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Thread: Moral Law-Proof of God?

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    Moral Law-Proof of God?

    So, I listen to an apologist named Ravi Zacharias speak frequently via youtube or his podcasts. He has an arguement for the existance of God:

    Sombody questions, "How can there be a God if evil exists?

    Ravi replies, saying something like 'if you acknowledge the existance of evill, you must acknowledge the existance of good to contrast it. If you acknowlege good and evil together, you must agree that there is some sort of code, or 'moral law' to decide what is good and what is evil and how they are different. If you acknowlege this moral law, you must then agree that there was a moral law giver, namely God. So by talking about evil at all, you must acknowlegde the very being you are trying to disprove.'

    Okay, so that sounds good, and I can follow his logic up until the last point. My question: Does morality really require the existance of a moral-law-giver? Is there further logic to this step? Some could argue that just because we naturally want to live well and feel good, we will naturally treat others well also. What we may call 'morality' others just call instincts.

    Any thoughts?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwtape View Post
    Okay, so that sounds good, and I can follow his logic up until the last point. My question: Does morality really require the existance of a moral-law-giver? Is there further logic to this step? Some could argue that just because we naturally want to live well and feel good, we will naturally treat others well also. What we may call 'morality' others just call instincts.

    Any thoughts?
    Yes. There's a difference between being moral and feeling good. Often times the right thing to do is the hard thing to do and comes at little to no gain. Those who are mighty have no reason at all to worry about lesser people. In a Godless morally neutral universe, the only 'right' is ensuring your consciousness lasts as long as possible with as much pleasure as possible... and who is anyone else to tell you that you can't do X or Y?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwtape View Post
    Sombody questions, "How can there be a God if evil exists?

    Ravi replies, saying something like 'if you acknowledge the existance of evill, you must acknowledge the existance of good to contrast it. If you acknowlege good and evil together, you must agree that there is some sort of code, or 'moral law' to decide what is good and what is evil and how they are different. If you acknowlege this moral law, you must then agree that there was a moral law giver, namely God. So by talking about evil at all, you must acknowlegde the very being you are trying to disprove.'

    Okay, so that sounds good, and I can follow his logic up until the last point. My question: Does morality really require the existance of a moral-law-giver? Is there further logic to this step? Some could argue that just because we naturally want to live well and feel good, we will naturally treat others well also. What we may call 'morality' others just call instincts.

    Any thoughts?
    As I recall Zacharias in his book Cries of the Heart stated, "If there is a moral law you must posit a moral law giver. But that is who you are trying to disprove and not prove. If there is no moral lawgiver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good there is no evil." (pg. 66-67). Here's one such instance of a question in one of Zacharias' question periods, this was posed, I believe, at the University of Nottingham (the 'speaker' is Zacharias):

    Student: There is too much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God!

    Speaker: Would you mind if I asked you something? You said, “God cannot exist because there is too much evil.” If there is such a thing as evil, aren’t you assuming that there is such a thing as good?

    Student: I guess so.

    Speaker: If there is such a thing as good, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil.

    Speaker: In a debate between the philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Bertrand Russell, Copleston said, “Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don’t you?” Russell answered, “Yes, I do.” “How do you differentiate between good and bad?” challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders and said, “On the basis of feeling – what else?” I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate “logical kill” for the moment would have been, “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?”

    Speaker: When you say there is evil, aren’t you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. That, however, is
    who you are trying to disprove and not prove. For if there is no moral lawgiver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. What, then, is your question?

    Student: What, then, am I asking you?
    To answer your question, then, yes, for morality to actually exist as a substantial thing a moral law giver must necessarily exist. We aren't speaking of morality simply as a way of acting. When as Christians we talk about morality we're talking about an actually designed, intrinsic function of the universe. It is as much a part of the universe as matter, time or space are a part of the universe. The implication, then, is that moral order existed before humanity existed - this is very important.

