The moral argument consists of four components—moral facts, moral knowledge, moral transformation and moral rationality. As Baggett and Walls point out, the most pertinent moral facts are concerned with moral duties and values, particularly what is known as intrinsic human value.[footnoteRef:2] The question raised, of course, is where does intrinsic human value come from if not from God? Nature itself seems incapable of instilling in the human shell this universal sense of value. This is a particular fact that has to be dealt with in order to understand why the moral argument is necessarily a theistic argument, which is what this paper will argue. Moral knowledge, transformation and rationality all support the argument as well. Moral knowledge itself is a sense of the universality of morality—the the absolute validity of the platitudes of Practical Reason, as Baggett and Walls define it.[footnoteRef:3] Moral transformation refers to what Evans identifies as the relation between moral duty and personal transformation: the need for one to conform oneself and transform one’s life so that it aligns with the moral precepts that one can come to know through ascertainment of the facts of morality by using reason.[footnoteRef:4] Rationality thus plays a part in the moral argument because “rationality expunged of the relevance of morality is a thin, myopic, and emaciated notion indeed.”[footnoteRef:5] All four components work together, overlap and are integrated to form the whole of the moral argument—so much so that one cannot speak of just one component wholly without touching on the others. This paper will touch on the components while explaining and replying primarily to objections of moral knowledge, which is how one can come to theism, for knowledge of morality is a stepping stone to knowledge of God since morality itself (the objective moral order) comes from God. [2: David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos (Oxford University Press, 2016), 116.] [3: David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos (Oxford University Press, 2016), 245.] [4: Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (Oxford University Press, 2013), 87.] [5: David Baggett and Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011), 169.]
Moral knowledge is typically viewed as an end in and of itself by atheistic philosophers. They see moral knowledge as simply a facet of the human experience—and organizing principle for human societies, which have evolved over time and place. The basis of their argument is that one can be moral without believing in God, but of course the argument is a bit of a non-sequitur. Where faith is concerned is a different matter altogether. The issue that theist philosophers have is that morality itself cannot have come from anywhere else but God. If it is used as an organizing principle, it is used in the same way that one uses stone for building or wood for fire: these things are external to one’s self and provide one with uses. The same is true of morality. It exists in an objective sense, external to human beings, which is why they can come to universally or collectively know it, recognize it, understand it and use it—for whatever end they choose—whether as an organizing principle or as a means of personal transformation.
In order to organize or grow, one must have a sense of the moral order that exists in the world. The question behind the moral argument, however, is what one is to make of that moral order in terms of origin—i.e., where does it come from? Is it invented by man, or rather simply perceived by man, who himself created it and passes it down from generation to generation, tweaking it a bit here and there to suit himself or his society? Or does it remain objective and unchanging, calling for all to adapt themselves to it and conform to the order that it itself represents?
Naturalism will allow one to come to have moral beliefs, but it does not lead one to moral knowledge.[footnoteRef:6] In other words, the naturalist or atheist may have moral beliefs—but they are not justified by anything other than the individual’s own subjective opinion. If faith (belief) rests upon reason, where is the reason for the naturalist’s belief in morality? The naturalist may say that the reason is in the simple fact that one can discern the goodness of morality, which is reason enough to believe in it. Yet, to explore the argument it is helpful to dissect it. On what grounds is the goodness of morality based? Is it the individual himself? Does the subjective opinion of each individual determine the goodness of morality? If so, there can be no uniformity or universal morality. Morality for one may differ from one’s neighbor, and without a shared sense of morality there can be no organizing principle. It is in fact very much like what one perceives today in the fragmented and fractured and tribal societies of today: individuals and groups with their own senses of morality and the moral order, each defining morality according to his own beliefs. What justifies those beliefs? Simply the individual’s or group’s collective will. The will of the person or the people judges this or that action, behavior, perspective or belief to be good because it satisfies the person’s or group’s desire for goodness that aligns with his or their own viewpoint. It is justification by way of Egoism. Essentially, the morality of the naturalist and the atheist is the morality of Egoism.[footnoteRef:7] [6: David Baggett and Jerry Walls, God and Cosmos (Oxford University Press, 2016), 209.] [7: Stephen Evans, God and Moral Obligation (Oxford University Press, 2013), 72.]
