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Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in God.

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:39 am UTC
by LegoLogos
Popular Christian apologist William Lane Craig answers a question on this site "Reasonable Faith". The question is titled True Love

The question was about various aspects of God's loving nature, but the quote below is an extract from William Lane Craig's answer where he explains humanity's moral duty to love God. In particular I was interested to read the following.

(emphasis mine)
I think popular Christian piety very often overlooks the fact that we are morally obligated to believe in God. We often tell unbelievers that God loves them and offers them a relationship which they may freely accept or reject. That’s true as far as it goes, but it does not go nearly far enough. What is missing here is the fact that because of Who God is, we have a moral duty to believe in, love, and worship God with all our mind, heart, and strength, and when we fail to do so, we are morally guilty before Him and so fall under the righteous sentence of His justice. If God simply winked at sin, then He would not be perfectly just and so not perfectly good.

By ignoring the fact of our moral obligations toward God, popular Christian piety invites the response, “What kind of love is this? ‘Believe in me, or I’ll send you to hell!’” That retort is entirely appropriate for a being whom we have no moral obligation to love and obey. But when we understand the fullness of the nature of God, then we see that while we have the ability to reject God’s love and so separate ourselves from Him forever, that does not imply that there are no consequences of such a choice. Because such a choice is profoundly evil, a perfectly just God must punish it. Just as we might say that while I have the freedom to speed down the highway at 100 miles per hour but do not have the liberty to do this because it is against the law, so I have the freedom but not the liberty to disbelieve in God.

To summarise, it may be said that it is immoral not to be a Christian.

Is this really what Christians believe, or is this one of those fundamentalist/extremist Christian attitudes which moderate Christians are not a part of? As a non-Christian I find the idea that Christians believing I'm "profoundly evil" is somewhat unnerving :?

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:47 am UTC
by mmmcannibalism
I don't believe the actual meaning stated here is any different from mainstream christianity's views; he's just saying it in a rather uneloquent way.

that being said, based off of what he said god is either able to be unjust or not all powerful. If god is all powerful, then there is nothing he must do...If god is completely just then he must do something.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:50 am UTC
by Kyrn
I don't think it's unique to Christianity either. And when you think about it, actually logical, given the assumptions that God exists, God is omnipotent, and God is in control. Especially if assuming the whole "Jesus died for us" happened.

Of cause, whether those assumptions are true is a different matter entirely.

mmmcannibalism wrote:that being said, based off of what he said god is either able to be unjust or not all powerful. If god is all powerful, then there is nothing he must do...If god is completely just then he must do something.


Of course, justice and power are but how we try to interpret God. Given that we are lesser beings, how can we truly comprehend?

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:58 am UTC
by CorruptUser
A person from religion x stating that only people of religion x are moral. Nothing new to see here, move along...

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:18 am UTC
by LaserGuy
What's interesting that I see with this claim is that it's just that: a claim. He doesn't really offer any evidence that this moral obligation to God exists, which is unfortunate, to my mind, since I can see that being a rather interesting argument to construct. Even if there is a perfect source of love, goodness, and morality, I'm not sure how that necessarily implies that we would be obligated to give it our praises or adoration.

The problem I always have with these discussions is that if you define God to be perfectly moral, perfectly just, and perfectly good, then when God goes and does something in the Bible, or something in the world, that is neither moral, nor just, nor good, then we're forced to either redefine what morality, justice, or goodness are to suit the whims of God, or we must invoke some higher standard of morality, justice, or goodness by which to judge God's actions--which invariably leads to a contradiction.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:31 am UTC
by Coffee Stain
The claim isn't terribly new (or terribly "news") at all. If the God of the type that mainstream Christianity proposes exists, then we are likely morally obligated to believe in Him. Christian philosophy suggests and has suggested for quite some time that correctly functioning cognitive processes produce God-belief, and that lack of God-belief implies a flaw in said processes, all without suggesting that the flaw would be individually perceptible in any obvious way to the conscious mind.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:34 am UTC
by Calorus
Man who believes in faeries tells us we should all believe in faeries.

