God, Are You Real?

Brian Watson preached this sermon on September 24, 2017.
MP3 recording of the sermon.
PDF typescript of the prepared sermon.


Today, we’re starting something new. I’m going to give a series of messages answering people’s questions. I titled the sermon series, “If You Could Ask God One Question, What Would It Be?” The idea is to see what people would ask God if they could speak to him directly. But I’m also taking questions about God, or even handling people’s questions about the Bible or the Christian faith.

When I ask, “If you could ask God one question, what would it be?” I’m presupposing that there is a God. I’m assuming that God exists. Most of us here are Christians, and we may never doubt the existence of God. But some of us may have doubts, and we all know people who are skeptics. They may wonder if indeed God exists. Their question may be, “God, are you real?” Or, “God, are you there?” We all know people who outright reject the existence of God. Simply quoting the Bible to these people likely won’t work, since they don’t yet trust that the Bible is the written word of God. Before they can believe the word of God, they need to know that there is a God.

So, how do we know that God exists? I’m going to answer that question as well as I can in about forty-five minutes. Of course, I can’t give a full answer in one message. But I want to give us some good reasons to believe that God—and specifically the God of the Bible—indeed exists. I’m going to work through this very carefully and logically, so please follow closely.

To begin to answer this question, we need to have some idea of who God is. Monotheistic religions—religions that believe in one God—believe that God is a perfect being.[1] The standard monotheistic vision of God is that he is personal, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, benevolent, and immaterial. That last part is very important. God isn’t matter. The Bible says that God “dwells in unapproachable light” and that “no one has ever seen or can see” him (1 Tim. 6:16).[2] And Jesus said that God is spirit (John 4:24). That means that we can’t see God.

The Bible also says that there is a separation between us God and us due to our sin, which is our rebellion against God, our disobedience of his commands, and our general way of living life without reference to him. Isaiah 59:1–2 says this:

1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
2   but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.

This explains why we don’t always sense God, why we don’t see him or hear his voice directly. We are estranged from God.

How would you get to know a stranger? There are two ways. The first way is you could get to know about the stranger. You could learn facts about him or her. You could dig up information online, see if any news stories are written about this person, see if they have a website or blog, or discover their social media profiles. You could even stalk this person or hire a private investigator to do that for you.

Yet we can’t see God. We can’t learn about him, at least directly, through observation or experimentation. Though we can’t see God, the Bible tells us that there are clues to his existence which are available to all people. In Christian theology, we call these clues general revelation.

One passage that tells us this is found in the New Testament book of Romans. Romans is a letter written by the apostle Paul, who was commissioned by Jesus to spread the message of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. This is what he writes in Romans 1:18–20:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Paul’s point toward the beginning of this letter is that all human beings are in quite a predicament. We all know God exists, but we ignore him. We suppress the truth about him and don’t live for him. Instead, we worship false gods. And, therefore, we stand condemned by God. Now, if true, that’s bad news. Paul does get to good news later. I will, too. But I want to focus on what he says about our knowledge of God. He says that that “what can be known about God is plain,” because “God has shown it.” More specifically, two of God’s attributes, “his eternal power and divine nature,” are evident from “the things that have been made.”[3]

Is this true? Can we know something of God from the created order?

Well, yes, I believe we can. This doesn’t mean we can know everything about God from studying the universe, but we can know that he exists, and that he is eternal and powerful and intelligent.

Some people don’t realize that there are many arguments for the existence of God. When I say, “argument,” I don’t mean a fight or a quarrel. I mean a philosophical argument, a case presented to show that God exists. Each argument is not definitive “proof” that God exists. Someone can always doubt any of the premises of these arguments, or simply refuse to believe. But they show that the idea that God exists is rational. And when multiple arguments for God are presented, they accumulate a certain weight. In short, together, these arguments make the case that the God hypothesis, that God exists, makes far better sense of life than the atheistic hypothesis, that there is no God. You can’t simply write these arguments off.

When it comes to arguing for the existence of God from the existence of the universe and the complexity of life, there are at two major arguments. The first argument for the existence of God that we’ll consider today is called the cosmological argument. I know, “cosmological” is a big word. It simply refers to the “cosmos,” or the universe. The idea is that the very existence of the universe needs explaining. Why, after all, is there something rather than nothing? This argument states that the best argument for the existence of the universe is that God created it.

Put more formally, this is the argument:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Let me explain each point. The first premise is that everything that begins to exist has a cause. That’s an important qualification. Because there is one thing that didn’t begin to exist. And that thing is the ultimate bedrock, the thing that needs no other explanation. We believe that thing, or being, is God. Christianity has always believed that God is eternal, uncreated. He doesn’t require an explanation. The Bible presupposes his existence and begins with these words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God sometimes calls himself “I am” (Exod. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:10, 11, 13; 44:6; 48:12; John 8:24). The idea is that God exists, period. He doesn’t need any other explanation. He is the one necessary being. Everything else is contingent. That means that everything else might not have come into existence. The universe doesn’t need to exist. But God does.

Now, if you reject God, you have to state that universe exists, period. It’s just a brute fact. And many scientists used to believe that the universe itself was eternal, that it had no beginning. But in the twentieth century, significant scientific discoveries called that belief into question. And that leads us to the second premise of this argument, which is that the universe began to exist.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, many scientists believed that the universe was eternal and static. However, some American astronomers, including Edwin Hubble, observed that distant heavenly bodies were moving away from the Earth, leading them to conclude that the universe was expanding. Judging from the current rate of expansion and extrapolating this data backwards would suggest that at one point the universe was very small and very dense. Scientists believe that all matter, energy, and space were in this dense ball, which expanded into the universe as we know it. Though scientists can’t get “behind” a certain point using models, this suggests that the universe had a definite beginning. This is the so-called “Big Bang.”

Some Christians are afraid of the “Big Bang,” because they think accepting it is the same thing as accepting some form of Darwinian evolution. But the two really don’t go together. In fact, the term “Big Bang” was created by an atheist, Fred Hoyle, in 1949, and it was intended as a pejorative term. He rejected the Big Bang theory because it suggested that God created the universe.

