When the atheist is pinned down on the absurdity of subjective morality and has nowhere left to turn, often he'll attempt to point the finger right back at supposed problems with Biblical morality. But there are numerous overarching logical problems with this tactic:
1. It is an attempt to skirt the real issue at hand, which is that objective knowledge of good and evil (knowledge that we all share) cannot be accounted for in the material worldview.
2. More formally, it is a fallacious "Tu Quoque" argument (a.k.a., "the you too argument"). A Tu Quoque is defined as: "A retort charging an adversary with being or doing what he criticizes in others." In this context, the fallacy comes by implying that "Biblical morality is no better!" Once again, this is a fallacious appeal because it doesn't deal with the issue at hand - the fact that objective morals exist.
3. "Objective morality" by definition entails moral knowledge that is not a matter of human opinion, decision, etc. So right from the start it should be plainly understood that Biblical morality entails "external, binding laws," while the atheist has no rational basis whereby he can assert that anything is right or wrong, good or evil. That is to say, there is no way to attain real "moral truth" in the material worldview.
4. It is self refuting for the atheist to claim that any given "act of God" is wrong (such as commanding the Israelites to destroy the wretchedly evil Amalekites in Old Testament times), because the atheist has to presuppose objective morality in order to do so.
Despite these points, the atheist may persist in (fallaciously) arguing that Biblical morality is "also subjective and thereby problematic" because of God's actions described in the Old Testament. The atheist's challenge generally goes something like this:
"There is no objective morality in the Biblical worldview either! God commands Israelites to murder innocent women and slaughter babies! So on one hand god says, 'You Shall Not Murder,' while on the other hand he commands murder and genocide! Therefore, how would you know when something is actually wrong? ...If god told me to go out and start killing children, why would my actions be wrong?"
Here are specific rebuttals to this type of atheistic argument:
1. Firstly, this is a blatant twisting of scripture. God did not command the Israelites to "set about killing women and children," per se, any more than the United States government specifically commanded that all "women and children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki be incinerated in a nuclear explosion"...
Rather, after striving with nations and peoples (in some cases for hundreds of years) who were defying His will and would not turn from their wicked ways, God commanded acts of war against these evil ancient societies as a whole - where rituals like drinking blood and sacrificing children to false gods had become commonplace. The atheist's attempt is to make it seem as though God commands bitter, arbitrary acts of violence, when nothing could be furthur from the truth. The Bible makes it extremely clear that God takes no imperfect action, and gives no imperfect, unjust command. Furthermore, God takes no pleasure in death or suffering (any more than U.S. leaders took pleasure in bombing Hiroshima). It is entirely fallacious to cherry pick certain passages from the Bible to "deem God immoral," when the Bible unequivocally states that God is a perfectly just and loving God. If the atheist is going to argue the Bible with the Bible, then logically, they must argue the Bible in its full scope.
...This alone refutes any claim that God's actions were (or are) immoral. By Biblical definition and description, it is impossible that God be immoral. It would be an entirely different thing if scripture taught that "God is a being who becomes angry, and out of His anger commits immoral and unjust acts against mankind." But the Bible makes no such claim - and clearly claims the opposite to be true.
2. We are God's own creation. He refers to us as His children! We are called to have a loving relationship with Him. He loves us so much that He gave His own life that we might be saved. Thus, it's completely irrational to suggest that it would be God's desire to destroy - or in any way harm - His own creation. Rather, it pains God when people sink into sin and evil that must be destroyed such that His plan be upheld. Throughout Old Testament history, the overarching plan was nothing less than to usher in Jesus, the Messiah, via a "people set apart" - the Israelites.
It's also relevant to note that the Bible does not automatically "advocate what it reports" (historically), any more than a book on the American Civil War advocates setting out to kill one's neighbor.
3. Biblical perspective is vitally important as one considers the actions of God. From said perspective, one's life here on earth is but a brief passing moment. When we die, it is like opening a doorway to another life - eternal life. The moment that a child dies and passes through the doorway leading from this life to the next, they are forever in the arms of Jesus. It may sound imhumane to command that life be abruptly ended in a war time situation, and indeed it is unpleasant to think about from our finite human perspective. But ultimately, who are we to question God's timing in respect to calling His children home? All human beings, young and old, face death at some point. Furthermore, children do not belong to us; they belong to God. We can't know with any degree of certainty what the life of a child would have been like in the horrific aftermath of having their home and city destroyed in war. But what we do know is that there is no safer, more joyful place for any child to be than in the arms of the Lord.
4. Even if the atheist were correct in their (fallacious) assertion that Biblical morality is "likewise subjective," they're still left with the self defeating absurdity of moral relativism - which entails that a given individual or society could simply decide that even the most heinous random and senseless acts of violence are "good." Thus, even if there were controversy over certain cherry picked acts of God, it's a simple matter to come up with a black and white list of things that we all know to be wrong, and it only takes one objective (right or) wrong for objective morality to exist. The Biblical worldview accounts for this universal, invariant moral knowledge, while the materialist cannot account for even a single objective right or wrong.
