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Sources of Ethics and Morality


Bravus

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Thanks for that excellent work, CoAspen - that lays a great foundation.

I think the 'God knows more' argument is a bit of a copout: what knowledge justifies genocide? But I also think it's something that, as Shane has said above, is off limits for most Christians. That means there's probably not a lot of point discussing it further. That's unfortunate, because a lot of the concerns Richard (cardw) raised in the other thread will be left on the side of our plates... but I can't see another way forward.

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So we're back to the questions of where moral values and ethical systems arise.

I agree with ichabod that Kohlberg's system is excessively rationalistic, but still think it provides a useful taxonomy for trying to understand the responses of others - I am seeing a number of classes of different responses in this discussion, and Kohlberg's framework helps make sense of them, and helps me not to simply assume everyone who reasons differently from me is deluded or dishonest.

I think the 'if not absolute values, absolute relativism' strawman needs to be demolished: there are clearly a variety of moral systems that are social rather than individual in nature (many would claim that all are).

Shane said 'you can't judge Biblical morality by the church because the church has been apostate' (my paraphrase). But isn't saying that doing what ichabod talked about, in elevating contemporary beliefs to be absolute? Isn't it arrogant to assume that *we* have the full Biblical ethical framework but that the vast majority of Christians for the vast majority of time have had it wrong?

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Originally Posted By: Bravus
True, although all those things you mention are in fact human consensus conventions: there is no mile or kilometre found in nature or laid down in the Bible, people have got together and decided to have common agreed units because as you note, that's the only pragmatic way it can work.

In the same way, there is not a simple dichotomy between absolute, divinely-guaranteed, universal ethics on the one hand and absolute individual relativism where everyone's values are as good as everyone else's on the other. There are socially constructed moral and ethical codes that arise out of the same kind of human consensus-building processes that gave us Greenwich Mean Time.

Consensus or not, the point is that each person/nation is willing to relegate each individual notion of time/wts/measures to something that is imposed by external sources.

The point is that these a man made external references that are essentially arbitrary or chosen, in the case of the metric system, to make certain equations dealing with ratios of different times and states of matter easier to to handle.

They are either arbitrary or chosen by humans as a preferred rational system. Just because they are external has no bearing on the argument.

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Thanks for that excellent work, CoAspen - that lays a great foundation.

I think the 'God knows more' argument is a bit of a copout: what knowledge justifies genocide? But I also think it's something that, as Shane has said above, is off limits for most Christians. That means there's probably not a lot of point discussing it further. That's unfortunate, because a lot of the concerns Richard (cardw) raised in the other thread will be left on the side of our plates... but I can't see another way forward.

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The crusaders were simply modeling the ancient Jews and the instructions to kill everyone who was the enemy of god and the Bible was the definition of who was the enemy of god.

It will be impossible to come to a reasonable conclusion when using faulty information.

The Crusades were begun as a defensive effort, specifically to save Byzantium from Muslim invaders. Mohammed died in 632--after destroying a Jewish settlement--and within a century, the Muslims were almost at the gates of Paris. In the meantime, they had conquered the mideast, north africa, the Iberian Peninsula, all Christian lands. The locals were either killed, forced to convert, or pay tribute, hence "the coin, the Koran, or the sword." These historical facts are not in dispute.

The first Crusade did not take place until about 1095, part of a centuries long effort to reclaim what the Muslims had taken. Jerusalem naturally became a focal point.

War in those days was brutal, and many Crusaders were primarily interested in plunder, but there was never any attempt, nor did they ever have the forces, to eradicate all Muslims. The Crusades were in no sense genocide--unless the word is stretched to the point of having no meaning at all.

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Every year we like to read the Bible through (give or take a year or so), from Genesis to Revelation, in a different version. And each time we go thru the first 6-7 books for the bible we also wonder about all that, taking of canaan. But I think if you read the SOP, I believe that EGW makes mention of the reason's behind the taking of canaan, and why God had promised this land to the Hebrew people. I'm going to see if I can find those statements. But I know exactly what you are saying Bravus.

pk

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Originally Posted By: Gerry Cabalo

Consensus or not, the point is that each person/nation is willing to relegate each individual notion of time/wts/measures to something that is imposed by external sources.

