For centuries, philosophers and theologians have recognised the connection between the reality of objective moral values and the existence of God.
Consider this simple argument:
Premise 1: If objective moral values exist, God must exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values exist.
Conclusion: God must exist.
If both these premises are true the conclusion logically follows.
Let’s first consider premise 2 - that objective moral values exist. Regardless of time, geography, culture, sex, race or religion, every human being that has ever lived has had a conscience; an innate moral sense of right and wrong. The Bible teaches us that one of the ways God has revealed Himself to all mankind is through the conscience. The apostle Paul in the book of Romans notes that God’s moral law is written across every human heart. We all have an intuitive sense of objective morality. We all know certain actions, such as rape or adultery, are objectively wrong. We also know that certain other actions, like loving and helping others or being gracious and kind, are objectively good.
For those who aren’t quite sure objective moral values exist, here’s an example of an objective moral law. Regardless of who a person is, when they lived, or where they lived, it is immoral to lie, cheat, steal or murder purely for the fun of it.
Let us now go back and consider premise 1, that if objective moral values exist, then God must exist. As we’ve discovered, objective moral standards exist. The question now is, what is their source? Where or from whom do they come from? How do we explain them? Why should a moral sense exist at all? Without appeal to a higher source, namely God, what could account for the moral sense that is common to all? Where else could morals have come from?
Christian apologists Josh and Sean McDowell note that, “If we say our moral intuitions have an origin in a process of blind chance, such as evolution, then morality is a random trick of nature to get us to obey.” If this is the case then morality has no objective basis, and our deep intuitions about certain behaviour being objectively right or wrong are mistaken. In other words, if God does not exist as the foundation of morality, then anything goes. Or as Dostoevsky observed, “if there is no God, everything is permitted.” This doesn’t mean atheists or other nonbelievers will necessarily act more immorally than believers, but it does mean we lose an objective basis by which to make moral judgments. If God does not exist then we lose the right to judge the Nazis and anyone else with whom we disagree morally. They believed they were right. We think they were wrong. Without a higher law above humanity, who gets to decide moral truth? If there is no greater source above human beings, then the existence of morality is an inexplicable illusion. Everything we deem right or wrong is reduced to a matter of personal preference and isn’t actually right or wrong.
However, if God does exist, then we have a ground for objective morality. We ought to be truthful because God is true and faithful. We ought to do loving acts because God is love. Morality stems from the character and nature of God and is binding on His creation. The reality of objective, universal and constant standards for truth and morality point to the existence of a personal and moral God.
However, some skeptics contend that morality can exist independently of God. They argue that we don’t need a God in order to be good or evil. But how do we define good or evil without some transcendent moral standard? Evil, for example, has traditionally been understood as the perversion of good. Just as crookedness implies a standard of straight, evil implies a standard of good. C.S Lewis famously said that to complain that a stick is bent makes sense only in light of the concept of straight. Similarly, there can be evil only if there is first good. But if God does not exist, what is good? Without God, we are all left to figure out what the meaning of good is for ourselves, and the concept of objective good disappears. Good becomes a relative term, for it is simply whatever each of us wants it to be at any given moment, or whatever evolution has blindly wired us to believe.
The reality of objective moral values points to the existence of God, and part of His character and nature is revealed to us, as we understand that He is the very source of objective morality. He is a personal and moral God. The reality that each individual has a conscience also demonstrates that we have been made in the image of God, moral beings with an intuitive sense of right and wrong.
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Further reading recommendations
'Reasonable Faith' by William Lane Craig
'On Guard' by William Lane Craig
'I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist' by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek