Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why So Serious?- The Moral Argument for God's Existence


The Moral Argument for the existence of God is as follows:

1. Every law has a law giver.
2. There is a Moral Law.
3. Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver.

If the first 2 points can be verified, then the 3rd logically follows. Obviously, every law has a law giver. For a law to even exist or be discussed it had to have been created. There can be no legislation unless there's a legislature. [1]

However, is it reasonable to believe that a true absolute Moral Law exists? I submit that it is and that to believe otherwise could result, and has resulted, in morally reprehensible consequences.

The idea of a Moral Law is impressed into mankind. For example, we know that love is superior to hate. We applaud and revere those who work to save lives, feed the poor, or care for the sick. Try to imagine a world were those celebrated were the ones that murdered others in cold blood, starved the poor, or discarded the sick. Or, as C.S. Lewis wrote in his classic work Mere Christianity:

"Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five." [2]

All of us know that there are absolute moral obligations. Who in their right mind would suggest that rape should be legalized? An absolute moral obligation is something that is binding on all people, at all times, in all places. And an absolute Moral Law points to an absolute Moral Law Giver. [3]

Let us imagine for a moment what a life could be like if someone decided to truly embrace the idea that there are no moral obligations in this world. Let us envision a life lived out, fully embracing the idea that there is no Moral Law or Moral Law Giver.

I believe that the late Health Ledger's performance as the Joker in the film The Dark Knight gives us a hint of what a life could look like if one truly adopted the idea that no Moral Law exists.

Ledger's performance is eerie, unnerving, and brilliant. The Joker, most likely the number one comic book villain of all time, fully embraces the idea of anarchy and chaos. He concedes as much:

"The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules."

As a result, the Joker leaves a wake of destruction, murder, and social disorder wherever he goes and views his existence as a kind of giant social experiment. He himself states, "You'll see, I'll show you, that when the chips are down, these uh... civilized people, they'll eat each other."

The scary thing about the Joker's philosophy of "living without rules" is that if there is no God, no one would be justified in claiming whether or not he is right or wrong. If there is no objective, transcendent source of the Moral Law in which we can look to as our moral compass, isn't "living in the world without rules" okay? If not, why? Or, how do we know?

As Francis Schaeffer rightly points out, a world with no moral absolutes leads to confusion and an inevitable moral vacuum:

“If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are merely left with conflicting opinions.” (4)

For those who would deny that an objective moral standard exists, one only needs to treat them poorly and watch their reaction! However, I do not recommend this, but only mention it to bring about a point.

The non-believer may object by stating, "One doesn't have to believe in God to live a moral life!" I could not agree more! The Apostle Paul tells us the reason a nonbeliever can live a moral life:

"So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences testify in support of this, and their competing thoughts either accuse or excuse them..." (Romans 2:14-15, CSB).

Atheists cast aside the very foundation of goodness-God, who created them and who is the highest Good. [5]

The problem for the nonbeliever is that they have nothing in which to solidify why they believe love is better than hate. Or why saving a life is better than taking one in cold blood. Their conscience simple is and their atheistic worldview cannot explain where the feelings come from, why they exist, or if they even matter. Logically then, the question must be asked: "If we are not morally responsible to a Creator, why choose the better virtue?" If killing someone gets one to where they want to be and the guilt they feel afterward is simply a feeling brought about by naturalistic causes, then why not just dismiss those feelings? If you can avoid being penalized by the existing law system, why not "introduce a little chaos," as the Joker recommends?

The reader at this point maybe wondering, "Does this guy realize that The Dark Knight is based upon a fictional work and that the Joker isn't a real person?" Of course I do, however, I believe the films focal character offers insight into what a life could look like (minus the make-up and the funny suit!) if one were to truly embrace the idea that life has no meaning and that God does not exist. It has been rightly stated that if God does not exist, all is permissible...

Yes, The Dark Knight is a fictional film. Much like a world without an absolute Moral Law is fictional.

Conclusion

Without God, morality is merely subject to the whims of mankind’s feelings, opinions, and agendas. Our thoughts and feelings of right and wrong are products of one long string of meaningless chemical accidents, so why should we trust them or heed them? Reason becomes meaningless, life becomes meaningless, and morality becomes meaningless.

