I was challenged by Robson in a debate to ask him, so, here is the answer:
OK… well, I certainly lack sufficient time to try responding to the entire issue under debate. But with regards to the specific question you’re asking, you have the right of it. God made no statement which was materially false. Giving a command or instruction which one does not sincerely intend to be carried out cannot be a “materially false statement or representation” for the purposes of a fraud statute. Moreover, the portion of any valid fraud statute which your interlocutor did not faithfully quote (likely because he was simply pulling from a legal advice site, not from the statute itself) is that the false representation must be made with the intent to unlawfully deprive the other of “something of value”—in other words, God could only be held to have committed “fraud” against Abraham if His alleged “deception” caused Abraham to surrender something of value (or was intended to do so). In fact, the “thing of value” Abraham was being asked to surrender (Isaac’s life) was the very thing God never intended to take. Mere falsehood, without intent to profit, is not fraud.
More generally, materiality depends on context—a given fact or statement can be “material” to a particular matter while simultaneously being immaterial to a related matter (e.g., the matter of how many beers you’ve had is a material fact if you’re charged with drunk driving, but it’s immaterial if you’re charged with tax evasion). But that’s something I mention only for completeness—it’s not relevant here.
I’d also like to point out that Mr. Robson has very deftly led you down a chain of fallacious tangents.
- The original question was whether you could be guilty of inducing someone to do evil even if you never sincerely intended that they do so.
- As an initial example, Mr. Robson pointed out that, in my home State of Massachusetts, you can be convicted for selling fake drugs. This is true, but irrelevant for a key reason:
- The statute which he cites is a separate statute—that is, you can’t be found guilty of drug trafficking for selling fake drugs, there merely happens to be a separate statute under which you can be found guilty (distributing a counterfeit substance). So, it is simply not an example of a case in which you can be guilty of inducing a crime even if you planned it such that the crime would never be committed.
- The federal statute is similarly irrelevant and also not even applicable—it punishes the sale of “misbranded pharmaceuticals”, meaning selling aspirin as ecstasy would be illegal, but selling sugar (a non-pharmaceutical substance) as cocaine would not be.
- And then, he takes a further step away from the original point by bringing in fraud liability. Even if he could argue that God had committed fraud (obviously false, but arguendo…), it would not help his case about whether God is guilty of “tempting Abraham to sin” because that dispute hinged on the original question of whether a person can be held liable for inciting a crime without any intent that the crime be committed—the fact that such a scenario might lead to criminal liability for something other than incitement to the crime in question is… well, ironically, immaterial to the dispute.
Also, I do agree with your assessment that, as God is the Author and Sustainer of life, and as He is perfectly free to decree an end to any life He so chooses, it would not have been sin for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac at God’s express command, even if God hadn’t intervened at the last minute to stop him. Whatever the principal may lawfully do, He may lawfully instruct an agent to do, and that agent may lawfully obey.
Mr. Robson may call that “special pleading”, but I would argue that it follows naturally from any proper understanding of what it truly means for an entity to be God. Atheist arguments against God’s morality typically make the mistake of seeing “God” as merely a super-powered ruler, separate from and unconnected to His human subjects. But in fact, He is the Cause, Ground, and Guarantor of all existence, including each breath we take and each instant of life we are granted—and a humanist paradigm has literally no framework in which to account for such a scenario.