    I'm sure some could argue that because we want to live well and feel good we could call that 'morality' (while others call it instincts). To answer as such I would simply refer you above to the debate between Copleston and Russell (you can find a transcript of the debate here: http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p20.htm). Living well, feeling good, treating others well. That might be nice but that doesn't provide a proper foundation for morality. Naturalism provides no proper foundation for morality, no proper way of discerning objectively between what is good or bad, right or wrong. In fact no evolutionary scientist has yet shown that there is an amoral source foundational to our moral inclinations - you just won't find it.

    If morality to exist it must necessarily be found outside of ourselves. Any argument from evil (which is no longer a problem, by the way, it's been thoroughly defeated) only shows one thing: to have evil you must first presuppose God - whoops!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwtape View Post
    So, I listen to an apologist named Ravi Zacharias speak frequently via youtube or his podcasts. He has an argument for the existence of God:

    Somebody questions, "How can there be a God if evil exists?

    Ravi replies, saying something like 'if you acknowledge the existence of evil, you must acknowledge the existence of good to contrast it. If you acknowledge good and evil together, you must agree that there is some sort of code, or 'moral law' to decide what is good and what is evil and how they are different. If you acknowledge this moral law, you must then agree that there was a moral law giver, namely God. So by talking about evil at all, you must acknowledge the very being you are trying to disprove.'

    Okay, so that sounds good, and I can follow his logic up until the last point. My question: Does morality really require the existence of a moral-law-giver? Is there further logic to this step? Some could argue that just because we naturally want to live well and feel good, we will naturally treat others well also. What we may call 'morality' others just call instincts.

    Any thoughts?
    First, as a people who live in a fallen world we will never "naturally" want to live well or feel good or treat others well. We are by nature evil. (Jeremiah 17:9)

    Second, instincts......humans do not have any instincts once they grow out of infancy. Infants have a rooting instinct (their head will move when their cheek is touched) They also have a startle instinct. An instinct is by definition something we do automatically. (The definition does not apply to the autonomic nervous system or brain stem functions of the body). If you examine closely behaviors people will often call instincts you will find there is always a thought or feeling just before the behavior, however brief. Some behaviors are so well learned, the person is no longer aware of the thought or feeling thereby appearing to be 'instinct'.

    According to Ravi, "if you acknowledge the existence of evil, you must acknowledge the existence of good to contrast it."
    Why contrast it? God alone is Holy. In Isaiah 6 it says that seraphs fly non-stop stating Holy, Holy, Holy.... In the Hebrew language a repeat of a word denotes power e.g. if describing a bad storm a Hebrew would say storm, storm. For God, one sin no matter how small will separate us from Him. There is no contrasting good and evil for God. Evil is sin.....sin is evil. Period. This will never change because God is an unchanging God. I feel individuals such as Ravi are looking horizontally at God instead of looking "High and Lifted up" upon the His Throne. As far as morality goes, God gave the law to the Israelites so they would know what sin was. He said they would not have know what coveting was if they had not been told. Therefore, this moral code does not "decide" what is good and evil but rather tells us what is already evil.
    Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
    Psalm 62:5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moxie View Post
    According to Ravi, "if you acknowledge the existence of evil, you must acknowledge the existence of good to contrast it."
    Meaning evil does not exist without good first existing - evil being a twisting and corrupting of good. Without good you have no evil. I wouldn't say Ravi is looking horizontally rather than 'high and lifted up' (I would very much say Ravi looks 'high and lifted up'). I'd say you misunderstand exactly what it is Ravi is saying.

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    One God or Two

    The question of why there is good and evil has gone through many changes in my reasoning over the last half century. I'll give yu the benefit of my current thinking on the subject. I see dualities in everything. One man's traitor is another man's conscientous objector, attraction and repulsion, etc. When things go right, when a baby is born without defect, when there is a good harvest, or when money comes in at a critical time we say Praise to God. When things go wrong such as when a child is murdered, or a flood comes and wipes us out we do not ascribe these things to our God, since our God must be goodness by definition, a God of mercy and justice. So there must be another God responsible for all the bad and sad things that happen that is not controlled by the good God and we call that God of meanness the Devil or similar name.