In the 1940s, scientists predicted that if this hypothesis were true, then cosmic background radiation would be found on the edges of the universe. In other words, residual energy of the initial and incredibly hot explosion would be found at the edge of the universe in a cool, harmless form, and the temperature of this radiation would be uniform all around the edges of the universe. This prediction was confirmed in 1965, when two physicists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, working at the Bell Telephone Labs, found this cosmic background radiation. They were working on a satellite designed to detect microwave radiation and they found that such radiation was coming to earth from all directions of space. Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize in 1978. When he won that prize, Arno Penzias said, “The best data we have concerning the big bang are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”[4]

Penzias said that because if everything that begins to exist has a cause, and the universe began to exist, then it has a cause. What else could cause the universe to exist except God? Not only would an incredibly powerful force need to create the universe, but, as we’ll see, an intelligent agent would have to plan and carry out this creation.

More of the details of this argument are available online at our website, wbcommunity.org. If you search for the “Articles” section under the “Media” tab, you can find an article about this cosmological argument with far more details than I have time to present this morning.[5]

Before we move on to the second argument we’ll look at this morning, I want us to consider this: If God can create a universe out of nothing, can he not perform miracles? Some people have a hard time believing miracles are possible. Yet miracles are reported throughout the world on a somewhat regular basis, even if they are relatively rare. And miracles are certainly part of the Christian faith. If God could make a universe out of nothing, could he not cause a virgin to become pregnant? Could he not raise Jesus from the dead? Can he not, some day in the future, restore the universe to be a perfect place? If God has the power to cause a universe to come of nothing, he has the power to change us and fix this broken world.

Since time is short this morning, I’ll move on to the second argument. The big fancy name for this argument is the teleological argument, but I’ll simply call it the design argument. In fact, there are many different design arguments that can be made. All of these arguments state that life is designed, and therefore there must have been a Designer who created life. And, of course, that designer is God.

Put more formally, here is the design argument:

1. Every design has a designer.

2. The universe has highly complex design.

3. Therefore, the universe has a Designer.

The first premise of the argument is obvious. Of course, every design has a designer. If I found a machine of some kind, even if I didn’t know what it did and even if it were broken, I would still recognize that someone designed and made that machine. We recognize design when we see it.

That leads to the second, and more controversial premise, which is that we find evidence of highly complex design in the universe. As expected, atheists challenge this premise. Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of the DNA, says that “biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”[6] He said that because biologists continually see what evidently looks like design. But, according to Crick, this intuition that life is designed must be beat back by our firm belief in unguided evolution, which is the atheistic explanation of how life emerged. Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist and evolutionary biologist, says, “One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect, over the centuries, has been to explain how the complex, improbably appearance of design in the universe arises.”[7] So, both Crick and Dawkins acknowledge that there certainly appears to be design in the universe. But their atheism won’t allow a Designer in the door. Yet since they can’t ignore the idea that complex forms of life somehow emerged out of non-living things, they have both posited that aliens somehow “seeded” life on Earth.[8]

As I stated before, we recognize design when we see it. Design requires information, not law-like patterns or random chaos. Here’s an illustration of what I mean. This week we had some powerful winds. On Thursday, a number of branches and even one larger limb fell from the big tree outside these windows to my right. The branches happened to fall in a random pattern that didn’t mean anything. But suppose I went outside on Thursday and found that the branches were arranged in such a way as to form letters, which spelled out the words, “I love you.” Would I suppose that somehow the winds had just happened to cause the branches to fall into that pattern? Or would I suppose that somehow had taken the fallen branches and then arranged them into that meaningful pattern? Of course, that would be the best hypothesis.

The point is that we recognize design, because design results in complex patterns that appear in specific arrangements. (This concept is called specified complexity.) Intelligence is required to generate information, to arrange branches or letters or, as we’ll see, nucleotides (the chemical bases that make up our DNA) into particular, meaningful arrangements. Random, unguided events degrade information, they don’t create it. Imagine if I took all the letters of all the words of this sermon I have written, and I put each letter on a little slip of paper. Imagine I had all of those slips of paper stacked on top of each other, so that all the letters appeared in their proper order. Then imagine I took those slips of paper and threw them into the air, confetti style, so that they landed on the floor. Then imagine I randomly grabbed the slips of paper and put them into a new, reordered stack. What are the chances of that new ordering of letters producing meaningful words and sentences? Sure, I might have some new words, and perhaps even a few words strung together. But most of it would be gibberish.

Here’s why this matters. We find evidence of design in cellular biology. In other words, we find design at the microscopic level in even the simplest life forms. Charles Darwin knew nothing of the complexity of life since it was only in the twentieth century that we could even begin to observe such complexity. DNA is our genetic material. It is quite literally encoded information that is found in each of our cells. It is very much like a language. The information contained in DNA is so complex that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, said, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”[9] The information in our DNA determines our physical traits. The information in our DNA is like a set of instructions that are used to build proteins, the building blocks of our bodies.

It turns out that the code of DNA must be rather precise to build new proteins in our bodies. It appears almost impossible that random, or unguided, changes to our DNA would produce new proteins. This is significant because those who believe that large-scale evolution is responsible for the emergence of all of life believe that new traits and, ultimately, new species emerged through random mutations in DNA. The idea is that small changes in DNA led to new traits in species. The members of species that had beneficial new traits were able to out-survive and out-procreate other members of their species. Thus, the new trait was passed on to more members of that species so that, in time, all members of that species would have that trait. And with each successful trait added through random mutations, a species would eventually evolve into a new species. A nearly countless series of small changes to species accounts for all the diversity of life.

The problem is that the chances of producing new, functional proteins through random mutations is unimaginably small. Proteins consist of amino acids, linked together in chains. Recent studies have shown that the probability of a mutation producing a sequence of 150 amino acids that could fold to produce a stable protein is 1 in 1074. That’s one followed by seventy-four zeros. But a stable protein isn’t necessarily a functional one. The probability of producing a stable protein old of that size is 1 in 1077. That’s “one chance in one hundred thousand, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion.”[10] Keep in mind that there are about 1080 atoms in the universe, and that longer proteins can consist of 400 amino acids. The chances of producing a functional medium-size protein by way of random mutations is about the same chances that a blind astronaut has of finding one particular atom in the whole universe. Now, someone can always say, “Well, it’s incredibly improbable, but that’s just how things have worked out.” But I find that it would take much more faith to believe that idea than to believe in God.

