Are There Objective Morals? Where Do They Come From?
"If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist" ~William Lane Craig
Written by Vivienne Juan, Associate Elect Partner
Where do morals and ethics come from?
This is always one question that stumps my friends, especially those that don’t have an appreciation for the reality of God. I must admit, I was once one of them too.
At some points in my life I identified as atheist, and at others as “spiritual but not religious”, but either way, I still deeply believed in human rights. I mean, I even worked a brief stint at Amnesty International, where I fervently studied my little booklet on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ready to tackle any objection with my new activist zeal.
But where does this moral connection come from? What is the objective moral code that underpins our rights to human decency, dignity, and purpose, as well as our duty and responsibility to uphold these as valuable and sacred?
In this video, William Lane Craig posits that such an objective moral code and its attendant values and duties do not exist without the objective source of morals: God.
The Proof for Objective Morals
Do objective morals exist? Or are they subjective and susceptible to change? Are they different for me than they are for you? How can we prove this?
One thought experiment that made this very clear for me, involved a simple question about the Holocaust. Would a repeat of Nazism and the atrocities at Auschwitz - where over 6 million Jewish people were murdered - ever be acceptable in America, for example? Or would it perhaps be okay if it were perpetrated against Muslims? How about if it was to happen to you next week?
History gives us the answer. Injustice has happened in America, against Japanese immigrants. It has happened against Muslims. And never, ever, no matter how strong the mob was or how long they had power, never have these kinds of abomination been allowed to last. Anything immoral is unsustainable.
Needless to say, I came to the conclusion that genocide is objectively and universally immoral, regardless of country, culture, race, religion, or place in time, past, present, or future. Hopefully, you came to the same conclusion as well.
So morals are not relative, variable, or limited to any one person, place, or time. There is such a thing as an objective, highest human ideal. But how do we know they are attributable to one, singular, and Christian, God?
This was demonstrated beautifully for me in a talk by Dr Andy Bannister at a Genexis event that I attended in London last year. I’ll attempt to share a short, summarised sequence of reasoning for you here, however, you might also be interested in watching a video version from him on YouTube.
The Moral Argument for God
The proposition is this: If we believe that human rights are objective and inalienable, then we can judge a society upholding them as good, and one which fails those rights, is bad. If there is objective good and bad, as we have established with the Holocaust example, then defending the good and denouncing the bad is a dignified, upstanding purpose.
That purpose (stay with me, here) gives us a sense of duty and responsibility, which suggests value. Value in the people we protect, value in us for protecting them, and value in the moral code that is validated by our actions. Lots of value is what I’m saying!
Now where there is value, there is always a price. Be it time, money, or effort, nothing comes for free; everything has a price. What is the price of our humanity? Of the human race? Who thinks we are valuable enough to pay for?! And the answer to that is God - He paid the ultimate price when his son, Christ, died on the cross for our sins.
That’s how much we are worth, and that’s why our human rights - and the morals they are based on - are God-given. Every day I improve my desire and ability to treat myself like I do matter, like my friends and family are indeed valuable, and that innocent children drinking toxic pathogenic water, despite being half a world away, still have intrinsic moral value, and deserve dignity, love, and care. My previously nihilistic, nothing-is-connected-and-nothing-matters mindset couldn’t refute that.
Why are Millions of Children Still Suffering from Drinking Toxic Water?
Our indifference is allowing our children to suffer painfully and unnecessarily
Visit our mentoring and coaching page to learn how you can make the most of your God-given human rights, or join one of our support groups or response forums to find out how you can help or be helped!
To exercise your moral duty to respond, register your interest in how you can help a child to receive clean drinking water, by visiting our Christian Response Forum website.
Have a question? To send me feedback or share your thoughts, please do get in touch and drop me an email — I’ll be happy to hear from you.
Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn | Medium | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube