I recently received an update from twitter telling me that I had a new follower. His/her name? The Deconversion Movement. I found it interesting for a number of reasons. Most interestingly, one wonders why Christians are castigated by pro-evolution-“freethinkers” for using religion as a “crutch” when this would actually be a good thing if evolution is true. After all, if false beliefs help a given species perpetuate its existence, then shouldn’t false beliefs be given a greater utilitarian value than true beliefs? In fact, shouldn’t we cease to even be concerned about “T”ruth? Nietzsche certainly seemed to think so (albeit he did so in clear contradiction to his pantheistic ramblings about “Nature” and “Life” and “The Will to Power”).
But I’m digressing from my original intention in posting this.
What follows is the original argument and my analysis of it.
The Problem of Child Murder and Infanticide in modal form:
“P1 Any being that commanded the murder of children is not perfectly good.
P2 Any being that promised to murder innocent children is not perfectly good.
P3 Any being that carries out a promise to murderer innocent children is not perfectly good.
P4 Yahweh commanded the murder of children, promised to murder children and carried out promises to murder children.
C Therefore, Yahweh is not perfectly good.
[After giving some Scripture references in support of P4, he goes on to argue:]
P6 A being that isn’t perfectly good cannot be an absolute lawgiver.
P7 Yahweh isn’t perfectly good.
C Therefore, Yahweh is not an absolute lawgiver.
This is an argument that is completely straw manned each and every time. As one can see, my argument is not the Problem of Evil or the Problem of Suffering — both of which rely on contemporary events. The OT is comprised of mythological events in my opinion; however, if anyone dares to believe in a celestial ethnic cleanser and child murderer, the burden is on them to absolve him of his crimes — so much so that it is beyond reasonable doubt. That implies that your explanation has to be good enough for an atheist to accept it. It is something that you or any Christian cannot do.”1
There are a number of very basic problems with this person’s argument, not the least of which is his/her unaccounted-for authority to make moral judgments, let alone absolute2 moral judgments. But here I will deal with the fallacies and false premises contained in this argument.
1. Children or Innocent Children?
Of course, this could be a simple error on the writer’s part. Nevertheless, the argument that he/she gives tells us about two classes of children: (a.)children (P1 & P4), and (b.)innocent children (P2 & P3). This seems to be due to sloppiness on the author’s part, but this sloppiness helps us identify what his underlying assumption is: Children are innocent. This, however, is false. According to Scripture, all persons are born in sin and held accountable to God for their thoughts, words, and deeds. Children are persons. Therefore, children are born in sin and held accountable for their thoughts, words, and deeds. Sin incurs guilt; children sin; therefore, children incur guilt. Leaving aside questions of God’s mercy toward infants, the simple response is this: All persons are guilty before God.
2. Category Error: God Cannot Command Murder
If the author’s attempt is to show that God is not perfectly good (see, P4 & C), he should not do so by attempting to identify God as a “murderer.” The term is not defined by the author, so I’ll use Webster’s definition. According to Merriam-Webster, murder is “the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.”3 If God has judged all persons as guilty of sin and worthy of death, which He has (cf. Rom 5:12), and God is the judge of all the earth, can He be charged with unlawfully taking the life of another being? The author commits a category error by attempting to accuse God of murder: Because God is the judge of all the earth, and because He clearly identifies His actions as judgments on those whom He has identified as worthy of such punishments, there is no rational justification for the author’s identification of God’s actions as “murder.”
3. Absolute Law-Giver Has Reference to Authority, not Moral Character
Having established the invalidity and unsoundness of the first part of the atheist author’s argument, I’ll go on to deal with the second part. This part of the argument also fails, as an examination of the first premise given (i.e. P6) shows. This proposition is confused and, well, false. It is confused because the category of “absolute law giver” has reference to the authority of the person identified as such; it does not have reference to the moral character of the person who possesses such authority to be the absolute law-giver. In the second place, it is false because an absolute law-giver needs only to have the authority to give an absolute law in order to hold men accountable to his commands. This is not to say that God’s commands are arbitrary, far from it! However, it is to say that regarding the logical possibility of there existing an absolute law-giver who is himself not perfectly good the atheist is simply wrong.
The atheist’s argument is fallacious and unsound. It is fallacious because (i.)it commits a category error when identifying God’s execution of justice as murder, (ii.)P6 is an example of a non-sequitur and, therefore, invalidates the entire argument as well. The argument is unsound because it posits the existence of “innocent children,” and Yahweh tells us that no person is righteous. The argument, therefore, is once again shown to be a bad one.
2As the propositions in P1, P2, & P3 admit of no exceptions, they are absolute.