The human conscience bears witness that there are both right and wrong actions. The most renowned Christian apologist of our day, Dr. William Lane Craig, has presented a logical argument in the form of a syllogism that highlights both the existence of objective morality and God's existence, which he has developed into a larger argument. While I agree with Most of Craig's moral argument, I substitute Dispensationalism for his Divine Command Theory as a means of explaining the details.
I. The Basic Moral Dilemma of Atheism
II. A Critique of Wielenberg's Atheist Objective Morality
III. An Objective Moral Ideal in Christ
IV. Sociopolitical Object Lessons
V. Dispensationalism and God's Moral Agency
VI. Common Objections to Theist Morality
The most renowned atheist of our day, Mr. Richard Dawkins, seems to be in a moral dilemma. He is a self-proclaimed Militant Atheist who aggressively judges the beliefs of religious people, saying that these beliefs are basically an intolerable threat to society. And yet at the same time, Dawkins would have us believe that there is no objective basis for making moral judgments. He affirms, “We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”
Dawkins doesn't seem to be aware of the basic logical contradictions of his beliefs and statements. He doesn't seem to be aware that the more vehemently he denounces religion, the more positively he is supporting the truth of God's existence, according to the brute logic of Craig's moral argument:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
Atheists tend to make a variety of moral judgments, such as, “Hitler’s act of genocide against innocent people was immoral." However, if they would take the time to stop and consider the implications of their beliefs and statements, it may prove to be fruitful. If, as most atheists believe, our social moral code is based merely on ever-changing, evolutionary, sociobiological functions, then how can an atheist objectively judge the actions of Hitler? The definition of objective morality is the idea that something can be shown to be right or wrong based on some fixed standard, without regard to relative human feelings and opinions.
If we are all merely animals, on what authority would right and wrong judgments ultimately be based? For example, if a fish randomly kills and eats another fish, it isn't considered morally wrong. Yet, if a human randomly kills and eats another human, we do consider it morally wrong. With his tongue in cheek wit, Craig calls this human moral prejudice speciesism. And he proposes that the human conscience is, in fact, tuned to an objective standard of moral truth and that is why atheists are faced with this dilemma. If you believe that torturing babies for fun is morally wrong without question, then this implies you believe objective morality exists. But if you believe there is a possibility torturing babies for fun may be acceptable morally for certain cultures because evolution and the social indoctrination of those cultures has produced such results, then you are justified in adhering to moral relativism. If you believe objective morality is more in line with your views, then is it a strong reason to believe that naturalism is a false worldview.
As Craig has pointed out, Dawkins can't seem to make up his mind whether right and wrong exist. But no matter which view he is supporting at any given moment, he tries hard to sound convincing. In this quote Dawkins says he doesn't believe in evil or good:
"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation... The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference."
But then in another quote he says doing good or evil or doing the right thing are valid considerations:
"It's been said before but needs to be said again: if you want to do evil, science provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to do so. The trick is to want the right things, then science will provide you with the most effective methods of achieving them.”
As an alternative to the schizophrenia of Dawkins' confused relativism, some atheists have offered arguments for an objective basis for morality without God's existence. For example, Erik Wielenberg has proposed that there is an objective moral realism that simply exists without God. But his argument seems to have many logical problems.
II. A Critique of Wielenberg's Atheist Objective Morality
The core of Erik Wielenberg's argument is based on the idea that “basic ethical facts” exist which have “no foundation outside themselves”. His “brute ethical facts’ correspond to states of affairs which are supposedly true in all possible worlds. Wielneberg’s main premises are, 1) Pain is intrinsically bad. 2) Inflicting pain for fun is morally wrong. 3) It is just to give people what they deserve.
A. Pain is intrinsically bad
In addressing Wielneberg’s first premise, I would offer there are four reasons why pain may not be considered intrinsically “bad” as an objective basis for moral judgments.
1. Firstly, the feeling of pain is based on a complex biological system and is created by a series of impulses. A fire burns the skin. Nerves in the skin connect to nerves in the fingers and arms. These nerve impulses reach the brain. The brain conveys the message to the skin that there is pain in that location. So, when and where is the “bad” pain actually experienced? According to an article in Science Daily, all forms of pain, even emotional feelings, can be traced to specific locations in the human brain.
If pain is based on biological impulses and depends on many functions throughout the human body, it is not likely that this same state of affairs applies in all possible worlds, in accordance with the evolutionary scenario. Possible life forms on other planets would not necessarily experience any pain at all. If pain is the primary "brute fact" basis of moral judgments, as Wielenberg claims, then a planet with no pain would be a planet with no morality. Does that really make sense?
