The “God Commands ‘Kill a Child'” Hypothetical: Part 2: In Context

Now that we understand what we must do in considering the Christian response to the “God Says Kill a Child” hypothetical, let’s apply these rules and conduct some rational analysis of its implications. First thing’s first, we must put this hypothetical into proper context. We will call the individual Christian being asked the hypothetical within the context of this hypothetical, the “Actor.”

God is Known and Experienced

The first, and obviously most important context in the hypothetical is the stipulation that it must be known for a fact that God is indeed the one who has given the command to the actor. So, what are the implications of this stipulation?

  1. There is a God, and He has revealed himself to the actor.

Now, this should be quite obviously a very important context to understand. Here you go non-theists, God is making himself known, just like you always ask! We are talking about the actor having experienced the very revelation of the creator. The audience must be able to fully comprehend the seriousness and significant importance of this stipulation. To understand this better, we need to try and understand how we might come to know, as a matter of fact, that God is indeed the one giving the command. There are only so many ways that we can know with certainty that it is in fact God speaking to us:

  1. God reveals Himself via some “Theophany” where His nature as God is revealed to the actor.
  2. Some action or event takes place which necessarily verifies that the Theophany is indeed God, such as some specific miracle that provides that verification.
  3. The revelation to the actor becomes clearly visible to others who see the actor after having witnessed God.

So, in the context of the hypothetical, we must accept that these things have occurred. Not only does the actor know that God has given him the command to kill the child, but God’s revelation of himself is so clear that others also know that God has revealed himself to the actor. When answering this hypothetical then, we must also accept that there is no vacuum here. This scenario is not occurring in a world where nothing else is happening, this hypothetical is being set forth within our world. So, what happens in the hypothetical will affect the world too.

God’s Characteristics and Nature are also True

In addition to that first point, we must also bring to bear all of the attributes of God. If God exists, and in this hypothetical it is accepted that he does, then all of his nature and characteristics must also then be true. These include:

  1. God is all-loving, benevolent, and the standard of what is morally good by his nature.
  2. God can not do anything that is not in the best interests of his creation as a whole and individually.
  3. God can not do anything that goes against his own nature.
  4. God can not give a command that is not morally justified.
  5. To disobey God is to sin, and the punishment for sin is death.
  6. God chooses when a person leaves this world and moves on to the next.
  7. God can only have morally good reasons for every command that he gives.

The implications of these characteristics of God are what put the entire hypothetical into the proper light, and because of their truth within the context of the hypothetical, give justification for why the Actor will answer the hypothetical in the manner that he or she will. For examples, if God is the one giving the command to the actor, then it is God who bears the responsibility for what happens, not the actor. The actor would be acting from a state of moral good, as the presence of God demands obedience to him. So, when God gives the command, he is telling the actor to do his will, and in doing his will, the actor is necessarily doing good, because it is not possible to do wrong if you are doing God’s will. That is the truth of the worldview that has been accepted as true.

It should then become quite clear to the audience at this point why this hypothetical clearly does not represent Biblical morality as subjective, as the questioner in the Frank Turek video suggests. But we will get back to that. Now, we must also consider the wider context of the Christian Worldview that must also be true and brought to bear in evaluating this hypothetical and the Christian response to it.

Other Aspects of Christian Belief are True

If, within the context of this hypothetical, we are accepting that God exists, then we must also accept that all of his attributes are true and present and applicable to this hypothetical. In addition, this means that the rest of the Christian Worldview’s beliefs are also true, and must also be brought into consideration in how one answers this hypothetical. Here are the other tenets of the Christian Belief that are most relevant to the hypothetical being considered.

