Crickets still chirping... (Updated)

Over a year ago, in the combox of a post on another topic, a reader asked for my opinion of Stephen Law’s “evil-god challenge” to theism.  In the same combox, I dashed off some brief remarks in response.  To my surprise, Law called attention to my off-the-cuff remarks over at his own blog, and offered a testy response in my combox.  He suggested that I read his article on the subject and told his own readers: “I have rattled [Feser’s] cage with a comment… Wonder if he'll respond?”

Well, I did read his article and I did respond both to the article and to his combox remarks, non-polemically and in detail.   Over a year later, I am still waiting for Law’s reply – a reply he said he would write.  Wonder if he’ll ever get to it?

Mind you, I don’t necessarily blame him for not replying.  He said he was busy, and I believe him.  I am extremely busy myself and don’t have time to reply to more than a fraction of the people who comment on my work.  But a reader’s remarks suggest that it may be a good idea for Law to get to it already: 

I also listened to [William Lane Craig’s] first debate with Dr Stephen Law last Friday and found the debate both frustrating and confusing.  Dr Law used the "Evil God Challenge" as his central (I might even say his only) argument of the night… 

I also noticed that Stephen Law (on his website) had said that he would reply to your more considered critique when he was less busy, although he doesn't appear to have done so yet.

Considering that you had replied to him a full year ago, and pretty comprehensively it appeared to me, I was doubly surprised that he had chosen to go with the Evil God Challenge against Dr Craig.  He appears to have been telling everyone how well he did in the debate on his own blog, as well as on other blogs to those who disagree with him, which I find disturbing. 

If Law is going to keep presenting his “evil-god challenge” as if it were some knockout punch to theism generally, he really ought to reply to the points I made in my post.  For as I argued there, Law’s “challenge,” to the extent that it has any force at all, is a threat at most only to the modern, historically idiosyncratic, and anthropomorphic conception of God enshrined in what Brian Davies has labeled “theistic personalism” (and what others have called “neo-theism”).  It is irrelevant to the classical theism of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Averroes, Avicenna, Aquinas, and classical (Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic) theology more generally.  And thus it is irrelevant to what has historically been regarded as standard (and in some contexts, such as Catholicism, normative) Christian theology (not to mention historically standard Jewish theology, Muslim theology, or purely philosophical theology).  

No doubt Law gets away with presenting his “evil-god challenge” as if it were a threat to theism in general because most of his readers and listeners are as ignorant as he evidently is of the classical theistic tradition.  But while that may be good rhetorical strategy, it is bad philosophy.   

Since posting my more detailed reply to Law, I have written up a couple of other posts relevant to the topic of the relationship between God, goodness, and morality.  Readers interested in understanding what is wrong not only with Law’s argument but also with other common atheist arguments concerning God and morality (e.g. the so-called Euthyphro dilemma) are thus directed to the following:

“Law’s ‘evil-god challenge’”

“God, obligation, and the Euthyphro dilemma”

“Does morality depend on God?” 

Readers who want a more detailed account of the classical theistic conception of God and how it differs from theistic personalism might also look at the following: 

“William Lane Craig on divine simplicity”

“Davies on divine simplicity and freedom” 

“Classical theism”

“God, man, and classical theism” 

“The ‘one god further’ objection”

“A further thought on the ‘one god further’ objection” 

Obviously, what I have to say on the subject in my books Aquinas and The Last Superstition is relevant too.  (For example, anyone who is going to comment on the relationship between God and goodness had better know something about the Scholastic doctrine of the transcendentals, which I discuss in chapter 2 of Aquinas.)

UPDATE: See the combox below for a response by Stephen Law and my reply.
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