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Richard Carrier on the Moral Scepticism Objection to Divine Command Theory 

October 7th, 2017 by Matt

In my paper “Is Ethical Naturalism More Plausible than Supernaturalism: A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong”. I discussed the what I called the “Moral Scepticism objection’ to a Divine command theory (DCT) of ethics.  Walter Sinnott-Armstrong had argued as follows:

[1] If DCT is true then we cannot know whether an action is wrong unless we know that God has it.Carrier

[2] We have no sound way to determine what God commanded.

 From which it is concluded that:

[3] If DCT is correct, we cannot know whether an action is wrong. [1]

In response, I suggested [1] is false. A DCT contends that the property of being morally wrong is identical with the property of being contrary to Gods commands. However, [1] contends we cannot know whether an action is wrong unless we know that action is contrary to Gods commands.  Armstrong’s argument, therefore, presupposes the following inference:

I1:  If A is identical to B then one cannot know whether something is an unless one knows it’s a B.

But, I1 is false. Consider the following counterexample:  The property of being water is identical with the property of being H20. For thousands of year’s people have been able to perceive water, drink water, detect water, and use water, without knowing the first thing about atomic theory. Obviously, one two things A and B can be identical without it being the case that a person knowing something is an A unless they know it’s a B.[2]

In “On the Facts as we Know them, Ethical Naturalism is all there is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan” Richard Carrier rejects this line of response. As far as I can tell he provides two lines of response.
His first response is to offer an argument for [1].

Flannagan claims we can discover that x is moral by some means other than ascertaining what God has commanded and that it can still be the case that x is moral because God commands it. But this is not true, or at least not true in any relevant sense. If we can verify that x is moral by virtue of some property p, then all we need in order to ground the morality of x is p. We then have no need of God commanding it. DCT is therefore false—even if God commands x. Thus, Flannagan’s rebuttal only ends up disconfirming DCT. We call that an “own goal.” [3] 

Here Carrier defends [1] by arguing that “If we can verify that x is moral by virtue of some property p, then all we need in order to ground the morality of x is p.” This, however, is simply false. As I noted in my article, the kind of “grounding relationship” relevant to the truth or falsity of DCT is the relationship of identity. DCT contends moral that the property of being morally wrong is identical with the property of being contrary to Gods commands. What carrier seems to be presupposing is the following:

[CP] If we can verify that x has the property of being q by virtue of some property p, then p is identical with the property of being q

I have labelled this CP for Carrier’s premise. Why should anyone assume that CP is true? In fact, it appears to me to be clearly false. Suppose I want to verify whether it was Tom who robbed a particular safe, I verify this by noting that it was Toms fingerprints that were on the safe. Does it follow that the action of Tom robbing the safe is identical with my discerning Toms fingerprints? Or suppose I determine whether my car has petrol in the tank by looking at the dial on the dashboard, does it follow that the property of “having petrol in the tank” is just identical with the dial on my car? Or, to take another example, I determine who the author of a particular online hit piece is because it has the words “written by Richard Carrier” under it. Does it follow that Richard Carrier is identical with the words “written by Richard Carrier”?  This is frankly silly.

Carrier’s second response is to take issue with my counterexample to I1.

Flannagan’s analogy of laymen identifying water without recourse to molecular instruments only verifies the point: God’s commandments are more like faeries than water. Water is consistently, reliably identifiable across all cultures and all historical time. The will of God has never been. Not even remotely. Flannagan’s rebuttal to Armstrong thus again makes Armstrong’s point for him. A rebuttal that proves your opponent’s point is, well, not really a rebuttal. .[4]

Carrier’s here takes me to be drawing an analogy between the way we know the water exists and the way we know God’s will. He then suggests that, because “Water is consistently, reliably identifiable across all cultures and all historical time” whereas “The will of God has never been.” So the two aren’t known the same way.

This, however, misfires on several fronts.

