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The moral argument

Aug 23, 2018

Atheists are more vocal than ever. Thus, it is a good idea to know a few arguments for the existence of God. Over the next few columns, I’ll detail a few arguments in a conversational tone. If you meet an atheist, it will probably be at work, in your neighborhood or among your family. So these conversations about God – in such settings – need to be approached with a winsome, yet conversational, tone.

The first argument I’d like to discuss is formally known as the moral argument. Many atheists claim to be atheists because of something known as the problem of evil. Simply put, the problem of evil asks: If God is all-powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good, why do bad things happen? The best explanation – according to atheists – is that bad things are proof God doesn’t exist. But the moral argument turns the problem of evil on its philosophical head.

The motivation behind the problem of evil is a sense of justice or goodness. But if God doesn’t exist, then neither does goodness or ultimate justice. In other words, in order for evil to exist, there must be good. But good doesn’t exist if God doesn’t exist. Thus, one can’t have a problem with evil unless God exists.

The argument looks something like this: If God doesn’t exist, then objective morality doesn’t exist. But objective morality exists. (In other words, it is really wrong when a human being is murdered.) Therefore, God exists.

Perhaps the atheist could reply: “Well, good and evil are simply terms we use to classify things that we like or dislike.” If that were the case, however, morality wouldn’t be objective; it would be subjective. Objective morality is the idea that morality is not defined by beliefs, feelings or desires; it is grounded in something else. In other words, if morality is objective, one can’t say: “I just feel like it is wrong to judge a person for how he chooses to live.” With objective morality, ethical standards are not set by how one feels or believes or what one desires. Morality is grounded in something far deeper – it is grounded in God.

Subjective morality, on the other hand, is the idea that morality is developed by humanity, cultures or nature. In other words, there is no ultimate wrong, according to subjective morality. Any labeling of something as “good” or “bad” is a mere opinion about a specific action.

But here is the problem with subjective morality: What is wrong today may not be wrong tomorrow. Or what is wrong to me may not be wrong to you. Furthermore, there is no such thing as ultimate evil if morality is subjective. In other words, if subjectivity were true, that would mean that genocide and other atrocities aren’t really wrong. They are just culturally unacceptable.

We all seem to be appalled when we hear of some horrific crime or tragedy. It is like there is this inner sense that murder is wrong – not just wrong culturally or personally, but really wrong. To claim that there is some moral law, however, there must be a moral lawgiver. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “If there is an objective Moral Law, and none of us made it, there must be something else that produced the Moral Law, a Moral Law-giver…” That moral lawgiver is God.

Chad Meeks is associate pastor of youth and discipleship at Cedar Heights Baptist Church in North Little Rock.

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