Mercy vs. Justice

We often see, in claims about the Christian God that He is “Just” as if this word imparts some significance in the particular action being discussed and that God is bound (whether He likes it or not) to the action. Or that He is “Merciful” as if that term has a deep meaning, in which we should be especially appreciative as to His action, or non-action, in this regard.

But without any ability to confirm whether God is acting inside the parameter of a law, or outside a parameter, these two terms eventually lose real sustenance when applied to God.

Why is it influential, or even credible, to assign these terms, when further reflection reveals the person making the claim has no ability to substantiate it?

We should first define our terms, so as to consider what is being said.

“Justice” is not that complicated of a word. It means conforming to or consonant with what is legal or lawful; legally right; lawful. It is equally easy to apply—read the law, review the situation, and determine a yes/no answer—does it conform to the law?

A city may enact an ordinance that states all business signs must be 1.5 meters by 1 meter or smaller, and any person that sets up a sign larger than that is guilty of a misdemeanor. In this simple example, justice is easy to determine. The owner that erects a 1.5 x 1 Meter sign is not guilty. The owner that erects a 1.51 x 1 Meter sign is. Even if it is only 1 millimeter more, the sign is no longer in conformance with the law, the owner has violated the ordinance.

Justice is harsh. It does not forgive mistakes or ignorance or consider “extenuating circumstances.” It is always a yes/no proposition.

If Peoria requires $5 for a dog license, and East Peoria, one block over, requires $50 for a dog license, “justice” does not address the issue of disparity. Justice requires that your neighbor, across the street, pay 10 times more for owning a dog. While enacting the laws, we hope the legislatures consider all circumstances, but once enacted, Justice has nothing to do with being fair. It doesn’t care. All it states is, “Here is my law. Conform or pay the consequences.”

If there is no law, there is no need to discuss justice. If our city had never enacted an ordinance regarding signs, the owner could install a 1.51 x 1 Meter sign, or a 12 x 12 Meter sign. There is no such thing as a sign “in conformance” or “not in conformance” with the law as there is no law. We would not even use the word “Justice” in that situation because it has no meaning.

To call God “just” in our vernacular means that He is in conformance with a law. One could certainly argue about what that “law” is, and whether this is a hyper-technical modern application of the Bible, and whether its definition is the intention of the authors of the Bible. But to even give the word value, it must mean God is in conformance with something.

I have seen arguments that God is not in conformance with a “law” but rather with His “covenant.” That is perfectly fine, we can review the covenant provided, and confirm whether he conforms with it or not. He does, it is “just,” He does not, he is not. Or one could argue that God is in conformance with his Nature. Again, a simple application of the principle. Determine what His “nature” requires, and determine whether he is conformance with it.

The problem starts to appear. How do we confirm what God’s covenant is? Or His nature? Or His law? The only way provided is that God is telling us what it is. But what if His covenant allows lying? Or His nature? And what is so “just” about conforming to one’s Nature? Even toadstools and turtles do that! Do we call them “just”? Not hardly

A very basic rule of cross-examination, is to never ask a question that two opposites produce the same answer. You do not learn anything. Either God can lie, or He cannot. If he cannot lie, then asked, “Are you lying?” He is bound to say, “No.” If he can lie, he is no longer bound, and will say, “No.”

Me: God—are you lying?
Truthful God: No.
Lying God: No.

Two very different Gods, the same question produces the same answer. We do not learn anything, because we have no outside vectors by which to determine if God is lying or not. Since we were created with the ability to lie, it is at least conceivable that the creator can lie. God calling Himself by the term “just” does not provide even a clue as to how to confirm it. A human, providing a defense of God as being “just” is even less persuasive.

“Just” means that God is conforming to a rule, a law, a covenant, something by which we can say, “This action is in conformance, and that action is not.” It necessarily implies that God could do something different that would be unjust.

“Mercy” is the opposite of Justice. It is the reviewing the action, and deliberately not applying the law. Deliberately not being just. Deliberately not conforming to the requirements of the law.

