So now we have the response, and we understand that if the full context of the Biblical Judeo-Christian Worldview is accepted as true, a person who is commanded by God to kill a child is morally justified and morally good in so doing, what are the implications of this outside of the Christian context? If we accept the Christian worldview as true, it would be clear to us that the respondent would be morally justified in killing the child, but how then does a non-believer respond to this?
Can the non-believer really criticize a Christian for giving the response of “Yes” to this hypothetical and be rational in so doing?
Rational Analysis from the Non-Believer
First off, the evaluator has to set aside his or her own beliefs. In the hypothetical, it is accepted that God is real, does exist, and is in fact the one giving the command to kill the child. Normally, the first reaction in this hypothetical tactic is to say, “You see how crazy the Christian is and how dangerous their worldview is! They hear a voice in their head tell them to kill a child, and thinking it is God, they admit that they would do so! How insane!” But is that a fair analysis? Is that a rational response and judgment to pass? I would hope by now you can see why it is not, and that it would be quite arrogant and irrational to do so.
Remember, you are accepting in the hypothetical that there is a God, and that he does in fact reveal himself. So how could anyone be irrational if they see God, actually hear him, and obey his command. It is God! You can not jump into the hypothetical, say there is a God, then jump out of it, say there isn’t, and then judge the respondent outside of that context. You would be criticizing the respondent from your context, not the context of the hypothetical! That would be arguing using a horrible fallacy. In considering the response, the rational individual would say that obviously if God existed, the actor would be perfectly rational for obeying the command of that God who reveals himself to the actor and commands him to do the act.
In addition, you would also have to accept that this God is the standard for what is good, and that it is not possible for him to give a command that is not also morally good. So, by accepting the stipulations of the hypothetical, you would also be required to accept that killing the child, in that situation, would be morally good! If you did not, it would be irrational for you to do so as you would be saying something that is, is not! You would be arguing from a contradiction or denying reality, and that would be irrational.
From the Non-Theist Moral Perspective
Now, let’s evaluate this from the Non-Theist’s moral perspective. The Non-Theist most commonly holds (not all of course) that there is no objective standard of morality. All morality, without God, is subjective and by necessity is nothing but an illusion. All morality is driven by personal preference and taste, and is nothing but grounded in personal opinion. So morality is not, personal taste and preference is. The core of it reduces, in the modern context, to where that which is “morally good” is that which seems right to do at the time, given the situation, and in what is in the best interest of the ‘greater good.’ So, how does this impact how a Non-Theist can rationally, within their own worldview, evaluate the Christian’s response to this hypothetical?
If there is no God, but the actor believes that God has given him or her the command to kill the child, what can the Non-Theist say against this? If there is no God, then what is really going on in the actor? Well, they are not acting from some evil inclination. The individual is acting based upon what they feel is right. They might call this a command from God, but in reality, they are acting from a mental state of goodness, believing fully that what they are doing by killing the child is the good, right, and just thing to do. They are just summing this up as feeling it to be a command from God. They don’t know how else to explain it, so they decide to use God. So, if there is no God, and a person kills a child believing it to be the right thing to do, not only for others and the greater good, but also for the child, then the Non-Theist, within the context of their own worldview, must accept that killing the child is the morally right thing to do.
That is, of course, if the non-theist evaluating this hypothetical response is to be rational and consistent in their evaluation of the response. The non-theist could certainly still criticize the actor for killing the child, calling them crazy and all of that. But, they would be irrational for doing so, and would be acting against their own belief that there is no objective moral standard. The non-theist would have no moral ground to stand on. Remember, the Non-Theist does not believe that true morality even exists! So, how could they argue anything against the actor from a moral premise that they do not even believe exists in reality? They would have no objective justification for criticizing the act.
But what about those who do hold to some objective standard of reality? Well, nothing much changes. As described in the previous article, If God is real, then the clear morally good nature of the decision would be obvious even to the non-believer. However, the moment the Christian state that God commanded them to do the act, the non-believer would of course respond in disbelief. However, they would only be criticizing the believer for having a belief in God. The act would still remain morally justifiable, as that is the only possibility.
The Rational Conclusion
There are many situations that Non-Theists would rationalize and argue that it would be justified to kill a child. Many of these situations they share with the theist given the context previously described. Situations where the child is suffering from a horrible disease causing them great pain and suffering from which they can never recover. Situations where the birth of a child would cause economic hardship for the mother. Situations where a child will be born with a debilitating disease. We hear these all the time. Within the context of the Christian Worldview, were these to be situations where it would be truly morally good to kill the child, then we could rationally accept the command from God to kill the child if we had confirmation from God himself that it was to be done. But that would only be if he gave the command and he revealed himself in the process. It would be known, felt in the heart of each believer, that the act is justified and morally good. The good might not clearly be seen, but the devout believer would be able to see God’s hand in it clearly.
As a final note. How would we know if a person who claims that God commanded them to kill a child is acting falsely? Within the Christian context, we have a rational answer. If God has not revealed himself to give the command to do so, where it can be verified by others through some miracle (which would have to necessarily accompany the Theophany according to all past evidence we have), and it is not clearly morally good that the child should die, we would know that the person was not acting on any command from God. The Christian has a moral standard by which to judge the actions of others. We would call a person crazy (just as quickly as any non-theist would) who claims God commanded them to kill their child when there is no evidence of God revealing himself to give the command. So, no, there is no inevitable situation where this would happen in a manner where God did not actually command a person, and other Christians would allow it to happen.
Remember, nothing happens in a vacuum. Non-theists are very prone (just like anybody else) to take this very specific hypothetical, and then blanket it over the who Christian world like some carpet bombing run to attempt to make the whole thing look bad. Just because the hypothetical is possible, does not mean it is inevitable, or that it is going to happen every possible time. There are plenty of news stories where truly mentally ill individuals claimed “God told me to” are reported to have killed their own children or some other horrible thing. Christians stand right alongside Non-theists to cry out against such evil. Not only is it wrong for them to murder their children, but it becomes even worse when they then attempt to carry God’s name in vain to defend their actions. Calling crazy people crazy is always the right thing to do. When someone makes the claim that God is telling them to do something, it is not because of Christianity. I’ve already described what Christianity provides against laying claim to God commanding such things. It is because of the ill will of that individual person or whatever may have control of their rational faculties by means of disease or drugs or what have you. It would be irrational to suggest otherwise.
But, this is the real issue that this hypothetical exposes. The Non-Theist who does not accept the truth of objective moral standards does not have any moral grounds to say anything against the person claiming God’s command. Again, that person would feel that they are doing what is right, doing what should be done, given the situation. So, the Non-Theist would not have a moral argument grounded in any truth against the actor. If the “objective standard” for a morally good act is any act where the actor feels that it is the right thing to do, and that it is good for all involved and “the greater good,” then the Non-Theist would be obligated to accept the murder as morally good. However, this does not mean that the Non-Theist isn’t justified in calling out someone making such a claim! It just means they would not be able, within the context of their own Worldview, to justify their position based on anything outside of their own personal opinion, unless they accept some fixed, objective standard by which to judge their actions that is beyond human opinion. Thankfully, it is one that is popularly shared with others. Almost as if we all know that it would be wrong to take the life of an innocent child. But that would come close to contradicting the Non-Theist claims to subjective morality, now wouldn’t it?