First, when, I  used the example of water being identical to H20 in response to I1 I wasn’t offering an “analogy”. I was offering a straightforward counterexample to I1. I1 contends that if:  If one thing A is identical with another thing B, then one cannot know whether something is an unless one knows it’s a B. The example of water and H20 shows this is false. Here we have a case where one thing, water, is identical to another thing, H20, yet it’s not true that we cannot know whether something is water unless we know its H20. The example, therefore, doesn’t “prove” Armstrong’s point it rebuts it. It also rebuts Carriers attempted response, the fact two things are identical does not mean that you know the existence of one in virtue of the other.

Of course, earlier in my paper, I did use the example of water and H20 as an analogy. There I said :

Craig’s contention is that if theism is true then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligation by identifying obligations with God’s commands, analogous to the way “we explain the nature of water by identifying it with H2O or explain the nature of heat by identifying it with molecular motion. [5]

Here I do draw an analogy, but it’s not an analogy between the way we know water exists and the way we know about Gods will. What I am saying is that the explanatory relationship between water and h20 is analogous to the explanatory relationship between moral requirements and divine commands. Both are explanations via informative identity.  Nothing commits me to saying our knowledge of water is analogous to our knowledge of Gods commands. So here Carrier is attacking a straw man.

A second problem is that Carrier seems to miss how this analogy works. In the analogy, the property of being water parallels the property of being morally required. In both cases, this is the explanandum, the phenomena being explained. God’s will or commands parallels, not the property of being water, but the property of being H20.  H20 and Gods commands are both explanans, the thing doing the explaining.

So, if even I was making an analogy about the way we know, the question is not whether Gods will is relevantly like water. It’s about whether it’s relevantly like H20. Here Carrier’s point has no traction at all. Neither H20 or Gods will is “reliably identifiable across all cultures and all historical time.” Belief in the existence of hydrogen and oxygen and molecular structures is something that arose in western culture at a particular point in time in history.  Most people in most cultures historically knew nothing about H20, did not believe in H20 and did not conceptualise the physical world in the atomic way it presupposes.

As far as I can tell then Carrier’s attempt to rebut my rejoinder carries no weight. Carrier gleefully describes my arguments as “an own, goal” and one that “makes Armstrong’s point for him”. However, as confident as he may be, he provides no reason for thinking that [1] of Armstrong’s argument is true. It simply does not follow from the claim that moral requirements are identical with divine commands, that one cannot know what is right and wrong unless they believe in the existence of divine commands.

[1] Walter Sinnott-Armstrong “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality” in Is Goodness without God Good Enough: A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics eds. Robert K Garcia and Nathan L King (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), 109

[2] Matthew Flannagan “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong” Philo 15, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2012)

[3] Richard Carrier “On the Facts as we Know them, Ethical Naturalism is all there is: A Reply to Matthew Flannagan” Philo 15, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2012) 206.

[4] Ibid. 207.

[5] Matthew Flannagan “Is Ethical Naturalism more Plausible than Supernaturalism? A Reply to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong” Philo 15, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2012)

 

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13 responses so far ↓

  • Nice response. Could you give a suggested reading list for DCT?

  • I’d be interested in that reading list aswell—

  • Matt,

    I think there is way you can more easily and more clearly refute Carrier on the subject of DCT and objective morality.

    You said at another blog post

    “I think there is a moral requirement to not torture children purely for entertainment. I think this requirement holds even if a person or community thinks it doesn’t so that a community which endorsed and practises child torture would in be mistaken.”
    source: http://www.mandm.org.nz/2009/05/tooley-plantinga-and-the-deontological-argument-from-evil-part-i.html#comment-231768

    I can truthfully say that I constantly hear Christian apologists raising “don’t torture children purely for entertainment” as if the proof that it was objectively true was the fact that they happened to make the statement.

    And I can just as truthfully say that I’ve never seen a Christian apologist explain exactly why they believe torturing children purely for entertainment is objectively immoral, except of course in the question-begging manner of “the bible tells me so”, which hardly conduces to beneficial dialogue with atheists who do not espouse the divine inspiration of the bible.