[/quote']

The point is that these a man made external references that are essentially arbitrary or chosen, in the case of the metric system, to make certain equations dealing with ratios of different times and states of matter easier to to handle.

They are either arbitrary or chosen by humans as a preferred rational system. Just because they are external has no bearing on the argument.

We accept the arbitrary in these matters because it is rational? And that without it there would be chaos. Yet reject the idea of accepting morality from a Higher Source as being irrational? Even though that rejection leads to the same chaos? Incredible!

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Thanks for that excellent work, CoAspen - that lays a great foundation.

I think the 'God knows more' argument is a bit of a copout: what knowledge justifies genocide? But I also think it's something that, as Shane has said above, is off limits for most Christians. That means there's probably not a lot of point discussing it further. That's unfortunate, because a lot of the concerns Richard (cardw) raised in the other thread will be left on the side of our plates... but I can't see another way forward.

Is the genocide [which will be in even larger scale than Canaan] that God will perform when He carries out the sentence of judgment to terminate evil justified?

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Is the genocide [which will be in even larger scale than Canaan] that God will perform when He carries out the sentence of judgment to terminate evil justified?

The act of God in getting rid of all sin-- and of all those who insist on holding on to their sins-- will most certainly be justified.

It is justified because it will protect everyone in God's universe from all future suffering and death. The only alternatives is for God to either force people against their wills to change or else allow suffering and death to continue without end.

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So we're back to the questions of where moral values and ethical systems arise.

Most moral and ethical systems in ancient times arose from a religious/God-oriented source. From what little I know, Confucian ethical system seems to have been derived by rational methods. In time, the teachings of Confucius took on the form of religion itself. So whether you accept the previous answers given or not, the fact remains, the source is either external, supernatural and absolute, or internal and subjective, and therefore relative.

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I think the 'if not absolute values, absolute relativism' strawman needs to be demolished: there are clearly a variety of moral systems that are social rather than individual in nature (many would claim that all are).

I beg to differ. There is nothing strawman about the absolute/relative notion. If a moral principle is not absolute, given by the Creator, then it has no moral force, IMO. Internally derived moral/ethical systems arrived at by rational methods would always be tenuous IMHO because who is to say that whoever questions/disagrees with it is wrong?

And where does the notion of right and wrong come from except from the Creator Himself? Does your pet ever worry about what is right and and what is wrong? "And when He [Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment..." Jn 16:8

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Your approach is too individualistic, though, Gerry - the point is that humans are social creatures and children are raised within a particular society. Moral codes, as CoAspen's posts showed, are related to mores, the norms by which people within a certain society function. It's true that those sets of norms will differ within different societies, and that without an absolute external code it will be impossible for members of one society to claim that the mores of another society are morally wrong. But it *will* be possible for members of a society to make moral judgements about their own beliefs and actions and those of other members of their society in relation to the shared values of that society. That is what gets us beyond absolute relativism where any individual's values cannot be challenged by any other individual.

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Originally Posted By: Gerry Cabalo

Is the genocide [which will be in even larger scale than Canaan] that God will perform when He carries out the sentence of judgment to terminate evil justified?

The act of God in getting rid of all sin-- and of all those who insist on holding on to their sins-- will most certainly be justified.

It is justified because it will protect everyone in God's universe from all future suffering and death. The only alternatives is for God to either force people against their wills to change or else allow suffering and death to continue without end.

If His end-time genocide is justified, then as a Holy God who cannot countenance evil (Hab 1:13), and as Judge who MUST also restrain evil, then the Canaan incident is consistent with a holy, just, and loving God.

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Can we try an experiment? Of the 10 Commandments, which can be deduced in some way from natural laws and experience, and from a 'social contract' view of the world, and which must be externally derived?

1. No other gods (monotheism) - external

2. No graven images - external

3. Not using the Lord's name in vain - external, though if a god exists, logical

4. Day of rest - natural laws

5. Honor parents - social contract

6. Don't kill - social contract

7. Don't commit adultery - social contract

8. Don't steal - social contract

9. Don't lie - social contract

10. Don't covet - social contract

But then, it's arguable that the first 3-4 are not the basis of a moral and ethical code anyway, but the basis of a religious system. Morals and ethics relate to our treatment of those around us, religion relates to our relationship with God.