The judge understands the law, understands the consequences, and even recognizes the appropriate remedy the law required. The judge, by conscious will, refuses to abide by the law, and disregards it. The person accused also recognizes the necessary consequences, and, hoping the judge will not impose the remedy, “throws themselves on the mercy of the court.”

It should be noted that many laws provide exceptions. For example, a governor, with the legal ability to pardon a crime, is not acting mercifully by pardoning a criminal. The law provides the governor with that legal right. The prisoner may feel that it was an act of mercy, and we may even view it as such, since the prisoner did not have the legal right to a pardon, but the act on the part of the governor was still within the confines of the law. It was “just.”

For God to act mercifully would mean He is aware of the law. He must recognize a certain action (or non-action) is in accordance with that law, and make the conscience effort to not do so. If God is always in accordance with the law, or is always “just,” then he would never violate the requirements of that law, and would never perform a merciful act.

When people say, “God is always just” taken to the literal extreme, it would mean that God is never merciful. When stated that “God is always merciful” taken to the literal extreme, it would mean that God is never just. Clearly both positions are wrong. The Bible implies that there are occasions on which God is just and occasions in which God is not, by being merciful.

(Note: this is a problem with the theory that God’s justice means in conformance with a covenant or His nature. That would necessarily mean when God is being merciful, he can act contrary to his covenant or his nature. Therefore God would no longer be bound by the confines of His nature or the terms of the covenant. He could do what he wanted, when he wanted, with no limitation.)

But how can we tell which is which? Without any way in which we can determine what that thing (whether law, nature or otherwise) is, which God is either abiding by or failing to abide by, we are left completely guessing as to what is just and what is merciful.

Let’s look at two examples, to ferret out the problem:

King David’s Baby

A little history. God covenants with Abraham, to give him the land of the Hittites (among others.) Gen. 15:20. God remembers this covenant, and covenants again with Moses to bring the Hebrew nation out of Egypt to the land of the Hittites. Ex. 3:17. The problem is—what to do with the Hittites living there. Do they move them out? Not at all.

God is explicit in His command—the Hittites are to be driven from the land. Ex. 33:2. Ex. 34:11. Those that stay are to be killed. In case it is not clear, God’s command is “you shall let nothing [Hittite] that breathes remain alive.” Deut. 20:16-17.

Seems obvious enough—to follow God’s command is to kill all the Hittites. That would be Justice. For God to follow his own covenant, and his own promise, He, too, must kill all the Hittites. Granted, God could let some live, but then that would not be just, it would be mercy.

In the meantime, God orders King Saul to kill the Amalekites. 1 Sam. 15:3-26. Saul fails to do so. Because of King Saul’s failure to obey God in this genocide, God’s justice (apparently) demands that the kingdom is taken away from Saul. His children will never be king. We can only hope that the next king, David, will do better obeying God’s commands!

But what have we here? We know there is a standing order from God to kill the Hittites. None should be left breathing. Yet our King David, has a Hittite among his 30 most mighty warriors! A fellow by the name of “Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Chron. 11:41 Assumably, then (in light of Saul) God is being merciful to King David by allowing him to be King, because David is not following God’s commands.

Of course, we know what happens next. David has Uriah the Hittite killed. 2 Sam. 12:9. Arguably, God would be pleased that King David finally obeyed God’s command—right? Well, it turns out no. Apparently following Mosaic Law and killing a Hittite is against God’s commands! 1 Kings. 15:5.

So when God ordered Saul to kill the Amalekites, God’s justice demands that the Amalekites be killed. But when God orders David to kill the Hittites, God’s justice demands that the Hittites NOT be killed. Confused? It turns out God was not being merciful with David by not killing him for not killing the Hittites, but being just!

So now God is going to do Justice, by punishing David for killing a Hittite. Justice demands death. Numbers 35:30. We expect, then, that God will impose the death penalty. But no. Mercy rears its head. Instead of killing David, God determines that, for punishment, his wives shall be kidnapped and raped. 2 Sam. 12:11. (I’ll leave it to the reader as to whether this is “just” or “merciful” to the wives. It completely baffles me.)

At this point in our story, we would have thought that mercy is allowing David to retain his kingship for letting a Hittite live. Turns out to be Justice. We would think it is justice for David to not be punished, following God’s command, but it is mercy.