    If there are not two opposite nature God's then the one God is going to have to take ultimate responsibility for both right and wrong that happens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moxie View Post
    According to Ravi, "if you acknowledge the existence of evil, you must acknowledge the existence of good to contrast it."
    Quote Originally Posted by Xel'Naga View Post
    Meaning evil does not exist without good first existing - evil being a twisting and corrupting of good. Without good you have no evil. I wouldn't say Ravi is looking horizontally rather than 'high and lifted up' (I would very much say Ravi looks 'high and lifted up'). I'd say you misunderstand exactly what it is Ravi is saying.
    I do understand what Ravi is saying there can be no evil without good. However, when we as humans use our logic to contrast we are placing two items on the same level. In this argument, we are placing good (God's goodness) on the same level as evil. This is what I meant by looking at this horizontally. Instead of contrasting the two why are we not simply acknowledging what you said, "evil does not exist without good first existing - evil being a twisting and corrupting of good. Without good you have no evil." Thus, acknowledging God's holiness. The OP question "How can there be God if evil exists?" may be better explained by the corruption of God's ultimate goodness rather than an intellectual argument that Ravi gives.
    Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moxie View Post
    I do understand what Ravi is saying there can be no evil without good. However, when we as humans use our logic to contrast we are placing two items on the same level. In this argument, we are placing good (God's goodness) on the same level as evil. This is what I meant by looking at this horizontally. Instead of contrasting the two why are we not simply acknowledging what you said, "evil does not exist without good first existing - evil being a twisting and corrupting of good. Without good you have no evil." Thus, acknowledging God's holiness. The OP question "How can there be God if evil exists?" may be better explained by the corruption of God's ultimate goodness rather than an intellectual argument that Ravi gives.
    Not necessarily, no. I don't believe Ravi is in any way putting God's goodness on the same level as evil. Ravi said exactly the same thing I did, I merely explained the meaning behind Ravi's answer.

  9. #9
    Interesting. Lets suppose that morality does exist outside ourselves...why, then, does it seem to be so subjective? Why does everybody seem to have a different idea of what right and wrong is? Of course it makes sense that different cultures, religions ect. would have different ideas of what right and wrong are. But, if morality really exists outside of our existance, it should transcend these different cultures or upbringings, shouldn't it? For example, cannibalism. In cultures where this was (is?) acceptable, how did it ever get that way? Shouldn't morality kept it from getting that far?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwtape View Post
    Interesting. Lets suppose that morality does exist outside ourselves...why, then, does it seem to be so subjective? Why does everybody seem to have a different idea of what right and wrong is? Of course it makes sense that different cultures, religions ect. would have different ideas of what right and wrong are. But, if morality really exists outside of our existance, it should transcend these different cultures or upbringings, shouldn't it? For example, cannibalism. In cultures where this was (is?) acceptable, how did it ever get that way? Shouldn't morality kept it from getting that far?
    It seems subjective because people are in rebellion against God. However, that's exactly the point. A subjective application of morality, which is objective, doesn't make morality any less objective. It makes the moral standard by which people different subjective. It's not that everybody seems to have a different idea of what right and wrong is, it's that people all tend to work from the same objective foundation and interpret that foundation subjectively.

  11. #11

    Moral law-Proof of God?

    C.S. Lewis thought so. His notion that natural laws such as the feeling of being wronged if something was stolen from you and the fact that most emotions depend on it's opposite to exist and be defined, he concluded that moral or "natural" law was created by a Higher Power. This was one of his thoughts that led him from Atheism to Christianity.

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    So, I listen to an apologist named Ravi Zacharias speak frequently via youtube or his podcasts. He has an arguement for the existance of God:

    Sombody questions, "How can there be a God if evil exists?