So then the moral code part of the 10 Commandments seems as though it doesn't *have* to be divinely guaranteed: basically every society has similar moral laws, because they just *make sense* and *work* if you want to have a safe and stable society.

Am I missing something?

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It will be impossible to come to a reasonable conclusion when using faulty information.

It also makes it difficult when you don't read what I said carefully.

The statement you quoted makes no mention of genocide, so your protest is not based on proper information because you challenged something I did not say.

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War in those days was brutal, and many Crusaders were primarily interested in plunder, but there was never any attempt, nor did they ever have the forces, to eradicate all Muslims. The Crusades were in no sense genocide--unless the word is stretched to the point of having no meaning at all.

It would be if I was talking about Crusader genocide. What I did say was, and you quoted it.

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The crusaders were simply modeling the ancient Jews and the instructions to kill everyone who was the enemy of god and the Bible was the definition of who was the enemy of god.

Killing everyone who was the enemy of god is generally not considered genocide.

All of these facts that you mention may be true, but the theology of a righteous war was the ethical foundation for the crusades. And this theological ethical philosophy of righteous war was developed from the Bible.

We don't have to end with the Crusades. There is simply massive amounts of material that demonstrates the violent nature of the Christian religion in its goal of destroying the enemies of god.

Here is one link that lists many such incidents in Christian history.

How many people have been killed in the name of Christ?

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Shane stated this...

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I will let the Holy Spirit work with them and ultimately if they persist on the road of disbelief they will be part of the lost in the last great genocide that God has planned here on planet Earth.

Gerry stated this...

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If His end-time genocide is justified, then as a Holy God who cannot countenance evil (Hab 1:13), and as Judge who MUST also restrain evil, then the Canaan incident is consistent with a holy, just, and loving God.

This is horrendous ethical reasoning. This is why many people, simply out of good conscience, cannot accept the Christian concept of a God like this.

I have nothing against Shane or Gerry personally, but they demonstrates how nice people can hold horrendous ethical beliefs.

Bravus has articulated the problem with this type of "end justifying the means" quite well in his statement...

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See, here's the problem. With a theocratic system, anything God does is by definition ethical, even if it would be utterly unethical and criminal if done by humans. I mean, the Nazis were just looking for lebensraum (room to live) when they tried to take over Europe. Generally, "we want your land, and we're going to take it by force" is pretty much the definition of unethical behaviour. But if it's God's will, it's OK.

If it's OK for God to break his own ethical rules, then they are not universal, but relative since God has no standards and we do. If God was put on trial for his leadership of ancient Israel, he would be considered an evil ruler on the order of Hitler and Sadaam Hussain.

The madness is that many Christians have no problem with that...

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It isn't madness it is out of love and justice that God lets people decide their own destinies and if they choose to be lost that is their choice. Also we have no problem with a society that doles out punishments and at times even capital punishment for heinous crime and yet we can't let God, in his infinite wisdome which way supersedes human wisdome do the same? There is a HUGE difference between man and God, God knows the person's hidden motives and understands their eternal choices, man never could, so yes it is ok for God to do some things that humans couldn't do as "fairly" ever.

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Killing everyone who was the enemy of god is generally not considered genocide.

All of these facts that you mention may be true, but the theology of a righteous war was the ethical foundation for the crusades. And this theological ethical philosophy of righteous war was developed from the Bible.

Sorry, wrong again. The Crusades made no attempt to "kill everyone who was the enemy of god."

A lot of "theologies" have been developed from the Bible. And Communism and Nazism claimed a scientific basis. That doesn't mean that any of those was valid. People use all sorts of rationales for what they decide to do.

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he violent nature of the Christian religion in its goal of destroying the enemies of god.

Yeah. seen the list before. But the body count for "godlessness," specifically communism, is much, much, higher than anything done in the name of religion. A partial list comes to about 200 million in the 20th century alone.