2. Secondly, pain is an inconsistent and is primarily a subjective phenomenon that is experienced on a personal level. For a sensitive person with a low tolerance for pain, a particular experience may be extremely painful. The same exact experience may only be slightly annoying to a person who is extremely callous. How is pain to be considered an objective moral referent if the exact same experience is painful and “immoral” for one person, and only slightly annoying and “moral” for another? For these reasons, pain cannot be considered a consistent moral referent.
3. Thirdly, pain is merely a messenger of information. Pain is merely a signal and a messenger of a prior issue. It is not rational to blame the messenger for the message. All pain has a cause. A lot of pain can be traced back to a bad decision that some person had made. It is not the pain but the person who made the bad decision that caused the pain that should rationally be deemed morally “bad” in this respect. Therefore, pain cannot be considered morally “bad” in and of itself.
4. Fourthly, many people derive real pleasure from receiving and inflicting real pain, and this undermines the belief that pain would be considered intrinsically bad for such people. Sadism and sadomasochism are becoming more socially acceptable, with Diesel brand Jeans actually promoting ads in mainstream fashion magazines glorifying S&M themes. The human body releases endorphins, epinephrine and norepinephrine in accordance with certain levels of pain and these kinds of experiences can become addictive for people who indulge in S&M behavior. If some atheists truly enjoy suffering, then on what basis can other atheists claim that pain is intrinsically and morally bad?
B. Inflicting pain for fun is morally wrong.
1. Moral eclecticism disproves the above premise for reasons noted in the prior point. According to many atheists who practice sadomasochism, inflicting pain for fun is morally acceptable. Wielenberg's one example of torture is not a catch-all for all people and for all behavior regarding pain. He has not given a reason why people who enjoy giving and receiving pain should consider it immoral.
2. Moral speciesism disproves this point. I've seen cats catch mice and play with them, seriously harming them in the process, and I've never heard anyone claim that animal-on-animal abuse is immoral. If people want to claim Inflicting pain for fun is morally wrong for homo sapiens, then to claim it is OK for animals is a form of speciesism. Like racism, speciesism should probably be considered immoral for people who want to make the kinds of moral claims Wielenberg desires to make according to an atheist moral framework, if Wielenberg's claims are to be considered valid.
In a May 21, 2000, the New York Times described some of the values young G.W. Bush gained growing up in Midland, Texas. Nicholas D. Kristof quoted Bush's childhood friend Terry Throckmorton: "'We were terrible to animals,' recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out. 'Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,' Mr. Throckmorton said. 'Or we'd put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.'" An atheist can say that these acts are a bit cruel and wrong, but without any moral and righteous standard, on what basis would this kind of moral judgment be made?
C. It is just to give people what they deserve.
1. Concepts of justice are extremely relativistic. Wielenberg's sentence sounds nice, "It is just to give people what they deserve." But how exactly are atheists to define the word “just” and the proper enforcement of justice? For example, Marxists have believed it is just to forcibly distribute land and property equally. The statement, "It's just to give people what they deserve" could be used to support Marxists or to protect capitalists who worked very hard for their land.
And consider this example: On May 21, 2009, While standing in front of the glass-encased US Constitution at the National Archives, President Obama gave a speech denouncing the Bush administration's "ad-hock" justice system, while in the very same speech Obama promoted the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo prison who've never been legally tried in court. Obama believes his definition of justice is better than that of the Bush administration's, when. in reality, it seems to be a continuation of the exact same kind of attitude.
In Obama's speech he stated, "In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man." Actually, prolonged and indefinite detention without a trial has no justifiable basis in the US Constitution. In becoming president, President Obama swore to uphold the US Constitution, and yet he apparently doesn't believe it is a valid or healthy legal document. According to Obama, “The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties." Within the context of the speech that included that quote, Obama was implying that we need “positive liberties”, that is, the government needs to control society more and more for the so-called greater good. Obama had also said the US Constitution “reflected the fundamental flaw of this country that continues to this day.” What specifically was the “fundamental flaw” he was referring to? It seems it was that the US Constitution does not promote Socialism.
2. Moral obligation is extremely relativistic in politics, especially today. In his book, Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama wrote “It’s not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth..." I would agree that Obama's statements show quite a bit of audacity. But the audacity seems to have more to do with his use of insidious Orwellian Newspeak and Blackwhite-speak, rather than the virtues of hope.