Next.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:36 am UTC
by CorruptUser
If you are reading this, congratulations, you are among the 2% of humans who are living during a time when famines and wars are so unusual that they make the news. (Don't believe me? Please show me another 60 continuous years of relative peace in Western Europe.) We currently have 10 times the variety of food we did even 200 years ago (check out your grocery store some time), have sources of entertainment even kings didn't have, advanced medicines, yet we still have this 'misery'. Why? Because everything is relative; you might have a fortune relative to someone in Myanmar/Burma, but if you are surrounded by billionaires you would think you were poverty-stricken. It is suffering that keeps life in perspective. You know how sometimes you don't appreciate something until it's no longer there? Try living without toilet-paper for a few weeks. Or go without a refrigerator (root cellars are allowed).

We are far closer to our 'utopia' than any ancient society was, yet we seem to still find ways to be miserable.

Therefore a fair, kind, just, etc, deity would not place man in man's version of utopia, as we would still be miserable in it. The best situation for us would be a world where we improve our lot in life. I'm of the belief that people who work their way to the upper class are happier than the people born into it...

What is scarier than the idea of the world a place with no justice, is that the world is full of justice. How much of your suffering is of your own making, directly or indirectly? Chances are most of it.

I'm not saying that you should believe in any ancient code of rules set out by an ancient Warlord/Con-Artist/Raving-Lunatic, just that understand that what you think is 'good' and what is 'good' are not always the same.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:38 am UTC
by Princess Marzipan
But when we understand the fullness of the nature of God, then we see that while we have the ability to reject God’s love and so separate ourselves from Him forever, that does not imply that there are no consequences of such a choice. Because such a choice is profoundly evil, a perfectly just God must punish it.

Good old circular logic.

He's trying to defeat the "Believe in me or go to Hell!" distillation of the Christian God. He does so by stating that what God ACTUALLY does is punish you for being evil. He then conflates disbelieving in God with being evil, with no support for the claim whatsoever. Unless you count "when we understand the fullness of the nature of God", which I don't because that translates to "Once you already agree with my position,"

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:50 am UTC
by Texas_Ben
ITT: Basic theology. Why is this news?

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:24 am UTC
by phlip
Princess Marzipan wrote:Good old circular logic.

I don't think it's circular... it's not "A because B, B because A" but "A because B, B because I say so". Which isn't really any better, but still. He's not trying to use "if you don't believe, you'll be sent to hell" as evidence towards "if you don't believe, you're morally wrong"... he's just not even trying to support the latter, but instead taking it as a given, and talking about some of the (trivial) effects of that being true.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:04 am UTC
by fyrenwater
<sarcasm>Yes, because his set of morals is the ONLY right one and we should ALL follow it.</sarcasm>

I don't think I'll ever understand why some people think that what's right for them is right for everyone.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:12 am UTC
by Kyrn
fyrenwater wrote:<sarcasm>Yes, because his set of morals is the ONLY right one and we should ALL follow it.</sarcasm>

I don't think I'll ever understand why some people think that what's right for them is right for everyone.

Because they think they're seeing the bigger picture.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:20 am UTC
by SlyReaper
Because he's a git. He may not realise he's a git, in fact I'm pretty sure he believes with 100% certainty that he is not a git and is in fact doing everyone a favour. But he's a git.

The more people who believe the same things he does, the more validated he feels. If he thinks his words can scare an atheist into joining his religion club, he'll feel all warm and fuzzy inside for having saved someone's immortal soul.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:32 am UTC
by Kyrn
SlyReaper wrote:Because he's a git. He may not realise he's a git, in fact I'm pretty sure he believes with 100% certainty that he is not a git and is in fact doing everyone a favour. But he's a git.

The more people who believe the same things he does, the more validated he feels. If he thinks his words can scare an atheist into joining his religion club, he'll feel all warm and fuzzy inside for having saved someone's immortal soul.

Sure, resort to name-calling. If you can justify the name-calling, just let the justification stand alone without the name-calling. Right now, anyone can flip your argument to make yourself sound like a git instead.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:36 am UTC
by SlyReaper
Sure you could, but he's calling everyone who doesn't believe in his particular brand of sky fairy immoral. That's git behaviour.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:48 am UTC
by Plasma Man
It also doesn't address the argument that any deity worth believing in would have to respect those who live moral lives without belief in that deity.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:55 am UTC
by Zamfir
Plasma Man wrote:It also doesn't address the argument that any deity worth believing in would have to respect those who live moral lives without belief in that deity.

