I don’t think one religion can be exclusively true. Have you experienced this question before; either in your own mind or heard asked by another? I certainly struggled with this question many years ago.
If there’s no objective standard, then life is nothing but a glorified Monopoly game. You can acquire lots of money and lots of property, but when the game is over, it’s all going back in the box. Is that what life is all about?
Many tell me they believe if you do more good in life than bad; if you are a good person – you can expect to go to heaven. Many of us have a deep seated sense that we are obligated to be good; that ‘ought’ to help people. We all do. Why? And why do most human beings seem to have that same intuitive sense that they ought to do good and shun evil?
Behind the answers to those questions is more evidence for the theistic God. This evidence is not scientific—that’s what I have shared in previous posts—but moral in nature. Like the laws of logic and mathematics, this evidence is nonmaterial or tangible - but it’s just as real. The reason we believe we ought to do good rather than evil—the reason we believe we should “help people”—is because there’s a Moral Law that has been written on our hearts. In other words, there is a “prescription” to do good that has been given to all of humanity. Some call this moral prescription “conscience”; others call it “Natural Law”; still others (like our Founding Fathers) refer to it as “Nature’s Law.” We refer to it as “The Moral Law.” But whatever you call it, the fact that a moral standard has been prescribed on the minds of all human beings points to a Moral Law Prescriber. Every prescription has a ‘prescriber’. The Moral Law is no different. Someone must have given us these moral obligations.
This Moral Law is a third argument for the existence of a theistic God (after the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments). It goes like this:
1. Every law has a law giver.
2. There is a Moral Law.
3. Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver.
If the first and second premises are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. Of course, every law has a law giver. There can be no legislation unless there’s a legislature. Moreover, if there are moral obligations, there must be someone to be obligated to.
But is it really true that there is a Moral Law? Our Founding Fathers thought so. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “Nature’s Law” is “self-evident.” You don’t use reason to discover it, you just know it. Perhaps that’s why many of us hit a roadblock in our thinking. We know “helping people” is the right thing to do, but we cannot explain why without appealing to a standard outside ourselves. Without an objective standard of meaning and morality, then life is meaningless and there’s nothing absolutely right or wrong. Everything is merely a matter of opinion.
When we say the Moral Law exists, we mean that all people are impressed with a fundamental sense of right and wrong. Everyone knows, for example, that love is superior to hate and that courage is better than cowardice. Everyone knows certain principles. There is no land where murder is virtue and gratitude vice.1 C. S. Lewis, who has written profoundly on this topic in his classic work Mere Christianity, put it this way: “Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five.”2
Now this does not mean that every moral issue has easily recognizable answers or that some people don’t deny that absolute morality exists. There are difficult problems in morality, and people suppress and deny the Moral Law every day. It simply means that there are basic principles of right and wrong that everyone knows, whether they will admit them or not.
We can’t not know, for example, that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings for no reason. Some people may deny it and commit murder anyway, but deep in their hearts they know murder is wrong. Even serial killers know murder is wrong—they just may not feel remorse.3 And like all absolute moral laws, murder is wrong for everyone, every-where: in America, India, Zimbabwe, and in every other country, now and forever. That’s what the Moral Law tells every human heart.
In other words, everyone knows there are absolute moral obligations. An absolute moral obligation is something that is binding on all people, at all times, in all places. And an absolute Moral Law implies an absolute Moral Law Giver.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:5-7
Resources, Links & Notes
1. J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997), 208-209.
2. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 19.
3. J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law (Ibid).
This is an excerpt from I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. (Good News Publishers; by Dr. Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, 2004).