David confesses that he messed up. Now, God (through his prophet) has immediately preceding this point, laid out what the punishment will be (the kidnapping and raping). But since David admitted his failure--Now what does God do? Provides even more mercy. He takes away David’s sin. It is an absolution, an expungment , a justification. There will be no punishment because it is as if there was no sin. Mercy. 2 Sam. 12:13

(Another side note. One could argue that there is the additional sin of adultery. Another command punishable by death. Lev. 20:10. Odd that Bathsheba gets completely ignored, although she is equally guilty in this regard. Perhaps one could argue, she obtained mercy, too, by only being kidnapped and raped, rather than murdered. But would the rapist be guilty of adultery, and thus receive God’s justice of being killed, or since God ordered it as punishment, would the rapist be unjust if he refused to rape David’s wives? And then God would kill him for not raping them? It becomes difficult to keep up with who God wants killed and who God wants raped and when it is just, and when it is not.

No matter, at this point the sin has been taken away, regardless of whether it was murder or adultery.)

And our story should end. There is no sin; God has taken it away, right? Nope. Now is when it turns ugly!

God says, a little unclearly, that this sin (which is no longer considered in existence) has given occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme, there must be further punishment. This is unclear, as God had just said this was done in secret (2 Sam. 12:12) so how the enemies of God would even know of it is not certain. Secondly, God seems to invoke mercy by taking away the sin, and then immediately invoking justice, by imposing it back on.

Since David committed this atrocity, we listen in on what his punishment will be. “The child born to you shall die.” (2 Sam. 12:14) For David’s punishment, God will kill a baby.

Is this an act of justice or mercy? From the standpoint of David, it is an act of mercy, as the law requires His death. From the standpoint of the child, it is certainly not an act of mercy! That would mean, (mercy being in conflict with the law) there is a law that says God has to let children live, and God is violating that law every time he kills a child. From God’s standpoint, is it justice to kill a baby for its father’s sin? Is there some law that allows a non-voluntary substitution of a human for another’s sin?

One can’t help but correlate it to the Son of God’s death, but if that death paid for all sins, past, present and future, it must have missed this one of David’s. Because God said a baby has to die, in addition to Jesus!

Is it mercy on God’s part? Was there some law preventing God from killing this child, that God forsook, and imposed a death sentence?

The Christian is left in a quandary. For God to be just, means killing children for their father’s sin is acceptable practice. What else is acceptable? Is throwing a child in Hell, in the stead of its father also allowed by God’s law? How can one verify this? If this act was merciful, then there is a law that prohibits God from killing babies that he deliberately violated. Again, if God can violate this law, can He violate a law that says believers get entrance in heaven? Who knows!

Realizing God has now imposed a death penalty on a baby, (for something it did not do) we can only hope that the death is quick and painless…….right? Ulp. Not to be.

God gives the child an illness. 2 Sam. 12:15. No crib death. No instantaneous, painless ending of his life. No immediate entrance into heaven. All of these options were available to God. He imposes none of them. God decides to let the child be sick for seven days! The verses do not say whether the child was in pain, whether it was in a coma, or what happened to the baby in those seven days. Did he eat during those seven days? What was the illness? Did it cause vomiting, misery, pain? An illness which causes mortality and takes seven days is not pain-free. It is very likely that this baby suffered pain during this time period.

What possible law would God follow, in the role of justice, to allow this baby to suffer for any time at all, let alone a period as long as seven days! God had imposed a death sentence. God was going to carry it out. This is causing pain and anguish for no reason.

It is a troubling situation, when contemplating God’s justice and mercy. What law could God be limited in, by killing a baby for a sin that was absolved? Why, if the law required it, would God have the baby be ill for seven days? How many other laws allow God to kill a baby to provide mercy for the guilty party?

A question for the Christians that believe in an eternal Lake of Fire. If there is a law out there, in which God is throwing a baby into the lake, for every believer that enters Heaven, would you still be able to enjoy Heaven? Would you still accept God’s sovereignty that He knew what he was doing, and He has the right to deal with his creation as he wills?

