Monday, February 12, 2007

Baked Noodles

Oracle: I'd ask you to sit down, but, you're not going to anyway. And don't worry about the vase.
Neo: What vase?
[Neo turns to look for a vase, and as he does, he knocks over a vase of flowers, which shatters on the floor]
Oracle: That vase.
Neo: I'm sorry...
Oracle: I said don't worry about it. I'll get one of my kids to fix it.
Neo: How did you know?
Oracle: Ohh, what's really going to bake your noodle later on is: Wwould you still have broken it if I hadn't said anything?

At times the Euthyphro Dilemma surfaces in our discussions. Is it Moral because God has decided it is Moral (thus making morality arbitrary on the whim of God) or must God do it because it is Moral (meaning God is bound by some standard)?

One of the common Christian responses is that God is bound by his internal Character of Morality. That within God is this “thing” we call “Character” and the rest of God must follow that Character.

Essentially this reduces to the simple premise that God can only do Moral acts. No matter what God wants, no matter what God tries, no matter how God acts in a situation, the result is that the only thing God can do must be moral.

Imagine if God grabbed a machine gun and randomly shot into a crowd. The only people he hit were the ones that it was moral for God to shoot. If it was not moral, then God couldn’t shoot them, regardless of desire or ability.

If God can only perform Moral acts, how did the creation of a creature (the human) come about? A creature that can commit an immoral act?

So God is busy creating. He has made the seas, the sun, the moon, the stars, fish, birds and mammals. He comes to the creature “human.” God is bound to only do moral acts. No wonder he has proclaimed everything “good”—Everything God ever has done or ever will do is good!

And in the creation of humans, God makes them with an ability—an ability to perform an immoral act. Something that even God cannot do. Whatever Gen. 1:27 may mean by God creating humans in his own image, part of that image CANNOT be the obligation to only perform moral acts.

In that state, prior to The Fall, were humans Moral, non-Moral or Immoral?

With a God that can only perform a moral act we can safely eliminate Moral and Immoral. First, humans could not be Immoral, because God would then have created immorality. Something that by defining God as performing only moral acts—God could not do.

God could not create an immoral creature.

Secondly, humans could not be Moral. See, humans have the ability, capacity and complete freewill to perform an immoral act. If “Morality” includes such an ability, then God could have it too, and still be Moral.

BUT, by limiting God with this alternative, we have defined something as “Moral” that does not have this ability. Whatever a human could be—it could not be the same “moral” as God.

Therefore, it would seem by limiting God to doing solely “Moral” acts, the process of creating a human that has the ability and freewill to perform both Moral and Immoral acts means that humans must be something other than Moral (‘cause they are not like God) or Immoral (‘cause God would have performed an immoral act.) Some in-between of non-moral.

Now comes the tricky part. Clearly humans could go immoral—God set a standard his Character defined, “Don’t eat of the tree” and by virtue of eating of the tree, humans violated God’s Character. Humans did something God could not.

But could humans ever become moral? What possible action could they do: Not eat of the tree? They were doing that already.

By providing this alternative to Euthyphro, we have God creating humans that could only exist in two states—non-moral or immoral. They was no opportunity, no tree by which they could ever improve. The situation only had one direction to go. Bad.

Of course we all know what happens—the inevitable. Adam & Eve eat. Go from non-moral to immoral; forever dooming humankind.

God then makes the curious notation: “Man has become like one of Us; to know Good an Evil.” Gen. 3:22. It would seem that when God said humans were made in the image of God, that obviously did not mean an exact replica. One of the things the humans did not have was the ability to know the difference between Good and Evil.

Curious. We have a God that knows what Morality and Immorality are, but can only commit a Moral act. Who creates a human that does not know what Morality and Immorality are, but can only commit an Immoral act!

While this alternative may resolve Euthyphro (my jury is still out on that), even if it did, it makes for a strange Christian God.

And we are still left with what God meant by humans becoming like Gods in that they know what Morality and Immorality are.

Does it mean “knowing” as in experiencing? The problem for the Christian in this, is this would mean to truly “know” evil is to experience the opportunity to decide and decide to act against God’s Character! If humans now knew evil by choosing to violate God’s character, and God says humans know evil like God knows evil…it would follow that God had chosen to violate his own Character.

Which, of course, blows this alternative to bits.

Does it mean “knowing” as acquired facts? That the humans have gained the definition of Morality and Immorality, by new information? There are three problems with this!

