Are God’s standards reasonable?


Pastor Dan Nichols and Justin Vacula Photo by A. Elizabeth Baumeitster
Pastor Dan Nichols and Justin Vacula
Photo by A. Elizabeth Baumeitster


How is it that we know standards believed to have been designated by God are reasonable? Should unreasonable standards be followed?

Recently, in a recorded discussion with Pastor Dan Nichols of Restored Church in Wilkes-Barre — soon to be released — he and I spoke of standards that he believes God has designated for humanity.

Nichols said (to paraphrase) that humans, in a state of sin/a broken relationship with God cannot reach the standards God has set and only with the grace of God, combined with acceptance of God’s salvation, can be redeemed.

Nichols believes that since God creates standards for humans, the standards, by fiat and/or because God’s nature/intentions are good, the standards themselves are good. I disagreed, noting that since the standards are unreasonable and unobtainable, the standards are not good standards.

One cannot be held to a standard or some sort of moral duty if the standard or duty is too much of a burden and/or something that cannot be reasonably expected. For instance, you would be right in declining to donate your life savings to a charitable organization because you wouldn’t be able to sustain your own life. You couldn’t rightly be tasked with running a marathon [for a charitable cause] if you weren’t physically fit or able.

Why then, if humans would not be expected to be held to unreasonable standards set by other humans, should humans be held to even more unreasonable standards from a supposed supernatural being?

Worse yet, those who fail to follow God’s standards — whether they agree with them or not — set by some supernatural being are threatened with eternal torment – simply for the ‘crime’ of failing to dedicate your life and/or submit to a celestial authority. How, then, can we believe a being who is said to be all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful exists when such a trivial objection undermines the supposed omni-nature of this being?

When we start with a premise such that a God exists and is a supreme being, greater than all which exists, and we find fundamental problems with our initial premise, it’s time to rethink — at the very least — the nature of the being which exists. You may believe a being created the universe, for instance, but it’s a large leap from ‘being created the universe’ to the specific nature of the being and what this being wants our lives to be like.

When others set unreasonable standards, telling us how we ought to live our lives, whether the standards are said to be given by a supernatural being or a human, we are right to reject these standards and question the moral nature of the standard-giver. Rather than failing to modify our belief about another’s moral goodness — perhaps believing others simply know so much more than we do and that we can’t really understand others’ intentions — we ought to be courageous and confident in rejecting others’ advice when we find significant problems with it.

This submission has also been submitted to Dr. Peter Boghossian’s upcoming app ‘An App For Creating Atheists’ – a companion to his book ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists.’

Justin Vacula

Justin Vacula hosts the Stoic Philosophy Podcast; serves as co-organizer and spokesperson for the Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) Freethought Society; and has hosted monthly Stoic Philosophy discussion groups for the Humanist Association of Greater Philadelphia. He has appeared on and hosted various radio shows and podcasts; participated in formal debates and discussions; was a guest speaker for college-level courses; was featured in local, national, and international news; and has been invited to speak at various national, local, and statewide events. Vacula received bachelor's degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, a minor in Professional Writing, and the distinguished W.A. Kilburn Memorial Award for Philosophy from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He is currently living in the Scranton, PA area attending Marywood University's graduate-level Mental Health Counseling program and has worked with the Arc of Luzerne County's Transition to Community Employment program as a teacher's assistant and job coach alongside adult learners with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He also plays poker; volunteers as a member of the website and media team for the Greyhawk Reborn Dungeons & Dragons campaign while playing at events in the Eastern United States; and enjoys metal music.