Signpost Series – Moral Law

I’ve recently been asked to give a blueprint for how to present the Gospel to atheists, sort of a ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ or ‘Way of the Master’ approach to those who don’t even believe God exists, much less that the Bible is authoritative.

It isn’t that easy. The atheists that I know are a very diverse group in that they present a wide variety of objections to the existence of God. While most of the time, these objections are little more than a way to avoid dealing with the underlying emotional reasons for their stand, their stated reasons must be shown false before any meaningful look at the Scripture can take place.

So, instead of a blueprint, let’s take a ‘roadmap’ approach. The beginning point is atheism, and the endpoint is discipleship. While the goal is fixed, there can be a variety of roads to get there. I’ve decided to post an article each week detailing one of the major signposts on the map. I call it the Signpost series.

The steps along the journey can be seen like this: Atheism -} Possibility of a Deity -} Theism -} Nature of the Deity -} Christianity.

To look at it in reverse, before you become a Christian, you need to know the nature of God. Before that, you must admit that there IS a God, and before that, you must acknowledge the possibility of a God.

The first few posts in this series will deal with some of the arguments that demonstrate that it is at the least very likely that a Deity exists without referencing the Bible at all. These arguments are based on natural law, and are not intended to present the Gospel. They are laying the foundation of truth on which a clear presentation of the Gospel can be presented.

I’ve already dealt briefly with one argument for the existence of God here, so let’s take a look at the first part of a more philosophical argument for the existence of God – the evidence from moral law.

There are two parts to this argument. First, there is objective moral law. Second, because of the nature of moral law, there must be a moral law giver. I’ll deal with the first point now, and the second next week.

As usual, the first order of business is to define terms. What exactly is moral law?

The simplest accurate definition is that ‘moral law is the body of moral absolutes,’ which brings up the question, ‘what is a moral absolute?’.

A moral absolute is an obligation that must fulfill the following criteria:
=) It must be good in itself. It is and end, not a means.
=) It is a duty – something we ought to pursue.
=) It is prescriptive (something to be done) rather than descriptive.
=) It is eternal; that is it is in effect at all times.
=) It is true at all times.
Therefore, a moral absolute is a duty that is binding on all persons at all times in all places.

The denial of the existence of moral absolutes is called moral relativism, and is quite popular with atheists. Relativism can be refuted by the following observations:

Measurement is impossible without absolute references. There is one simple question that illustrates this. “Relative to what?” Anything that is said to be ‘better’, ‘bigger’, ‘more evil’, or ‘more rational’ must have some point of reference. Moral relativism, by denying any absolute moral standard, quickly degenerates into an infinite regress. Thus, under relativism, nothing can be viewed as truly good or evil and there is, in fact, no moral law at all. The problem with this conclusion is that it is not demonstrated in the real world. Not a single society has ever successfully been based on this idea, and any that has tried has quickly descended into total anarchy.

Moral disagreements require objective standards. Any meaningful disagreement on moral grounds demands that there be a standard by which both sides can be measured. For example, take the statements “It is wrong to kill random people just for fun” and “it is at least sometimes acceptable to kill random people just for fun” cannot both be true. Unless there is an unchanging moral standard by which both statements can be compared, both statements have no moral meaning. Since we know both intuitively and by observation that either one or the other statement is true, there must be an objective standard by which to judge them.

Moral relativism is self-defeating. Ultimately, relativism reduces to statements such as, ‘you should never say that something is morally absolute’. That idea itself is not only a statement of morality, but is an absolute statement as well. If it is true, it is an absolute moral truth – thereby proving itself to be false. If it is false, it has no meaning.

Many relativists arrive at their position because they fail to see the differences between moral values and either the application of those values or the means of fulfilling those values. I’ll not explain that here – it is time to put your brains to work! Let’s explore it in the comments!

Having established that there are absolute moral laws (or values), next week we’ll take a look at the necessity of a moral law giver.

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