First, can Adam & Eve be held responsible for committing an act they did not know was wrong? Without this information, they would not have understood what the meaning of the word “Don’t” is. Does it mean for a limited time? Do? Only when ripe?

What if I told you, “See that fruit on that tree? Whatever you do, griznist that fruit!” Don’t you need the definition of “griznist” to know that to do with it? Eat it? Not eat it? Peel it? Toss it to make fire? Who knows?

Without the requisite knowledge, God may as well be speaking a completely foreign language to Adam & Eve. They could not possibly have known any different.

Second, if this was merely information, what prevented God from providing it prior to giving the instructions? What is it about God’s Character that he did not want Adam & Eve to know?

Thirdly, how did they obtain this information? It was not exactly written on the fruit. We understand a person investigating a situation, or reading a book, and learning raw knowledge. Here, all they would have learned was a new taste, at best. Somehow, the information would have to be “downloaded” into their brain.

Presumably either by God, or within God’s control. Was there something in God’s Character that mandated God had to give the knowledge of immorality after humans committed an immoral act? And was there something in God’s Character that prevented him from doing it before?

Bottom line, what I see is a philosophical, highly technical reliance upon a splitting-hair definition of “God’s Character” to avoid Euthyphro. While it may manage to barely squeeze through, in light of applying it to the analogy of Genesis, we end up with a bizarre puzzle that the pieces cannot fit.

Bakes my noodle, it does!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Paul, for the interesting link. (How this old zombie blog came to life I’ll never know. After re-reading my own thoughts, my noodles are still baked. That’s a puzzler, for certain!)

    Unfortunately, I do not see how the trinity absolves us of the Euthyphro Dilemma. While a good attempt, it leaves more questions than answers. Often I see the use of the Trinity as a double-edged sword. When the Christian wants to absolve God of a responsibility—out pops the Trinity and the blame goes to one of the other personages; when it is question as to how Christianity can stay monotheistic, the Trinity is ignored, and they are all one “God” again.

    Probably the most common demonstration of this is the mental consideration that the big meanie YHWH of the Tanakh is God the Father, whereas the loving, nice, wonderful Jehovah of the New Testament is God the Son. If they truly ARE all God, then it was Jesus who ordered the Midianite babies killed, and it was God the Father who broke bread at the Last Supper. ‘Cause both are God.

    Throughout the essay, the word “person” is conflated. Is God one person? Or is God the Father one person, Jesus another person, and the Holy Spirit a third person? If their personages are different—then this is a polytheistic portrayal of God.

    Take a step away from the morality question to demonstrate the problem here. In Luke 24:42 Jesus has a bite of fish. (Note, I don’t hold Luke to be actually historical, but I am delving into the Christian’s world for a moment, here.) Question: Did God eat fish? If Jesus was God, and Jesus ate fish, then I think we would have to answer, “Yes, God ate fish.” God the father gained the knowledge of the taste of cod.

    Now apply this to Euthyphro. What if Jesus sinned? Would we then say God has sinned? Likewise I would think the answer would have to be “Yes.” Which leaves us squarely on the horns of the Dilemma—as a long as God (whether one of three personages, or all three personages, or two of the personages) has the moral choice, we still have the Dilemma.

    What happens if Jesus eats fish? Can the other two say, “Hey, we don’t WANT fish—we want steak!” How ludicrous! Because all three are God, God must agree that God wants Fish, so God ate Fish, whether the mouth was God the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The essayist cannot jump on the Trinity when convenient, but then jump off when it is not—they must stay consistent!

    In the same way, if Jesus sins (the essay says God has the capability), because God has now sinned, God can’t say, “Hey God, you can’t sin. We want out, so we will stay holy.” Could you have 2/3 of the Trinity be holy? Of course not! That is equally ludicrous.

    Further, if we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit following the dictates of the Father, then we have relegated them to demi-god status. I am sorry the Bible talks of Jesus bending to a different will. The problem for the person holding to the Trinity was that such a notion was not firmly established at the time of the Gospel writing. Now we are left with the claim God said not to do God’s will, but the will of God. Just substitute “God” for Jesus or Father throughout the Gospels (they are both God, right?) and we see such crazy notions arise.
    Finally, as pointed out by other commentors, if the Trinitarian holds to three separate wills, this only compounds the problem, as we now have three separate Gods able to act.