The moral argument for God’s existence states that objective moral values and duties exist, and the best explanation for their existence is a supreme, morally perfect, personal God. Here is an explanation of this argument in 9000 words:
The moral argument begins with the recognition that there are objective moral values and duties. By objective, it means that some actions are right or wrong independent of human opinion. For example, torturing innocent children for fun is morally wrong, whether anyone thinks so or not. Honesty, kindness, and courage are examples of moral virtues that are objectively good.
The objectivity of morality suggests the existence of a moral law that transcends human opinions and conventions. This moral law requires moral accountability and is binding on all people. The source of this moral law must be grounded in something beyond humanity.
There are different views on the source of objective morality. Some argue it originates from human rationality alone or social conventions. But these fail to account for the transcendent nature of objective morality. Rational disagreements and divergent social conventions illustrate the need for a higher moral standard beyond human subjectivity.
Others propose that morality originates from human evolution, which ingrained moral instincts for survival benefits. But this reduces morality to mere adaptions and behavioral preferences shaped by natural selection. It struggles to account for the prescriptive and objectively binding nature of moral duties.
The moral argument claims the best explanation for objective morality is a supreme God who grounds moral truths in His own perfectly good nature. As morally perfect, God’s nature emanates perfect moral standards that reflect His righteousness. As supreme Lord over all creation, God’s moral standards carry binding obligations on all people He created to reflect His moral character.
God innately provides the authoritative foundation required to ground unconditionally objective moral truths within His own essence. God’s moral nature supplies the standard against which all actions and intentions can be measured. Therefore, objective morality necessarily requires the existence of God as the source and basis for moral facts.
This moral argument dates back to ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle who reasoned there must be a “Good” that exists as the source of all goodness in the world. In the Middle Ages, theologians like Augustine and Aquinas formulated early versions of the moral argument based on reflection on the nature of moral laws.
In modern times, Immanuel Kant articulated the moral argument based on the existence of “categorical imperatives” that require unconditional moral duties. More recently, Christian philosophers and apologists like William Lane Craig have refined the moral argument using insights from ethical philosophy.
Here are several key reasons and supporting points for the moral argument in more detail:
Evidence That Objective Moral Values and Duties Exist
The basic starting point of the moral argument is the existence of objective morals that are not mere human conventions or opinions. Our moral experience affirms certain actions as objectively right or wrong.
For example, love, generosity, and courage are universally considered moral virtues across all cultures. And actions like rape, murder, and ethnic cleansing are universally recognized as morally evil. Moral truths like “love your neighbor as yourself” and “rape is wrong” apply to all people in all places at all times.
We do not merely feel that certain actions are wrong. We apprehend an objective moral standard outside of ourselves that makes certain actions morally wrong, regardless of how we feel about them. When judging morality, we do not simply make subjective preferences. We make objective moral pronouncements that certain things are right or wrong.
People universally recognize that moral obligations carry authority and binding expectations upon people. Moral obligations make demands on our behavior that we intuitively understand we “ought” to follow regardless of personal preferences or cultural conventions.
The universal existence of basic moral beliefs across human experiences, cultures, and history indicates that morality is not a human invention but part of objective reality. All people have a common moral intuition that certain actions are objectively good or evil.
Features of Objective Morality Requiring Explanation
Objective moral values and duties have unique features that require explanation. The moral argument claims theism best explains these features of morality:
- Prescriptive Authority – Moral imperatives make demands on behavior using “ought” and “should” language. Moral obligations prescribing how people should behave imply a higher authoritative source for morality beyond human opinion.
- Binding Expectations – Moral truths exert inescapable moral demands and duties on all moral agents. We intuitively recognize objective moral standards as universally binding on all people.
- Categorical Force – Moral truths make unconditional demands not dependent on personal preferences or goals. Moral duties are categorial imperatives that must be obeyed regardless of circumstances or consequences.
