Let us first re-state the hypothetical in its simplified form:
“If you were told by God to kill a child, and you knew for certain that it was God telling you, would you kill the child?”
Here is the link to the video for additional clarity: https://www.facebook.com/drfrankturek/videos/1163327913798730/
So far, we have brought into consideration the full context of the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview as we look to critically analyze the response to be given. This is allowing us, the audience, to consider within the worldview the rationality of the response and how well it holds within the worldview. Ultimately, the purpose of the hypothetical is to evaluate the legitimacy of the worldview being considered in how it would handle the hypothetical situation. Also, it will help us to better understand the Christian Worldview and identify the principles which remain consistent across all such scenarios, allowing the system of beliefs to guide one’s rational decision making in such situations. So, let’s evaluate the response.
“As a Christian, if I were told by God, and I knew for certain that God was indeed the one commanding me to do so, I would kill a child.”
Now, here we have an answer being given, however, we should by now see the problem. It is given in a vacuum. Had I not the ability to explain what I did in Part 2, then you would not be able to properly consider the reasons why the respondent would respond this way, and would instead be driven by emotional bias and presuppositions to draw your judgment against the respondent from ignorance of the whole truth.
The rest of the full context of the answer is not available to us, and we respond with shock that the Christian would admit to being willing to take the life of a child if God commanded them to do so. This is where the rational aspect of our considering the response comes into play. In hearing the response, we will have a reaction based upon our own personal convictions and beliefs. However, it would be irrational for us to come to pass judgement on the respondent based on that emotion. This is what is under scrutiny here, after all. So let us analyze the answer with the full context so that we can make our evaluation of this rational.
What is the context of the child?
Here is the first important piece of information that has been left out of the context of the hypothetical. We have no idea what the whole context of this hypothetical situation is. The questioner has chosen to create an environment for this hypothetical where all we have is the actor, the child, and God. Of course that is going to seem absurd! It’s an irrational scenario to offer! There is no such world in reality where that is all there is! So, lets fill the vacuum with some reality.
The child in this scenario could be one of a few different things:
- The child could be a deviant who has caused great evil. Perhaps the child is in the act of attempting to kill another, or perhaps the child has already done so.
- The child could be suffering from some horrendous disease from which there is no recovering. The child is experiencing great pain and suffering, and will die soon as it is.
- The child could be a vegetable, with no chance what so ever at recovering full cognition and consciousness.
- The child could be completely normal and good without any problems and no good could possibly come from the act.
Now, I am sure we could think of some other possibilities, but you should be able to see these four possibilities as categories where any other possible situation could be fit into one of these four as something obviously similar. As we look at these possible scenarios for the child in the hypothetical, the one that stands out as of concern is number 4. Surely the respondent wouldn’t kill a child that is completely innocent and good because God told him to! But wait, we are in a bit of a dilemma here…how do we know which is the scenario for this hypothetical without it having been made clear in the hypothetical?
Ah, yes, the first problem of hypotheticals is now clear. We don’t know, and no clarity was offered in the original hypothetical, so the audience really can’t make a call unless we allow our emotions to come over us and we naturally are led to image in our mind the worst possible scenario. That is, the respondent being put into a situation where they are being commanded by God to kill a perfectly normal innocent child.
But wait…is it rational for us to assume this to even be possible? Ah, now we are conducting rational analysis here. Given the full context of the total system of beliefs of the Christian, would it even be possible for such a scenario to exist where God would command a believer to kill a perfectly innocent child? But wait, not just a perfectly innocent child, but more fittingly, a child without illness or disease?
The Worldview Context Rationally Considered
Now, you may want to review Part 2, and refresh yourself on the full context as we go into this next step of the analysis. Here, we will be able to identify who is actually being rational in regards to this hypothetical. The questioner, or the respondent?
Within the Christian Worldview, we must remember that God, in his nature, is good itself. All measures of good come from what he is, not his commands. By God’s very nature, he can not do anything that would contradict his nature. Logically, it would not be possible for God to do an act that would not be actually good. When God acts, the goodness of his act is made clear to those who are willing to accept the truth when it is laid before them. He can only do good things. In addition, he only desires for us that good things happen and that what is right and just to be done is done.
Understanding this, we must come to accept that within the Christian Worldview, it is not possible that God would ever give the command to kill an innocent, perfectly normal child and allow it to be carried out. An example of this fact is Abraham, and of course, the full history of God’s interactions with humanity across history. All of the acts of God and his commands result in an ultimate good being achieved, and even greater blessings coming out of what may be initially perceived as being a bad situation. Therefore, it is irrational to suggest that there would ever be a situation where God would actually command anyone to kill an innocent, perfectly normal child.