Another way that we can see design in biological is in the complexity of molecular machines. Michael Behe, a science professor at Lehigh University, wrote a book about complex biological systems called Darwin’s Black Box.[11] He noted that some biological systems are irreducibly complex. That means that if you take one part away, the system doesn’t work anymore. In other words, it would seem impossible for small evolutionary changes to produce these complex systems, because any advantage that an organism would have comes only by having the whole system. His famous example is the bacterial flagellum. The flagellum helps a bacterial cell swim by acting like a rotary propeller, similar to the way an outboard motor propels a boat. The propeller of the flagellum is a hair-like structure called the filament, which fits into a universal joint called the hook. The hook attaches the filament to the cell’s outer membrane. On the inside of that outer membrane, connecting to the opposite end of the hook, is the rod, which acts as a drive shaft. The rod is connected to the stator, which is embedded in the inner membrane of the cell. Within the stator is the rotor, which rotates the rod, spinning the hook and filament so that the bacteria can “swim.” Several O-rings and other parts hold the structure together, and the motor of the flagellum is powered by a flow of acid through the membrane of the cell. The flagellum can move at up to 100,000 RPM. This system is amazing complex and incredibly small (a flagellum is about 10 micrometers, or 10 millionths of a meter), and this is found in simple, single-cell organisms. Are we supposed to believe that these molecular machines are the result of blind, purposeless, undirected processes? From everything that we know, such complexity is the result of an intelligent agent. Who else but God could come up with DNA and the complex, fully-integrated systems that we find in cellular biology?

If you want to know more about this story, I would encourage you to watch a documentary about Michael Behe called “Revolutionary.” You can watch it on YouTube or at www.revoltionarybehe.com.[12] You can also read about this design argument in far greater detail on our website.[13]

Before moving on to the final argument, let us consider what it means for God to be the designer of life. If God designed life, isn’t there a purpose? If he has designed the laws of physics and the complexity of biology, hasn’t he designed all of life? Doesn’t he dictate our purpose and how we should live? Shouldn’t we want to know what God’s design for our lives is?

There’s one more clue to God’s existence, something that is available to all of us. The apostle Paul, in the book of Romans, says that all people have information to know that there is a God. The Israelites had special revelation from God. God performed miracles in their midst and spoke to them and gave them his law. So, they certainly have no excuse for ignoring God and violating his commands. But Gentiles (non-Jews) are also without excuse because, as we’ve seen, they have the witness of God’s creation to tell them there’s a God. But Paul also says they have a conscience which indicates to them that there is a moral law.

To see this, let’s read Romans 2:12–16:

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

The meaning of some of this is debated, but I think that when Paul says that Gentiles, though they don’t have the law, sometimes do what the law requires, he means that all human beings have a general sense of morality.[14] A moral law is part of the fabric of God’s design, and we all sense this law. Everyone knows murder, rape, and theft are always wrong. We may not agree on the particulars, but civilizations have largely agreed on basic morality. When we do follow the dictates of that moral law, our conscience is clear. Yet we so often do what we know to be wrong, so that our conscience accuses us.

This leads us to the moral argument for the existence of God. Put formally, it goes like this:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties don’t exist.

2. But objective moral values and duties do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

The basic idea is that if there is an objective moral law, something real that we can appeal to when injustice occurs, it has to be rooted in something real. It can’t be manmade law, because then we can always change it. Moral values or facts, such as murder is wrong, must be grounded in something (or someone) that is unchanging, and even transcendent and eternal. Moral obligations or duties, such as “you shall not murder,” are personal. They are laws, and laws are written by moral agents. Any unchanging, universal, transcendent moral law must be rooted in the existence of God.

Many atheists have been aware of this. Jean-Paul Sartre said, “It [is] very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him.”[15] Friedrich Nietszche said, “There are altogether no moral facts,” and that morality “has truth only if God is the truth.”[16] And then there’s Richard Dawkins, who writes, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”[17] In other words, according to these atheists, if there is no God, there’s no transcendent moral law.

But we all know better. Every time we make a universal moral claim, such as racism is always wrong, or that rape is always wrong, we’re not just stating an opinion. We’re appealing to something greater than a personal preference, or even a temporary, manmade code. We’re appealing to a transcendent moral law.

Almost forty years ago a professor at Yale Law School named Arthur Leff wrote an article about ethics in a law journal. He begins his article with these words:

I want to believe—and so do you—in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe—and so do you—in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.[18]

In other words, he says we need a transcendent moral law that come from a final, perfect authority. But he also doesn’t want to be ruled by that authority. What he’s saying is that all moral controversies can be boiled down to what he calls “the grand sez who.”[19] When one person says, “Such-and-such is wrong,” the other person can say, “Says who?” Moral evaluations require an evaluator. According to Leff, “the evaluator must be the unjudged judge, the unruled legislator, the premise maker who rests on no premises, the uncreated creator of values. Now, what would you call such a thing if it existed? You could call it Him.”[20] Leff says, “Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place.”[21]

Then, he adds:

We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. If He does not exist, there is no metaphoric equivalent. No person, no combination of people, no document however hallowed by time, no process, no premise, nothing is equivalent to an actual God in this central function as the unexaminable examiner of good and evil. The so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative extrasystemic premises.[22]

To put it more simply, he’s saying that if God doesn’t exist, then who makes the ethical rules? Who makes the final moral judgments? What is the answer to “says who”?

Leff isn’t a believer. He gives no reason for rejecting the God hypothesis other than the fact that he doesn’t want to have an ultimate authority rule over him. But he ends with these words:

All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.

Nevertheless:

Napalming babies is bad.

Starving the poor is wicked.

Buying and selling each other is depraved.

Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.

Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.

There is in the world such a thing as evil.

[All together now:] Sez who?

God help us.[23]

The death of God is the death of an objective moral law and an ultimate moral evaluator. And that is, ultimately, a very bad thing, because it would mean there is no justice, no final court of appeals, no one to say definitively that this is right and this is wrong. Everything would be up for grabs.

We can learn a bit about God through these arguments. They establish that believing in God’s existence is rational. I think they establish that theism (that God exists) is far more probable than atheism. I think the God hypothesis is far better than an atheistic one. But these arguments only take us so far. They are limited.