If you hesitate on this question, why do you accept God killing a baby, in the stead of his father?

Next Story….

Joab and Abner

Joab was King David’s commander-in-chief. His right-hand man. He obtained this position by being the first to attack the Jebusites (another clan that David was to wipe out) and providing David with the city of Bethlehem. 1 Chron. 11:6) Without Joab that whole prophecy of Jesus being born in Bethlehem could have been blown!

Abner was Joab’s counterpart in Saul’s army. The enemy. When Saul’s son, Ishbosheth became king, Abner was his commander-in-chief. After meeting in battle, Abner’s army was defeated by Joab’s army. But Abner killed Joab’s brother, Asahel. 2 Sam. 2:12-23.

Abner then decides to align with David. 2 Sam. 3:21 David accepts, because it would only strengthen his position, as well as reduce the fighting. Joab is upset that David agrees to take in the person who killed his brother. So Joab kills Abner. 2 Sam. 3:27. Interesting question of whether it was murder or not, but for our sake, we shall assume it was.

Being murder, the punishment is death. But David needs Joab. This is the leader of his army, one of the 30 mighty men. It is Joab that tends to keep David on an even keel, through his emotional outbursts. Joab to be trusted to kill Uriah. Joab to take the census. Joab to kill Absalom. Time and again, we see that David relies upon Joab to do David’s dirty work.

So David cannot impose the death penalty. What does he request instead? “Let there never fail to be in the house of Joab one who has a discharge or is a leper, who leans on a staff or falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.” 2 Sam. 3:29. David learned this trick from God.

What an interesting justice system we have. Imagine being Joab’s cousin. All of a sudden, you have leprosy. Why? Because of something Joab did. Your child is born. Has a crippled foot. Why? Because of something Joab did. The obvious person to punish is Joab. But just like God needed David, so He couldn’t kill him, David needed Joab, so he didn’t kill him.

Look, if God wants to impose mercy, and not apply the required punishment on the actor, that is God’s business. Why would God add this extra step of mandating punishment on people that did not commit the crime? What law is God following that requires this? Or is God acting outside the law, and punishing others is merciful?

Defense attorney: Your Honor, my client pleads guilty.
The Court: According to the law, I must sentence your client to one year in jail.
Defense attorney: My client throws himself on the mercy of the court.
The Court: Very well. I expunge the crime. He is free to go.

Defense attorney: Thank you, your Honor!
The Court: Is that the defendant’s son over there?
Defense attorney: Er…..yes. Why?
The Court: Officer, take this child out and beat him with a stick until he bleeds.

The ironic part? The sentence of Joab was not commuted, it was only delayed. On his deathbed, when he no longer had need of Joab, King David informed his son, Solomon, to execute the death sentence. 1 Kings 2:6. All these years, there was sickness, and death, and calamity in Joab’s household, and for naught. Joab was to die as punishment anyway. 1 Kings 2:32-34. Luckily Solomon makes sure to get the last jab in, by saying the blood of Abner will be on Joab’s descendants forever. So it is possible the punishment of David continued after Joab’s death.

What we see from these two stories, is a complete inability to confirm or determine what law God is or is not following at any given time. To claim God is “just” or “merciful” is pretty words with no backing, no meat to the bones themselves.

Why say it? Because it provides an escape clause, a word with apparent validity to excuse the actions of their God. Torturing people forever? “God’s justice demands it.” God killing himself to fulfill his own justice? “God was merciful.”

Every time I hear “God is just” or “God is merciful” I think of David’s baby and Joab’s cousin, and realize that the person making this statement hasn’t a clue as to what God is or is not, and is actually saying, “I don’t understand it either, but I sure hope I get the mercy end, if it gets me out of hell, or the justice end if it guarantees me a heaven.”

12 comments:

JustinOther said...

What a well thought out piece. I have to admit, my head is spinning, but that happens every time I look at the bible. There are so many inconsistencies.

Prodigy-Maestro said...

Salutations. . .

I'm really likin' this site, and though I'm a Christian, I like to think that I'm not a hateful and vengeful lunatic like the majority. . . but onto my question. . .