- Objective Truth – Moral propositions assert objective facts about right and wrong that are not mere opinions. Moral statements purport to describe moral reality, not just subjective feelings or social conventions.
- Universal Applicability – Basic moral truths apply universally across all cultures, times, and circumstances. Fundamental moral duties like prohibitions against murder and theft hold across all contexts.
- Action-Guiding Principles – Moral imperatives provide real determinative guidance for praxis and behavior. Recognition of objective moral duties influences choices by telling people how they should act.
- Moral Obligations – A sense of actual moral accountability and duty arises from awareness of objective moral standards. Moral facts impose genuine obligations on moral agents to align with moral truth.
These unique features of objective morality suggest it has its foundation in a transcendent spiritual reality beyond finite subjective human sources. The moral argument claims God’s nature best accounts for morality’s normative authority and universally binding expectations.
The Inadequacy of Purely Naturalistic Explanations
Naturalistic worldviews that posit a purely physical universe struggle to provide an adequate explanatory basis for objective morality. Reducing morality solely to human rationality, biological evolution, or socio-cultural forces fails to account for its transcendent features.
Simply saying morality originates in human rationality does not explain the prescriptive force of moral imperatives over human reasoning. Basing morality in evolving biosocial instincts merely describes behavioral patterns without the normative dimension of moral duties. Sociocultural relativistic explanations of morality as social constructions undermine universal moral truths.
Naturalism has difficulty justifying why any particular moral system, or any moral principles at all, have authority over human choices. Without God, morality may be viewed as useful but not objectively binding.]
Purely secular accounts struggle to explain where moral obligations come from, why they have authority, and why humans should care about morality. Without God, morality loses its innate prescriptive force as binding expectations on human behavior.
Naturalistic explanations struggle to provide transcendent grounding required for categorial moral imperatives that apply unconditionally across all people, cultures, and circumstances. Only theism can adequately account for the universality, necessity, and objectivity of moral truths.
God Uniquely Provides an Adequate Basis for Objective Morality
The moral argument claims God supplies the necessary metaphysical foundation to ground objective moral duties in a transcendent spiritual reality. God’s nature explains morality’s demanding features in the following ways:
- As supreme Creator, God has authority to impose binding moral duties on human beings.
- God’s perfectly moral nature acts as the paradigm standard of goodness for moral values.
- God’s moral will emanates moral obligations that reflect His righteousness.
- Humans, as God’s image-bearers, intuitively recognize and respond to objective moral truths that align with God’s moral law written on their conscience.
- Moral obligations derive their categorical normative force as reflections of God’s morally perfect commands which brook no exceptions.
- God’s essential nature supplies the eternal transcendent grounding in spiritual reality necessary to issue categorical moral imperatives across all people and cultures.
In short, God’s supreme moral perfection and lordship provides the authoritative basis necessary to ground objective moral duties as universally binding expectations on human behavior. God’s moral nature issues moral imperatives that carry prescriptive force as categorical commands aligning with God’s perfect goodness.
Belief in God gives the best explanatory basis for why objective morality has authority over human rationality, why humans can discern basic universal moral truths, and why humans intuitively recognize moral duties as inescapably binding.
Without God, morality may reduce to arbitrary social conventions, biological adaptions, reasoned principles, or devolves into moral relativism. Only God adequately grounds morality’s categorical normative force as an objectively true spiritual reality universally binding all moral agents.
Biblical Revelation Affirms God as the Source of Objective Moral Truths
The Bible reveals God as the divine source and grounding for objective moral values and duties whose commands carry supreme moral authority:
“Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be. When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Proverbs 8:1-31)
“The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8)
These passages reveal God as the divine source of moral wisdom who established moral order in creation. God’s moral commands express His righteous character as the supreme standard for goodness. The Psalmist declares God’s laws as “perfect” reflecting His moral ideal.