The Problem of Egoism
But is Egoism sufficient philosophical justification for moral belief? It is ultimately subjective and leads to conflict and division, as every Ego stands in the way of someone else’s Ego. The philosophies of naturalism have gone out of their way in their attempt to square the circle: utilitarianism was Mill’s attempt…David Baggett and Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality (Oxford University Press, 2011), 166.]
For it cannot be denied that the prime mover is the mightiest of all—and if one is going to adhere to the argument that “might makes right,” then one must still admit that the mightiest of all is that which must be called God. This is the ontological argument of Anselm: God is that than which nothing greater can be imagined. God is the prime mover and the one Who literally “makes right” by His own might as the omnipotent being that He is.
Knowledge of Morality is Knowledge of the Will of God
Moral knowledge is knowledge of the will of God, for the moral order is the manner by which God has written his will on the world. One’s heart and mind may resist that will or accept it—one is free to choose and God is not in the business of forcing one to choose to accept. The free will that man possesses is a reflection of the freedom with which God created existence. Moral knowledge should make this clear. Those who prefer not to consent to knowledge thus stop at belief and save themselves the trouble of having to logically explain their convictions.
The reason of course is that they would prefer not to have to deal with the will of God and what that means for them in their own lives. Consenting to the will of God means consenting to transformation: it means changing oneself and becoming that which even the existentialists are always talking about when they discuss the idea of becoming. In their own language and terms, they admit to the need to become something else. They hide their justification within their own wills, thinking themselves them mightiest things they can imagine—but they are in a state of denial for it is not difficult to imagine something mightier than man. The will of God is what moral knowledge will take one to, but it is not something one will be forced to go to. God gave man the use of reason so that man could find Him. If man chooses to be led to water but does not drink, it is no one’s fault but man’s.
The concept of moral knowledge is such that it supports the moral argument along with the elements of facts, transformation and reason. Knowledge is that which is obtained by consenting to the facts, and it is the step that leads to transformation and faith, itself based upon reason. The moral argument thus must inevitably come down to theism. Without God, there can be no morality, for the justification required for all existence to exist is the existence of a prime mover—an eternal being that has no beginning and no end. If one is going to acknowledge an objective moral order, one must acknowledge an orderer. If one is not going to acknowledge an objective moral…
Theism or Atheism? When humans consider the existence of God, they tend to look outward for evidence and inward for understanding. Humans must process both types of information through a filter that is based on an unwarranted confidence in human reasoning. Or, failing that, humans must fall back to rely on faith. The nature of faith may perhaps be characterized by an absence of definitive criteria other than the absolutes that
McCloskey's refutation of the arguments of existence of God and illustration of how God (and metaphysics) can be perceived in different ways and that this precludes us from making any final judgments regarding His existence and manner of rulership. The Cosmological argument maintains that God's existence can be deduced from the fact that every act of creation needs an initiator. The world had a beginning -- after all it is
Caring about any of these things may or may not be right or wrong, but it strikes me that if appealing to an unstated vision of "science" to justify the decision is the future of ethics, then both ethics and scientific inquiry are in dire straits. Clearly, Harris wants "knowledge to count" -- that is, to have practical meaning for human lives -- but he confesses that in order to
6 Is there any comfort in these? None. There is no comfort in believing that one's existence -- joys and sufferings included -- is meaningless. If it were so, then there's no point in doing good rather than evil. If there is no immortality with God, then there is no Judgment and Hitler won't be any less of a saint than Mother Theresa. In a world without God, morality loses
According to these arguments, God does not have a beginning in time, nor is he contingent. Therefore he is in a position to have created the universe. The moral argument (Hick 28), in contrast to those above, focuses on the existence of human beings within contemporary society, and how morals are manifest in this society. According to this argument, the moral facts could only be as they are and in
McCloskey responds to this by asking "might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right?" But in that case, humans would not have genuine free will. And God is justified, Evans argues, in creating free creatures who are capable of committing evil because it is better to have both free creatures and evil than