Those who hold to atheism and live a “moral” lifestyle live above the conclusions of their worldview; however, their worldview cannot justify nor sustain their actions. God alone provides us with an Objective Moral Compass.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Resources:

1) Norman Geisler and Roman Turek, I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 171.
2) CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 19.
3) Geisler and Turek, Ibid, p. 171.
4) Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?, p. 145.
5) Paul Copan, What Is the Natural Law?, The Apologetics Study Bible, p. 1683.

For Further Reading on The Moral Argument for God, please see:

1) http://www.biblicaldefense.org/Writings/moral_argument.htm- The Moral Argument by Phil Fernandas.

2) http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html- The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality by Dr. William Lane Craig
3) http://christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_moral.html- Is it Possible to be Good Without God? by Christopher Price

2 comments:

tigg13 said...

I find it interesting that you have chosen to use the Joker as an example of what immorality would look like. Particularly since the Batman is, technically, a criminal himself.

The whole concept behind Batman is that "the Law" is fundementally flawed and that only by acting outside of the law can true justice (or morality) be acheived.

What makes the Joker such a perfect nemesis for Batman is that he essentially does exactly what Batman does - force his own interpretation of morality onto everybody else.

I think that the fictional realm of superheroes is the best place to analyze questions about morality. Its easy to say that rape and murder are bad when faced with the sociatal constraints of the average person. It is when those constraints are removed and all possible consequences dissolved that right and wrong become more than theoretical ideas.

This is what separates the superhero from the supervillian. Both have the power to do whatever they want, whenever they want without fear of reprisal. But the heroes choose not to. Why?

You believe it is because we have a moral obligation to follow a specific set of rules that have somehow been imprinted within us.

But doesn't that devalue the morals themselves? Isn't it better to do the right thing because its the right thing rather than because you feel you are expected to do it.

And if there is one absolute moral truth that we are all aware of, how do you explain the vast diversity of moral and ethical values across the world and throughout time?

Oh sure, its easy to point at issues like rape and murder (which any clear thinking human being would see as wrong) and say "See, we all have the same moral code." But lets take an issue like slavery and look at how it has been valued. Today, our culture sees it as a bad thing, but Abraham didn't think it was a bad thing, or the Levites or even Jesus. Where was their moral obligation on this matter? Or is it we who are mistaken?

You said, "Without God, morality is merely subject to the whims of mankind's feelings, opinions, and agendas." Doesn't this describe the world in which we live in? Isn't your interpretation of morality based on your feelings, opinions and agendas? Oh, you may have used a Bible as a baseline for those feelings and opinions and agendas but they are still uniquely yours.

I think the reason we are drawn to stories about heroes is that we admire and respect those who are virtuous for the sake of being virtuous. We may not always agree exactly with what those virtues might be, but we certainly applaud those who, without any promise of reward, exemption from any consequences or obligations to act in any way at all still strive to do what they think is right and good.

We applaud them and wish to be like them.

Chad said...

Tigg13,

Thank you for visiting our blog and taking the time to comment. I would like to respond to a few of your points.

It’s important to remember that the focus of this article was the Joker (as portrayed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight) and his philosophy. Whether Batman is a criminal or not is irrelevant to my points, respectfully.

Further, I believe that many of your comments serve to further the argument I have presented and do nothing to call my conclusions into question.

1) Hero

Without an objective moral standard, this term is meaningless. Heroic actions and villainous actions would be merely subjective. The statement, “The hero saved his life” would mean the same, and be no morally different than, “The hero murdered someone.” However, we know hero’s don’t murder in cold blood. Otherwise, they are not longer heroes, but villains.

2) You wrote, “Isn’t it better to do the right thing because it’s the right thing rather than because you feel you are expected to do it.”

Here, you are confusing the point. My entire line of reasoning is that without an objective moral standard, the “right thing” is just an opinion. For example, you might say that preserving life is “right,” however, I claim that taking life for my own gain is “right.” Who can say otherwise if morality is simple an individual’s “interpretation of morality forced onto everyone else?” From your comments you obviously believe that rape is wrong; do you believe that because you are “expected” not to rape people? No, you know that it is wrong because of the moral “oughtness” imprinted within.