Earlier I said we can learn about a stranger by observing them and by digging up facts about them. But if we want to know a stranger, we need to listen to that person. We need to let him or her speak. We have no other way of truly knowing that person’s personality, desires, thoughts, hopes, dreams, regrets, secrets, and so forth. And so it is with God.

One of my favorite authors is a pastor named Tim Keller. He has written two great books that give us reasons for believing in the existence of God. The more recent one is Making Sense of God, which shows that without God we wouldn’t have reasons to believe that our lives have meaning, that there are rights and wrongs, or that we could ever have justice and hope.[24] His earlier book, which I view as something of a modern classic, is called The Reason for God. I highly recommend both of them to anyone who doubts that God exists. In The Reason for God, Keller writes:

When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare. If there is a God, he wouldn’t be another object in the universe that could be put in a lab and analyzed with empirical methods. He would relate to us the way a playwright relates to the characters in his play. We (characters) might be able to know quite a lot about the playwright, but only to the degree the author chooses to put information about himself in the play.[25]

And here’s the thing: the author of life has put information about himself in this play. In fact, the author of life has entered into the play.

We Christians believe that Jesus is God. As the Son of God, he has existed forever. We believe God the Father created the universe through the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. And yet, over two thousand years ago, the Son of God also became a man. This is what it says at the beginning of another book in the New Testament, the book of Hebrews:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs (Heb. 1:1–4).

Notice that it says that God has spoken. He has revealed himself. Prior to Jesus’ birth, God had primarily revealed himself through the prophets. We call Scripture “special revelation,” because it gives more specific information about who God is and what he expects of us. The most special and specific revelation of God is his Son, who came in the flesh. Jesus taught us most clearly about the ways of God. He, the one who created the world and now sustains it by his powerful word, also died in place of sinners. It’s as if Shakespeare wrote himself into Hamlet to die in place of the melancholy Dane. Or, to put a contemporary twist on it, it’s as if J. K. Rowling wrote herself into the Harry Potter books—and actually, physically entered into the world of those books—to die in place of Harry and his friends.

The best way to know God is to know Jesus. And there is evidence that Jesus lived, died, and then rose from the grave.[26] The best evidence we have about Jesus is the Bible, but there are sources outside the Bible that also confirm his life, death, and resurrection.

We have all broken God’s moral law. We have failed to live according to God’s design. We fail to love and live for the Creator of the universe. But Jesus came and lived the perfect life, fulfilling God’s design for humanity. And though we have broken God’s moral law and deserve punishment, Jesus took that punishment for his people when he died on the cross. And he rose from the grave as the first installment of a new creation, one that won’t be contaminated by sin and death. Everyone who trusts in Jesus has their sins paid for and will live with him forever in that new creation.

So, the question is, “God, are you real?” And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” What is the greatest proof? God sent his Son. To know Jesus is to know God. If you’re here today and you want to know more about Jesus, I would love to help you. But for now, let’s pray.

Notes

  1. Anselm (1033–1109), a medieval Christian theologian, said to God: “You are something than which nothing greater can be thought.” In other words, God is the greatest conceivable being. Anselm of Canterbury, Proslogion, trans. M. J. Charlesworth, in The Major Works, ed. Brian Davies and G. R. Evans, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 87.
  2. All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).
  3. See also Psalm 19:1–6.
  4. This was reported in The New York Times, March 12, 1978, quoted in Edgar Andrews, Who Made God? (Carlisle, PA: EP Books, 2009), 94.
  5. See https://wbcommunity.org/cosmological-argument.
  6. Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (New York: Basic Books, 1988), 138, quoted in Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016), 3–4.
  7. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 157.
  8. Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981). Dawkins makes that claim in the film, Expelled
  9. Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, rev. ed. (New York: Viking, 1996), 228; quoted in Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 316.
  10. Stephen C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperOne, 2013), 200.
  11. Michael J. Behe (New York: Free Press, 1996).
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ToSEAj2V0s; http://revolutionarybehe.com.
  13. https://wbcommunity.org/the-design-argument.
  14. My understanding of this passage is informed by Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 116–125.
  15. Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions (New York: Philosophical Library, 1957), 22, quoted in Paul Copan, “Ethics Needs God,” in Debating Christian Theism, ed. J. P. Moreland, Chad Meister, and Khaldoun A. Sweis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 86.
  16. Friedrich Nietszche, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ (New York: Penguin Books, 1068), 55, 70, quoted in Copan, “Ethics Needs God,” 86.
  17. Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American 273 (Nov. 1995): 85.
  18. Arthur Allen Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal 1979, no. 6 (1979): 1229. The whole article can be found at http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3810&context=fss_papers.
  19. Ibid.: 1230.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.: 1231.
  22. Ibid.: 1232.
  23. Ibid.: 1249.
  24. Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical (New York: Viking, 2016).
  25. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 126–127.
  26. For more information, see https://wbcommunity.org/jesus, particularly the first sermon, “How Can We Know Jesus?” (December 14, 2014). See also https://wbcommunity.org/evidence-resurrection-jesus-christ and the resources linked to that page.

Evidence for God: The Moral Argument

I wrote this article over five years ago. If I were to write it anew today, I would probably change the argument slightly so that it would read as follows:

1. If God doesn’t exist, there are no objective moral facts or duties.

2. Yet there are objective moral facts and duties.

3. Therefore, God exists. 

Still, the argument below is compelling in its own right. Since it’s long, you may wish to save and/or print out the PDF version: The Moral Argument.

Two other arguments for the existence of God—the cosmological argument and the design (or teleological) argument—are powerful ways of demonstrating the existence of God. For those who are scientifically minded or for those who demand scientific evidence, they may be quite effective. However, they do require some knowledge of science or, at the very least, the ability to learn scientific concepts. For that reason, these arguments can be difficult to master. A third argument, one that has greater emotional resonance, is the moral argument. The basic argument states that if “objective moral values exist, then God exists; objective moral values do exist; therefore, God exists.”[1]

The experience of moral obligations is universal, because each one of us has a conscience. The fact that we make certain choices but know that we should have made other choices seems to haunt us. We cannot shake this sense of moral duty, even if we try. Not only does this sense of morality haunt us, but it also creates a sense of mystery. What could account for this sense of morality?