This demonstrates that it would be the questioner who is irrational is attempting to ask such a hypothetical that would include a scenario where God might do so. It just simply isn’t possible if we are to accept as true the full context of the Christian worldview in order to posit the hypothetical. It is simply irrational to put forth a hypothetical that simply isn’t possible, and demand an answer to it! Even though we might not be able to perceive how something could be good, by necessity, for God to have commanded it, it would have to be good. So no matter how you slice it, within the whole context of the Christian Worldview, the only possible scenario or context for the child would have to be one or more of the other three, but it would not be possible for it to be number four.
Given the hypothetical, placed into the full context of the Christian Worldview, with all of its implications accepted as true for sake of the rational consideration of the hypothetical, there are a few other points to come to realize.
If God was to give a command to kill a child, it could happen if the result of killing the child comes to the benefit of all involved. The ultimate moral good of the act would be made clear to not only the actor, but also to anyone who would be observing this event taking place. This does not mean that the actor or witnesses to the event would be comfortable with it! It simply means that God, in revealing himself as would be necessary for us to know for a fact that it is God giving the command, would make it clear that killing the child is something that must be done. While we might not be able to “see” at the time why it is good, there would be by necessity of God’s nature a good outcome, no matter what.
Not only would it be obvious to other Christians that the act was commanded by God and is the morally good thing to do, but also non-believers would see the moral good in killing the child, and even come to see God as being involved in it. Remember, God would only give the command to kill the child if it would bring glory to him and bring others to know him as well. Throughout history, where God has acted, the end result comes in the affirmation of God’s goodness. Some good ends up being achieved through what we might consider (being a later 3rd party observer) to be a bad thing.
This does not mean, of course, that all those who observe the act would still willfully choose God through the event. They can still choose to reject God’s command in it and rebel against God’s decision to kill the child and reject him out right. However, it will remain clear to others that God did indeed give the command, and the goodness of the act would necessarily be apparent to the believer and the non-believer alike. To refuse to kill the child then, given what the hypothetical has set in place, would itself be a disobedient and evil thing to do. Evil would necessarily result should the actor refuse to fulfill God’s command.
So, within the full context of the implications of what the hypothetical is suggesting, even the non-believer witnessing the event would accept the killing of the child because it would be clear (because it is a command from God) that the child ought to be killed. Whether you believe in God or not is of no consequence. If God gives the command, then what is to be done is necessarily good. Not because God commanded it, but because God is the measure of good itself. By fulfilling his will, it is not possible for there to be evil. You remain free to deny it, but that has no impact on the reality of it actually being good. Remember, human thought does not make reality. Reality is what should form human thought, but that is not always the case, sadly. Even the child would know it to be true depending on its age and any need for the child to know it.
In addition to this, we must remember that Heaven is also real. The innocent child, though selected by God to have its life on earth end, would then be carried forward into the next life to receive its inheritance in heaven as guaranteed by God. However, if in the scenario, the reason for killing the child is because the child has been completely corrupted by evil, and the killing of the child is the only way to set things right for others and to end the evil, then we would know the evil child will be given its reward of hell. We might not like that idea, but it does not change the reality that it is ultimately good that evil be removed and good prevail.
We can see the importance of brining in the full context of the Christian Worldview to bear in evaluating the response to the hypothetical. We can also see how it is not just the respondent that is being critically analyzed, but also the hypothetical and the questioner. Hypotheticals can very quickly derail a rational discussion if the rules are not followed. In this hypothetical, we would have to accept that God does exist and that he has in fact revealed himself and made known his command. In so doing, the moral good of killing the child is made known, even though we can not think of a situation now where we could fathom this occurring, it does not mean that there is not a morally justifiable reason for the child to be killed.
It is only in a morally justifiable and morally good scenario that it would even be possible for God to give the command to kill a child, and what that situation is would be made known clearly the moment God revealed himself to give the command, and all would be aware of it at the time. It is irrational to suggest that an all-loving and ultimately benevolent God who is the standard by which good is measured could possibly do something that is actually morally wrong. Whether you like the idea or not does not change what the reality necessarily is. Not only does the non-theist struggle with this, but it is something that many Christians struggle with as well. But, once we are able to set aside our emotions, and instead use our reason to assess and consider the implications of the whole truth of God, then we can come to see the resulting truth.
That being said, the critical analysis and full benefit of the hypothetical does not stop here. Now, that we understand that the respondent would be perfectly morally justified in killing a child if God did in fact command him to do so, we must take this into the context of the opposing Worldview, and evaluate it in light of this.