An Ignorant Objection to The Moral Argument

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

January 17, 2015

One of my favorite arguments for the existence of God is called, “The Moral Argument.” This case has two premises that lead to a powerful and logically “airtight” deductive conclusion. The first premise of the argument states:

1- IF GOD DOES NOT EXIST, OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES AND DUTIES DO NOT EXIST.

The word “objective” means something that is true apart from human opinion. In contrast, the word “subjective” means something that is true dependent upon a person’s opinion. So, regarding premise one, we are making a case that if there is no God, then all moral codes of ethics are purely subjective evolutionary spin-offs and only based upon how at least 51% of humanity thinks we ought to behave. For there would be no law above human law to appeal to when deciphering what is objectively right, wrong, good, bad, fair, or evil for all people, in all places, and at all times throughout history. Moreover, if atheistic naturalism is true, then scientific determinism logically follows. That is to say, the initial conditions of the big bang and the laws of nature causally determine all things, including your thoughts, beliefs, and actions. Since you aren’t in control of these things, you aren’t morally responsible for anything – no one is! Therefore, moral values and obligations are simply illusory as it is logically impossible to derive “an ought from an is.”

To reiterate, if atheism is true, there are:

1- No objective moral values

2- No objective moral duties or obligations

3- No ability to do otherwise

At first glance, many atheists love this premise because nobody then has the right to judge their lifestyle as wrong (including those pesky “intolerant” Christians). However, this soon becomes a problem when the second premise of the argument is provided:

 2- OBJECTIVE MORAL VALUES EXIST.

Atheists may hold to premise (1) and affirm that neither God, nor objective moral values exist. However, all you have to do at this point is ask a few questions. For instance, “How do you feel about the crusades or the inquisition?” Ask if it is objectively wrong for priests to sexually molest young boys, and then have it covered up by the Church? Is it *really* (i.e., objectively) wrong to shoot little kids in an elementary school? Is it *really* wrong to shoot up movie theaters, or bomb marathons? Is it *really* wrong for ISIS to cut people’s heads off? Or you could ask, “Is it wrong for Christians to be judgmental and intolerant of homosexual marriage?” If the atheist answers, “yes,” then ask if it is objectively or subjectively wrong. If he answers, “subjectively wrong,” just inform him, “that’s just your opinion, and some people’s opinions are that these are actually good things! Therefore, you are at an impasse and neither you nor the person you disagree with can be objectively right or wrong on this issue. It’s nothing more than our personal preferences. Therefore, the worst a person (including Hitler, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Timothy McVeigh, Usama Bin Laden, Jerry Sandusky, members of ISIS, etc.…) could ever be accused of is simply being “unfashionable” – nothing more!

Many atheists “waffle” and change their minds at this point, and affirm that it is, in fact, objectively wrong that Christians are intolerant of other worldviews that people may hold (especially that of homosexual marriage today). But that will validate our second premise that “objective moral values do exist,” because they just admitted it was objectively wrong. If the two premises we have offered are true, they necessarily lead to an airtight deductive conclusion that follows logically and inescapably:

 3- THEREFORE, GOD EXISTS!

The moral argument is extremely powerful because the issues of morality impact our lives, on some level, every day. Every person (including the atheist) makes moral judgments as to whether things are right, wrong, good, bad, fair, and evil; however, if God does not exist, all of these judgments only become a matter of personal opinion, preference, or taste that they were causally determined to hold via the initial conditions of the big bang and the laws of nature! No one can live consistently in such a world, and I don’t think anyone really wants to because it is obvious that some things are just plain objectively evil [this affirms premise (2) of the Moral Argument]! But evil cannot exist without an ultimate objective standard of good to measure it against.  That standard of good is the very nature and essence of God!

Now, many atheists commit a logical fallacy to argue the Moral Argument for God’s existence and say things like: “Morality without God? You mean the same guy in your Bible?” Objections like these are foolish for several reasons as they typically refer to passages in the Old Testament where God seems to allow some things to occur that the atheistic objector thinks are objectively wrong. But wait, if that’s the case, their objection is actually proof that atheism is false! This is because if they claim that some actions in the Old Testament really were objectively wrong, then, they are inadvertently providing evidence that God exists! Let’s examine the Moral Argument again:

 1- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2- Objective moral values and duties do exist 

3- Therefore, God exists. 

If the atheist objects to the “Canaanite problem” (for example) and proclaims it was objectively wrong to drive the Canaanites from their land, they are actually offering evidence supporting premise (2) of the Moral Argument. Therefore, God exists! So called “problems” like these must be addressed (I have dealt with this in my essay, “The Problem of Evil is No Problem at All”), but it is not a refutation of the Moral Argument.

Allow me to list a couple more problems with this ignorant objection to the moral argument:

1- It does not even pretend to counter the logical conclusion of the Moral Argument! As I mentioned above, it actually inadvertently proves God exists by providing support for premise (2), but worse, it does not even attempt to disprove God’s existence in the first place (which is the goal and conclusion of the Moral Argument). In fact, it seemingly concedes that atheism is false (albeit unintentionally), while attempting to argue that the God of the Old Testament is false too (atheism is going down so they try to take the God of Abraham down with them)! This seems to be a concession that there must be some other view of God that is correct. Therefore, the atheist using this argument should, at the very least, convert to some other monotheistic view to remain consistent with their objection. That is to say, if this is their counter-response to the conclusion of the Moral Argument, they can no longer logically affirm atheism.

2- This objection is not even against the truth of Christian theism, but rather, against the inerrancy of the Old Testament. These are two completely different things. Objections like these are really granting that a Maximally Great Being (MGB) exists, but they do not think a MGB (a.k.a. God) would command or allow such violence. Thus, they are really making the case that the human author who wrote this in the Old Testament must have gotten it wrong. Therefore, they conclude that the Bible must have a few mistakes in it. However, it doesn’t follow from this conclusion (*if* it were valid) that God does not exist or that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Biblical inerrancy is all this is logically an objection to, nothing more.

It is important to note that Biblical inerrancy is not an *essential* Christian doctrine. There are many Christians who do not believe the Bible is inerrant, just authoritative. Other Christians hold to Biblical inerrancy, but have a different definition of what “inerrancy” means. Be that as it may, it is simply irrelevant because even if the Bible is not inerrant, we can still prove that “Mere Christianity” (God’s existence and the historical resurrection of Jesus) is true without touching the Old Testament (or even the Gospels). Thus, it doesn’t matter if there are errors in the Old Testament as far as the truth of “Mere Christianity” goes.

So, to reiterate, the existence of God can be demonstrated via logical arguments utilizing metaphysics and supported by scientific data. The crucifixion and resurrection can both be historically validated via the historical method to have occurred either in 30 or 33 AD without touching the Gospels or the Old Testament. The historical resurrection of Jesus, along with the existence of God, is what makes Christianity true – not if the Bible is inerrant. It’s not an “all or nothing” kind of thing. Those that claim if there is one error (or many) in the Bible, then conclude that the whole thing is false are guilty of the logical fallacy of “hasty generalization.” If they want to commit logical fallacies that’s there choice; however, they will lose the right to object to Christianity on intellectual grounds.

*To be clear, I do think the Bible is inerrant in all that it teaches if properly interpreted, but that is not what I am arguing for via the Moral Argument. I am arguing for the existence of God, and it is a “red herring” (a logical fallacy) to counter the Moral Argument with an objection to what is written about God’s character in the Old Testament. I am more than willing to have that argument, but that is a separate debate for another time. As for now, that objection is nothing more than a distraction to avoid addressing the logical deductive conclusion of the Moral Argument: “Therefore, God exists!”

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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