God’s Existence and Right from Wrong

The argument for God’s existence from objective moral values states that some things are really wrong in themselves, not because society says so or because some human choices may be inherently helpful in survival while others are harmful. Abuse, rape, and child torture are really wrong and not just socially unacceptable behaviors. Conversely, honesty, love, and self-sacrifice are values that have no biological explanation nor have they been proven to help humans survive. The argument from objective moral values to God’s existence runs like this:

1. If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral values exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

It is important to understand that it’s not necessary to believe in God in order to live moral lives. Many people who do not believe in God lead good lives that are virtuous and morally upright. What I’m saying is that for objective moral values to exist the best explanation is that there is a moral Lawgiver. Of course, if objective moral values do not exist, then the most anyone can claim as the basis for good behavior is reason, personal preferences, or agreed upon standards in society. For the atheist then, incest or rape may not be socially advantageous, but these acts cannot be objectively wrong, only relatively wrong. If a person can avoid the negative consequences of committing these acts, then there is nothing really wrong with them. since there is no objective moral standard against which to measure their goodness. Given enough time and change, society will alter its beliefs and moral values simply become moving targets within individuals or a people group.

As for objective moral values finding their source in reason, Immanuel Kant claimed that “all moral conceptions have their seat and origin completely a priori in the reason” (Fundamental Principles on the Metaphysics of Morals). But this must be rejected as false, because it confuses the abilities of human reason with the nature of reason. Simply because reason has the ability to discern objective moral values does not mean reason is the source of those objective moral values. Against Protagoras, “Man is [NOT] the measure of all things.” Were it not for humans being made after the image of their Creator, then even the ability to discern objectively right from wrong would be absent.

What about those who claim “I am the authority on who/what is my moral authority?” It is important to distinguish between recognition and attribution. I may be able to recognize a moral authority but this does not mean that moral authority is attributed to me. For example, if I assert that it is wrong to drive faster than the speed limit, I am not necessarily the authority on speeding. Rather, I am simply recognizing an authority (civil government) outside of myself. Likewise, to recognize that God is the ground of objective moral values is not to set one’s self up to be the authority in any ultimate sense, but merely to assert a starting point for objective moral authority.

The believer in God insists that certain acts are really wrong and they’re wrong because God defines what is right and what is wrong. But of course, this requires God’s existence. If God does not exist, then what is left over morally? Consider the penetrating words of E. J. Carnell who insists that without God:

humanity appears to be but a huddling mass of groveling protoplasm, crowded together in a nervous wait for death, not unlike a group of helpless children that aggregate together in a burning building, pledging to love each other till the end comes . . . we are all going to die, and . . . ‘the wages of virtue is dust.’
Edward John Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics (p. 327)

And so, given God’s existence, how does one determine what is morally right and good?

The good is not a product of an arbitrary decision of a mere will sporting about in a vacuum. Neither is it good because God’s will happens to yield to an alleged higher set of (Platonic) principles to which the Creator of all is subservient. Rather, the good is good because it is consistent with God’s very nature.
Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, Integrative Theology, Vol. 1, (p. 234)


To read more, see my “The Divine Command Dilemma: A Christian Appraisal”

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24 thoughts on “God’s Existence and Right from Wrong”

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on God and objective morality. How would you respond to the following claims:

    1) It does not matter whether God exists or not, humanity still must use its finite, imperfect abilities to discover objective morality. Besides, even under the Christian umbrella, views on what is moral and immoral vary. For instance, views on salvation, baptism, rules for ordination, opinions on how church should function, and communion all vary. If God communicates his objective morality through the Bible, how this source is interpreted has fluctuated over time as culture develops. For instance, the Bible has supported: slavery, subordination of women, has encouraged killing of rebellious nations (much resemblance to muslims killing infidels)(1 Sam. 15:3), and there are 36 different offenses in the Bible that warrant the death penalty, which today all of us would probably fall under at least one of the offenses. The Bible is not a consistent account of morality. Christians have changed views on all of these areas mentioned earlier, such as: slavery, obliterating other nations because God told them to, and the rules for capital punishment. It appears that Christianity does not hold to objective standards because it alters along with culture. Would the Christianity today be anything like the first century? Probably not.