How's that? You don't respect the right of your puppy to pee on the carpet.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:02 am UTC
by SlyReaper
Nor do you condemn it to eternal damnation for doing so.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:17 am UTC
by yedidyak
SlyReaper wrote:Nor do you condemn it to eternal damnation for doing so.


He's not condemning anybody. He believes that his god will, and that by converting people he is saving them. If you accept his premise as a given, as he does, his actions are logical.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:21 am UTC
by SlyReaper
yedidyak wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:Nor do you condemn it to eternal damnation for doing so.


He's not condemning anybody. He believes that his god will, and that by converting people he is saving them. If you accept his premise as a given, as he does, his actions are logical.


I was talking about God, not this person.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:32 am UTC
by yedidyak
SlyReaper wrote:
yedidyak wrote:
SlyReaper wrote:Nor do you condemn it to eternal damnation for doing so.


He's not condemning anybody. He believes that his god will, and that by converting people he is saving them. If you accept his premise as a given, as he does, his actions are logical.


I was talking about God, not this person.


Sorry. But still, if God is an omnipotent omniscient being, who created everything for some purpose of His, do you really think that you could understand Him? Could you expect Him to be just like you, with the same moral code just bigger? Could you really claim to be yourself omniscient about God and His morality?

(This is all devil's advocate, not my personal opinion)

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 11:33 am UTC
by Zamfir
SlyReaper wrote:Nor do you condemn it to eternal damnation for doing so.

But you set the rules, without any attempt or consideration to involve the dog in making them. The dog wouldn't understand, isn't able to make a meaningful contribution, or anything. You decide what's good in general and for the dog, and that even includes killing the dog if he passes some line he is hardly aware off, like biting a stranger.

I don't intend this as a perfect analogy of the relationship between people and a god, omnipotent or just very potent. Just to illustrate that it is weird to assume we have some sort of bargaining position, if there is a god.

Saying "a god who sends good people to hell is not worth believing in" is just saying you don't believe in such a god in the first place. Being worthy has nothing to do with it. If there really is a god who sends people to hell if they do things the wrong way, no matter what those things are, than those things are the wrong things.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:26 pm UTC
by iop
But when we understand the fullness of the nature of God, then we see that while we have the ability to reject God’s love and so separate ourselves from Him forever, that does not imply that there are no consequences of such a choice. Because such a choice is profoundly evil, a perfectly just God must punish it.

To me, as a Christian, the bolded part is blasphemy. Who does this guy think he is that he can say what God must or mustn't do?

Also, the parabole of the prodigal son contradicts this reasoning: The son who leaves the father suffers, but not because of the father. He suffers because he screws up and doesn't have anyone to turn to. When he returns, willing to ask for forgiveness, what does the father do? The father forgives and celebrates the son's return. What is to me the most interesting part is the conversation between the father and the other son, who stayed. The other son goes like: "WTF? Why do you celebrate the good-for-nothing's return, instead of celebrating me staying with you?" And the father says: "But you have always been with me."

In other words, the view from the Bible is not that we all are obligated to believe in God, and the heathens are punished. It's that those among us who believe will have it better than those who don't. The only bit of merit the guy's argument may have is that once you come to realize/accept that God is awesome, it makes a lot of sense to believe. Constructing a moral obligation from that is, IMHO, ludicrous.

/Aside: All this emphasis on "omnipontence", "omniscience" etc. by the evangelicals is, in my eyes, nothing more than a pissing contest: "My God is more awesome than your God".

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:35 pm UTC
by The Reaper
Tip for living a blessed life: don't be a dick. (its ok if it happens once in a tiny bit, but keep it to yourself)

I tend to think of an all powerful god as something that would be neither good nor evil, really.

Then again, my current divine beliefs lean towards an infinite consciousness and chaotic recursion. Good times.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:36 pm UTC
by Zamfir
iop wrote:/Aside: All this emphasis on "omnipontence", "omniscience" etc. by the evangelicals is, in my eyes, nothing more than a pissing contest: "My God is more awesome than your God".