History testifies that The US Founding Fathers were paleoconservatives who viewed civil rights as a necessary result of God's existence. This is evidenced by what they agreed upon in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Believing in God is tantamount to believing in absolute truth. According to the Founding Fathers, the moral obligation of government is based upon the existence of absolute truth.
That one sentence from The Declaration of Independence has been called the best known sentence in the English language. But though it may be memorized by many, in our postmodernist society there is a great discrepancy as to what basic civil rights consist of and if they are truly inalienable as the Declaration of Independence proclaims. We have the Neoconservative George W. Bush and the Socialist Barack Obama telling us that invasive government and the indefinite and prolonged detention of prisoners without a trial are good things. And then on the other hand we have the outspoken testimony of Founding Father Patrick Henry saying, “Give me liberty, or give me death” These two opposing viewpoints are as different as night and day. And so when you consider Wielenberg's premise, "It's just to give people what they deserve" you need to ask, "On what basis can you decide what people deserve?" Do people deserve to simply surrender their civil rights for the perceived good of the society, as Bush and Obama seem to believe? Or do people deserve inalienable rights and freedoms irrespective of government opinion, as the US Founding Fathers believed?
3. Questions of justice and duty depend on a valid starting point. The starting points for morality that Wielenberg has chosen are not shown to be necessary starting points. If there is no absolute objective reference point for morality, then any system, like Wielenberg's will be subjective, not objective. Wielenberg's attempt to attach moral value to pain and to make moral 'states of affairs' moral starting points is subjective and therefore fraught with problems and contradictions.
For the Christian, the existence of God's good nature as Creator is a truly objective moral starting point because God is transcendent, eternal and unchanging. God's nature and goodness sets a high standard for morality. But for those who believe we are nothing more than animals, then the "rule of the jungle and the “survival of the fittest” would logically follow as the only “brute ethical facts”. If there is no verifiable and objective moral foundation for atheists, then, as Nietzsche pointed out, it’s just a dog-eat-dog Darwinian world where the strongest and most ruthless animals survive. For all these reasons Wielenberg's premise "It's just to give people what they deserve" is shown to be a bit meaningless as a moral starting point. There are more fundamental bedrock issues that need to be addressed before Wielenberg's premise can be established with any kind of moral authority. Without an objective moral starting point, there cannot be objective morality.
III. An Objective Moral Ideal in Christ
A. A moral ideal exists. Another approach to understanding morality is to ask if there is any functional moral ideal. The Beatles, considered the most influential rock groups in history, wrote the song, “All you Need is Love” which has sociopolitical as well as romantic connotations. Though John Lennon seemed to despise Jesus Christ, Lennon was actually affirming Jesus’ central moral thesis with his song. Once Jesus was asked a question, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
B. Jesus exemplified the moral ideal. Jesus lived without sin as He obeyed the Ten Commandments. He also showed sincere love towards God and His fellow man. In offering Himself as a propitiation for our sins, His love was demonstrated in the most practical and effective manner. At first it may seem this ideal moral code is overly simplistic and overly difficult. But as Chuck Smith has stated, “Difficulty must always be measured by the capacity of the agent doing the work.” And the work of God on the cross has allowed us to partake of God's righteousness simply by receiving God's atonement and righteousness by faith.
C. The moral life is a work in progress. Tangible progress can be observed when holiness is a sincere goal. As wonderful as the born-again salvation experience may be, according to scripture the struggle with sin will not cease until Christians are with God in the afterlife. 1 Corinthians 15.51 and 1 John 3.1 show that we will “be changed” and ‘we will be like him” in our heavenly home. It will only be after this divine, heavenly union with Christ that sin will not be an issue. Only those willing to submit to God in this life will be transformed in the next life. Though we have no chance of achieving this perfect state in this life as a functioning society, communities that have adopted the ideals of goodness that Jesus supported have been for the most part happy, peaceful and prosperous ones.
IV. Sociopolitical Object Lessons
1. When love reigns, laws don't need enforcement. The Apostle Paul highlighted the theme of love and the law. He wrote, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Ideally, there is no need to enforce legal statutes when love is supreme because people have a genuine respect and value for each other.