Immanuel Kant, the famous German philosopher of the eighteenth century, once claimed, “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”[2] Interestingly, Kant compared creation (“the starry heavens above me”) with his conscience (“the moral law within me”). Both point to a Creator and Lawgiver. Everyone has this experience, though many people choose to suppress this knowledge of God (see Rom. 1:18–25). To reawaken this knowledge of God, we must show people that there are moral standards, a moral “law,” and that this law was given to us by God.

A more formal expression of the moral argument can be presented in this way:

1. Every law has a law giver.

2. There is a Moral Law.

3. Therefore, there is a Moral Law Giver.[3]

To which we should add:

4. And that Moral Law Giver is God.

As with the other arguments, we will have to spend much of our time and energy proving the second premise. However, if we are ready and willing, we can awaken within people their inherent sense of this moral law. From there, we must show that only God could implant this sense of morality within us.

Every Law Has a Law Giver

This first premise is a tautology, a necessarily true statement. Of course, every law has a law giver. Laws do not exist on their own, as if they were brute facts of nature. (Some may state that laws of nature are brute facts; however, I would challenge such an assertion. Why do laws remain the same, and universally so? It seems to me the best explanation for such law-like regularities in nature is the existence of God, who has ordered and arranged the universe and who continually sustains it.) If there is such a thing as a law, it must come from somewhere. It must have an intelligent origin. Because the moral law is immaterial (it’s not based on physical properties of the universe, and there is no gene for morality, despite what evolutionary psychologists wish to believe), it must have an intelligent and immaterial origin. We will come back to this idea later.

There Is a Moral Law

This second premise seems obvious to most people, or so it would seem. According to John Frame, “Moral values, after all, are rather strange. We cannot see them, hear them, or feel them, but we cannot doubt that they exist.”[4] Yet many people in our society would ascribe the existence of moral values not to God, but to our culture. They believe moral values are manmade. Therefore, they do not accept the idea of an objective moral standard. People who hold such beliefs are called moral relativists.

Though moral relativism is prominent among younger generations, I doubt that many people who hold this view have thought about the implications of such a moral philosophy. They simply accept the idea without challenging it. Our job is to get people to think about morality, to awaken the conscience that God gave them.

Before we think of ways of awakening the moral conscience, it would benefit us to think about different moral philosophies.

Christian morality

This moral philosophy should be very familiar to us. It is derived from the Christian worldview, which holds that God is the prime reality and that an absolute, objective moral standard comes from God. This objective moral standard is based on the character of God. It is not some arbitrary standard adopted by God, or some eternal moral standard that exists outside of God.

Plato, in his dialogue called Euthyphro, raised a supposed dilemma. This dilemma held that either something is good because God (or the gods, as he would have it) wills it, or God wills something because it is good. William Lane Craig explains:

If it is good just because God wills it, then what is good becomes arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred and jealousy be good, and then we should have been obligated to hate and envy one another. But that seems implausible; at least some moral goods seem to be necessary. But if we say instead that God wills something because it is good, then whether something is good or bad is independent of God. In that case, it seems that moral value exists independently of God.[5]

Of course, if moral values existed independently of God, that would undermine our argument. However, Plato failed to recognize the possibility that God wills a command because it reflects his character. We must remember that God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16).

Humanistic morality

This type of morality is the kind that deists possess. They believe that we can determine right and wrong through reason and intuition. However, what is our basis for morality when we reason? In other words, how do we reason our way to an objective moral standard? This task is impossible if there is not an actual objective moral standard. And if an actual objective moral standard, a moral law, exists, then we must ask what the source of this standard is. Alternatively, if we rely on intuition to determine what is right and wrong, we must ask how we can sense morality. An intuitive sense of morality would require an actual moral standard. God is the one who gives this moral standard, and he is the one who put a moral conscience within us (Rom. 2:14–16).

“Might makes right”

If we abandon any sense of a divinely given, objective moral standard, then we would be left with some rather unattractive alternatives. The morality of power, or “might makes right,” is something quite scary. Some philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and Friedrich Nietzsche, realized that if God does not exist, then the powerful decide what is “right.”

Of course, we have seen this played out in world history, particularly in Nazi Germany. The Nazis came to power and decided that it was “right” to kill Jews and others. No sane person finds such “morality” acceptable. Just because certain people (governing authorities, the rich, media moguls) are in power does not give them the right to decide what is right and what is wrong.

Ethics of the polls

This moral philosophy is closely related to the previous one. It says that the majority determines what is right. But who would approve of the majority oppressing the minority? If that were right, we would believe that genocide or the violation of human rights is morally acceptable.

The Christian worldview holds that all human beings have value, because they are made in the image of God. Therefore, all people, whether they belong to the majority or the minority, should be treated with respect. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”[6] If the laws of the land do not square with the law of God, they are unjust. King knew that racist laws created by the white majority were unjust, and he fought against them by appealing to the moral law of God.

“Whatever feels right”

The ethics of pleasure says, “If it feels good, do it!” This is otherwise known as Epicureanism (named after Epicurus, the Greek philosopher who lived 341–270 BC), hedonistic ethics, or the ethics of pleasure. The original form of this moral philosophy was not hedonism in the sense that we might think of it (pursuing greater and greater amounts of pleasure at all costs), but rather it sought an absence of pain. However, when pleasure (or the avoidance of pain) is the ultimate good, there can be problems. What if what is right is painful? What happens when someone else’s pleasure gets in the way of your pleasure? We cannot simply both be right. This moral philosophy is built on the shifting sands of our feelings, is therefore not reliable, and cannot be used to judge or to mediate disputes.

Utilitarianism

This moral philosophy maintains that what is right is what benefits the most people. In other words, whatever produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people is right. But this, like the ethics of the polls, has the potential to oppress the minority. It is also contingent upon the definition of happiness. What is happiness? And should happiness be the ultimate good and the ultimate goal?

Moral relativism

According to this philosophy, all morals are relative. Generally, it states that all moral standards are manmade, the products of societies and cultures. The relativist’s argument is that people disagree on morality, evidenced by the fact that different cultures have had different morals. We can look at, for instance, the morals of today’s Western culture and compare them with the Western culture of two or three hundred years ago, or compare them with ancient societies or third-world countries. Surely, we will see different moral standards. Therefore, morality is relative to each culture.