    2) Objective morality exists as brute facts like mathematical truths. There are a few moral facts that all of humanity agrees upon (i.e. stealing, lying, and murder of the innocent) much like how they agree that 2 + 2 = 4. Therefore, it is unnecessary to assume a supernatural being exists because objective morality exists.

    Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your thoughts on God and objective morality. How would you respond to the following claims:

    1) It does not matter whether God exists or not, humanity still must use its finite, imperfect abilities to discover objective morality. Besides, even under the Christian umbrella, views on what is moral and immoral vary. For instance, views on salvation, baptism, rules for ordination, opinions on how church should function, and communion all vary. If God communicates his objective morality through the Bible, how this source is interpreted has fluctuated over time as culture develops. For instance, the Bible has supported: slavery, subordination of women, has encouraged killing of rebellious nations (much resemblance to muslims killing infidels)(1 Sam. 15:3), and there are 36 different offenses in the Bible that warrant the death penalty, which today all of us would probably fall under at least one of the offenses. The Bible is not a consistent account of morality. Christians have changed views on all of these areas mentioned earlier, such as: slavery, obliterating other nations because God told them to, and the rules for capital punishment. It appears that Christianity does not hold to objective standards because it alters along with culture. Would the Christianity today be anything like the first century? Probably not.

    2) Objective morality exists as brute facts like mathematical truths. There are a few moral facts that all of humanity agrees upon (i.e. stealing, lying, and murder of the innocent) much like how they agree that 2 + 2 = 4. Therefore, it is unnecessary to assume a supernatural being exists because objective morality exists.

    Thanks!

  3. Hi and thanks for writing. I’ll take a stab and respond to the claims you offer:

    1) The argument as I originally stated (and so eloquently and prolifically defended by William Lane Craig) says that objective morality cannot exist with out the existence of an objective moral being, namely God. Thus, there is no objective morality to discover apart from God’s existence. Granted Christian understanding of morality and the Bible has been all over the map through the centuries, but this does not mean that objective moral values are therefore relative. Our understanding is relative to objective moral values rather than objective moral values being relative to our understanding. I would argue that it is not the Bible that is inconsistent but rather our understanding is where the inconsistency lies.

    2) Simply because humans do not agree on all objective moral values does not mean that some do not exist. Moral awareness is not merely an aggregate of human awareness. To claim something like “There are no objective moral norms because cultures and individuals disagree on issues” presents not a few concerns. Consider:

    Relativism does not follow from disagreement.
    Disagreement proves nothing. The fact that differing values exist does nothing to persuade us that all values are equally legitimate. If disagreement were sufficient to conclude objective moral values do not exist, then slavery and genocide could not be condemned.

    Disagreement is overrated.
    The fact that cultures and societies disagree does not mean that they do not share some values that are universally binding. For example, pro-choice and pro-life advocates disagree over when life begins and to what extent freedom should be exercised, but both believe all humans possess inalienable rights and that government should protect constitutional liberties.

    For more, please consider reading Bill Craig’s “The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality”.

  4. Paul,

    Thanks for the quick response. I see your points about disagreement and relativism being inconclusive claims against Christian morality. However, the evidence for a coherent objective morality within Christianity is lacking. Furthermore, I have difficulty seeing the evidence for the Craig’s first premise, “If objective morals exist, then God exists.” Certainly, most Theists would say that God is the source of objective morality. So therefore, it is impossible for God to be incorrect because He would always prescribe the correct morality. Even if this is the case, it doesn’t follow from the fact that God always prescribes the correct moral view, so therefore, God is the source of morality. Besides, how God prescribes morality is undetermined.

    I have not read this Craig article, so I look forward to checking it out. Thanks for the reference!

  5. Paul,

    Thanks for the quick response. I see your points about disagreement and relativism being inconclusive claims against Christian morality. However, the evidence for a coherent objective morality within Christianity is lacking. Furthermore, I have difficulty seeing the evidence for the Craig’s first premise, “If objective morals exist, then God exists.” Certainly, most Theists would say that God is the source of objective morality. So therefore, it is impossible for God to be incorrect because He would always prescribe the correct morality. Even if this is the case, it doesn’t follow from the fact that God always prescribes the correct moral view, so therefore, God is the source of morality. Besides, how God prescribes morality is undetermined.