Catholics are big on it too. Are there actually Christian denomiations that do not say that god is omniscient and omnipotent? I though it was pretty deep in the core of Christianity.

iop wrote:In other words, the view from the Bible is not that we all are obligated to believe in God, and the heathens are punished. It's that those among us who believe will have it better than those who don't.

Isnt the bible pretty weak on afterworld punishments in general? The genral ideas seems more that there is no afterlife for unbelievers and sinners, not that they are punished.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:37 pm UTC
by paddyfool
The Reaper wrote: don't be a dick.


Excellent advice.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:45 pm UTC
by Duban
LaserGuy wrote:What's interesting that I see with this claim is that it's just that: a claim. He doesn't really offer any evidence that this moral obligation to God exists, which is unfortunate, to my mind, since I can see that being a rather interesting argument to construct.

If these people needed evidence or reason for their claims they wouldn't be fundamentalist Christians in the first place.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:48 pm UTC
by Aikanaro
Zamfir wrote:Isnt the bible pretty weak on afterworld punishments in general? The general ideas seems more that there is no afterlife for unbelievers and sinners, not that they are punished.

I often suspect Dogma got it right: "Did you know Hell used to be nothing more than the absence of God? And if you had ever been in his presence, you would know that it was punishment enough."

Also, as I think I may have mentioned before, it's debatable whether it's even a punishment, per se, so much as simply a lack of reward/invitation. See Annihilationism, for example. Or, for a really, REALLY bizarre way of looking it....if we're completely dependent on God for our existence, would him letting us wander off/damning us/whatever be like the spiritual equivalent of him being a pregnant mother and having us aborted? :shock:

Whew, I think I need sleep.....

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:59 pm UTC
by EmptySet
yedidyak wrote:Sorry. But still, if God is an omnipotent omniscient being, who created everything for some purpose of His, do you really think that you could understand Him? Could you expect Him to be just like you, with the same moral code just bigger? Could you really claim to be yourself omniscient about God and His morality?


Wouldn't that argument imply that all people who make assertions that God wants this or doesn't want that are in error, including but not limited to the dude who is asserting that disbelief is immoral?

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:08 pm UTC
by Lazar
...I have the freedom but not the liberty...

Tangential, but I hate it when people use synonymous words contrastively to make a point that would be untranslatable in most other languages. (cf. German Freiheit, Spanish libertad.)

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:25 pm UTC
by SlyReaper
EmptySet wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Sorry. But still, if God is an omnipotent omniscient being, who created everything for some purpose of His, do you really think that you could understand Him? Could you expect Him to be just like you, with the same moral code just bigger? Could you really claim to be yourself omniscient about God and His morality?


Wouldn't that argument imply that all people who make assertions that God wants this or doesn't want that are in error, including but not limited to the dude who is asserting that disbelief is immoral?


No, those guys have the bible. That God wrote. It's proof.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:29 pm UTC
by Zamfir
EmptySet wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Sorry. But still, if God is an omnipotent omniscient being, who created everything for some purpose of His, do you really think that you could understand Him? Could you expect Him to be just like you, with the same moral code just bigger? Could you really claim to be yourself omniscient about God and His morality?


Wouldn't that argument imply that all people who make assertions that God wants this or doesn't want that are in error, including but not limited to the dude who is asserting that disbelief is immoral?

Yes. So you then base your religion on a book, or on the lives of people who were granted special knowledge.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:32 pm UTC
by The Reaper
Zamfir wrote:
EmptySet wrote:
yedidyak wrote:Sorry. But still, if God is an omnipotent omniscient being, who created everything for some purpose of His, do you really think that you could understand Him? Could you expect Him to be just like you, with the same moral code just bigger? Could you really claim to be yourself omniscient about God and His morality?


Wouldn't that argument imply that all people who make assertions that God wants this or doesn't want that are in error, including but not limited to the dude who is asserting that disbelief is immoral?

Yes. So you then base your religion on a book, or on the lives of people who were granted special knowledge.