    Ravi replies, saying something like 'if you acknowledge the existance of evill, you must acknowledge the existance of good to contrast it. If you acknowlege good and evil together, you must agree that there is some sort of code, or 'moral law' to decide what is good and what is evil and how they are different. If you acknowlege this moral law, you must then agree that there was a moral law giver, namely God. So by talking about evil at all, you must acknowlegde the very being you are trying to disprove.'

    Okay, so that sounds good, and I can follow his logic up until the last point. My question: Does morality really require the existance of a moral-law-giver? Is there further logic to this step? Some could argue that just because we naturally want to live well and feel good, we will naturally treat others well also. What we may call 'morality' others just call instincts.

    Any thoughts?
    Ravi is misinformed on this. Most civilizations have thrived without a moral law giver. There are numerous sources for morality. Unfortunately, his book about the New Atheism (and Sam Harris in particular) fails to mention evolutionary roots for morality, which gives the atheist a biological out, therefore rendering his argument as just one interpretation.

    The Christian moral position is ultimately rooted in biology, seeing as though we are biological creatures. It does not matter how we got here, ID or evolution. We are meant to live in accordance with God's law, which allows us to live the fullness of human life. God's law is perfectly harmonized with natural law.

    The thing that set Christianity apart from other religions is that its law giver gives us laws because he loves us and wants us to love him. So we might have things in common with other religions or atheists, but that is only because they have access to the same God. To reject a part (which all other belief systems do) and do it in the face of evidence otherwise is to reject God and his morality.

    I guess my view of the Bible is not as a moral book from on high, but rather the gift of the God who loves us and wants us to orient our earthly (biological) lives to his will. This follows not from serving a religion or moral code, but rather a personal loving God.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Screwtape View Post
    Interesting. Lets suppose that morality does exist outside ourselves...why, then, does it seem to be so subjective? Why does everybody seem to have a different idea of what right and wrong is? Of course it makes sense that different cultures, religions ect. would have different ideas of what right and wrong are. But, if morality really exists outside of our existance, it should transcend these different cultures or upbringings, shouldn't it? For example, cannibalism. In cultures where this was (is?) acceptable, how did it ever get that way? Shouldn't morality kept it from getting that far?
    Even cannibal culture believes it is wrong to kill (and eat) each other within the culture. (tribe?) If it didn't such a culture could never develop. Also, the fact such cultures are so rare in world history (compared to all other cultures) sort of makes them the exception which proves the rule.

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    Quote Originally Posted by decrumpit View Post
    Ravi is misinformed on this. Most civilizations have thrived without a moral law giver. There are numerous sources for morality. Unfortunately, his book about the New Atheism (and Sam Harris in particular) fails to mention evolutionary roots for morality, which gives the atheist a biological out, therefore rendering his argument as just one interpretation.
    I think what Ravi has to say above is very much informed and he is completely justified in appealing to an objective moral standard (or authority) - which is what he is doing - when discussing morality, suffering and the problem of evil (which is no longer a problem since it was last seriously discussed by Mackie). I would agree with Ravi in saying that without a moral standard by which to differentiate good and evil then 'good' and 'evil' become words surrounded in quotations, words that don't actually reflect an inherit nature of the universe.

    I'm not sure if it is in any way accurate to say 'most civilizations have thrived without a moral law giver' in the sense that the societies you are referring to did not believe in any divine foundation to morality (that is, they had a completely naturalistic foundation for their moral code). I'm not well studied in ancient culture and ancient religion so I cannot say for sure. Going along with this I would agree that morality has had many sources attributed to it; all but one source fail to explain moral inclinations within human thought, this was illustrated above by Zacharias. Any evolutionary explanation of ethics and morality leaves very much to be desired. Zacharias' argument may be just 'one interpretation' of many, however, out of the many it is the best interpretation and the only interpretation which allows for an objective moral standard. Otherwise I fear any naturalistic explanation of the foundations (or roots) of morality leads to an inherent and violent contradiction of the law of non-contradiction.