When I bought my first house and moved to Red Hook Brooklyn, I found I had to adjust to the environment. I had to chain and lock my plastic garbage cans otherwise they would be stolen. I also learned I had to lock the door to my grungy dirt-floor basement after a crack-head apparently ripped out the copper pipe with his or her bare hands. When I moved to Southampton, NY, however, I found I could leave home with the front door open all day without needing to be very concerned. The ideal moral condition for the world is for mutual respect and benevolence. When the English Quaker William Penn founded the city of Philadelphia in the US, he chose a name which means “The City of Brotherly Love” based on the root words “adelphos” meaning brotherly and “philos” meaning love. Penn named the city Philadelphia because he envisioned a city where anyone of any color or background could live together in peace and harmony.
2. A free people requires a strong moral basis for democratic government. A US Founding Father, John Adams, once said in a speech, “"We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." Adams and other US Founding Fathers recognized that the internal self control and character of the citizens were extremely important for the success of any free country.
3. Relativistic teaching has produced an immoral and unstable society. If there is no internal self control then there would have to be more outside government control. The prison population in the US had been small and steady until the early 1970’s when the prison population began to explode in the US and now it is the largest prison population in the world by percentage and by virtue of the total national head count. This growth in the prison population was likely influenced by the teaching of moral relativism in the public school system, which began before these grave prison statistics began appearing. The historical prison population chart, attached, shows the graphic spike in numbers.
4. Evolution does not appear to be producing wiser people. According to the theory of evolution, homo sapiens should be evolving into a wiser, more sublime and harmonious species. But the opposite is seen to be true in society. There is a lot of hatred in the world, wars continue as usual, while corruption and immorality are on the rise. Jesus predicted in Matthew Chapter 24 that this social devolution would increase in the End Times. Though I believe the theist roots of the United States were the main reason it was a successful and a good society for so long, I don’t entertain any fantasies that the US population at large is interested in returning to these roots. Nevertheless, the principles of God’s Word remain a sure foundation for those who apply them, whether it is a family setting, a church or an entire nation. And those who ignore or oppose these principles will, on the contrary, find themselves in a most unhappy situation.
5. Countries with strong spiritual values have happier and healthier people. The largest county in the world with an atheist sociopolitical foundation is China. It is one of the more repressive countries on the planet, where there is little freedom of expression and a great deal of what we would typically call human rights abuses. Countries of the former Soviet Union, where atheism was heavily promoted, presently retain the highest suicide rates in the world. While countries that are the most religious retain the lowest levels of suicide rates according to Gallup polls. The American Journal of Psychiatry reported “Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation.”
The study of nations provides object lessons on the relationships between the underlying philosophies of nations and the relative prosperity and happiness of their citizens. On another level, the study of history as outlined in scripture provides object lessons on God's dealings with people in various epochs of history. This type of study of the epochs is called Theological Dispensationalism.
V. Dispensationalism and God's Moral Agency
A. Theological Dispensationalism helps explain God's moral agency. Dispensationalism is a theological system that interprets God’s relationship to humanity as a series of 7 or so stages in which new and different environments exist and God’s revelation to the people is uniquely specific to each time. It requires separate research to learn the details of Dispensationalism. But It has been described as a method of literally interpreting the Bible towards understanding how God fulfills His will, work, and purposes toward mankind through unique epochs, while emphasizing the uniqueness of Israel throughout. Moral agency is defined as a person's ability to make moral judgments and take actions that conform with moral truth.
B. The manifestation of God's glory is the underlying purpose of the universe. In reviewing history from a spiritual perspective it's possible to see the underlying emphasis of God's plan, as outlined in Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” All creation and all history is ordered by God for God’s ultimate glory. In order to understand the logical and moral basis of the universe, it’s necessary to keep God's perspective in mind. Though I follow William Lane Craig’s moral argument to a certain point, it seems I must part paths at his agreement with Divine Command Theory. As far as I understand it, Command Theory implies that moral absolutes exist independent of God’s existence. Though I find this particular point in conflict with scripture, I do find the rest of Craig’s moral arguments to be perfectly fine.
C. People misunderstand God's actions because they don't consider the big picture in relation to the historical dispensations. Looking into the scriptures, we often don't understand the moral basis for God's actions in history because we don't look into the specific context of the epoch in which a moral problem seems to exist. When history and the entire Bible are viewed through the lens of a Dispensationalist view, however, it all makes sense. There are many variations of Dispensationalism and it should not be assumed that a proponent of a theory adheres to any one specific version. One overall theme of the dispensations is that each epoch plays a role in unveiling and teaching the need for a complete and utter redemption. Theologians typically define seven dispensations, though some propose more and others less.