    I have not read this Craig article, so I look forward to checking it out. Thanks for the reference!

  6. Hi Sarah:
    Appreciate your thoughtful response. I do hope you find Craig’s article useful. Of course, the first premise requires no evidence since it is a conditional statement. Moreover, how can a perfect being (morally and ontologically) prescribe anything else but the “correct moral view?”

    Just thinking…
    paul

  7. Hi Paul,

    I will be in touch after I have a chance to read the article. For now, it seems like a big jump to say that we know objective morality exists, therefore God must exist. Also, moving from premise 2 to the conclusion is groundless. Especially since
    evidence for an all good, perfect God who is the source of objective morality is lacking. Would an all good, perfect God command Israel to kill other nations much like how Muslims view infidels today? Would a perfect God create the potential for evil (i.e. The Fall, heaven and hell dichotomy, ect…) at the expense of freewill? I think not.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to reading the article hopefully this weekend.

    Sarah

  8. Hi Paul,

    I will be in touch after I have a chance to read the article. For now, it seems like a big jump to say that we know objective morality exists, therefore God must exist. Also, moving from premise 2 to the conclusion is groundless. Especially since
    evidence for an all good, perfect God who is the source of objective morality is lacking. Would an all good, perfect God command Israel to kill other nations much like how Muslims view infidels today? Would a perfect God create the potential for evil (i.e. The Fall, heaven and hell dichotomy, ect…) at the expense of freewill? I think not.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to reading the article hopefully this weekend.

    Sarah

  9. Hello Sarah and thanks again for writing. As I see the argument, the conclusion is not entirely groundless. Note carefully how it is constructed. It does depend upon the existence of objective moral values for the conclusion to follow. However, the conclusion may still logically follow from different premises. Consider:

    1. Whether or not objective moral values exist, God exists.
    2. Objective moral values do not exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Though this is logically valid, it lacks congruency. Some other argument could still obtain for God’s existence (e.g., the cosmological argument), where God is simply an amoral, unmoved Mover (as in Aristotle’s God).

    You say “evidence for an all good, perfect God” is lacking based upon God’s command to Israel to kill other nations simile Islam. Without me rehashing everything that Christopher Wright’s The God I Don’t Understand (chapters 1-5 especially) has said, much of this remains a mystery and I’m unconvinced that I need to understand it all before I believe in God. Put differently, even with all the “evidence” of evil in the universe, there are still other arguments (cosmological, ontological, teleological, personal religious experience, etc.) that can provide sufficient reasons for a belief in God.

    Finally, Doug Geivett (of Biola) has offered a unique way to argue from the existence of evil to God. Consider:

    1. Evil exists and is a departure from the way the world ought to be.
    2. If evil is a departure from the way the world ought to be, then there is a way the world ought to be.
    3. If there is a way the world ought to be, then there is a master plan or moral design for the way the world ought to be.
    4. If there is a master plan or moral design for the way the world ought to be, then there is a Master Planner or Moral Designer for the world.
    5. This Master Planner or Moral Designer we call “God.”

    Finally, given an Augustinian notion of evil as a privation of good, I’m not sure that God actually creates the “potential for evil.” And, freewill actually works in the favor of theists. Think carefully on Alvin Plantinga’s wisdom:

    “Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely…He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so…The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good…a world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable…than a world containing no free creatures at all.”
 (God, Freedom, and Evil, p. 30)