What do you mean when you say, "Why is it influential, or even credible, to assign these terms, when further reflection reveals the person making the claim has no ability to substantiate it?" I wanted to comment but I got a lil' confused at that part. . .

DagoodS said...

For those interested, a response was posted on triablogue.

I would strongly encourage anyone to read it. After doing so, I confess I was left with a number of questions. Not the least of which was “What law is God following?” Although a number of assertions were made, and some very complimentary adjectives were put forth, the only morsel I could derive was God follows His nature.

Evan May concedes that “mercy” in the normative sense is unjust. But immediately follows that with the statement that God’s mercy is not unjust. There is no explanation for this incongruity. It was interesting, though, to read that God acts in mercy toward the elect. Which (following the determination as to what law God follows) means God is acting against His own nature to the elect. There is no explanation as to how God can act against his own Nature, nor the full implications of that. Again, I would encourage anyone reading it to ascertain Evan May’s definition of mercy, if it is NOT “acting unjustly.” That, too, was unclear.

Yes, in this blog I assume the existence of a God. I find most arguments against Christianity become boring if all I say is, “There is no God.” Christianity proposes it has a cohesive worldview; I like to inspect it. To get this discussion off the ground, there is no sense but to allow the Christian their God. Then we see if it fits. It doesn’t.

The writer puts forth a contention that God is Just. I was looking for some type of backing, some proofs beyond definitions, and didn’t find much. For example:

They, should, then, assume that God is a Just God.

Why? What is the reasoning behind this claim that I have to assume this?

If God exists then he is Just

That’s it. Blind assertion. Oh, there is a list of “If…then’s…” after that, all of which are unproven or have nothing to do with justice. It caps off with:

…then He possesses all qualities intrinsically and eternally in infinite measure. (emphasis in the original)

The writer fails to define which qualities (would it include the quality of injustice, for example?) and even later on contradicts this statement by indicating God has mercy, but not all the time. Apparently he doesn’t have ALL qualities eternally in infinite measure. There would appear to be a limit to His mercy!

I chuckled when I read, “..the fact that we are discussing a concept called ‘justice’ tells us that we have a just God…” Makes me regret not writing about injustice. Then we could say the fact we are discussing injustice tells us that we have an unjust God. (If anyone thinks I am taking these quotes out of context, because I do not provide the entire sentence, please go and read it yourself.)

Evan May did not like my definition of Justice. I laughed out loud. Right out of Black’s Law Dictionary, it was! Fine enough, it was indicated the “correct” definition is “Giving every man his due.”

I wished the writer would have applied this definition to the two stories I listed. In fact, both were completely ignored. Why would a Christian, arguing over the justice of God, shy away from these “wonderful” examples of what God did in the name of justice and mercy? If there is any hope left that even Christians do not really hold to the idea that the God of the Tanakh was just is that they constantly avoid these stories. Even they see the horrid nature of the God therein.

I would have been intrigued to hear how David’s baby was “getting his due” by being slowly killed for seven days because of a sin that God had absolved from his father. Or how the wives would be “getting their due” by being raped. Or how David was “getting his due” by God not imposing the mandatory judgment. Or how Joab’s cousin was “getting his due” by being sick for Joab’s act of murder.

I didn’t bring up those examples for laughs and giggles. I wanted to see how a Christian would apply their particular concept of justice (if different than what I stated) or mercy to the situation. I was disappointed it was not defended at all.

The reason I stated the word “just” loses its value is amply demonstrated in this response. Although it is talked about and alluded to and placed in numerous assertions, it never quite gets defined in a way that we can actually use. Oh, we learn that God can do what God wants to do, I never argued against that. The question is, though, “is it just?” Part of the reason I use examples, is so that the reader can envision, and see exactly what I am talking about. It would have been helpful to see a few of those. Particularly, if God was to perform an unjust action, what it would look like.

See, by saying “God is just” the only way that has its meaning, is for us to view the possibility that God could, somehow, be unjust, and what that would look like. “God is just because he did NOT do Action A, which would have been unjust.” With the definition of God is just because he is who he is, provides us with no new information, nor any delineation.