    To quote C.S Lewis (whom Scottinnj earlier referenced):
    ...Of course, that raises a very big question. If a good God made the world why has it gone wrong? And for many years I simply refused to listen to the Christian answers to this question, because I kept on feeling 'whatever you say, and however clever your arguments are, isn't it much simpler and easier to say that the world was not made by any intelligent power? Aren't all your arguments simply a complicated attempt to avoid the obvious? But then that threw me back into another difficulty.

    My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be a part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless--I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. (The Complete C.S Lewis: Signature Classics, pg. 41)
    Given evolutionary explanations as to the origins of morality, what in evolution would lead an evolved species to come to such thoughts? 'As part of the show,' as Lewis says it. Any atheistic argument against God on the basis of evil necessarily requires an objective standard of evil with which to appeal to. Otherwise the 'problem of evil' falls apart: what do you mean there is evil and suffering? That is only your conception of the universe.

    Any evolutionary explanation in regards to morality also falls short with respect to how we differentiate between 'good' and 'evil'. The point is further driven home - in the sense that both Zacharias and Lewis have already sufficiently illustrated this reality - by Copleston in his debate with Russell, which you can read here (paying attention to the Moral Argument header).

    Zacharias, Lewis, Copleston; these people are not merely saying that one can only live a moral life if one adopts as a foundation for their moral code a deity - this would be a foolish position and is an untenable position to hold, it does not reflect reality. They are saying that as absurd as it is, people with world views which do not justify their ethical inclinations hold to moral standards. It only makes sense within a Christian world view to hold to the moral standards everyone seems to take for granted.

    It's the difference between saying, "Murdering children is frowned upon because it jeopardizes the continuation of the species" and "murdering children is wrong".

    Quote Originally Posted by decrumpit View Post
    The Christian moral position is ultimately rooted in biology, seeing as though we are biological creatures. It does not matter how we got here, ID or evolution. We are meant to live in accordance with God's law, which allows us to live the fullness of human life. God's law is perfectly harmonized with natural law.
    We are also spiritual creatures and I would argue from that, that our moral position is actually ultimately rooted in the spiritual aspect of our being - morality existing before we did. I agree that it does not matter how we got here; ID or evolution. However, the difference is predicated wholly upon God. The naturalist might attempt to explain morality as an evolutionary event (which is completely absurd, but anyway) and he would not be ultimately justified in his explanation morality ends with humanity. The theistic evolutionist, on the other hand, would be completely justified in attempting to explain morality as an evolutionary event as ultimately, morality began with God.

    Quote Originally Posted by decrumpit View Post
    The thing that set Christianity apart from other religions is that its law giver gives us laws because he loves us and wants us to love him. So we might have things in common with other religions or atheists, but that is only because they have access to the same God. To reject a part (which all other belief systems do) and do it in the face of evidence otherwise is to reject God and his morality.
    Is that what sets apart Christianity? Didn't Allah give Muslims a law also? To be frank (though my name is Jeremy), I don't understand what you're getting at when you say God gave us the law because He loves us and wants us to love Him, so that we might have things in common with other religions or atheists? Our moral code tends to be the exact opposite as other religions and atheists - are you able to further explain this?

    Quote Originally Posted by decrumpit View Post
    I guess my view of the Bible is not as a moral book from on high, but rather the gift of the God who loves us and wants us to orient our earthly (biological) lives to his will. This follows not from serving a religion or moral code, but rather a personal loving God.
    You seem to be creating a distinction between spiritual and 'biological' life, are you, and if you are, what distinction? To inquire, do you believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God?

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    Quote Originally Posted by thepenitent View Post
    Even cannibal culture believes it is wrong to kill (and eat) each other within the culture. (tribe?) If it didn't such a culture could never develop. Also, the fact such cultures are so rare in world history (compared to all other cultures) sort of makes them the exception which proves the rule.
    Which is why they eat their enemies, does that make it any better If you're appealing to a rule then aren't you by definition appealing to something objective? (Which, following the logic necessitates God.)

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