    Now if you feel I’ve “changed the subject” or “evaded”, then indeed, where else could I have possibly posted this challenge to you, so that you’d feel it wasn’t changing the subject and wasn’t evasive?

  • Barry you write:

    I can truthfully say that I constantly hear Christian apologists raising “don’t torture children purely for entertainment” as if the proof that it was objectively true was the fact that they happened to make the statement.

    And I can just as truthfully say that I’ve never seen a Christian apologist explain exactly why they believe torturing children purely for entertainment is objectively immoral, except of course in the question-begging manner of “the bible tells me so”, which hardly conduces to beneficial dialogue with atheists who do not espouse the divine inspiration of the bible.

    The example of torturing children for fun actually comes from an atheist, writers not “Christian Apologists” it is standardly used in the Euthyphro objection to divine command ethics. As an example of an action which cant be made right or wrong by someones willing it to be so.

    Second, Despite your prefacing those comments with the word “truthful” I am skeptical what you say is correct. I am reasonably familiar with the literature on God and Morality, and I don’t know of any defender of objectivism who defends it simply by asserting it, nor do I know any who argue that “the bible tells them so.”

    On the contrary, many of the standard texts on God and Morality explicitly spell out why they think moral obligations are objective
    For example, Robert Adams cites several reasons why it’s plausible to think that our concept of a moral obligation involves a presupposition such things are objective. for example such this as that “‘wrong’ has the syntax of an ordinary predicate, and we worry we may be mistaken in our moral judgments”, that neither we, nor society, can “eliminate all moral requirements just by not making any demands” and that “what the Nazi’s did to the Jews was horribly wrong whether or not the Nazi’s thought so and it would have been more horribly wrong if they had managed to persuade the Jews that it was not wrong” [I cite all this in my original article which Carrier responded to]

    Stephen Evan’s similarly stresses that we assume or presuppose that moral judgments are the “kind of thing we can be mistaken about” and we criticise societies and other people for making mistaken moral judgments, all of which presupposes objectivity.

    Nor is this unique to Christian writers the idea that objectivity is presupposed by our concept of moral obligations is actually common in secular ethics and there are textbooks such as James Rachels, Loius Pojman, or Shafer Landau which note things like the fact societies have made moral mistakes or the existence of moral reformers, or the fact we think some cultural mores or moral systems are worse than others and so on, all of which presuppose objectivity. Or the fact we engage in debate with other people over what is the right thing to do.
    In fact, in the quote, you cite from an earlier post I went on offer an argument for my conclusion. In other words, I put forward a hypothetical situation where a community endorsed the torture of children and asked whether you think a society which judged it was ok to do this was mistaken in doing so, or whether you thought there judgment it was permissible to torture children was correct. In fact, I put the challenge to you in the post? Most people judge that such a society does make a mistake, which shows that they presuppose that moral judgements are objective.

    So seeing you missed this argument I’ll put it to you again, do you think that a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment?. You don’t need a hypothetical example there are lots of concrete historical ones, for example in the US not long ago it was accepted culturally that race-based chattel slavery was permissible? It was accepted that atheism was a capital crime that warranted death in 18th century England? In your view were these judgements mistaken or were they entirely correct?

  • Matt,

    My point by point response to you will be at my blog tomorrow, but for now, answering your most critical point is perhaps best.

    You ask “so you think that a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment?”

    Yes, I believe a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment.

    First, unlike other atheists, I admit that my personal basis for finding such torture of children immoral, is entirely subjective. If my genetics had predisposed me toward a sociopath mentality, and had I been raised by sociopaths, I could easily have come to believe that where I am entertained by it, torturing children is morally good. I really don’t see how you think my agreement with the consensus of humanity (i.e., that torturing children solely for entertainment is unacceptable) does anything toward your goal of demonstrating the existence of objective morals.

    Second, I notice that while you had asked me whether I think America’s former endorsement of race-based chattel slavery or that Europe’s death penalty for atheism were morally mistaken notions, you DIDN’T ask me whether I thought burning a woman to death for practicing prostitution in her fathers house, was morally mistaken.