  10. There seems to be some confusion between moral ontology (the foundation of objective moral values) and moral epistemology (the way we know objective moral values). Pointing to the problem of Old Testament ethics does nothing to undermine the argument for positing that the existence of objective moral values requires the existence of God. The argument, as stated, says nothing about which God is being described but merely that the existence of a transcendent being is required to be the ground of objective moral values. As Craig observes, “Criticisms of the moral portrait of God painted in the bible are thus philosophically irrelevant, since at most the moral inadequacy of such portrayals only calls into question a doctrine of biblical infallibility, not God’s goodness or divine command moral theory.” (Is Goodness Without God Good Enough? edited by Robert K. Garcia and Nathan L. King p. 187)
    Sarah believes that some moral values are simply brute facts along with truths of mathematics like 2 + 2 = 4. Similar points were raised in a couple of the response essays to Craig’s debate with Paul Kurtz. (Though the language used in the debate was “necessary truths” rather than “brute fact”. I think you can see the similarity.) The objection was raised that “certain moral principles, being necessarily true, cannot have an explanation of their truth.” Craig responded, “The assumption here seems to be that necessary truths cannot stand to one another in relations of explanatory priority. . . To give a nontheological example, the axioms of Peano arithmetic are explanatorily prior to ‘2 + 2 =4’, as are the axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory to the theorems thereof.” He concludes, “if necessary truths can stand to one another in asymmetric relations of explanatory priority, then there is no objection so far to holding that moral values exist because God exists.” (Is Goodness Without God Good Enough? p. 170) Since God’s existence is metaphysically necessary (according to classic theism) then he is explanatorily behind all necessary truths. I believe that’s the gist of Craig’s point though I may be mistaken. I have shortened a considerable part of this argument and so I apologize if I’ve left more questions than I attempted to answer. In the end then I would not only point to the article mentioned by Paul but to the above book as well which fleshes out much of what you have touched on here.

  11. Paul,

    I appreciate all your input as I am still open to Christianity being the absolute truth, even though I cannot say I believe at this time. After reading the Craig article, I have thought very much over the years about his claim, “if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding.” A question then becomes, can it only be the case that objective morality either originates in God or becomes subjective without God as they are now human inventions? Indeed, the Theist will say that God created the moral and physical laws of nature, so this is the only option that makes the most sense. One of my projects this summer is to attempt to defend the necessary existence of objective morality without God or human invention.

    Besides, I think the Divine Command Theory could represent moral relativism: what’s right or wrong is what one’s God (like one’s self or one’s society) says is right or wrong–and there are no moral standards apart from this. Yet if God said that 2+2=100, 2+2=100 would nonetheless be false because 2+2=4 is true regardless of what God says. The same point holds for moral propositions like “inflicting unnecessary suffering solely for fun is wrong.” If that proposition is true, then it is true regardless of whether God commands or prohibits inflicting such suffering.

    I think the evil argument by Doug Geivett is interesting! I would like to think on this more as I have not seen it put this way yet.

    Sarah

  12. Paul,

    I appreciate all your input as I am still open to Christianity being the absolute truth, even though I cannot say I believe at this time. After reading the Craig article, I have thought very much over the years about his claim, “if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding.” A question then becomes, can it only be the case that objective morality either originates in God or becomes subjective without God as they are now human inventions? Indeed, the Theist will say that God created the moral and physical laws of nature, so this is the only option that makes the most sense. One of my projects this summer is to attempt to defend the necessary existence of objective morality without God or human invention.

    Besides, I think the Divine Command Theory could represent moral relativism: what’s right or wrong is what one’s God (like one’s self or one’s society) says is right or wrong–and there are no moral standards apart from this. Yet if God said that 2+2=100, 2+2=100 would nonetheless be false because 2+2=4 is true regardless of what God says. The same point holds for moral propositions like “inflicting unnecessary suffering solely for fun is wrong.” If that proposition is true, then it is true regardless of whether God commands or prohibits inflicting such suffering.

    I think the evil argument by Doug Geivett is interesting! I would like to think on this more as I have not seen it put this way yet.

    Sarah

  13. Sarah:
    I’m encouraged that you continue your quest and are seeking truth on this ultimate matter.

    I would like to point you to a careful argument, though not so long, offered by Bill Craig that may assist here. He writes:

    “Moral values cannot exist without God; they entail His existence. So if moral values exist necessarily, it follows that God exists necessarily.

    1. Necessarily, if moral values exist, then God exists.

    2. Necessarily, moral values exist.

    3. Therefore, necessarily, God exists.”

    See the following links:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5603

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6063

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6087

    I do hope (and pray) this brings some clarity.

