to go more than 2000 ells from your house on saturdays, no shellfish, no pork (what will the pork producers say? there’ll be some lobbying there!) and all the rest of the objectively good rules laid down by ‘god’. Well, these are simple and ‘good’ laws we can all support, no?

  4. says

    Is God good by nature because he is God, or is he God because he is good by nature? How does Craig know he is following a good god? Was it the flood that convinced Craig? The Old Testament wars of genocide? The utter destruction of every living thing in town after town? Was it the human sacrifice? Listening to Craig speak, I think he worships Satan.

    As usual for any apologist, Craig answers nothing. Then again, Craig is an especially ignorant and mentally stifled apologist, and I often wonder why he is given such credit. I don’t want to be mean, but the dude ain’t that bright. I have to sympathize with Jerry Coyne when he begs for a reasonable apologist statement or a well constructed argument for any theology. At best, some interesting philosophy, such as the Euthyphro Dilemma, has been advanced and preserved by theologists, but that’s it.

  5. jacobfromlost says

    It would be easier to take things like “god is good by nature” a tiny bit seriously if they didn’t happened to correspond exactly to how children (and often adults) view authority figures, ESPECIALLY parents, and even more especially fathers.

    If you are young, weak, and ignorant (which all of us are early on), the only thing you are left with is the innate desire to “do what father/mother says”, “don’t make father/mother angry”, “do whatever father/mother tells you to do”, and, of course…

    …whatever father/mother does is good (because they are father/mother).

    Even if what father/mother seriously hurts the child, the child will blame themselves (sound familiar?) rather than blame the parent (because the parent is good by nature because they are my parent).

    The rationalizations for the problem of evil sound remarkably similar to a child arguing that their alcoholic father didn’t really mean to hit them, that if they had not spilled that glass of milk father wouldn’t have needed to smack them until their ears bled, etc. When we look at a real father who is abusive, this kind of thinking is more comforting to the child than realizing the father is just Not Good.

    Similarly, god is Not Good…but he is also Not Evil, because he doesn’t exist. He’s a father figure made up to hijack that warm, fuzzy feeling of being looked after to all of existence…but when existence happens to kick your ass now and then, we just apply the logic of an abused child to the made up father figure and call it good, in more ways than one, because it feels better than being an orphan where no parent cares if you live or if you die.

  6. says

    I love this concept that we humans are apparently incapable of doing anything by ourselves.

    Who or what imposes these moral duties upon us? Where do they come from?

    Us! We generate them. Why do they need to come from anywhere else? If morals must have a source, why can’t that source be us?

    • jacobfromlost says

      “Us! We generate them. Why do they need to come from anywhere else? If morals must have a source, why can’t that source be us?”

      Very true. I don’t know what is so hard about understanding that if you do things that harm the group, then A) your support network for your own health and survival is weakened (if they don’t find out), or B) the group angrily punishes you (if they do find out).

      And if the group as a whole is mistaken about what it thinks is helpful or harmful to itself, then the GROUP suffers the consequences of those mistaken beliefs when it acts on those mistaken beliefs in reality. If everyone thinks it is just swell to kill people for being witches, but has no idea how to tell who is a witch and who is not, so just starts killing lots of people out of fear of witches…slowly the population dwindles, there is much grief and irrationality and dysfunction, and the whole society either kills itself off or stops “killing witches”. If the society kills itself off, it’s not around to tell us to kill witches anymore. And if it stops “killing witches”, then there is no problem…

      …and we can then see exactly where morality “comes from”.

      But more importantly, we can also see where it’s going. We can make new decisions in light of new information to make life better for individuals and the group–something old, rigid moralities can’t do because they are too simplistic, and didn’t foresee the realities of the future.

      • Reginald Selkirk says

        This is one of a large category of absolutist black or white arguments made by theists. They think that morality/purpose/life/etc must be absolute/infinite/perfect in order to count. My response to that is: I have $5 in my pocket. It is not enough to feed me for infinity. It is not even enough to feed me for a standard human lifetime. But it is enough to buy me lunch today, and that is better than nothing.

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