Does God Exist? The Moral Argument
guest post by David Stoecker*
In chapter 4 Doug Powell looks at whether or not God exists through axiology, or the study of morality and values. He posits the question, “Are right and wrong objective realities with claims on all people at all times, or are they subjective realities only – matters of opinion?” Today we see how moral argument attempts to show that if moral values are to make any sense, they must be both universal and objective. Further, if they are objective then there must be a source that is “a transcendent, personal being for whom human actions and motives are not a matter of indifference.”
Relativism: In our culture, the most popular moral view is relativism. It says that individuals and societies decide right and wrong and that right and wrong vary from person to person and from culture to culture. People create values and they are subject to change instead of being universal and objective moral truths. Relativism comes in three flavors, cultural relativism, conventionalism and ethical subjectivism.
Cultural Relativism: Cultural relativism sees different cultures that appear to have different values. Because of that, there can be no right system of morality or they would be shared by all. For example, the United States allows abortions as a legal option, China actually requires abortions under certain circumstances and Mexico has laws that prohibit abortion. Since these countries all appear to have different morals, there can be no objective reality.
Morals are viewed through observation. So, at best these observations are statements of what is factually observed. Just because something SEEMS to be a certain way does not mean that they SHOULD be that way. Also, just because there are different answers to the same question does not meant a right answer doesn’t exist. If golfers argue over the strokes one of them took on a hole, they are either both wrong or one of them is right. They cannot both be right.
Lastly, cultural relativism refutes itself. If a cultural relativist claims he has the correct view of moral theory and other views are wrong he is not abiding by his own claims. If he claims there is no universal right view of moral theory, he cannot say that other views are incorrect. Due to that cultural relativism cannot be a proper explanation for morality.
Conventionalism: Conventionalism says morals are decided by each society. Morality is simply what is legal, which can differ from society to society. There is a right and a wrong, which makes it different from cultural relativism. In this instance, if a society said blues eyes were illegal and that those possessing blue eyes would die, there would be nothing immoral about the law. The immoral thing in that society would be those born with blue eyes.
This may sound crazy, but it is exactly what Germany did in the 30’s and 40’s. Jews were declared to be both subhuman and deserving of death. Since law is law, the concentration camps were not only filled with Jews but with German criminals. The crime the Germans committed was pretesting Nazi policies and laws.
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Conventionalism is not about morality, but instead power. The will of the majority defines morality and forces into submission or imprisons any who oppose. Due to this, people like Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were criminals. By the sheer moral bankruptcy of conventionalism, it lacks much needed to explain morality.
Ethical Subjectivism: Ethical subjectivism says that individuals decide wrong and right for themselves, and only themselves. “What’s true for you is true for you, and what ‘s true for me is true for me.” Another common refrain is, “Who are you to judge me?” No longer does nayone have the right to say what anyone does in either right or wrong. Saving a drowning baby can no longer be praised, and drowning a baby could no longer be reviled.
This view is self-refuting. If all truth is relative, than what are we to do with this universal statement? And if ethical subjectivism is not true for everybody, than why would someone who holds that view attempt to push it onto others? Paul Copan says that claiming a statement holds true for all but you is called the “self-excepting fallacy.”
“Torturing babies for fun is wrong,” is a great way to expose what is wrong with ethical subjectivism. Obviously, that statement would not be correct as it is stating a universal that others may not agree with. Someone thinking torturing babies for fun is okay behavior has to have their feelings validated by an ethical subjectivist. Beckwith and Koukl state, “The quintessential relativist is a sociopath, one with no conscience.”
Objective Morality:Morals are not descriptions of behavior, but instead are prescriptions for behavior. Morals aren’t opinions, but instead they contain a sense of obligation and rightness to them. Moral relativism turns out to simply be sets of opinions. Morals are universal and they transcend society, time, and people. Therefore the source must be transcendent and universal. Since morals are authoritative, not telling us what we should do but what we ought to do, they must come from an authority. This authoritative, transcendent and universal entity we call God.
We have looked at the validity of a God existing through morals, design and cosmological arguments in the past few chapters. In chapter 5 we will sort out which God exists by looking at various existing religions.
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*Written for TPE by David Stoecker of Spiritual Spackle.