    Leviticus 21:9 is God’s command to burn such a female to death.

    If you believed my agreement with most people that slavery and killing atheists is morally wrong, somehow did something to support your belief in objective morality, then, to be consistent, shouldn’t you think my agreement with most people that it is wrong to burn a prostitute to death for working out of her father’s house, can also somehow do something to support your belief in objective morality?

    Or does your trust in the objective goodness of the god of Leviticus 21:9 forbid you from asking why the vast majority of humans in history eschewed burning people to death?

    If under your logic, the world’s majority view eschewing of child-torture spells “because God himself doesn’t like it either”,

    …then the world’s majority view eschewing burning prostitutes to death would necessarily also scream just as loudly “because God himself doesn’t like it either”.

    Which would then mean your logic could be used to “argue” that Leviticus 21:9 was not something God commanded.

    I don’t see where you have left to run: You can avoid the above criticism by saying you infer god from something other than human majority moral opinion, but if so, what was your point in asking me to give my moral opinion in child-torture?

  • Barry: My point in asking was to illustrate the contradictions in your thinking. The claim there are objective moral standards is to say there are “certain moral standards are correct independently of whether you, I or our society believe they are, or accept that they are” this definition comes from Russ Shafer Landau one of the leading atheist defenders of moral realism.
    So when you respond with

    You ask “so you think that a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment?”
    Yes, I believe a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment.

    Your saying something that commits you to objectivism, your saying certain judgements about whether an action ( in this case torturing children) can be correct or incorrect independently of whether people think they are. Here there is a case where a society and some individuals make a judgement and your saying its incorrect despite the fact you believe it. So you just contradicted your denial of objective moral judgements.

    Then however you state

    First, unlike other atheists, I admit that my personal basis for finding such torture of children immoral, is entirely subjective. If my genetics had predisposed me toward a sociopath mentality, and had I been raised by sociopaths, I could easily have come to believe that where I am entertained by it, torturing children is morally good. I really don’t see how you think my agreement with the consensus of humanity (i.e., that torturing children solely for entertainment is unacceptable) does anything toward your goal of demonstrating the existence of objective morals.

    Three problems here, First, your argument here simply doesn’t follow, the fact that you would have had different beliefs if you had different genes and a different environment doesn’t entail the belief is subjective. If you had a certain genetic abnormalities and were brought up in medieval Europe you probably wouldn’t have believed modern scientific theories, it doesn’t follow that these beliefs are subjective.

    Second, your conclusion is inconsistent with what you just said, you cant on the one hand say another person or societies judgement is incorrect and then turn around and say that’s a subjective judgement, if you do that you undercut your claim they are incorrect, what your really saying is, I think they are incorrect but I also acknowledge there is no correct answer, and my judgement is just a judgement I have no basis for. That’s not being rational.
    Third, you mention the consensus of society, the problem is many of the moral judgements you make arent the consensus of society, there are many countries today where the society believes that adultery should be punished by death, for example or that apostacy is a capital crime. So if you rely on consensus your going to have to retract a lot of things you have said. Moreover, the fact there is a consensus of judgement on a particular issue does nothing to establish the judgement is correct, consensuses have been mistaken, the history of science shows lots of examples where the consensus belief was later shown to be incorrect. The issue isn’t whether everyone thinks something, its why they think it and whether it’s correct. When you claim that morality is subjective, you claim that judgements like that based on any objective facts and really have no basis.
    Like I said your position is incoherent, once again when challenged you rage about some passage in scripture rather than address the issue, which is the moral judgements you use to issue those challenged are, on your own philosophy, baseless, which means your position is self-defeating.

  • Matt,

    How would you have responded, had I said that I don’t think it immoral to torture babies purely for entertainment?

  • Matt,

    Thank you for clarifying that you are’t basing your belief in objective morals on human consensus.

    With that out of the way, what moral yardstick are you using, which tells you that torturing babies solely for entertainment is objectively immoral?