Lots of people do things in the names of lots of other ideas. It doesn't mean that those actions naturally spring from an understanding of those ideas. It means that people will find justifications for their actions wherever they can.

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Sorry, wrong again. The Crusades made no attempt to "kill everyone who was the enemy of god."

Again, the theology and justification of the crusades was to kill the enemies of god among other goals. You seem to want to distort the context.

I don't have the space within a post to write a book to cover all the technical details.

You ignore the larger role that the Bible plays in justifying genocide within certain contexts. Among the posts within this discussion it is very evident that there is a belief that its OK for God to commit genocide.

My point was that this attitude of killing in the name of God would certainly have a least some influence on the actions of those who participated in the Crusades. If your goal is to ignore this by deflection then you have demonstrated this rather well.

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I have nothing against Shane or Gerry personally, but they demonstrates how nice people can hold horrendous ethical beliefs.

On what basis do you claim that they hold "horrendous ethical beliefs?" What standard do you appeal to in declaring their beliefs horrendous?

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See, here's the problem. With a theocratic system, anything God does is by definition ethical, even if it would be utterly unethical and criminal if done by humans. I mean, the Nazis were just looking for lebensraum (room to live) when they tried to take over Europe. Generally, "we want your land, and we're going to take it by force" is pretty much the definition of unethical behaviour. But if it's God's will, it's OK.

If it's OK for God to break his own ethical rules, then they are not universal, but relative since God has no standards and we do. If God was put on trial for his leadership of ancient Israel, he would be considered an evil ruler on the order of Hitler and Sadaam Hussain.

The madness is that many Christians have no problem with that...

As in other things, Bravus is mistaken.

God is constrained by His own nature, from which the universal moral laws spring. Really, you should read "The Abolition of Man." It's not long, and it is not a Christian apologetic. It's concerned precisely with the questions you're exercised about. Lewis describes the basis of all morality as the "Tao," and demonstrates that it is indeed universal.

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In order to avoid misunderstanding, I may add that though I myself am a Theist, and indeed a Christian, I am not here attempting any indirect argument for Theism. I am simply arguing that if we are to have values at all we must accept the ultimate platitudes of Practical Reason as having absolute validity: that any attempt, having become sceptical about these, to reintroduce value lower down on some supposedly more 'realistic' basis, is doomed. Whether this position implies a supernatural origin for the Tao is a question I am not here concerned with.

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Yeah. seen the list before. But the body count for "godlessness," specifically communism, is much, much, higher than anything done in the name of religion. A partial list comes to about 200 million in the 20th century alone.

And where is this list and by what criteria is one included on the godlessness list. In my book anyone who kills on that scale, including the god of the OT, would be godless.

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Lots of people do things in the names of lots of other ideas. It doesn't mean that those actions naturally spring from an understanding of those ideas. It means that people will find justifications for their actions wherever they can.

And it doesn't mean there is a god out there giving us moral direction. In fact your statements support that ethics and morality come from a rational core if these actions come from PEOPLE's understanding.

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Again, the theology and justification of the crusades was to kill the enemies of god among other goals. You seem to want to distort the context.

I don't have the space within a post to write a book to cover all the technical details.

You ignore the larger role that the Bible plays in justifying genocide within certain contexts. Among the posts within this discussion it is very evident that there is a belief that its OK for God to commit genocide.

My point was that this attitude of killing in the name of God would certainly have a least some influence on the actions of those who participated in the Crusades. If your goal is to ignore this by deflection then you have demonstrated this rather well.

Distort the context? I'm the one who brought up the context. And suddenly, after declaring "genocide" off the table, you raise it again.

"Have at least some influence" is some distance from a moral justification. Your arguments are inconsistent.

Let's start from something very basic. On what basis do you condemn genocide?

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In fact your statements support that ethics and morality come from a rational core if these actions come from PEOPLE's understanding.

Not at all. I simply said people will find justifications for whatever they do from whatever source they can. That does not mean that either science or religion justifies those actions.

I can say that my action of taking money from you is justified because you are a greedy capitalist pig, but that doesn't make either my claim about you or my theft morally correct.

Once again. On what basis do you condemn genocide?

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