  14. Hi Sarah,

    What’s the core issue causing your unbelief, as referenced at the beginning of this blog thread (April 27, 2009 at 10:13 am)? A single word answer or perhaps a simple sentence would be fine. Thank you. Carl

  15. Paul,

    I have discussed and read these arguments from Craig before. While the argument outline is valid, the argument is unsound. One way the Atheist could respond to Craig is to challenge the claim that God is the source of morality by demonstrating that God is not infinitely perfect and good. For instance, there is a lack of evidence for God as the source of morality. In particular, it could be argued that God does condone many immoral acts in the Old Testament, given the following: Genesis 34:13-29, Exodus 17:13, 32:27, Leviticus 26:29, Numbers 16:27-33, 21:3, 21:35, 31:17-18,Deuteronomy 2:33-34, 3:6, Joshua 6:21-27, and Judges 3:29. If the Bible is inconsistent in morality, changing over time with what culture deems ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ then it is not divinely inspired by an all perfect, infinite Being. Besides, the fact that God desires humanity to love and obey Him indicates a lack. I understand the argument that God is a necessary being who does not need anything. However, I find it odd that God’s desire does not indicate a lack. I would argue that it does since one cannot truly desire anything if they do not need anything.

    I also see the following epistemological problem for the Divine Command Theory: How can one know what the divine commands are? They must be interpreted through fallible human minds and I do not see how divine revelation could be defended.

    Sarah

  16. Paul,

    I have discussed and read these arguments from Craig before. While the argument outline is valid, the argument is unsound. One way the Atheist could respond to Craig is to challenge the claim that God is the source of morality by demonstrating that God is not infinitely perfect and good. For instance, there is a lack of evidence for God as the source of morality. In particular, it could be argued that God does condone many immoral acts in the Old Testament, given the following: Genesis 34:13-29, Exodus 17:13, 32:27, Leviticus 26:29, Numbers 16:27-33, 21:3, 21:35, 31:17-18,Deuteronomy 2:33-34, 3:6, Joshua 6:21-27, and Judges 3:29. If the Bible is inconsistent in morality, changing over time with what culture deems ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ then it is not divinely inspired by an all perfect, infinite Being. Besides, the fact that God desires humanity to love and obey Him indicates a lack. I understand the argument that God is a necessary being who does not need anything. However, I find it odd that God’s desire does not indicate a lack. I would argue that it does since one cannot truly desire anything if they do not need anything.

    I also see the following epistemological problem for the Divine Command Theory: How can one know what the divine commands are? They must be interpreted through fallible human minds and I do not see how divine revelation could be defended.

    Sarah

  17. You claim it could be argued that “God condones many immoral acts,” but provide no baseline or starting point to define what is moral or immoral. What precisely is the grounding for your sense of what is moral/immoral? If it’s not the God of Scripture, then against what means do you measure?

    I would agree that if the Bible is inconsistent in moral principles, then it could not be inspired by an all-perfect God. But you’ve not convinced me that Scripture is inconsistent; you’ve only asserted it to be so and pointed to passages that suggest apparent inconsistencies based upon your sense of morality. Without an all-perfect being as the grounding for objective moral values, then your sense of morality appears arbitrary, in which case your charge that it is inconsistent fails.

    You see, for something to be inconsistent, there must be a standard of consistency and you’ve not offered one. Saying something to be so does not make it so. You’ve hardly convinced me the Bible contains genuine inconsistencies on moral values. In fact, I would argue that God, the author, sustainer, and redeemer of life may do with life as he chooses. Ergo, for God to command the killing of other humans, does not entail a moral atrocity if the killing is justified. While God does not owe me any explanation for his commands, it’s important to note that justified killing is not the same as murder. If it is logically feasible that, in the passages you mention, God is justified in the command to kill them, then there is no inconsistency here. Mystery yes. Inconsistency no.

    It could be that we have misunderstood Scripture, which speaks to your epistemological concern re: infallible human apprehension of inspired text. I would say “Simply because I err in some of my beliefs and understanding does not mean I err in all of my beliefs and understanding.” If the latter were true, then the statement “I always err in my beliefs” could not be a true statement. Moreover, I can be justified in holding a belief that God exists as a morally perfect being while still being critically aware of the logical possibility that he may not exist as such. To say that I can recognize what it would look like if God does not exist is not the same thing as saying that God in fact does not exist. At the end of the day, the Divine Command Dilemma offers no genuine dilemma at all, as many theists have shown.

