(This is the third post in my “65 Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer” series. Sign up to receive posts via email to make sure you can answer each one!)
Today is the third and final post answering question #1 in the series: What key arguments are there for God’s existence? I wrote previously on the creation and design arguments. In this post I’ll explain the moral argument.
In its simplest form, the moral argument for God’s existence is the idea that 1) there is an objective morality – moral standards that exist outside of personal opinion – and that 2) the best explanation for the existence of that objective morality is the existence of a moral law giver (God).
This argument is particularly important to understand and be able to explain given our culture’s increasing claims that no one should force “their” morality on anyone else.
Let’s look briefly at the two parts of the argument.
1. Objective morality exists.
We all have a moral intuition which immediately tells us that some things are wrong regardless of opinion – for example, stealing or torturing someone for fun. It seems we are “pre-wired” with that moral understanding.
That said, the existence of objective morality is one of the most challenged Christian ideas today. Christians are frequently accused of trying to impose “their” values on others. If there really is an objective morality, however, Christians aren’t representing their personal values, but rather universal values that apply to all people as given by God.
There are three main objections to the Christian claim that an objective morality exists. Let’s take a brief look at each one.
Objection 1: “Different cultures have different ideas of right and wrong, so there must not be an objective morality!”
If you study various cultures around the world and throughout history, you can see they sometimes have different ideas of right and wrong. If there really is an objective morality, wouldn’t that mean everyone everywhere has the same values?
Not at all. Just because cultures have different ideas of right and wrong doesn’t mean that no one is objectively correct! Think about 10 people guessing how many marbles are in a jar. If four people guess the wrong number, does that mean there was no correct answer? Of course not. The mere existence of different values between cultures says nothing about whether there is an objectively “right” answer.
Objection 2: “Morality is defined by a person’s society – people should just do whatever their society says.”
If this is true, then there can’t be an immoral society, and you can’t critique your own society. This is counterintuitive. Take it to the extreme: should we really not judge the Nazis?
Objection 3: “Morals are just a matter of personal opinion – it’s all relative!”
This idea is pervasive in society today, but there are many things wrong with it. Here are just a few:
- If morality is just a matter of opinion, then to be consistent, you can never say anything or anyone is wrong! No one actually lives that way. If you steal a car from a person who believes that morals are all relative, you can bet they will still claim you did something wrong to them. The problem is, they have no basis from which to complain.
- If someone believes there is truly no right or wrong, they would have to believe that there is no moral difference between Mother Teresa and Hitler. Again, almost no one would actually make that claim.
- Most people who believe in moral relativism promote the obligation to be tolerant of all beliefs. But promoting any obligation – in this case tolerance – suggests that there are laws that apply to all people. Why consider tolerance the highest moral obligation?
In short, it may be personally convenient for people to claim that morality is a matter of personal opinion, but almost no one lives as though that is actually true. It’s easy to see the contradictions of such a belief.
For further reading on relativism, I highly recommend the book, “Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air” by Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl. It’s a relatively (ha ha) easy read on this very important topic.
2. The best explanation for objective morality is the existence of a moral law giver.
If there is an objective set of moral laws that is binding on all humans, where would those laws come from? Laws imply a law giver. The existence of objective morality is better explained by the existence of God (a law giver) than by saying morality is “just there.”
Now we’ve covered the three biggest arguments for God’s existence: cosmological, design and moral (we’ll be moving on now to more of the 65 questions). Which do you personally find most compelling? For me, the design argument is most powerful.