This type of morality is typical of the postmodern worldview. Postmodernism rejects absolute truth and absolute morality. Instead, postmodernists believe that truth and morality are the products of stories or language, which themselves are the product of cultures. Postmodernism is a philosophical dead-end, because it defeats itself. If there is no absolute truth, the claim that there is no absolute truth isn’t absolutely true. If this is true, how we can make absolute, universal claims about morality?

While it is true that different societies have disagreed about morality, it does not mean that there is no absolute and objective moral standard. Imagine a remote tribe in which the culture indeed creates a morality, one that is offensive to us. Perhaps this tribe practices human sacrifice. If morality is simply relative, we should have no problem with their behavior. After all, they live in a society where that is simply the norm. If you say there is no absolute and objective moral law, then what this tribe does is simply what they do. It is neither moral nor immoral. Of course, we know better than this. We recognize that their practices are immoral. The fact that we recognize this as immoral, and not just part of their culture, shows us that an objective moral standard exists. People may disagree about the solution to a math problem, but that doesn’t mean there are several right answers.

Similarly, it would be unthinkable for people to say that genocide in a foreign country is simply the morality of another culture. If a person were presented with news that such a genocide took place and said, “Well, that’s morally acceptable in their culture,” he or she would be considered crazy.

Talk about vastly different moral standards in different cultures has been exaggerated. This is what Dinesh D’Souza writes:

Over the last several decades anthropologists have been comparing the norms and practices of the various cultures of the world. Two of their findings are relevant for our purpose. First, morality is universal. Scholars know of no culture, past or present, that does not have a system of morality. Even though moral standards may vary from one culture to another, or even within a particular culture, every culture distinguishes “what is” from “what ought to be.” It is impossible for a culture either to rise above morality or to get out from under it.

Second, the moral diversity we have all heard so much about is in fact vastly exaggerated. In particular, the major religions of the world, which represent the vast majority of humans on the planet, disagree quite a bit about God but agree quite a bit about morality. All the major religions have some form of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.[7]

Cultures often agree on more than the Golden Rule. C. S. Lewis famously compiled a list of ethical commands from various religions and compared them in the appendix to his book, The Abolition of Man. Usually, cultures that do go astray from the moral law are ones that are actively rebelling against God, or ones where Christianity is simply not influential.

No one is truly a moral relativist. When we react to true evil—Hitler and the holocaust or 9/11—it shows that we know a true moral law has been violated. This reaction has been called the “argument from damnation,” because people say of villains such as Hitler, “Damn them!” But if there is no absolute and objective morality—no God, no heaven, and no hell—then such a sentiment is meaningless. Perhaps that is why one writer, reacting to the evil of 9/11, said, “This destruction seems to cry out for a transcendent ethical perspective.”[8]

We all go around saying, “He should do this,” or, “She shouldn’t do that.” Every time a should, ought, or must (or their negations, such as should not) is uttered, the moral law is proved.

The fact that no one is truly a moral relativist will be seen clearly should you ever transgress another person’s sense of what is right and wrong. D’Souza offers some advice for revealing the moral law to relativists:

If you are confronted by a relativist who insists that all morality is relative, go ahead and punch him in the face. If he does not respond, punch him again. At some point he will protest, “That’s not right. You shouldn’t have done that.” Then you can explain to him that your actions were purely educational. You were simply demonstrating to him that even he does not believe his relativist doctrine. His objection was not “I don’t like being punched” but rather “you should not have done it.” He was appealing to an unwavering standard, which he expected you to share, that what you did was wrong.[9]

I’m quite sure that he doesn’t actually advise that course of action, but it’s funny to imagine. He offers another way to reach a relativist. “So the way to call their bluff and expose their relativism as purely tactical is to insult the moral values they cherish. For example, you could say, ‘I don’t know why we have laws outlawing racial discrimination and gay-bashing. How can people presume to legislate morality?’”[10] Of course, he doesn’t mean that Christians believe it is morally acceptable to be racist or to hate gay people or to punch others in the face. He is proving a point: everyone has moral standards and everyone assumes, even if they don’t realize it, that these standards should not be violated. The only reason they shouldn’t be violated is because they are absolute and objective, not relative.

Moral relativism is an impossible philosophy to maintain with any integrity. It is like the postmodern view of truth: it destroys itself. Whenever a relativist makes any absolute comment on morality—“No one should impose their religious morals on me”—they are assuming that it would be immoral to do so. This double standard reveals that everyone has a sense of morality.

We could not escape this sense of moral obligation or duty even if we tried. God made us to know that certain things are right and other things are wrong. Regardless of what we believe, our conscience will not go away. Tim Keller observes this fact. “Why is it impossible (in practice) for anyone to be a consistent moral relativist even when they claim that they are? The answer is that we all have a pervasive, powerful, and unavoidable belief not only in moral values but also in moral obligation.”[11] He then defines moral obligation. “Moral obligation is a belief that some things ought not to be done regardless of how a person feels about them within herself, regardless of what the rest of her community and culture says, and regardless of whether it is in her self-interest or not.”[12] Everyone, with the possible exception of the insane, knows there are oughts and shoulds and should nots.

Not only can we not escape an absolute and objective morality, but if we looked at the issue more carefully, we would soon realize that we would not want to escape such a thing.

Without the moral law, there can be no moral progress or reform

One of the great problems of moral relativism—or the lack of an absolute and objective morality—is that it makes the idea of moral progress impossible. Think about it: if there is no objective measure of moral goodness or wickedness, then everything is morally equal. If we accept that moral relativity is true, then right and wrong are nothing but cultural constructs, things that people decide for a time and a place. If a society decides that slavery or racism is moral, then it is. Douglas Groothuis writes, “According to cultural relativism, [Martin Luther] King and all other laudatory moral reformers should be condemned as cultural and moral deviants who must be deemed immoral when judged by the extant standards of their societies.”[13] The idea of moral progress implies an objective moral standard. If a society is progressing morally, it is approaching that moral standard. But without an objective moral standard, a moral yardstick, so to speak, then there is nothing by which to measure “reform.” It is simply change.