  • I am responding in several posts because I’ve just found out that clumping all responses together really does cause you to engage in fallacies. So let’s keep the points as separated as possible.

    You have moved the goal-posts.

    At no time did I ever commit to the premise you now describe as “there are “certain moral standards are correct independently of whether you, I or our society believe they are, or accept that they are”.” Yes, I am an atheist, but no, I do not agree with those atheists who hold to objective morality, such as Russ Shafer Landau.

    Either cite the words I posted which you think constitute agreement with that objectivist position, or admit that you have indeed moved the goal-posts.

    Or you can avoid insulting my intelligence by admitting that I never expressed or implied that any human act could be immoral for reasons independent of my own self. I’ve been debating Christians for years on the issue of objective morality, trust me, I never expressed or implied, at any time in my discussions with you, that I thought immorality could be established on a basis outside human belief itself.

  • Your next error was that you fallaciously shifted the burden of proof when you reply that my subjective explanations for my beliefs don’t prove those beliefs to be subjective:

    YOU took up my challenge to show that some human acts are are objectively immoral. My stated reasons for classifying my own morals to be subjective, neither expresses nor implies anything to defend YOUR premise which YOU agreed to defend, namely, that torturing babies solely for entertainment, was objectively immoral.

    If you would like to ask me to defend my belief that morality is 100% subjective, go ahead, and I will put forth that effort.

    You keep ducking the problems I point out from the bible, so where and when can I post biblically-based rebuttals to your beliefs about morals, so that you won’t accuse me of changing the subject or evading an issue?

    Lest you also accuse me of “spamming” you (something I’ve been accused of my other evangelical inerrantists who discovered to their horror that I’m a bit more thorough in my replies than they wish), it should be perfectly clear to the reader that I’m trying to answer you in a comprehensive way as well as challenge you.

    You are invited to come to my blog and post any challenge to atheism you wish.

  • At no time did I ever commit to the premise you now describe as “there are “certain moral standards are correct independently of whether you, I or our society believe they are, or accept that they are”.” …Either cite the words I posted which you think constitute agreement with that objectivist position or admit that you have indeed moved the goal-posts.

    I don’t think you understand what moving the goalposts is. As to your question, I explained how you committed yourself to objectivism in your post. You said that “a society which endorses the torture of children is making a mistaken moral judgment.” Notice what this involves, you’re looking at a situation where (a) a society (and individuals in it) can have a moral standard which endorses child torture and you judge (b) that standard won’t be identical with a correct judgement. This entails that certain moral standards are correct independently of whether a person or their society believe they are. This is simply a logical entailment of your answer.

    I also explained it’s a logical entailment of your attack on religion. You contend that (a) certain religious communities endorse certain actions like burning people to death and also that (b) one ought not to burn people to death. In affirming both (a) and (b) you’re claiming that certain moral judgements ( in this case (b)) are correct despite the fact that individuals and a community ( the community mentioned in a) don’t accept them.
    In fact your attack on religious ethics is, in fact, contradictory, your claiming morality doesn’t depend on God because in the bible it says God commanded X at some point in history. However, if your interpretation of the Torah is correct then at some point in history a religious community endorsed X. So, an exactly analogous argument entails morality doesn’t depend on what individuals or communities think.

  • Your next error was that you fallaciously shifted the burden of proof when you reply that my subjective explanations for my beliefs don’t prove those beliefs to be subjective:

    No, I simply pointed out that the argument you offer was a non-sequitur, the conclusion didn’t follow from the premises. This has nothing to do with who the burden of proof falls on, it’s simply a matter of logic.

    I also don’t accept the mere assertion that “the burden of proof” falls on others. But I did offer an argument that moral judgements are objective. I pointed out that one of the central features of moral discussions, one you engage in every time you attack religious ethics involves criticising the standards people put forward and this presupposes that its possible for a correct standard to exist and a community do not accept that standard. Denying objectivism has the implication that no standard or their community accepts is mistaken or incorrect. This is implausible and you admit its implausibility every time you both deny that “ certain moral standards are correct independently of whether you, I or our society believe they are or accept that they are” and then in the next breath object that religious people and societies don’t accept the correct moral standard on some issue.

