Moral Law

 God Didn’t Create Moral Law, It Is Simply a Reflection of HisCharacter


Moral truths are malleable and subjective if they aren’t groundedin a transcendent source (such as God). I’m not the only person to realizethis; even honest atheists recognize theinconsistency of embracing objective moral truths while simultaneouslyrejecting the one reasonable source for such truths. In a recentexchange with an atheist who is frustrated with his peers, I received thefollowing email:


“It's the rare atheistwho will honestly admit what their world view would wreak, taken to its logicalconclusion. To know that you are simply an accidental conglomeration of chemicalsat the same time that such a thing as morals even exist is oxymoronic statementand yet I hear it all the time from fellow atheists.  …Be consistent.Acknowledge that the Universe is an uncaused accident, ethics is an illusion,and act accordingly. Or acknowledge the possibility of anotherpossibility.  Stop trying to have it both ways.  Can you be anethical atheist?  Yes.  But you won’t be a logical one.”


That’s an amazingly honest statement from an atheisticperspective. The writer seems to be struggling with the same realizations Irecognized as I journeyed from atheism to theism:


Objective moral truths areself-evident
Moral truths are not encoded inour DNA
Moral truths are not simply amatter of cultural agreement
Moral truths are not simplydriven by “human flourishing”
Moral truths are not dictatedby a common concern for our species
There is a difference betweenmoral utility and moral creation


Theism provides, at the very least, sufficient “grounding” for theobjective moral laws we willingly affirm with our words (or unwillingly revealwith our lives). I’ve encountered a number of skeptics who object to such aclaim, however. One objection is named after one of Plato's dialogues (theEuthyphro). Skeptics who hold this objection make the following claim: If Godis the source of morality and decides what is “right” or “wrong,” the relationshipbetween God and moral truth can be described in one of only two ways, and bothof these possibilities are problematic:


An act is wrong becauseGod condemns the act
If this is the case, morality is largely an arbitrary decision in the mind ofGod. In such a world, torturing babies for fun is not objectively wrong, butmerely a decision God makes (when He could easily have decided otherwise).Would we be willing to accept baby torturing as morally virtuous if God hadproclaimed it differently? Is morality “elastic” and merely an arbitrarydecision? If your theology allowsfor a view of God in which He changes His mind (and revelation) given currentconditions (like the God of Mormonism who altered His view of polygamy), how dowe know if something is truly wrong or simply currently wrong?


God condemns an actbecause the act is wrong
One way to avoid such a capricious view of moral law is to argue moral truth issimply recognized and affirmed by God. This also problematic, however, becauseit suggests moral truth precedes (and even supersedes) God. In this view, Godis not the necessary, objective source of moral truth, but is insteadincidental to this truth (much like you and I). Why should we consider what Godsays at all if this is the case? If moral truth is the one true eternalreality, doesn’t it trump God?


If these are the only two ways to explain the relationship betweenGod and morality, theists seem no better able to account for the objectivenature of moral truth than atheists. There is however, a third alternative:


Moral truth is areflection of God’s nature
From a Christian worldview, God doesn’t simply tell us what isrighteous, He is righteous. Goodness and righteousness areattributes of his innate character. While it’s tempting to think there isn’tanything God couldn’t do, this is not the case. God cannot act or commandoutside of his character. He is innately logical and moral; it isimpossible for Him to create square circles or married bachelors, just as it isimpossible for Him to sin. Objective moral truths are simply a reflection ofGod’s eternal being. They are not rules or laws God has created (and couldtherefore alter recklessly), but are instead immutable, dependable qualities ofhis nature reflected in our universe. They exist because God exists (notbecause God created them or recognized them later). The Bible describes God asomnipotent and capable of doing anything he sets out to do. God’s choices,however, are always consistent with His moral and logical nature; He never setsout to do something contrary to who He is as God.


Theism is still the most reasonable explanation for the objectivemoral truths all of us either affirm or reflect with our lives. When skepticsargue against a transcendent God, yet acknowledge transcendent moral truths,they are acting inconsistently, given their worldview. They are borrowing fromtheism as they make a case against it.


. Warner Wallace

Author,Cold-Case Christianity