Attempting to re-route a conversation

20 Mar

Monday I wrote about stirring the pot a little bit on a Facebook post, and mentioned that some of the comments were worth reflecting on. The first that really stuck out to me was this one:

“…you read through the Bible and find stories of it supporting mass genocide, slavery, incest and adultery.”

The implicit objection is: The Bible isn’t a good source of moral truth because it endorses actions which are clearly immoral.

My first instinct is to make a nuanced defense of God’s goodness in light of the above accusations – which is not difficult to do, but would likely fall on deaf ears. Simply conceding (or ignoring the accusation, which is the same as conceding) is also not an option. I remembered my favorite advice about spiritual conversations: ask questions; and tried asking (what I thought to be) a provocative question. I simply responded by asking “on your view, what is wrong with mass genocide, murder and incest?”

The night wasn't THAT slow, and yes - I did ask you that.

The night wasn’t THAT slow, and yes – I did ask you that.

I did this to get them to ground their (implied) assertion that objective moral values exist. What I know is that an atheistic framework provides no ground for believing there are objective morals. Using words like ‘right, wrong, should, and ought’ means the atheist is trading with borrowed commodities.

**Aside – this doesn’t mean ‘atheists are bad people’ or ‘you need the Bible to know right from wrong.’ Everyone has access to moral knowledge. My question points at the foundation or grounding of that knowledge: what makes something right (or wrong)?**

No one had an answer for me. Several guys kept saying that a person with empathy wouldn’t need to ask that question. I responded that empathy just means understanding another person’s feelings, and I still wanted to know what was morally wrong about causing pain and/or death.

Ultimately no one had an answer because you can’t get there. See my earlier posts on objective morality here for more info, or leave a comment if you disagree.

This may or may not have been the best approach, but the lesson for me is that we shouldn’t feel the need to always launch into a defense (even if one can be made). Instead we can look for questions that might help our cause.  Asking a question keeps people engaged, keeps us from doing all the heavy lifting and helps to clarify the points being addressed.


A cursory google search will help you if you’re looking for answers to the ‘immoral God’ objection above. If you’re looking for a full length treatment I highly recommend “God Behaving Badly” from Intervarsity Press.


2 Responses to “Attempting to re-route a conversation”

  1. Zach Gamble March 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Although a couple artistic swirls block my identity, I am now famous thanks to “What Do I Say To That”. It’s okay to admit it was a VERY slow night.


  1. You’re a Christian because you’re American! | What do I say to that? - March 21, 2013

    […] the series examining some recent interactions I had on Facebook. The first two are here and here. One of the objections that cropped up in several forms (and also appeared in the comments section […]

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