Objective Morality and the Existence of God
by David Russell
Welcome friends and family to another addition to “Stones from the stream” where we discuss apologetics and recently ethics. Today, we are going to continue our apologetic series by examining the moral argument for the existence of God. So, put on your thinking caps and let’s dive in.
Over the years, I have dealt with the moral argument in many different ways. I used to get stumped by friends and family posing questions that always seemed to throw me for a loop. As I matured, I studied this topic in great detail and hopefully help you all understand its importance not only in apologetics, but in your overall understanding of the question of morality. I admit it is hard to do in just a short article; so again, I hope this gives you a desire to truly dive in. My biggest problem always started in the communication aspect; many people are unfamiliar with the terms used, such as “objective morality” or “subjective morality,” they also have problems distinguishing between values and duties. A lot is due to a lack of taking a real close look at the topic in itself, this makes it hard to communicate this argument with patience. First thing I want to do is clarify the argument a little bit, cover some bases so that one may have an easier time in communicating this in their apologetic.
First, what do we mean by “objective”? We mean, independent of human opinion. A case in point, torturing babies for fun is objectively wrong. William Lane Craig gives us an example using the laws of nature, he basically sums it up by saying “they exist, whether we acknowledge them or not”. (On Guard, chapter 6; Can we be good without God) Secondly, what do we mean by “subjective” this means; dependent on human opinion. Another great example is given by Greg Koukl as he often describes subjective opinion by comparing ice cream flavors, (Ambassadors training curriculum, lecture; The truth is not ice cream, faith is not wishing).
We have to come to a point in which we understand that the truth isn’t ice cream. Truth be told, we are all moral beings and morality is every bit a part of this reality as gravity is. Understanding that we are all moral agents and understanding that we all have moral experience is key, without such understanding we will find ourselves saying “ Good and evil just exist and are abstract”, then having to justify why you we should align ourselves to moral obligations and duties. Moral experience applies to us all; we experience both moral values and duties, as Dr Craig points out concerning values, he says “values refer to good and bad based on worth and action, duty refers to obligation to act in a certain way, whether that action is right or wrong.” After we understand these distinctions we then have to be honest with ourselves and treat our moral experience as we do our other five senses; as open to error.
Just because our senses are open to error doesn’t mean we don’t have reliable senses in determining the truth of an external world; the same goes with moral experience. We should accept the basic fact that there really is an actual good and evil, right and wrong. The truth should run parallel here, as in, how we experience the natural world by our five senses objectively, so we also experience objective moral values and duties by our moral intuition. With this being firmly established, we can properly examine the argument laid out for us. This particular argument is laid out by Dr. Craig and is the shortest, but effective, for any short article; the argument follows;
- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Objective moral values and duties do exist.
- Therefore, God exists.
You can find this little powerful argument in most of his work; he defends it well and is worth taking a look at. Let’s expand:
For me, the argument pushes foundations. The first premise makes a very true claim, one only a deity of relational nature can create; if God does not exist, then “true” objective morals and values do not exist. Why?
If they aren’t objective then they are not grounded in anything and are purely subjective. This can operate on a social scale or a personal scale. On this view morality is subjected to the said beliefs of the society or the individual, this pushes morality away from objectivity and places it in the realm of collected opinions in which we now know goes against the definition of the previously defined term “objective”. At the end of the day if you make morality subjective then its basis is people, there really is no good or evil, nor right or wrong, no standard to base any of it in. Morality, at this point, becomes merely subjective illusions of moral grandeur and a bye-product of sociobiological evolution. Again Dr. Craig points out how the sociobiological position undermines itself, “Given the truth of naturalism, all our beliefs, not just our moral beliefs, are the result of evolution and social conditioning. Thus, the evolutionary account leads to skepticism about knowledge in general. But this is self-defeating because then we should be skeptical of the evolutionary account itself, since it, too, is the product of evolution and social conditioning!” (On Guard p. 144)
Again, without morality being objective, you erase all sense of intrinsic moral worth and can no longer claim you have inalienable rights, its just mere survival of the fittest, might is right. Progression also falls apart, horrendous acts committed by peoples or societies become different and not evil, condemnation of such atrocities become unjustified because they in fact did nothing wrong. Without an ultimate Good, which I will add that is God, then the basis for objective moral duties quickly evaporate and you can no longer claim one act is wrong while another is right. This undoubtedly goes against our previously explained moral intuition. This provides the basis for arguing the second premise, and the very fact that we all have moral experience and moral intuition helps a great deal in understanding that there is actual good and evil, right and wrong.
In conclusion I think the moral argument justly concludes “Therefore, God exists”. I also believe that this argument is one of the best a theist can use and have in his apologetic arsenal; it is also one of the best arguments to study in depth.