2. Conscience or moral responsibility
3. Human Government
D. Each dispensation has a specific purpose. We are presently in the Church age with the next age being the Millennial Kingdom. In this particular list, the Tribulation is not counted as a separate epoch and neither is the final age of perfection, though they could be. A study on the significance of each dispensation would be a lesson in itself. But, as an example, consider the first epoch. In the Garden of Eden there was no suffering, no disease, no injustice or pain and human needs were met fully. Despite all this, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Today, many people will say, “I don’t believe in God because suffering, disease, injustice and pain exist.” But Adam is an object lesson showing why this is not a valid critique of God’s justice. God had given them an idyllic world. Even without the lusts of the sin nature and a state of moral innocence, yet they disobeyed. Atheists often criticize the Bible because they believe it is self-contradictory. We have nude campsites like the Garden of Eden in one chapter and then clothing is required for moral purposes in the next chapter. Dispensationaism offers an explanation for these types of discrepancies.
C. Complete redemption is the only solution. After Adam and Eve chose sin and disobedience in the Garden of Eden, people were given a moral conscience to discern good and evil and God gave them guidelines on how to live happy and healthy lives. But despite these things society increasingly became corrupt and sinful. This epoch was culminated by the great flood and the next epoch based on human government became another object lesson as Babylon became an object lesson. In a separate study all of these epochs could be analyzed to show how man's only hope is a complete redemption in heaven. The final accounting of God's moral purpose won't be understood until the end of time, however, many atheists attempt to judge God's actions without ever having tried to seriously read through the scriptures and understand them.
D. The final moral accounting is a future event. According to the Dispensationalist view, there are very specific reasons why God allowed history to unfold the way it has and history is based upon a progressive revelation of God's will and ways. Some may wonder, “Is it just for God to treat so many different people in so many different ways?” It’s important to remember that God knows all our thoughts and hidden motives, and He is the one who is qualified to judge us fairly. The accounting of our lives will not occur until after our physical deaths when we are face to face with God. Based on God’s full knowledge and His eternal perspective, His evaluation of us will be true and just, as described in the book of Revelation:
“And I heard the altar respond: ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.’"
VI. Common Objections to Theist Morality
A. If God were good, no evil would exist.
The mere fact that an atheist would acknowledge that evil exists implies that evil is a real phenomenon and that moral evil is not merely a product of our minds in a sociobiological evolutionary scenario. The logic of good and evil relates to the logic of free choice. In the big picture, it’s better to have free choice in a world where good and evil exist rather than to have no free choice at all. This is true because our personal destinies and mental attitudes of happiness or sadness are largely directed by the choices we make with our free will. It is logical, therefore, to conclude that free-choice is better than a robot-like existence:
Jesus showed that our free choice is such a powerful mechanism that we can choose to love enemies who may actually persecute us. But it is shown in scripture that this ability is based primarily on our willingness to submit to God. Only in submitting to God do we have the spiritual power to actually live-out our choice to genuinely love our enemies with God’s love.
B. Why Would God Send People to Hell?
Another objection to theist morality is the idea that God would send people to an eternal hell for choices they’ve made in this brief life. Jonathan Edwards addressed this in his essay "The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners." Edwards argued that because God is "a Being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory," He is therefore "infinitely honorable" and worthy of absolute obedience. Edwards clarified that "Sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and deserving of infinite punishment." In the sermon, Edwards emphasized how God offers salvation by grace and faith to those who would receive God's gift of eternal life simply by repenting and receiving Christ's atonement. Francis Schaeffer agreed with Edwards' theology on hell and said himself the doctrine of hell must be taught "with tears." We as human tend to think of guilt and punishment in terms of our relationships with each other and our own brief lives here on earth. Our laws our based on our perceived civil rights between equals. If we break the law, we are guilty technically until justice is served, or we die, whichever comes first.
But if we look at things in an eternal perspective, we aren’t offending an equal when we sin, we are offending the eternal and holy God. The guilt has no end until it is satisfied with justice. According to God’s infinite justice, we should all be condemned eternally for our sins against our Creator. However, out of mercy God paid the penalty of sin with Jesus’ death on the cross. Christ on the cross was an act of infinite propitiation in answer to our infinite guilt against an infinite and holy God. The reason why someone like Rob Bell would tend to disagree with the concept of hell I believe has to do with an under appreciation of God’s infinite holiness.
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 Obama Endorses Indefinite Detention Without Trial for Some Now at Guantanamo
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 OBAMA SAYS CONSTITUTION DEEP FLAW CONTINUES TODAY
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