  • Matt,

    I have a two-part response: a) you continue evading my most powerful rebuttal to you, and b) a request on how can I present you with my own scholarly rebuttals of your Christian beliefs in a way that doesn’t constitute me “changing the subject” or “evading the issue”.

    First, you have consistently evaded responding to my most powerful rebuttal to you on moral objectivity, so let’s try this again:

    YOU initiated the subject of torturing babies solely for entertainment, as a thing objectively immoral. You admit this now when you say “But I did offer an argument that moral judgements are objective”.

    You certainly did. And I have asked you, several times now, WHY you think torturing babies solely for entertainment is objectively immoral for all people in all circumstances and cultures.

    You have evaded, several times now, answering that question. For reasons unknown, you don’t wish to reveal the basis upon which you judge torture of babies purely for entertainment, to be objectively immoral in all human situations.

    So let’s try this again: What standard of measure (or “moral yardstick”) tells you that torturing babies solely for entertainment, is objectively immoral?

    Your problem here is even worse now, with your recent refusal to ground your view in human consensus (i.e., when you said “…the fact there is a consensus of judgement on a particular issue does nothing to establish the judgement is correct, consensuses have been mistaken…The issue isn’t whether everyone thinks something, its why they think it and whether it’s correct.”)

    You are exactly right, Matt. So when I ask WHY you think torturing babies solely for entertainment is objectively immoral, I’m legitimately inquiring into the real issue.

    So let’s try this again: Now that you’ve admitted human consensus is NOT why you believe torturing babies solely for entertainment is objectively immoral, why DO you believe torturing babies solely for entertainment is objectively immoral?

    The bible tells you so?
    You were raised to believe it was immoral?
    The Holy Spirit spoke to you heart and testified that such act is immoral?
    All acts that are done solely for entertainment, are immoral?

    Something else? Please specify a) the source or yardstick and b) why you believe it constitutes an objective measuring tool for morality.

    ———-

    Second, I would like to know how I might go about presenting you with my criticism of bible inerrancy and my criticism of the Genocide book you co-authored by Copan, and present such in a way that doesn’t constitute my “changing the subject” or “evading” an issue.

    For example, several times now you have pointed out that I don’t solve my own atheist problems by complaining about the barbarity in Leviticus 21:9.

    Ok, how WOULD I go about initiating my arguments to you on that subject, in a way that doesn’t constitute “changing the subject” or “evading the issue”? Lev. 21:9 poses an arguable moral dilemma for many Christians, on its own, it doesn’t have to be connected to some other issue to be the unexpected shocker that it apparently is to many Christians.

    Or do you have a rule that you must be the one who initiates the issue, before you will be willing to dialogue about it? I hope not, your discussions from 2010 indicate you have no problems responding to new arguments initiated by your critics. Then again, that WAS 7 years ago. Things might have changed, hence I seek clarification.

    Where would it be proper to post such arguments of mine and expect a response from you? Do you have a blog site or discussion website or maybe an email address where you allow skeptics to initiate such topics?

    If not, would you be willing to respond to my arguments posted at some other blog or website?

    Would you be willing to respond to my arguments if i post them at my own blog?

    If so, let me know, and I’ll set things up in a manner to your liking, whether to allow or disallow third-party commentary, etc.

    Here is a sample of the stuff I’d like to argue, which probably couldn’t be posted at anywhere at your blog here without running the risk of you calling it “changing the subject” or “evading the issue”:

    1. It is both unreasonable and irrational to use bible inerrancy as a hermeneutic. Without more, the mere fact that an interpretation of a bible verse would make it contradict something else in the bible, is insufficient to justify claiming such interpretation is false.

    2. Some biblical authors advocated henotheism.

    3. If the “dispossession-only” hypothesis you and Copan argue for, be true, then if the bible correctly describes how God went about actually “dispossessing” the Canaanites, this justifies viewing the bible-god as an even greater moral monster, than the god of the “kill’em all” hypothesis ever was.