What I saw was a bunch of circling statements, with no sustenance. The same thing stated in my initial blog. If one says enough about God, in enough assertions, something must strike true. I never quite got an ebb or flow as to where the writer was heading.

This is an excellent example. The writer states: Because Scripture has told us that God does not lie, and if Scripture is true, then the proposition is true.

Notice the word substitution, in an attempt to make this profound. As the only validity of authority of Scripture is that it came from God, by simple word substitution, we have:

“Because God told us that God does not lie, and if God is not lying, then God does not lie.”

That is exactly what I said. Doesn’t really help us much.

I enjoyed the critique, but bottom line, I wished Evan May would have provided a succinct definition of Justice and Mercy, demonstrated what types of actions would be unjust, using these definitions, and then applying them to the two events of the Bible. As it was, I was left feeling like I was told a lot, but not really informed of anything.

CalvinDude said...

dagoods,

The problem with your position stems from the fact that you are not being consistent in your use of the term "Justice." You defined it as:

---
“Justice” is not that complicated of a word. It means conforming to or consonant with what is legal or lawful; legally right; lawful. It is equally easy to apply—read the law, review the situation, and determine a yes/no answer—does it conform to the law?
---

The question that you, being the legal expert that you are, should have kept from begging is simple: What law is in view?

Let us take a simple example. If France passes a law saying that littering in a public park is punishable by a 10 franc fine, and I throw my garbage out in a park in San Francisco, am I obliged to pay the 10 franc fine? Obviously not, because that law only applies to those who are under the law (in this case, Frenchmen).

Thus, when you ask questions about what God does in determining the morality of the situation, you cannot take a law that is given to people and then extrapolate back that non-people are bound by the same law. The Law God gave to man was for man, not for God.

This alone demonstrates that even if God "violates" His commandments given to people, it in no way means He has violated any law that He Himself would be under. In point of fact, the only way you could say that God is unjust is if you could demonstrate what Law it is that God is under.

I merely ask you, then: What Law is above God?

If you cannot answer that question, then you have no basis for saying anything God does is unjust.

DagoodS said...

CalvinDude, you ask a very good question in “What Law is above God?” It is one I would ask of any Christian, and, by implication, asked in this blog.

See, I am not the one making the claim that something is special by calling God “just” as in following a law. It is the Christian. That was the point of my third paragraph, if they want to use the term “just” and have any meaning; they have some explaining to do. One item being your question—what law is God conforming to (above, self-imposed or below.)?

Take a side trip with me for a moment. A theist will often make the claim “God is Love.” There is a reason for it. It is to have meaning. As in God is NOT hate. Often it is attached to a certain act. The Crucifixion comes to mind. You don’t often see Christians arguing vehemently about how loving it was for God to create some galaxy on the other side of the universe, that we never see. The idea of “God is love” is to delineate out a positive attribute of God in a certain action.

It is the same with “God is Just.” In order for it to have meaning, the Christian is pointing out a positive action of God (following justice) in light of a certain action.

If there is no law by which God is bound, then saying “God is Just” is really saying “ God is God” which does not advance our knowledge of Him, nor a definition, nor even an attribute. Further, it removes the concept of “mercy” because if Justice is God simply being God, then mercy, the opposite of Justice, would be God NOT being God.

CalvinDude, if you, as a Christian, have no interest in stating that God is Just, or that God is merciful, then this blog would not have any impact on you, I would agree. If, however, you have those concepts in the attributes of God, it is up to you to explain the law He is following.

You are correct, in that God violating a law that he puts in place for humans does not necessarily mean God’s action was unjust. However, this opens an extremely dangerous door in terms of any claim of any absolute morality vested in God. If we have an obligation to follow God’s commands, and following God’s commands invokes punishment for being immoral, then we are doomed in any attempt of determining what is moral or not. If not following God’s commands invokes non-punishment (sorry for the double negative) then we are left in a moral position of following/not following God’s commands and receiving/not receiving punishment at his whim.

Here’s another. If a person confesses with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believes in their hear that God raised them from the dead, they will be saved. (Rom.10:9) Is that a law God is bound by? If God can be God, and is under NO law, then he is not bound by this precept, and a person could perform these actions and not be saved. Or, can God exercise mercy, and not be bound by this precept?

