Today we’re going to be thinking about the relationship between God and morality. For those who have studied philosophy, you will know that a much-discussed problem in moral philosophy is the trolley problem. A good (but not for the faint-hearted) illustration can be found from the Netflix series the Good Place (the clip is available here/ or just search ‘trolley problem good place’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDnO4nDA3kM)
Here’s the explanation for those who don’t have the video: Your trolley is moving towards five people who will be killed if you keep moving, but if you press the lever to switch the track, the trolley would hit and kill 1 person.
What would you do?
‘What difference does God make to morality?’ Prof. C. Stephen Evans [18 minutes]
Is Stephen right that all thinking people should care about ethics? How much thought have you given to what is good/bad and what we should/shouldn’t do? And why?
The interview discussion started with Dostoyevsky’s quotation: ‘If God is dead, then everything is permitted.’ What do you think about this claim? What do you think about Stephen’s idea that moral obligations have to come from a higher being rather than from society or from ourselves?
What do you think about Stephen’s idea that all people have a conscience which provides some awareness of God’s voice?
Do you think our culture thinks of obligations in negative terms? What do you think about the idea that God’s commands are a gift?
Josh asked the question: Is Christianity more about obligations and rules or about values and virtues? What do you think?
Do you think there are good examples of acts which are always wrong to do (i.e. which we’re obliged not to do)? If so, do you think God helps to make sense of these?
Can you think of an example in which a group of people found it hard to agree on an objective moral obligation? This might be as trivial as disagreement over when who might do the washing up in shared accommodation, or as serious as political disagreement.
Stephen argued that God knows what is good and that his law can guide us towards goodness, and also that he desires us to be transformed and that his law is a gift which can lead us to such transformation.
Read Psalm 19:7-14 together, taking time to reflect on this.
Our perspective on this topic can influence how we share our faith with others. Spend some time discussing how the questions raised in this video might impact how we communicate about our faith to others
‘Conclusion video’. Dr. Joshua Cockayne [1 minute]
Stephen refers to Nietzsche in saying that every philosophy is a kind of involuntary biography. Stephen suggests that we bring to philosophy a lot of convictions and presuppositions, is the same true for theology? Can you think of any examples in which the way you’ve engaged with theology in this series (or elsewhere) has revealed something about what you care about?
C. Stephen Evans, 2014. God and Moral Obligation (Oxford University Press)
David Baggett and Jerry Walls, 2016. God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning (Oxford University Press)
David Baggett and Jerry Walls, 2011. Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press)