    4. The open-theist interpretation of Exodus 32:9-14 (i.e., that God makes mistakes and learns) does more justice to the grammar and context than the classical-theist interpretation set forth by conservative Christian scholars. Hence, if this passage speaks correctly about God, God recognizes that sometimes his own initial reaction to a sin-problem is morally bad.

    5. The open-theist interpretation of Genesis 6:6-7 (i.e., that God makes mistakes and learns) does more justice to the grammar and context than the classical-theist “anthropomorphism” interpretation set forth by conservative Christian scholars. Hence, if this passage speaks correctly about God, God’s regretting one of his own prior actions logically falsifies the popular classical-theist belief that God is infinitely holy, good, righteous and wise.

    6. The literal interpretation of Deuteronomy 28:30, which takes the verse to be saying God sometimes God causes men to rape women, cannot be falsified merely because the context admittedly contains hyperbolic statements.

    7. The interpretation of Ezekiel 38 and 39, which says God sometimes forces people to sin against their wills, and then punishes them for doing what he forced them to do, does more justice to the grammar and context, than any interpretation which denies that God would ever force a person to sin.

    8. The interpretation of Numbers 31:18 that says Moses was authorizing his army men to marry and then have sex with non-consenting prepubescent virgins, does more justice to the grammar, immediate context and historical context, than does the interpretation which says any marital sex that might have been authorized was also required to be delayed until the girls both reached puberty and consented to the marriage.

    9. The interpretation of Deuteronomy 21:10-14 which asserts God is authorizing a man to rape a female war captive, does more justice to the grammar and context, than does the interpretation which says the woman’s consent in these circumstances was a mandatory condition of the marriage.

    10. Interpreting the sex-denial statement 1st Kings 1:4 as the bible author’s attempt to deceive the reader about actual historical reality, does more justice to the historical context within which the text was written, than does the interpretation which says this sex-denial statement was 100% truthful.

    11. Interpreting the bible’s statements endorsing corporeal punishment of children, to inflict abuse to the point of leaving the children bruised, bleeding and scarred, does more justice to the grammar and context of those passages, than does the interpretation which denies same.

    12. Generously assuming otherwise hotly contested apostolic authorship of the gospels, there are only 3 testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament, which come down to us today in first-hand form, Matthew, John and Paul. Every other statement in the NT about Jesus rising from the dead is either second-hand, third-hand, based on visions, or something other than first-hand recall of eyewitness memory.

    13. The stories in the NT that are most explicit about Paul’s experience of the resurrected Jesus, do not support classifying Paul as an “eyewitness” of the resurrected Jesus. Now you’ve got only 2 NT resurrection testimonies that come down to us today in first-hand form, Matthew and John.

    14. Interpreting Matthew 28:20 as a proof that apostle Paul was a heretic, does more justice to the grammar and context of Matthew’s gospel, than does the interpretation which leaves room for God to make Paul’s theological ramblings a part of the canonical gospel.

    15. The biblical and historical information on who authored the gospel of Matthew is sufficiently plagued with uncertainties, ambiguities and falsehoods, that one’s remaining skeptical of Matthew’s authorship of canonical Greek Matthew, is more reasonable than asserting Matthew was the author. Now you’ve got only one NT resurrection testimony that comes down to us today in first-hand form, John.

    16. The biblical and historical information on who authored the gospel of John is sufficiently plagued with uncertainties, ambiguities and falsehoods that one’s remaining skeptical that John was the author of canonical Greek John, is more reasonable than asserting John was the author. Now you’ve got ZERO NT resurrection testimonies that come down to us today in first-hand form.

    17. Interpreting John 7:5 as a proof that Jesus’ miracles were fake, makes better sense out of the fact that his brothers didn’t initially believe his claims, than does the interpretation that says their disbelief was founded on misinformation, obstinate refusal to acknowledge reality, or some other unreasonable basis.

    Sincerely,

    Barry Jones