The Moral Argument
There are several ways to demonstrate logically that God exists. One of the ways to do this is through the moral argument. The moral argument demonstrates rationally that through the mere existence of moral absolutes that God exists. The moral argument is used by many of the world’s top apologists for a good reason.
Before I unpack the details of the moral argument let me show you a simple syllogism:
1. If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
3. Therefore God exists.
In order to refute this version of the moral argument, the opposing side would have to provide evidence that either premise 1 or premise 2 are false. Unless and until they do that, this simple syllogism stands.
Before I get into the specifics of what the moral argument is, let me state what the moral argument is not. The moral argument is not reasoning from the ethical behavior of believers versus non-believers. The moral argument does not state that non-believers, or atheists, aren’t aware of what good moral behavior is. The moral argument does not say that 1 must believe in God to be good, or even to recognize what’s good. This ability to recognize good from evil is built in to humanity according to Romans 2:14-15. This is called natural law, the law written on the hearts of all people. This is also called moral epistemology, or the ability to know and recognize morality.
What I’m interested in exposing in demonstrating the moral argument is not moral epistemology, but moral ontology. Moral ontology is the nature of the existence of good and evil. It explores the underlying reason for the existence of moral absolutes. It asks what kind of world must exist in order for absolute morality to exist.
How much should I have to say about the existence of moral absolutes? Are there things that are always wrong? Usually the person that is a moral relativist will say that there’s a situation where any act might be right. But they are still assuming moral absolutes in determining whether that act is right. Consider the song lyric “I killed a man just to watch him die”. Would this act be right under any circumstances? If you are trying to think of a circumstance where he had to kill somebody in order to save more people, then you are invoking a moral absolute still. You are determining that human life is valuable, and that the dignity of human life should be guarded as much as possible.
This is the inescaple outcome when considering morality. The underlying reason for our judgements concerning moral actions is the fact of human value. Does a world without God possibly yield a world of human value? Think about what value is. Things have value based on what a mind considers them to be. A 100 dollar bill has value because the appropriate authorities have given it value through the intentions and purposes of their minds. The 100 dollar bill has no ability to give itself value. The 100 dollar bill does not accidentally have value. It did not fall from the sky into somebody’s lap in order to attain the value that it has. Similarly, an undiscovered diamond has no value until it is discovered by an intentional being. To summarize the point, things that are not minds are not capable of giving anything value.
This leaves us with 2 possibilities: either a person gives themself value, or there is a mind with intentions that has given humans their value. To be able to give themself value, they would have to be able to make a value judgement already. Since value is already necessary in making a value judgement, so the judgement can be meaningful, that means value would have to predate ascribed value. Similarly, the person does not have the capability of giving themself purpose. To be able to give purpose you must have a purpose in your mind to grant it already. So we see that purpose and value are placed intrinsically, and from an outside source. It is not possible for something to give itself value anymore then 100 dollar bill could give itself value.
One may ask, then where does God get his value from? Who gave him value? God is the ultimate possessor of value, just as He is the ultimate possessor of existence. There cannot be an infinite regress of values. So value must either be possessed by the nature of the thing’s existence, or given by an outside source. We are temporal and finite. We do not possess these by the nature of our own existence. There was a point that we did not possess any value, prior to our existence. Since it is possible that we do not possess value, then we cannot be ultimate beings of value.
Picture this scenario: only 1 person exists on the planet. Are there still moral standards that this person ought to ascribe to? If morals are completely based on majority rule then can this person determine what is good and bad arbitrarily? Is it still wrong for this person to have hateful thoughts, lustful thoughts, or commit suicide? His thoughts or actions won’t hurt anybody else, but the thoughts or actions would still be wrong based on objective human dignity. Suicide wouldn’t affect anybody from an earthly perspective, but it would still be wrong because it violates objective human dignity. The Christian takes morals one step deeper and describes morality as being what lines up with the character of God. Since God is of ultimate ontological value, since we are made in His image, and he cares for us, placing a glimpse of his value on us, then it is wrong to do certain things since they violate the character of God, which in turn violates human dignity. This is the Christian view of morality, let’s compare it to an atheist view.
We are already seeing that human value would not exist if God did not exist, therefore morality would not exist. But I want to explore moral absolutes some more. Would moral absolutes exist in a world without God? What can you say morals are given a godless world? At best, morals would be whatever feels right to the individual at the time. Taking this further, morals would be whatever the person wants to do, and could be different for each person. Taking it further still, in an accidental universe, there is nothing of value anyway, therefore no moral judgments should be had. looking at it from a naturalistic perspective, morality would not exist because every action is determined by a chemical process in the brain. None of these apparent consequences of a hypothetical atheistic universe are compatible with the way that people live. I always say that if your worldview taken to its logical conclusion is unlivable, then it is the wrong worldview.
I have given a few different reasons to think that God exists based on the existence of absolute morality. The existence of human value, purpose, and dignity demonstrates a real intention and purpose for our lives, not an accidental outcome. The existence of good and evil implies an absolute standard by which we judge good from evil- a standard of good beyond ourselves. There does not seem to be compatibility between an accidental, naturalistic, or atheistic universe and the existence of objective morality because good and evil become a part of the flow of chance atomic reactions.
So the next time an atheist accuses you of being immoral, just remember that your worldview allows for it while there’s doesn’t.
Now, by all means, follow that Absolute Moral Standard- God.