Debunking the idea of a just deity

The following article and title were taken from the CARM discussion boards1 by an atheist named HRG.  It resulted in a lively discussion.  It caught my eye, and I thought I would put in my two cents.

I have reproduced the article (since it is on a public forum) and provided responses.  The original is in brown, and my responses are in green.

Many, many theists have said to me that I have no right to question the morality or justice of a deity.

I don't know if I would say that you don't have a right to question the morality or justice of a deity.  I would ask on what basis do you judge what is moral and just?  As an atheist, you have no objective standard by which to make such judgments.  Therefore, your view of what is right and wrong must be based upon your experiences and your preferences.  This is automatically subjective; and it is this subjectivity, as any valid basis of objection, that I would question when you assert what may or may not be moral and just.

It would seem that the ultimate creator and ruler of the universe has a far better conception of justice and morality than any mere mortal could, and we should trust that deity (which should make sense although I shall make the case that this is not so).

Are you going to make a case saying that which makes sense does not really make sense?  Such a self-contradiction is not a good way to start.  But, if God does exist, I would agree with you that his conception of justice and morality would be better than that of any mere mortal.

Apparently there are also those who claim that since a deity created us, he can do with us as it pleases and we have no right to say anything about it.

That would seem logical.

None of those ideas equate with justice.

I hope the rest of this post from the atheist substantiates his statement.

Under most circumstances no one I know would claim that might makes right. Yet when the issue turns to a deity, such values are waived. Why is that?

I do not think you have represented the Christian position properly.  It is not an issue of might makes right.  We certainly would not state that a bully, by virtue of his being bigger and stronger than someone else, is automatically morally correct in his behavior.  This is something that Christians would not affirm.  But it seems to be what you accuse the Christians of stating.

The Christian God is, of course, "big."  But his moral rightness is not due to his size.  It is due to his holy character. 

If we are the creation of a deity, we should always keep in mind that creators are responsible for their creations. We are not dogs, but to use an example, consider the training of a dog--if you raise it since it was a puppy, and it turns out vicous and mean, is it the dogs fault, or the one who raised it? While it can be pointed out that dogs by nature might just be nasty (i.e. it's genetic), that doesn't apply to a deity capable of creating something from scratch.

When you say, "we should always keep in mind that creators are responsible for their creations," you aren't explaining what you mean by "responsible."  There are certainly areas in which a parent is responsible for his children or an employer for his employees.  But we would agree that such responsibilities have contextual limits.  So, unless the context and the extent of such responsibility were explained further, the statement is suspect.
The dog analogy is insufficient.  When an individual raises a dog, there are far too many variables that cannot be quantified: the wisdom and experience of the trainer, the temperament of the dog, etc. This does not port over when comparing an infinitely wise and all-knowing God.  I fail to see how this atheist is making a cogent argument.

What of people born with birth defects due to no fault of their own?

What about them?  Does a birth defect mean that God is not God?  Christianity confesses that there is a deleterious effect of sin in the world (sickness, toil, moral injustice, death, etc.). This is the result of man's rebellion--not God's created order.

The very nature of the universe is one that revolves around destruction in order for creation to occur. Something must be destroyed, and it's substance stolen, for other things to exist. It applies to stars, it applies to planets, it applies to plants and animals.

Life in our universe comes from death and destruction.

Chalking such a universe up as the creation of benevolent and loving deity disregards the nature of the universe itself. Life is not without pain, and it is necessarily so, for that is the nature of the universe we live in. It none the less should be considered that any deity that created such a universe is either limited in the ability to create a universe not dependent upon destruction, or simply lacks the will to create one.

Regarding an imperfectly functioning moral universe, you again failed to understand that the Christian concept of God and His created order includes what is known as "The Fall."  The Fall is the event in history when our ancient father, Adam, rebelled against God.  It was through this rebellion that sin entered the world with its effects:  natural disasters, sickness, death, suffering, etc.  You have failed to take into account the biblical revelation of this fall in your assertions.
When you say, "any deity that created such a universe is either limited in the ability to create a universe not dependent upon destruction, or simply lacks the will to create one," you are making a blanket statement without considering possible explanations.  In other words, your conclusion isn't a logical necessity.  First of all, there is no reason to assert that the existence of pain, suffering, and death in the world means that God is limited.  God could certainly have a reason, or reasons, for allowing pain, suffering, and death in the world (i.e., demonstrating the ultimate failure of man's moral wisdom, providing an opportunity for the incarnation and atonement, demonstrating that God alone is wise and good, etc.). Furthermore, if God were to create a universe where he allowed pain, suffering, and death to exist, then he's done so according to his will and within the confines of his moral judgment.  There is nothing illogical about that, and it would not mean he lacks a will to create what he desires, which would be imposing an undue restriction on God's nature.  He did create what he desired, and he allowed sin to enter the world.

Either there is a deity who created the universe but is still incompetent (unable to create a better one), one who does not care for the pain necessary in his creation and it's effects upon the inhabitants, or there simply is no deity.

Again, his comments are not logically necessary.  They are incomplete, unsubstantiated, and do not examine possible biblically based explanations for the condition of the universe--as I've cited above.

There are many arguments even I can think of to bring up on this topic, and I look forward to them.

Perhaps his following arguments might be more cogently produced.

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About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.