Moral Laws Necessitate a Moral Lawgiver

by Lenny Esposito

As I showed yesterday, all people are obligated to obey a moral law. People will definitely fight about what this law allows and what it doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean morality isn’t objective. Certainly, we take into account certain circumstances, but the principles that ground morality remain consistent. For example, it is always immoral to inflict pain on an unwilling participant for the sole purpose of pleasuring oneself. That is true whether or not anyone else believes it to be true. It is also true all all times and for every culture. Thus, if morality exists at all, then it is universal in its scope: it applies to all humanity throughout history.

Moral laws are therefore not like physical laws, such as the law of gravity. Gravity tells us simply what is. It doesn’t tell us whether falling at 9.8 m/s2 is good, bad, or neutral. Moral laws, though, do give us a standard by which we must adhere. Since moral laws are prescriptive (they tell not what one is doing but what one ought to do) and universal, they must transcend humanity. Moral laws cannot be based in physical reality but must come from a moral lawgiver.

A moral lawgiver must transcend man

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Let me give you an example of why moral laws cannot be based in the properties of the psychical world. Some people argue that morality is a result of some evolutionary processes. They will usually say something like, “People began to construct a moral code because it helped them survive. As a matter of evolution, a species will survive if they don’t kill each other but look out for one another, so morality really evolved.” I’ll hear that idea often, that there’s some kind of random evolutionary process that crafted our morality. But evolution is offered as a result of natural functions in the world. If you think about nature and how it acts, things happen all the time that are both constructive and destructive, yet it makes no sense to describe natural acts as moral or immoral.

Imagine if you will a brilliant comet that orbits our solar system about once every five hundred years. For most of its orbit, it is obscured from the scientists’ view, so astronomers have been in anxious anticipation to study it. Even more so, writings from the medieval period suggest that the comet is exceedingly beautiful to view even with the naked eye. As the world gathers and waits for the comet to come into view, the unthinkable happens: a random meteor happens to smash into the comet shattering it into pieces. The question I ask is, “Was the meteor wrong to destroy the comet?” Such a question seems absurd on its face. The meteor wasn’t acting rightly or wrongly; it was simply a fluke of luck that the comet was destroyed. It was the outcome of random events governed by the physical laws of the universe…

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Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Moral Laws Necessitate a Moral Lawgiver