    You cite a “lack of evidence” but I would ask “What counts as evidence?” If you want to include evil as a lack of evidence, then we must be fair and include other “evidences,” such as love, justice, beauty, truth, freedom, etc. How do we account for virtues that evolutionary biology cannot account for? On what chromosomal position does patience fall? Exactly how should a world comprised of morally responsible creatures with a measure of freedom but in need of moral alignment look? While you refer to evils in the world, on what basis do you identify evil as evil? If you admit there is genuine evil in this world, then it follows there is a standard against which you measure evil. Otherwise, you cannot claim evil as evil. What is the grounding for your sense of evil. What is your standard? Self? Society? Reason? Whatever you want at the moment? Since everything else fails as an objective standard for morality if God does not exist, then we must conclude that “everything is permitted” (paraphrasing Dostoevsky). Are you willing to live there, Sarah? Is that where the “evidence” points?

    The world I see is the world the Bible describes, fallen and in need of redemption, which has been graciously and finally provided for in the cross of Christ. Though gradually yet certainly the world is being redeemed until one day God will “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph. 1:10).

    Granted, it is logically possible that everything I believe is wrong, God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist, and all of Christianity is false. But, it is logically possible that my wife really does not love me and for 28 years now she’s duped me into believing that she does. Yet all the evidence points in a different direction. Either she’s insane, living a duplicitous life, or really does love me. All the evidence points to the latter. Likewise, given the evidence of the resurrection, the existence of moral virtues (beauty, love, kindness, etc.), it seems far more reasonable to believe Christianity is true than not to believe. I admit mystery remains, but I’m more than willing to live with that, than to suffer the alternatives of life without God.

    Finally, as if this post is not long enough, there is some excellent discussion on Doug Geivett’s blog, particularly here and here. These posts speak directly to your concerns, as I understand them.

  18. Thank you, Sarah. You’ve certainly had many thoughts on many topics. You’ve written a tremendous amount. I’m curious, Sarah. What counts as compelling enough evidence (and you are the judge) for you believing in an omniscient God (or supreme being of some sort)?

    Regards, Carl

  19. Paul,

    Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoyed thinking about this latest response as it touches upon many deeper issues of morality, God’s character, and the reliability of the Bible. I do appreciate your time and prayers. If Christianity is true, I definitely need a lot of prayer to discern the truth and abandon Atheistic philosophy. Here are some ways I know non-Christians would respond.

    You say, “You claim it could be argued that “God condones many immoral acts,” but provide no baseline or starting point to define what is moral or immoral. What precisely is the grounding for your sense of what is moral/immoral? If it’s not the God of Scripture, then against what means do you measure?”

    What I mean by “God condones many immoral acts,” is the fact that God violates his own commands and benevolent nature given the verses provided in the last post. If a perfect God exists as the absolute truth, how could objective truth be inconsistent? It cannot. Therefore, it does not make sense for the God of the Bible to exist. Instead of relying on an inconsistent “God,” perhaps objective morality exists as necessary, eternal truths, like Plato’s Forms. Humans must use reason to discover them instead of theology, which humans can twist and come up with many hermeneutic approaches to the Bible to support what they want to be true.

    As for my “lack of evidence” claim, I’m not pointing to the problem of evil because evil will always remain a problem for any worldview. Yes, it’s disturbing that an all perfect, benevolent God would even create the potential for evil and the dichotomy of heaven and hell. However, we will never know why this is the case, if in fact Christianity is true.

    By lack of evidence, I think the most striking void points to the resurrection and extra-biblical sources. Even looking at the Bible, I find it unsettling that Mark as the first Gospel written, never mentions the resurrection as the earliest manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20. Even considering the other Gospel accounts of the resurrection, they all differ from the Empty Tomb to the resurrected Jesus. In a court of law, witnesses who differed on their accounts of the crime would cause the case to be dismissed. However, we are dealing with the oral tradition, which allows for variations in stories. So, even if we ignore the different accounts, the extra-biblical evidence is of no help. A crucial event such as the resurrection would have accrued vastly written material from many historians if this were true, but it is not.

