What’s Next? See all videos below In previous videos, I have been talking that I wanted to do some videos on apologetic arguments. Until now, I have chosen different topics each time. Topics that some of you suggested and also topics suggested by my own family. The latest suggestion was that of the impact of […]
Apologeet.nlMoral Argument Made Simple
A new video! On apologetics again. I promised in my last video to show you a bit of our road here in the countryside of Madagascar. So, stay tuned, because I will paste some of that footage at the end of this video.
Anyway, let’s get started.
I grew up in a time that knew wonderful developments. From loading my video games with a cassette up to the first decent sized mobile phone. When I got a little older I attended, the still illegal, house parties where many Dutch DJ’s started their career. So much fun! So much amazing things to find out.
Of course, I knew that people could do bad things. I mean, I myself have been beaten up one time while one of the two boys held a knife to my throat. That wasn’t very nice, but other than that, I did not feel that we are living in a fallen world.
Somewhere in 1994, I became Christian. I recognised that, even though I still didn’t realise half of it, I needed a Saviour. I lived my life, got married, went to Bible school and later studied theology at a university in the UK. And yes, by that time I was aware of all the bad things going on in the world. I am not that naive!
But, then it happened. I had to choose a subject for an essay on ethics. And yes, I just had to choose the subject on abortion! I wrote that essay in no time, but it felt like an eternity. I struggled, I cried, I actually became like the grumpy and angry atheist I used to debate. What happened? All of a sudden God showed me how low humans can go. He showed me how depraved creation has become. But was this just me? Can I really say it is wrong to kill innocent children? Who determines right from wrong anyway?
Before pointing at God
Many Christians use the moral argument to ‘prove’ the existence of God. But to offer a moral argument for the existence of God, we must establish the existence of objective moral reality and show that a personal and moral God is the best explanation for the existence and knowledge of objective moral reality. We will do that in a moment.
Two Red Herrings
First we need to get rid of some fallacies that circulate on the web. Atheists often claim that they can be moral without believing in God; therefore, religion is not needed for morality. I hope you’ll see the red herring here? The argument from objective morality to God is totally not related to this issue. In reality, a Christian should admit that non-Christians (including atheists) possess, and act in line with true moral principles to some extent.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another
So this argument is totally beside the point and completely off topic, because the moral argument for God addresses the metaphysical foundation of goodness. Or in other words, it tackles the question of where the absolute starting point for morality lies.
Another red herring is this: Some claime that God cannot be the source of morality since unbelievers use moral words like good, right and wrong, without pointing to God’s will to explain these words. This is also irrelevant to the argument. The moral argument has nothing to do with how people typically use or define moral terms; instead it addresses the justification of moral claims. An unbeliever may realise that rape is morally wrong without knowing the real reason why rape is wrong.
Gottlob Frege i gave an example to understand this better. He said:
The ‘evening star’ and ‘morning star’ appear at different times of the day and so have different senses. However, they are the same star: the referent is identical even if the senses are different.
Likewise, an unbeliever may have an idea about the meaning of morality, yet fail to realise that the ultimate referent for morality is God’s character and will.
We are not ready to explain the argument yet. Nope, we need to look at a phenomenon called Moral Relativism. “That what is good for you, isn’t necessarily good for me”. Yet others will say that the moral standard depends on one’s culture. In the past some cultures and groups deemed it okay for old unproductive people to walk off into the wilderness and freeze to death. In times of famine the villagers may decide to get rid of the extra load on resources caused by old and disabled people. That way they are not a burden for the family. Oh well, that was just their morality, and it was perfectly fine to act like that in their specific situation, right? ii
Well, I do not want to go down this rabbit trail. There is so much to say about moral relativism. It is a huge swamp in which nobody really knows what is right or wrong. But look at it this way, if relativism is true, then rape is not always wrong, since a culture or an individual might allow for it under certain circumstances. However, rape is always wrong. And that means that relativism is false.
Or what to think of Stalin’s planned famine in the 1932-1933, by which he killed at least six million peasants, but some even suggest 12 million (mostly Ukrainian farmers) in order to punish resistance to the Communist system. In June 1933, at the height of the famine, 28,000 men, women and children in Ukraine were dying of starvation each day. This planned famine is called Holodomor. iii Up until today, many still refuse to recognise this as an act of genocide. This ‘punishing of the resistance’ killed so many people that this event can easily compete with the Holocaust, which is accepted by most as genocide.
Our immediate response to such events should be deep moral revulsion, not something like, “well, it is not something I would do, but I cannot judge others because they lived in a different culture and in different times.” The profound moral loathing, normally evoked by such events, presupposes an objective moral standard that has been transgressed.
I guess the answers on these two examples I just mentioned beg the question whether there are absolute moral standards or not. I will not further go into this typical anti-intellectual viewpoint of relativism. It is a world-view that cannot consistently exist within its own rules.
This world-view mostly ends in a nihilistic view on the world. A German philosopher Stirner iv stated:
You think that the ‘good cause’ must be my concern? What’s good, what’s bad? Why, I myself am my concern, and I am neither good nor bad. Neither has meaning for me…. Nothing is more to me than myself.
Nothing around you matters, it is all
… neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
Thus saith mister Dawkins. v
I do not deny that moral principles may be applied a little different from time to time. There is a difference between a deep moral principle and the application of that principle in a moral rule. The Bible teaches that it is an objective and absolute moral principle that God should be worshipped, but the moral rule as how to worship God changed over time. In the Old Testament we’ve had the sacrificial system, and in the New Testament it is Christ who fulfils the sacrifices.
Ethical or moral relativism is obviously false. So, now we have to deal with an objective moral system of some kind. How can we best explain the existence of an objective moral system?