Without the moral law, there would be no human rights

People of varying convictions often appeal to the idea of human rights. The appeal to human rights has brought us real moral progress. It helped end slavery and racist laws. People often appeal to human rights to advocate immorality, such as the current LGBTQ rights movement. When people demand certain liberties or privileges because of human rights, we should ask, “Why do we have human rights?” This question may get people to think about the ultimate standard of morality.

When people appeal to human rights, they are essentially claiming that it is morally right to treat each individual human being with respect and dignity. Furthermore, it is morally right to grant each person certain liberties. This is a moral philosophy, not one derived from science. Therefore, it does not belong to naturalism, but to the Christian worldview. The Founding Fathers claimed that human rights were self-evident, but they also acknowledged a Creator who endowed people with certain rights. Apart from an objective moral standard that says it is immoral to deny human rights—and, ultimately, apart from the existence of God—there is no reason to have human rights.

Furthermore, the concept of human rights is best explained by the Christian worldview, which states that God made us in his image. This means that we are inherently valuable, and that we should treat each other with dignity.[14]

Without the moral law, it is impossible to have ultimate justice

If all morals are relative, there is no real sense of justice. Any justice we would have is the punishment of someone who transgressed manmade ethical norms. However, we all know that there are people who do evil things and seem to “escape” without facing justice. One example is Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions and who committed suicide, thereby escaping justice in this life. If you are a moral relativist, you cannot claim that Hitler was terribly evil. He just did what was permissible in his society. And when he committed suicide, there was no judgment awaiting him. Not only is such a thought foreign to the Christian worldview, but is unsatisfying, because we know that justice should be done.

Without the moral law, we cannot judge between conflicting moralities

The only way moral relativism could ever work is if countries or cultures with different moral rules never encountered each other. In this age of global travel and communications, however, we no longer have isolated societies. In fact, we could argue that we have never had completely isolated societies. Wars have been waged from the beginning of humanity.

When two countries are at war, it is because of some moral issue. If all morals are manmade and relative, there is no way of determining which country is right and which one is wrong. They are both right, in a sense, because they are both acting according to their own morals.

Similarly, if all morals are manmade and relative, who are we to declare another government’s actions immoral? Who are we to say a society halfway across the world is wicked? We could not say such things. To declare one society or government morally inferior (or superior), we would have to appeal to some objective standard.

Conclusion

It seems that moral relativism is impossible. Furthermore, it is undesirable. There must be an objective moral standard. The second premise of our argument, there is a moral law, must be true.

There Is a Moral Law Giver

The first two premises would seem to be true. However, some people acknowledge an objective moral standard but still reject a giver of that law. Two things challenge the idea of a moral law giver: atheistic moral realism and evolution.

Atheistic moral realism

This moral philosophy maintains that there is no God, yet there are objective moral facts that exist necessarily. The idea is parallel to the atheist’s view of the laws of nature: they simply exist, there is no law giver. There are morally despicable actions like rape or child abuse, and there are morally admirable things like love, yet there is no accounting for these things are so.

There are many problems with this theory. One problem is that moral facts are immaterial. They cannot be reduced to part of the material world. Morals cannot be measured, in the way that the force of gravity can. So, moral facts (objective morals, or the moral law) are immaterial. They must exist as propositions, true statements. A proposition requires one who proposes; a statement requires one who speaks. A stated moral fact requires an intelligent agent who can speak it into existence.

The truth is that you cannot have both an objective moral standard and no God. Yet people try. They want to have human rights and the freedom to live as if there is no God.

Arthur Allen Leff wrote an interesting article in the Duke Law Journal nearly four decades ago.[15] He begins the article with the following paragraph:

I want to believe—and so do you—in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe—and so do you—in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.[16]

Notice what he is saying: we all want transcendent and authoritative rules, yet we want to be free to choose how we ought to live. This is quite a conundrum. We want there to be a God and we also want to be free to live as if he didn’t exist.

Leff acknowledges that if God establishes those authoritative moral propositions, then they cannot be challenged, because there is no one greater than God. “Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place.”[17] However if God exists, we cannot have the individual freedom that we desire. We cannot choose our own moral standard, and so be free to do whatever we want. Yet, if God does not exist, we have problems:

We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. If He does not exist, there is no metaphoric equivalent. No person, no combination of people, no document however hallowed by time, no process, no premise, nothing is equivalent to an actual God in this central function as the unexaminable examiner of good and evil. The so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative extrasystemic premises.[18]

If God doesn’t exist, there is no coherent and authoritative ethical or legal system. Such a system may be proposed, but if God is not behind this system, we can always ask, “Says who?” (Or, as Leff writes, “Sez who?”) For instance, we may be told that something is ethically wrong. We can then respond with the question, “Says who?” If there is a God, we can say, “God,” and there is no more debate, because there is no greater authority. But if there isn’t a God, then we can always challenge any moral claim.

Leff explores this idea for about twenty pages. Obviously, he does not believe in God, yet he realizes this creates great problems. He ends the article with these words:

All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs.

Nevertheless:

Napalming babies is bad.

Starving the poor is wicked.

Buying and selling each other is depraved.

Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot—and General Custer too—have earned salvation.

Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned.

There is in the world such a thing as evil.

[All together now:] Sez who?

God help us.[19]

If there is no God, everything is up for grabs. Yet we know things aren’t up for grabs. There are moral evils (such as napalming babies) and certain people deserve damnation. Sez who? God.

Evolutionary Theories

Evolutionists believe that we can ascribe morality to the genetic desire to survive. In other words, our sense of morality is not real, aligning with a transcendent objective moral standard. Rather, our sense of morality helps us to survive. Darwinists (or, perhaps to be more precise, neo-Darwinists) believe in kin selection, the idea that we desire to have our descendants survive and would therefore act in altruistic, noble, self-sacrificing ways in order for our genes to be passed on. Accordingly, if you saw your children in a burning building, you would rush in to save them, even though it could possibly spell your doom. Putting oneself into a dangerous situation would seem to be contrary to the survival of the fittest, but the desire to have your genes survive another generation would override your desire for safety.