    Circling back to objective morality, I would admit that the variety of non-Christian ethical options is difficult, but Christian ethics vary just as much. Christians use Scripture to validate what they want to be true whether it’s pro-life or pro-choice, for or against homosexual marriage, let alone homosexual ordination in certain denominations, economic policy, ect…..I think ethics in general are highly situational given some brute objective facts. I have not worked out a normative theory of ethics outside of Christianity, but the search continues.

  20. Paul,

    Thanks for your thoughts! I enjoyed thinking about this latest response as it touches upon many deeper issues of morality, God’s character, and the reliability of the Bible. I do appreciate your time and prayers. If Christianity is true, I definitely need a lot of prayer to discern the truth and abandon Atheistic philosophy. Here are some ways I know non-Christians would respond.

    You say, “You claim it could be argued that “God condones many immoral acts,” but provide no baseline or starting point to define what is moral or immoral. What precisely is the grounding for your sense of what is moral/immoral? If it’s not the God of Scripture, then against what means do you measure?”

    What I mean by “God condones many immoral acts,” is the fact that God violates his own commands and benevolent nature given the verses provided in the last post. If a perfect God exists as the absolute truth, how could objective truth be inconsistent? It cannot. Therefore, it does not make sense for the God of the Bible to exist. Instead of relying on an inconsistent “God,” perhaps objective morality exists as necessary, eternal truths, like Plato’s Forms. Humans must use reason to discover them instead of theology, which humans can twist and come up with many hermeneutic approaches to the Bible to support what they want to be true.

    As for my “lack of evidence” claim, I’m not pointing to the problem of evil because evil will always remain a problem for any worldview. Yes, it’s disturbing that an all perfect, benevolent God would even create the potential for evil and the dichotomy of heaven and hell. However, we will never know why this is the case, if in fact Christianity is true.

    By lack of evidence, I think the most striking void points to the resurrection and extra-biblical sources. Even looking at the Bible, I find it unsettling that Mark as the first Gospel written, never mentions the resurrection as the earliest manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9-20. Even considering the other Gospel accounts of the resurrection, they all differ from the Empty Tomb to the resurrected Jesus. In a court of law, witnesses who differed on their accounts of the crime would cause the case to be dismissed. However, we are dealing with the oral tradition, which allows for variations in stories. So, even if we ignore the different accounts, the extra-biblical evidence is of no help. A crucial event such as the resurrection would have accrued vastly written material from many historians if this were true, but it is not.

    Circling back to objective morality, I would admit that the variety of non-Christian ethical options is difficult, but Christian ethics vary just as much. Christians use Scripture to validate what they want to be true whether it’s pro-life or pro-choice, for or against homosexual marriage, let alone homosexual ordination in certain denominations, economic policy, ect…..I think ethics in general are highly situational given some brute objective facts. I have not worked out a normative theory of ethics outside of Christianity, but the search continues.

  21. Thanks, Sarah. You’ve clearly thought deeply and widely on this issue. I’d like to respond to one thing. You say “perhaps objective morality exists as necessary, eternal truths, like Plato’s Forms. Humans must use reason to discover them instead of theology.”

    If it were true that objective morality shares in some platonic ontology, how can we move from the fact of their existence to our ethical responsibility to adhere to them? Even if reason alone were a sufficient tool to discover them, why are we obligated to abide by them? Just because there are rules to follow in the game of chess is not a sufficient reason why I should follow them.

    Given human freedom, we can always say “to hell with the rules” and go our own way. In fact, the “evidence” points us in that very direction, now doesn’t it?

    To quote Doug Geivett, our “sense of responsibility is not caused by abstract moral facts, since abstract objects are causally inert. The existence of moral abstracta may explain what makes an action right or wrong; but their existence won’t explain why moral agents take themselves to be obligated in any deep sense to abide by the dictates of these entities.”

    I invite Louis to chime in on a repsonse to the Gospel accounts of the resurrection.

    Rest assured, my prayers are with you.

    Kindly,
    Paul

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