Argument from Goodness to Deity
I say, that a personal and moral God provides the best explanation for the existence of the moral values known to human beings. But just saying that would be a bit easy to do, so let’s expound a little more.
If torturing children for fun is unconditionally evil, and if the heroic actions of firefighters who, with risk of their own life, save people from a certain death are unconditionally good, we need to propose a world-view that accounts for the origin, existence and knowledge of such good and such evil. The proposed world-view also needs to provide us enough moral motivation to pursue good and oppose evil.
The simple argument from goodness to deity goes as follows:
- If a personal God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
- Objective moral values do exist.
- Therefore, a personal God exists
Some argue that this idea of a deity is easy interchangeable with ideas like Hinduism. The creed of one influential school of Hinduism states that ‘Atman is Brahman.’ The individual self (Atman) is identical to Brahman (the impersonal and amoral universal self). In other words, there is no difference between the Creator and the creation; in Hinduism there is no Creator who is a personal and moral agent who brought the universe into existence. If, like in Hinduism ‘all is one,’ then there is no room for diversity, even in morality. There are no objective moral values.
Yet others might propose that Allah, the god of Islam, is this being. You see, this is one of the problems you’ll have to face when dealing with arguments like these. People flippantly say that your argument can point to a variety of deities. This of course can only be done if there is no knowledge of all the other theistic arguments. We are still talking about a perfect being it cannot be just some other deity from any other religion than Christianity. Allah doesn’t even come close to the God of the Bible, YHWH. I have demonstrated this in the video on the Ontological Argument:
Excerpt of that video:
[…] if God is perfect, then we know for sure that He cares about His creation, and will reach out to his creation in one way or another. Also, the idea of the Trinity is supported by the ontological argument, because a perfect and all-loving being needs to have something to love outside His creation. And the Trinity is also guaranteed to us in the Bible. So, we have a very strong rational indication to believe the stories in the Bible about God who came to live among us in the person of Jesus Christ because He wanted to save us.
And so the circle is complete! You start with a daunting philosophical argument, and you end up with a bullet-proof rational reasoning that the Bible actually tells you the truth. Don’t you just love it!
Just Another Example
It is easy to come up with all sorts of evil that we expect everybody to condemn. I will not give more examples than I already did. Whenever you encounter someone who says that morals are relative or flexible, thus totally depending on human ideas, you can ask them what they think of the evils done by humans. If the person is honest he or she will abide by his or her idea. In that case you can always ask whether he or she would stop a person who want to molest a child… or even his or her own child. Why should they stop such a person? For all we know there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong.
- If there is no God, then morality and law lose their foundations and there is no objective good and evil.
- There is objective good and evil.
- Therefore: a) It is false that morality and law have no ultimate foundations and that there is no objective good or evil.
- Therefore: (b) God exists as the ultimate Evaluator.
Or simply put:
- Either God exists who provides the ultimate moral evaluation, or nihilism is true and all moral evaluations are arbitrary.
- Nihilism is false because there is objective good and evil.
- Therefore, God exists as the ultimate moral evaluator.
British philosopher Hastings Rashdall vi said:
[…] that if we believe in an objective and absolute moral order, we must logically believe in God as well […] A moral ideal can exist only in a Mind from which all Reality is derived. Our moral ideal can only claim objective validity in so far as it can rationally be regarded as the revelation of a moral ideal eternally existing in the mind of God.
The Euthyphro Problem
Finally, I would like to address another counterargument which is know as the Euthyphro Problem. This problem was first raised by Plato in Euthyphro, this argument states that:
- if something is good because God wills it good, God could will anything (even rape or murder), and it would be, ipso facto, good. But this is absurd.
- If God’s will is not the source of the good, goodness lies outside of God’s being and this robs him of his moral supremacy which is an essential attribute of deity.
This dilemma seems very smart and sound and so, the critic might think he or she debunked the Moral Argument.
But alas! The Euthyphro argument has been build on a straw man fallacy and creates a false dilemma. The triune God, as I argued for in my previous videos, who has existed from eternity in a threefold loving relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, cannot, for example, morally mandate murder or rape. God’s attitude of mind disallows it. God’s integrity execrates it. The Bible shows that objective moral values are not created in the same sense as the universe was created out of nothing. No, objective moral values have always been part of who God is. The have their source in the eternal character, nature and substance of a loving, just and self-sufficient God. God is not created, He has always been there. Likewise, moral values were not created, but are eternally part of His being.
For that reason, when God creates humans in his own image and likeness, they need to know objective moral value, and they must treat each other accordingly. And this is exactly what the Bible teaches in Romans where Paul says that the law has been written in our hearts. We know right from wrong because we are created in God’s image and likeness.
One More Time
- If God does not exist, there are no moral obligations.
- There are moral obligations to parents, to children, to fellow citizens, to the truth itself and so on, which are more than socially constructed (relativism).
- Therefore, God exists as the source of moral obligations.
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As always, thank you for watching, God bless you and we see each other in the next video!
i Gottlob Frege, Zeitscheift fur Philosophie and philosophische Kritik 100 (1892): 25-50.
iv Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own (New York: Libertarian Book Club, 1963), p. 185.
v Richard Dawkins (1995). River out of eden: a Darwinian view of life, Basic Books (AZ).
vi Hastings Rashdall, The Theory of Good and Evil (Oxford: Clarendon, 1903), 2:211-12, quoted in Groothuis, D., Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove Illinois, 2011, p.195.
Let’s Enjoy Some Off-roading Shall We?
As Promised! Here is the short compilation of the last bit of our road. It is hard to see all the bumps and potholes, but I think you’ll can imagine by seeing the camera going up and down.
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