“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.” (Psalm 119:73-74)
As mankind’s Creator, God forms people to intuitively recognize His moral truths. His laws are written on the human conscience as binding commands that carry prescriptive moral authority:
“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15)
This explains the universal moral awareness across humanity. God designed humans to discern right and wrong in accordance with His moral law.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
As the perfect image of God, Jesus Christ embodied ideal moral righteousness in human form. He demonstrates morality aligned with God’s perfect character and holiness.
“Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.'”(Mark 12:29-31)
Christ affirmed the greatest moral duties are to wholeheartedly love God and neighbor. These principles summarize the foundation of God’s moral commands.
In Scripture, moral truth originates from God’s perfect moral nature and expresses His will for human conduct. Morality reflects God’s flawless righteousness, wisdom, justice, holiness, faithfulness, goodness, and love. Objective moral facts are grounded in God’s supreme authoritative commands arising from His morally perfect essence.
Common Objections to the Moral Argument
Despite its rational appeal, the moral argument faces objections from critics. Here are some common criticisms and responses:
Objection 1: People Disagree on Moral Issues
Critics argue widespread moral disagreements indicate morals are merely subjective opinions not objective truths. But the reality of moral disputes does not refute moral objectivism any more than disagreements over science or history refute facts in those realms. Disagreement entails a fixed standard to dispute.
While moral disagreements happen, there remains substantial moral agreement on basic ethical truths like prohibitions against murder, rape, and racism across all cultures. This universal moral awareness suggests an objectively true moral reality.
Objection 2: Natural Explanations Account for Morality
Some argue biological evolution or social conditioning adequately explain human moral beliefs without God. But as previously noted, strictly natural origins struggle to account for morality’s normative, objective, and universally binding qualities.
Evolutionary accounts may explain moral beliefs as adaptions but fail to justify moral obligations categorically binding on humanity. Mere social convention lacks ultimate moral authority. Only God supplies morality with its necessary transcendent foundation in reality.
Objection 3: Euthyphro Dilemma
This ancient dilemma posed by Socrates to Plato’s Euthyphro asks: Is something good because God declares it so, or does God declare something good because it has independent goodness? Both options seemingly have problems.
The first makes goodness arbitrary since God could declare anything good. The second suggests morality exists outside of God’s nature.
Theistic philosophers resolve this false dilemma by proposing God’s moral nature necessarily emanates perfect goodness. Moral good and evil intrinsically correspond to God’s own holy character. Good flows from God’s nature but is neither arbitrary nor independent of Himself.
Objection 4: Theoretical Simplicity Favors Naturalism
Some argue introducing God as part of the explanation for morality violates Occam’s Razor, the principle preferring theoretical simplicity and economy. Invoking divine agency and grounding morality in God is claimed to be an unnecessary addition.
But Occam’s Razor cannot eliminate necessary explanatory entities or causes. The irreducible features of objective morality demand a transcendent grounding in spiritual reality that materialism cannot provide. Ontological simplicity must align with full explanatory adequacy.
Objection 5: Moral Argument Assumes Moral Realism
Moral realism holds objective moral facts and properties exist independent of minds. Critics contend the moral argument presupposes moral realism without sufficient justification.
But the moral argument proposes God’s mind and nature as the objective grounds for real moral truths. Combined with the abundant prima facie evidence for objective morality, moral realism is strongly warranted. Theism coherently accounts for real moral truths rooted in God’s mind.
Objection 6: Moral Argument Only Proves Platonism, Not Theism
Some argue the moral argument at best argues for abstract moral objects or a Platonic moral realm, not necessarily God’s existence. But Platonism struggles to explain the authoritative nature of moral obligations on free creatures. God alone can authoritatively issue moral commands as supreme Lawgiver.
In summary, belief in objective moral values and duties grounded in God as their ultimate source provides a compelling rational warrant for God’s existence as the only adequate explanatory basis for morality’s normative nature and transcendent authority over humanity.
The moral argument continues to be a persuasive rational case for God’s existence that thoughtfully engages one of life’s most fundamental questions: the origins and grounding of human morality that resonates universally across cultures and history.