It is an interesting idea, though I doubt that this could ever be proven scientifically. For this to be true, one’s DNA would have to possess intelligence. One’s DNA would have to know that it is desirable for one’s descendants to survive, and would have to know that one’s descendants were imperiled. That is a lot to ask of our DNA. Of course, the Darwinist could claim that having one’s children survive helps a parent survive because children bring a sense of emotional welfare that positively affects our physical welfare.

However, altruistic behavior is not limited towards one’s family. Why do people risk their lives to help strangers? Darwinists explain such sacrifice by talking about reciprocal altruism, the idea that we do good things for strangers because we expect them to act that way toward us. Again, there is no evidence for such a theory, and it seems far-fetched to think that our genes act in such a manner.

In fact, some scientists are willing to admit that there is no evidence for this concept. Ernst Mayr, an evolutionary biologist, admits that “altruism toward strangers is a behavior not supported by natural selection.”[20] Of course, this doesn’t prevent scientists from claiming that there is such a thing as an altruism gene.

However, let’s think about that for a moment. If altruism, the unselfish concern for the welfare of others, is simply the result of having an altruism gene, then why do we praise altruistic behavior? You don’t necessarily praise someone who is tall (or has blue eyes) and condemn someone who is short (or has brown eyes). Those traits are the products of our genes. But moral behavior is a choice, not something that that is predetermined by our DNA.

Darwinists confuse what is with what ought to be. According to evolutionary theory, everything is the result of natural selection. We simply are the way we are, according to Darwin and his disciples, because of time, chance, and natural selection. Morality, however, is not simply the way things are. It concerns the way things should be.

Perhaps no one wrote more powerfully in favor of the moral argument than C. S. Lewis. He realized that the moral law is different from the natural law. “Each man is at every moment subjected to several different sets of law but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey.”[21] We are not free to disobey the law of gravity, but we are free to disobey the moral law. He realized that morality cannot be explained by evolution. This passage shows why:

Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires—one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.[22]

Each of us have two instincts (which could be possibly be explained by evolution): the desire to help the group and the desire to save ourselves. Those instincts are like two different keys on the piano—we could play either of them. But there is something else, a third thing, which tells us what we ought to do. It tells us which key we should play. This ought, something immaterial, which cannot be reduced to brain chemistry or DNA, must come from somewhere. Actually, it must come from Someone who gave us a conscience, a sense of what is right and what is wrong.

The Moral Law Giver Is God

The moral law is immaterial, like the physical laws that govern our universe and the laws of logic that govern reason. Immaterial laws must be the product of an intelligent mind. They do not come from the physical universe itself. In the cosmological argument, we showed that the universe must have been created by God, for he alone exists outside of space and time.

Moral absolutes also imply that they are created by a person. All our moral obligations are interpersonal. For example, I know that it is wrong to hit someone else in the face because it hurts another person. I know it is wrong not to pay someone for services that I have contracted, because it hurts that other person. Yet there are immoral things that we do (such as have lustful, greedy, or angry thoughts) that seem to harm no other person. Yet they do harm a person. They harm us and harm our relationships with others. But they also offend God. (Once again, we must clarify that God is a person, or, actually, three persons in one God. The word “person” does not mean human being.)

If we have a sense of moral obligation that we cannot shake (as Keller says), then that sense of moral obligation must come from a person. And if there is an absolute moral obligation, there must be an absolute person behind it. According to John Frame, “If obligations arise from personal relationships, then absolute obligations must raise from our relationship with an absolute person.”[23]

Before we conclude, one final point must be made. People do not have to believe in God to be moral. That is not the argument we are making. Many agnostics and atheists are very moral people, sometimes more moral than those who claim to be Christians. You don’t have to be aware of absolute morality, much less the God who created that absolute morality, to be moral. After all, you don’t have to be aware of a Creator to be part of the creation, and you don’t have to be aware of a Designer to have incredible design in your body. Christianity is not a tool to become a moral person. (I’m amazed by how often people argue that they don’t need religion to be moral, as if that were the point of Christianity.)

No, the point is not that you need to be a Christian to be moral. The point is that without God, there is no objective morality. Without God, there would be no universe, no design or goal to life, and no standard of morality to judge what is good and what is evil.

Notes:

  1. Paul Copan, “The Moral Argument,” in Evidence for God ed. William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 20. There are other ways of framing this argument. A similar argument is: 1. If God doesn’t exist, there are no objective moral values and duties. 2. But there are objective moral values and duties; 3. Therefore, God exists.
  2. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason; quoted in C. Stephen Evans, Why Believe? Reason and Mystery as Pointers to God, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 39.
  3. Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 171. As stated above (in note 1), there are other ways of framing this argument. If I were to rewrite this article (which would take time and energy that I do not currently have), I would begin with the idea that only God can account for moral values and obligations. An objective moral law to which we are all accountable requires a grounding that is eternal, unchanging, and good. All moral obligations are personal in nature, and therefore there must be a personal agent behind this law. Who or what else besides God can account for such a law and for such moral obligations?
  4. John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1994), 93.
  5. William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 181.
  6. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in The Book of Virtues, ed. William Bennett (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 260, quoted in Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 337.
  7. Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity? (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2007), 234.
  8. Edward Rothstein, “Attacks on U.S. Challenge Postmodern True Believers,” New York Times, September 22, 2001.
  9. D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity?, 235.
  10. Ibid., 236.
  11. Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008), 151.
  12. Ibid., 152.
  13. Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 337.
  14. For more on this concept, see https://wbcommunity.org/the-image-of-god.
  15. Arthur Allen Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics, Unnatural Law,” Duke Law Journal 1979, no. 6 (1979):1229–1249. This article was brought to my attention by Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 350–56.
  16. Leff, “Unspeakable Ethics,” 1229.
  17. Ibid., 1231.
  18. Ibid., 1232.
  19. Ibid., 1249.
  20. Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 259, quoted in D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity?, 239.
  21. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, rev. ed. (1952; repr. New York: Touchstone, 1996), 18.
  22. Ibid., 22-23.
  23. Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, 99.

Love for a Church (Galatians 4:8-20)

Pastor Brian Watson preached a sermon on Galatians 4:8-20 on August 2, 2015. In this passage, Paul talks about his love for the church in Galatia. Other themes include our knowledge of God and our love for God.