My friend Doug Geivett and I are in the beginning stages of developing a new version of a moral argument for theism. The argument is meant to be one part of a cumulative case, and not a stand-alone argument. In one portion of the argument, we argue that particular virtues, such as patience, humility, and forgiveness, are conceptually flawed and practically undermined if they do not include divine intentionality, that is, if they are not related to God in particular ways. This is all very rough at this point, including the following discussion of patience, but the point is to use the blog to think out loud as we develop the case. So any suggestions or objections are welcome.
Consider the virtue of patience. I think it is clear that it is reasonable to be patient. But certain forms of patience are not reasonable, if naturalism is true. On naturalism, I can be patient in line at the store, or with other drivers, or with my children, because of the therapeutic and relational value of patience in these realms. However, the naturalist cannot as easily account for the patient endurance of suffering or trials, in the following way. What am I waiting for, in the midst of terminal illness, challenging trials and tribulations, or an apparently irresolvable situation, when the desired states of affairs are outside of my ability to bring about? On naturalism I’m waiting for “my luck to change” or something along those lines (and whatever that means). This seems to be a weak basis for patience, and not a good reason to think that whatever I am waiting for will in fact occur. On naturalism, the attitude is “Wait and see.” By contrast, on theism I am waiting for God to come through. The attitude is not merely wait and see, but rather “Wait and see how God will prove his faithfulness.” For the theist there are positive reasons for patience, for expecting something good, sooner or later, to happen. There are reasons to be hopeful in patience. This is not the case on naturalism, making patience in many contexts, for the naturalist, irrational.
The argument with respect to patience, then, is this:
(1) It is reasonable to have and exercise patience.
(2) Christian theism can give a better account of (1) in certain contexts compared to naturalism.
(3) The reasonableness of patience in these contexts is a piece of evidence favoring Christian theism over naturalism.
For those readers interested in moral arguments, I recommend the recent book by Dave Baggett and Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011).