I've been pretty bad about being "active" in having counter apologetic discussions online (Twitter, commenting in other blogs, etc) and not actually blogging here. Time to rectify this, by laying out a substantive exchange I've had with Randal Rauser on his blog last week.
Randal was very kind in asking me to write up why I don't believe for a segment over on his blog, which started a pretty interesting discussion that centered around the problem of Christian's calling things related to morality "good" that at the same time cannot be a part of their god's "necessary nature".
The problem for the Christian in this case is that they end up having to give up the moral argument for god's existence, since they have to ground moral "goodness" in their god's "necessary nature" in order to avoid the Euthyphro Dilemma.
This problem becomes particularly acute when we consider the problem of evil, the problem of hell, and the existence of heaven. Since being morally free to commit sin is something that absolutely cannot be a part of god's necessary nature, such a moral ability is not "good" on the Christian's own set of definitions.
Now for what it's worth, Randal is to be commended for trying to actually engage this very tough issue. I've not seen a substantive engagement on this point before, so while I think he's wrong, you've got to give the man some props for trying.
This led to a discussion on Randal's blog that spanned three different posts by Randal replying to issues myself and Jason Thibodeau were bringing up as he tried to come up with answers to problems related to the core issue outlined above.
Randal avoids the problem of hell since he advocates for a version of universalism, but that position raises the problem of why we weren't just created morally perfect in heaven, where we won't be able to sin anyway.
To solve this issue, Randal came up with the Value Achievement Thesis (VAT) where he proposes that for any two people that exemplify moral perfection:
Tom was created by god to perfectly exemplify all moral attributes.
Scott was created by god as a finite being that had flaws but through redemption came to perfectly exemplify all moral attributes.
Despite the fact that the two people both perfectly exemplify moral values in the end, Randal's VAT says that god has reasons to value Scott over Tom. But this is problematic because to value something over another is to introduce a level of "goodness" in Scott over Tom, and if all moral "goodness" is grounded in god's nature - then VAT is a "groundless good" in Randal's theology/metaphysics.
The problem is with calling "Value Acquisition" something "good"
(or great, or valuable) since Randal admits it can't be part of his god's nature.
The problem creates a dilemma:
A.) Either "goodness" is grounded in god's necessary nature, so "value acquisition" is "not good".
B.) "Value acquisition" is good, but since it's not part of god's
nature, then "goodness" can't be defined by god's necessary nature.
The problem with
the dilemma is that on A, you can't have god value something that's "not
good", so VAT is false.
Or on B you have to give up the moral argument for the Christian god because you're admitting that there are some "moral goods" that don't exist in god's necessary nature.
In the back and forth on his blog, Randal and other theists seem to take this to mean that I'm pointing out that their god is somehow deficient, but that doesn't follow from this problem. Note that going with option B does not mean that god isn't morally perfect, it just means that god's nature can't be used to ground moral goodness.
The dilemma isn't necessarily forcing you to abandon belief in god, but rather you have to give up the moral argument for god's existence and have to rework parts of Christian theology.
I'd be interested to see if Randal or other theists could try and respond to this dilemma.