Congress? Horrible basis for morality.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:43 pm UTC
by Dauric
LegoLogos wrote:Is this really what Christians believe, or is this one of those fundamentalist/extremist Christian attitudes which moderate Christians are not a part of? As a non-Christian I find the idea that Christians believing I'm "profoundly evil" is somewhat unnerving :?


This is the important question here from the first post, and I think it's a complicated one to answer.

I know there's Christians that don't hold to this idea, a few of my good friends are in this category. Generally they hold to a somewhat wiccan view that the divine forces of the universe reveal themselves differently to different people, and that for them the divine reveals itself as the Christian God and to a similar/lesser extent as Jesus Christ, while it's not their job to interpret the divine for others, that's the job of the Divine and the individual to work out.

The second group of Christians tends to believe that everyone's a Christian Just Like Them, and while they refrain from discussing religion (after all everyone in the homogeneity believes the same thing what is there to discuss?) if the topic ever comes up with a non-Christian they tend to be stunned that they've actually encountered someone outside their experience, and they'd just rather drop the subject before their worldview is damaged by more exposure to those seditious alien thoughts.

I think this second group are the most responsible for supporting crap like going apeshit over gay marriage. It's not about the 'sanctity of marriage' they're perfectly comfortable with civil divorces, it's that men with men and women with women challenges their worldview and it scares them out of their minds.

The last group are the noisy fanatics that think they've got the handle on the One True Way, and think the rest of the Christians (even others in this category) are lapsed sinners who need to repent for their sins and prostrate themselves (and their bank accounts) to the Correct and Righteous God.

Edit: I'm not saying that these are the only permutations a person can belong to, but that the large clusters of the population (in my experience) focus in to these groups.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 3:09 pm UTC
by Decker
I have to side with "Why is this news?" sentiment. I was raised Catholic and I've heard this argument countless times. Don't accept Jesus as your savior? To hell you go.
This person might have a different reason for it, but it's the same person in a different suit.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:09 pm UTC
by Xeio
Decker wrote:I have to side with "Why is this news?" sentiment. I was raised Catholic and I've heard this argument countless times. Don't accept Jesus as your savior? To hell you go.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to hell we go, with lots of flame and us to blame, hi ho, hi ho hi ho hi ho...

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:33 pm UTC
by iop
Zamfir wrote:
iop wrote:/Aside: All this emphasis on "omnipontence", "omniscience" etc. by the evangelicals is, in my eyes, nothing more than a pissing contest: "My God is more awesome than your God".

Catholics are big on it too. Are there actually Christian denomiations that do not say that god is omniscient and omnipotent? I though it was pretty deep in the core of Christianity.

Sure, but there are different levels of "omnipotency" and "omniscience". God according to Catholicism supposedly acts rationally, which already chips away at the potency (the God of Calvin, as well as Allah, isn't bound by rationalism). Furthermore, predestination as well was introduced by Calvin in order to make God more omniscient.

Zamfir wrote:
iop wrote:In other words, the view from the Bible is not that we all are obligated to believe in God, and the heathens are punished. It's that those among us who believe will have it better than those who don't.

Isnt the bible pretty weak on afterworld punishments in general? The genral ideas seems more that there is no afterlife for unbelievers and sinners, not that they are punished.

Absolutely. The whole complicated hell is a product of the middle ages. Supposedly the great thinkers of the time didn't have the internet yet, so they had to spend their energy on figuring out the Bible and everything that might be implied in the text if one only stares at it for enough time.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:38 pm UTC
by Dauric
iop wrote: Supposedly the great thinkers of the time didn't have the internet yet, so they had to spend their energy on figuring out the Bible and everything that might be implied in the text if one only stares at it for enough time.


So... the book of Revelations is 4chan?

... yeah, I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, so maybe that only makes sense to me at this moment.

Re: Christian claims we are morally obligated to believe in

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:43 pm UTC
by podbaydoor
Dauric wrote:
iop wrote: Supposedly the great thinkers of the time didn't have the internet yet, so they had to spend their energy on figuring out the Bible and everything that might be implied in the text if one only stares at it for enough time.


So... the book of Revelations is 4chan?

... yeah, I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, so maybe that only makes sense to me at this moment.

Considering that 4chan generated the concept of Catnarok, that may not be so far-fetched.