3) You wrote, “Oh sure, its easy to point at issues like rape and murder (which any clear thinking human being would see as wrong) and say, “See, we all have the same moral code.”

You are correct! Think this through: Truthfully answering a simple moral question such as “Is murder justified?” proves that at least one law of morality exists (don’t murder). You concede as much! If just one moral obligation exists (such as don’t murder, or don’t rape, or don’t torture), then the Moral Law exists. If the Moral Law exists, then so does the Moral Law Giver.
[1]

4) You wrote, “And if there is one absolute moral truth that we are all aware of, how do you explain the vast diversity of moral and ethical values across the world and throughout time?”

Diversity within our Moral Law’s does not at all prove that there is no Objective Moral Standard. Scientists, for example, don’t deny the existence of the natural world simply because they discover a difficult problem within the natural world.

When mankind uses language such as- good and bad, noble and cowardly, applauding and contempt- we are appealing to a shared standard of judgment outside ourselves. The presence of moral disagreement does not prove the absence of universal morality. How can the fact of behavior, however bizarre and diverse, invalidate the norm of what is right? [2]

It’s also important to note that the existence of moral disagreements doesn’t disprove the existence of an absolute moral standard, but actually strengthens it! After all, how can there be real moral disagreements without an objective moral standard by which involved parties can be measured? Otherwise, everybody is right!

5) Regarding your comments about slavery:

The perception of a moral situation can differ (whether slavery is right), but the moral values involved in the situation do not (meaning, slavery is and always has been wrong).

For a better understanding of the Bible and slavery, please see:

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/qnoslave.html

6) “You may use the Bible as a baseline for those feelings and opinions and agendas”

Incorrect! The argument I’ve presented does not rely on the Bible to sustain itself. Look at it again:

1) Every law has a law giver.
2) There is a Moral Law.
3) Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver exists.

My conclusion may be consistent with a biblical worldview, however, it does not rely on the Bible to sustain it’s conclusion. I included the verses to show that the Bible accurately describes the basis for the obvious Moral Code within the heart of man.

My “agenda” is simply to be objective regarding the available evidence. It I can sustain my views regarding morality with evidence that corresponds with reality, then my opinion doesn’t matter; “What is true?” becomes the relevant question.

6) You wrote, “We may not always agree exactly with what those virtues might be, but we certainly applaud those who, without any promise of reward, exemption from any consequences or obligations to act in any way at all still strive to do what they think is right and good.”

What if they believe that what is “right” is murder, deceit, and mayhem? If that is their “interpretation of morality,” does that make it right? As you wrote, “Any clear thinking human being would see (this) as wrong.”

Please consider the weight of Lewis’s argument. Lewis rightly believed that there exists verifiable, universal moral laws and virtues- impartial justice, truthfulness, kindness, mercy, and respect for human life. A theological term for this “Law” is the Natural Law. It is the universal law recognized by all humanity because we were created in the image of God Himself.

The only other explanation of the “Moral Law within,” as Jean-Paul Sartre called it, is that it’s a product of naturalist evolution. However, if morality is simply a by-product of the evolutionary process, then rights or moral responsibility do not truly exist; how can value or morality emerge from impersonal, mindless, valueless processes over time? [3] This is why the existence of a theistic God is the better, more believable, explanation of the Moral Law that deep down, although many suppress it, know exists.

I believe the reason that we are drawn to superhero stories is because of what those stories reflect. Author Michael Brewer puts it well:

“If half the world’s stories are about good overcoming evil, the other half are love stories. Both themes meet in the crucifixion. God purposely chose a means of salvation that would reveal the depths of God’s love for us. The cross is His way of saying, “Look how much I love you! See how much you matter to me…no price is too high to pay for you, not even the death of my own Son.” [4]

Again, I appreciate you visiting our blog and encourage you to check out the “For Further Study” section I’ve provided with this article (if you haven’t already).

Respectfully

Resources:

1) Norman Geisler and Roman Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 184-185.

2) Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great about Christianity?, p. 229.

3) Paul Copan, The Apologetics Study Bible, p. 1687.

4) Michael Brewer, Who Needs a Superhero?, p. 200.