More interestingly, from what I have read of the contributors on this blog (and I don’t mean to speak for everyone) but most of us DID confess with our mouth and DID believe in our heart. (poetically, of course.) Is God bound to save us? Or can God revoke this law? Or is it mercy?

You are quite correct that if I cannot determine the law God is under (and I can’t) then I am in no position to call God unjust. This cuts both ways. If YOU cannot determine what law God is under, then YOU cannot call God just or merciful. (Kinda the point of my blog.)

If Christians would take the words “God is just” and “God is merciful” out of their vocabulary, I would not claim God is unjust. But, as long as they make these claims, I will continue to ask these questions.

CalvinDude said...

dagoods,

Firstly, I have to say that the length of this conversation already far exceeds my desire in having it. Furthermore, your basic argument boils down to one of pure skepticism, which is just as easy for me to "play" as for you.

If I say that God says He is just, and God would know what Law He would be under so He would know if He was just, then you've already shown your response will be: "God could be lying." But of course, that "argument" is easily defused: "Unless God is under a law that says He cannot lie, then how would it be unjust of Him to lie?" Your "argument" assumes that lying is a universal, transcendent moral standard that even God would have to be under--yet you do not demonstrate how this is the case.

Of course, you could try to implicate God by His own words. You might even say, "God said it is impossible for God to lie"--but there's that pesky matter that if God can lie then God could certainly say it's not possible for Him to lie and still not be unjust for He is still not breaking the law above Him.

If the Law God is under allows Him to lie, then He is not unjust in claiming to be just for He has not broken the Law no matter how you look at it. If, however, you want to say lying is a universal, transcendent reality that even God has to obey, then you have to prove this standard.

Finally, there is no reason for you to assume that God lies just because people do. Is God a man? No. Why treat Him as if He were one?

DagoodS said...

O.K. CalvinDude, if you don’t want to have this conversation—then don’t!

I never made any claim that God can or cannot lie. I have consistently maintained the position that it is impossible to verify! Again, if the theist readily agrees with me that they, too, cannot tell whether God is lying or not, I have no qualms with this.

Your argument went a bit back and forth. My original statement is that we cannot say whether God is just or not, due to lack of the verification problem. You now question, if there is a law that says God can lie, how I could say “God is unjust by lying.” But I never said that. Can you demonstrate such a law? Can you answer the very question you pose?

If there is a law that says God can do whatever He wants, when he wants, and How he wants, then it is true, God can never be unjust. He will always follow such a law. Of Course, it ALSO means he could never be merciful,either.

John W. Loftus said...

Calvindude keeps asking the same questions over and over, as if he doesn't have anything else to say.

He was effectively dealt with here and he finally quit after I linked to some further arguments.

No wonder Van Tillian Presuppositionalists aren't given the time of day in academic circles. Their whole argument is one and the same monotone note.

Jason said...

This is a very interesting article. However, I would note that your assessment of the concept of justice as easy to define is contrary to the voluminous literature on the subject. Also, the notion that justice is not fair is also contentious.

CalvinDude said...

dagoods,

If something is impossible to verify, should you reject it as being true?

DagoodS said...

Nihlo, it is true there are volumes on the concept of Justice. I tend to be more pragmatic than philosophic in my arguments and definitions.

Of course, if any Christian disagrees with my definition of “justice” they are free to provide their own. And apply it to King David’s Baby. And become tied in knots trying to explain which actions (under their definition) are just and which are not.


CalvinDude – interest rekindled, eh? Now how can I seriously commit to your questions when you can’t commit to mine? What law do you propose God is following?

But, in event a lurker is interested, may I emphasize again, it is the Christian that is making this statement as if it has validity? If you are agreeing with me that it is impossible to verify, doesn’t that take all the teeth out of any claim of God being just or merciful at any time?

Anonymous said...

Xian idiots here are laughable. There is no objective morality regardless of "god"'s existence. If there is a "god", then his opinion on morality is just that - an opinion. If "god" declared lutefisk to be objectively tasty, it would not become objectively tasty. Same with "objective" morality.