5. The atheist is making a fallacious category error by judging God in the same way that God judges man. The atheist can't so much as rationally judge another person's morality, let alone the actions of God...
God is perfectly good by nature, and cannot defy His perfect goodness - but it does not logically follow from here that God is bound by His own laws. The Ten Commandments, for example, do not pertain to God but to mankind. What sense does it make to imply that God is bound by the laws that He set for us? We "alone" are bound by moral law. And there are no exceptions to these laws. That is to say, they are indeed objective. When God finds it necessary to take life or command that life be taken, for example, this is not an exception to that which is wrong for mankind to do on his own accord. God is the "store owner of life," and thus the just giver and taker of life (His "inventory"). It is logically impossible for God to "murder," for one because His nature is that of pure goodness, but also because God cannot "steal his own inventory." Only we can steal God's inventory by taking the life of a human being on our own accord. Thus, what God commanded of the Israelites was not (to commit) murder or genocide. Rather, God in certain pivotal situations had to enact capital punishment, command acts of war, and do what was necessary in a world where evil exists and must be kept in check.
God's actions were not arbitrary, random, senseless acts of violence. Rather, they were acts of goodness and justice according to His plan for humanity. If terrorists invaded our communities and our homes, would we be justified in taking lethal action against them? Of course. We have an innate moral awareness that it is righteous to defend and protect those we love.
6. God "hands down" morality to us via general and special revelation. God's Word, the Bible, lays out moral laws (not to be confused with the civil laws of the ancient Israelties) that we are to obey, and God has also "written morality upon our hearts." That is to say, we have God-given consciences that help us determine moral truth. However, this does not mean we're "automatically" able to conclude "what is morally true" in all situations. God - being God - foreknew the virtually endless moral situations that we as human beings would encounter. Thus, He equipped us with a set of tools to determine right from wrong in situations where "the right thing to do" is not immediately self evident. This set of tools entails not just moral knowledge of good and evil, but also logic and reasoning. In precisely the same way that we apply logic and reasoning to work out general truth and knowledge in our daily lives, it is necessary to appy logic and reasoning to work out moral truth and knowledge. Does this make Biblical morality subjective? Of course not. Determining moral truth is no different in this respect than solving a math problem: In each case, objective answers are "out there" even when solutions are not imminent. We know that in some cases, determining moral truth requires a formal judicial system where experts apply reasoning and conscience alike (i.e., the tools of moral truth) to solve moral problems. Atheists commonly make the mistake of thinking that reasoning and morality are mutually exclusive, when precisely the opposite is true; they are inexorably intertwined. God's very nature is that of love and goodness, but it is also logical. Morality itself is woven into logic - because logic must be truthful in order to be useful.
7. Ultimately, the atheist is arguing that God's actions were not morally justified, in which case His acts were immoral (arguing in this case from a Biblical perspective). As such, we can offer this challenge to the atheist:
On what scriptural basis can you be 100% certain that God's actions were not justified and were therefore immoral? You are arguing against the Bible via the Bible, meaning you'll have to provide reference to Bible passages which explicitly state that God is capable of immoral, unjust, evil acts. Note that you cannot appeal to moral law handed down to human beings, as said laws do NOT apply to God. What you are doing is projecting your own moral opinion over what the Bible actually says, which is self defeating. The Bible explicitly indicates time and time again that God (and His actions) are perfectly good and just. So again, without injecting your own moral opinion into cherry picked Old Testament acts and events, give me Biblical support that God is a God of immorality and injustice: Where in the Bible is this explicitly stated such that you can be 100% certain that God's actions were immoral? Without scriptural support, what you're really doing is arguing objective morality - which again is entirely self defeating considering your materialistic worldview.
In summary, when the atheist argues that Biblical morality is subjective on the implied basis that "any would-be immoral act could be justified via the Old Testament," this is simply nonsense. Never would God justify senseless acts of violence and immorality against the same human beings that He loves dearly. If the atheist wishes to argue the Biblical worldview, he must actually argue the Biblical worldview in its full scope. God loves us more than we can even fathom - so much that he suffered and died for us; and thus it logically follows that He had sound reasons for commanding that life be taken in situations where it was necessary to eradicate evil. Nor does Biblical morality warrant throwing logic and reasoning out the window when moral questions arise. Some moral truths are readily determined. We instantly "know that we know" that certain things are good. And we instantly know that certain things are bad. But then there are those things which require moral problem solving, and this is where reasoning (along with earnest prayer) becomes necessary.
So can Biblical objective morality be supported in light of the events of the Old Testament?
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