  1. Heaven is real, is the inevitable outcome for those who have placed their faith and love in God, is not a reward for good behavior, and salvation can not be earned through good behavior.
  2. Hell is real, and is the inevitable outcome for those who have chosen to reject God, and is the reward for wicked behavior. Hell can be only be earned.
  3. If those who commit evil are not punished, then those who do not commit evil are wronged and justice is perverted.
  4. The experience of pain and suffering are not evils, but are part of the human experience that can be used by humanity for both good and evil purposes, but in their existence in general, are good things which are necessary for life and growth.
  5. Those whose faith are in God will not be prevented from experiencing pain and suffering in this life, and pain and suffering are not necessarily tools for punishing those who are evil, though God can use them for that purpose if he chooses.

As we can see, there is much that must be considered before we can even begin to address this hypothetical. All of these things must necessarily be true if the stipulation in the hypothetical is to hold. If they are true, then we can see that there is no possible situation where God commanding an actor to do anything could possibly be wrong or evil.

Without These Truths, There is no Rational Question

If we do not accept this full context, then the hypothetical is no longer addressing a Christian Context, but is instead creating some other worldview within which the hypothetical is to operate. That would make the hypothetical irrational and questioner incoherent in attempting to make any argument out of the hypothetical against the Christian Worldview. In other words, a rational question is not being asked if the questioner cherry picks what he or she would like to be considered, but disregards the rest. When this is done, how can it be possible for the Actor to give a rational answer? To suggest that only God exists, but that none of his attributes can be considered in the response would be to create some other god, then leave the Actor to try to come up with some sort of answer regarding a god that he or she is not even aware of, let alone trying to defend it!

If the questioner insists on God being accepted as existing, but instead attributes some other possible attributes of a god in general, then should the respondent say “No, as a Christian, I would not obey the commands of some other god. That being would necessarily not be God, and would not be worthy of my obedience, and I would be justified in obedience to the true God in not obeying commands from such a being.” At this point, the hypothetical no longer serves a purpose and is moot. Thus the reason why it would be irrational to posit such a hypothetical in such a childish way.

A Few Additional Points

As you read through this article, I would hope that your rational faculties were clicking away in grasping what is happening here. I am sure we have all come across debate videos where similar sorts of Hypotheticals have been set forth. If the respondent is not afforded the opportunity to make these clarifications at the start, then it is most often the case that the respondent is caught trying to bring these truths to bear, but gets cut off by the audience member, or perhaps the opponent interrupts and attempts to discredit the defense of the respondent’s answer. The opponent will generally use the emotionally arousing response to challenge the ethics of the response, to suggest that the response is crazy, and even attempt to pull the “high and mighty” card.

Now, please understand, I am not trying to say this is what always happens. But, anyone who has come across these clipped video excerpts from debates on YouTube and elsewhere see what the “trolls” do with these things. I am sure we have all seen it, and we all know that the clips of such answers are repeated and shared across social media to the merry satisfaction of the opposing party. “See, look how crazy this person is. Hear how he gives his answers and struggles to justify it…” etc. etc. At that point, it is out of the hands of the respondent. There is nothing that can be done. The opponent got what they needed to mask over the rest of the debate where the respondent had presented many sound arguments. No one gains anything out of such Ad Hominem personal attacks, and it puts a black eye on the benefits of real rational debates and discussions.

Conclusion

With that being said, we do not have to worry about that here. I would certainly hope that by this point you can clearly see the rational approach to critical analysis that the rules allow for. The only way to prevent the above example from becoming the nail in the coffin of a rational discussion between two grown adults is to consider the full context. In so doing, we can pursue the truth of a matter, and come to a better understanding of other Worldviews, and even find where the common ground lies so that we can live together in civility.

As we move into the next section, you must remember these important contextual notes so that you can understand the reasoning behind the answer to the hypothetical. As you consider the rational implications of the full context, you should be able to determine honestly what the response would be, and grasp fully the justification and reasoning without hearing anything from the Actor. In addition, you should be able to begin to see the rational implications of your own worldview’s beliefs in how you would evaluate the response in light of this full context without bias, but with practicality.

 

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