Why Christianity Makes the Most Sense of MoralityAugust 8, 2008
What do we mean by “morality”?
Morality… what is it? If we have a discussion about morality will we be talking about the same thing? If I say I want to talk about cats will you be thinking house cats or panthers? What do we mean by morality? Well when I talk about morality I like to talk about “real morality”. In other words, the idea of there being REAL rights and REAL wrongs that we are REALLY accountable to. Not just pretend right and wrong, where everything is still permissable under the microscope, but real rights and real wrongs that we are really accountable to.
Granted, what is deemed as right to me may not be deemed as right to you. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The cart goes before the horse and “accounting” for real rights and real wrongs must come before “identifying” what those real rights and wrongs even are. So let me briefly lay out what is required for a real morality to exist.
When I discuss the topic of morality, I mean what I say and say what I mean. I take the requirements for morality VERY seriously, because I am serious about accounting for morality. Before we begin, let me ask… are you serious about accounting for a real morality?
What is required for a real morality to exist?
To say the least, what there would need to be is a personal, eternal, unchanging, omnipresent, all good standard. Allow me to lay these 5 things out in reverse order.
There must be an all good standard: A standard of good and evil is much like the relationship between light and darkness. In fact, way more than you think! What is the determiner of how much darkness is in a room? Drum roll please. The determiner is a lack of light! That’s right! Darkness, by definition, is the deprivation of light. It’s not the other way around. Light is not the absence of darkness, but darkness is the absence of light. In this sense, light and darkness are not equal opposites. Darkness depends on the absence of light to exist and be possible. The same with right and wrong, good and bad, truth and error. There is no yin-yang. There are no equal opposite forces to good and evil. Sorry to break it to you. As Thomas Aquinas beautifully put it, “evil does nothing but by virtue of good.” In other words, evil does not pull good out of good, but good pulls good out of evil (if it uses it for good). Therefore, notice I said for there to be a real morality there must be an all good standard. That way once all that is good, right, and true is established, that which is bad, wrong, and false may necessarily follow.
Secondly, this standard must be omnipresent. This is simply because if the standard is not present everywhere then crimes could be committed outside of this moral jurisdiction. What is evil in one moral jurisdiction would not be evil in another. There would be a no-man’s land where everything was permissible that wasn’t permissible in the moral arena.
Thirdly, this standard would have to be unchanging. This is simply because if having hateful intentions was said to be evil this week and then beautiful the next week, both would be simultaneously true. Therefore, neither of them would be entirely true and hateful intentions could not be said to be absolutely evil any given week.
Fourthly, this standard must be eternal. I do not mean it must infinitely exist in time and space. Time and space as we know it must be finite. Thus, this standard must exist even outside of our finite existence along with whatever else has always been before time, space, matter. This is simply because if this standard were created at any point then it would cease to be provide for what is really right. If intending to help others was established as morally right 152 billion years ago, then during 153 billions years ago it wouldn’t have mattered.
Lastly, this standard must be personal. When I say personal it must entail personal characteristics such as consciousness, intention, thought, and action. I can scientifically prove this. A female praying mantis is not thrown into prison for life for having eaten her husband after intercourse. Yet, serial killers are. This is because all other animals except humans have instincts. Humans however, are created in God’s image according to Genesis 1 and have personal characteristics. Since us humans have these God-like characteristics we are accountable to carry out these characteristics in a way that is right.
So what are the requirements for a real morality to really exist? Well we covered 5 of them. There must be a personal, eternal, unchanging, omnipresent, all good standard.
Is morality absolute or relative?
Is this standard relative or absolute? The answer is YES! What do I mean? Well, very simply there must be absolute rights (so there can be absolute wrongs), and these absolute rights and wrongs are relative to the intentions we have when carrying them out depending on the circumstances we are in. I may decide to kill myself and take a few innocent people out with me. Or I may protect myself and my family and kill the person who’s breaking into my house. In both circumstances I am killing. Yet, even though I am carrying out the same physical action I am not carrying out the same moral action. Therefore, morality does and must entail absolute rights and wrongs. Yet, these absolute rights and wrongs must be judged relatively. That is, according to the intentions by which my thoughts, words, and actions are carried out, given the circumstance.
Is morality based on the Bible alone?
Is morality only based on the Bible? Not at all. More correctly, morality is based on a personal, eternal, unchanging, omnipresent, all good being. I believe this to be Yahweh, the Lord Jesus Christ, or The Triune God of Christianity. Who do you believe it to be? God is the necessary standard. God is an eternal community with Himself as He is a trinity, three persons simultaneously existing as one person! How God thinks, speaks, and acts towards Himself eternally defines this all good standard. It just so happens that Scripture is God breathed, as opposed to man breathed, and tells of God’s character. Thus we can infer morality from Scripture, but it is not the “bases” for morality. God is.
Can morality be “natural”?
Now if you have read this far you have just completed my introduction! My overarching argument is that morality, namely, real rights and wrongs, prove God’s existence. On the other hand, if it can’t be agreed to prove God’s existence, then it certainly proves “theism” or the “supernatural”.
Why? Well, morality is a transcendent a-priori. Some are reading this and smiling because you know what I mean and agree. Others may be scratching their heads. In other words, keep in mind the word “ought”. Morality prescribes how people “ought” to behave, not merely “how” they behave. I am not talking about “ethics”, which merely describe people’s behavior. I am talking about a real moral standard that is first all good and prescribes how people’s intentions ought to be carried out as they think, speak, and act. Yet, to say something “ought” to behave a certain way is ultimately a transcendent standard. Sure we see the concept of right and wrong in a physical court room, yet the standard itself is not found under rocks or to be growing naturally on trees. It comes from God Himself and is implied upon us humans who are created in His likeness.
God implants His moral compass within our hearts and we, to a degree, know we have done evil and missed the mark of what is right. So again, what we “ought” to do is shorthand for “what standard we ought to go by”. And this “standard we ought to go by” must be derived outside of mindless and finite matter, because again, a real standard is required to be personal, eternal, unchanging, omnipresent, and all good. These necessary criterion are not located in nature. They supersede it, hence are supernatural. If any of these criterion should break down the whole castle crumbles to the ground. In the end, if there is no real morality, all is really permissible.