Orion

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The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone
« on: July 04, 2016, 11:03:06 am »
In my posts Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism and If God Is Good, What Is Evil?, I attempted to demonstrate that (1) God’s nature is the essence of objective goodness and (2) evil is nothing more than corrupt self-righteousness—false goodness that seeks to challenge God’s true righteousness. If these two premises are correct, then the classic Moral Argument for God can be expanded into the Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone. But before presenting the formal fancy-pants philosophical argument, there are a few issues to further explore …

If Humans Are Corrupted by Evil Self-Righteousness, How Can They Become Good/Justified?
This is a crucial question for humanity. How do we become good? Can we be justified by doing lots of good works, such as giving to charity? Can we become enlightened by meditating for hours on end? Is it possible we are already 100% justified, and just do not realize it? If we are supposed to become good or enlightened through our own power and efforts, where and what is the correct formula?!

In Andy Stanley’s book How Good Is Good Enough?, he brilliantly exposes the myriad flaws with the “good people go to Heaven” theory—the idea that we must achieve a certain level of personal goodness in order to please God. Obviously, atheists do not believe in God or Heaven, but the question still remains for the atheist: how does one become justified? One of the troubling questions Stanley raises for the “good people are justified” hypothesis is that we would need some sort of objective standard to determine if humans are good enough. Even if we established what all the correct moral guidelines are (a huge debate in itself), is a “good” person someone who is 85% good, or 21% good, or 53% good … or exactly 41.29847% good (but if you’re only 41.29846% good, you’re only a “mediocre” or “bad” person)? For that matter, if we are supposed to become holy or enlightened based upon our own good works or meditations or religious devotion, why doesn’t God or the universe give us progress reports throughout our lives—so we know where we stand and, if necessary, can adopt a performance-improvement plan?

Such questions do not merely lead to nagging doubts about the popular “good people are justified” theory—they completely undermine it! Any percentage formula for righteousness we could concoct (whether it is religious or irreligious) would inevitably be arbitrary. Various religions offer different self-help formulas on how to become justified and reach Heaven or Nirvana, but how can we possibly know which method is correct? Are we supposed to keep track of our good deeds and misdeeds throughout our lives and then plug them into a formula? And does that sort of formulaic personal holiness really make logical sense? Under that scenario, we would have to imagine God or the universe potentially informing us: “I’m sorry—you’re exactly 0.00352% short of the necessary holiness to reach Heaven …”

But besides impossible-to-answer questions about percentages and formulas, there is a far deeper problem with the “good people are justified” theory. And that is that the theory teaches us to become “good people” (whatever the heck that means) through the power of our own self-holiness. In one form or another, the vast majority of humanity is counting on being justified because “I’ve done enough good things” or “I’m not as bad as my abusive neighbor”—and that entire mindset is firmly rooted in human self-justification … but human self-righteousness (evil) is the whole problem in the first place!

Does Analyzing This Problem Shed Light on Anything?
Now take another look at every faith outside of Christianity. While there are enormous differences among them, they all boil down to establishing human justification through personal goodness:
•   Satanism, Amoral Atheism and Moral Relativism: You are already 100% justified and you can do whatever you want. You are effectively omnibenevolent … your own self-contained moral Yahweh.
•   Amoral Pantheism: The world is an illusion, including your supposed “evil”. You need to become enlightened and realize the entire world is non-real, and then you will ascend beyond it.
•   Moral Atheism, Moral Pantheism and Non-Christian Theism: In order to become justified in the sight of the universe or God, you must do enough good things and avoid doing too many bad things.
Though many adherents to the above faiths are kind and well-meaning, they have staked their ultimate justification on their own ability to become good in and of themselves—and that is a grave mistake.

But Is There an Alternative to Human Self-Justification?
Yes, there is! There is only one historical religious figure who rejected the “good people are justified” theory—Jesus. Instead of offering humanity a self-help program based upon a regimen of good works or percentage of enlightenment, Jesus teaches us to totally surrender to Him through faith (John 3:15–16) and to be transformed from the inside out, not through our own frail efforts, but through His divine power (2 Corinthians 5:17). And that message is radically different from any other faith in the cosmos.

This was poignantly illustrated in the life of Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as the Apostle Paul. Prior to an overwhelming encounter with Jesus, Saul was a devoted, violent religious zealot (Acts 26:5)—a Pharisee of the strictest sect of Judaism—and he was trying to please God by rigidly adhering to the Law of Moses. But after his life was transformed by Christ, he realized that, as a Pharisee, he had only been using divine law to attempt to make himself righteous. And as a Christian, he gave up his own holiness so that he might be redeemed by Jesus’s true goodness (Philippians 3:8–9).

As Ravi Zacharias once described it: “Our [humanity’s] problem is not one of degree. It is one of kind.” Zacharias’s point was that humanity is self-righteously corrupt by nature, and there is no to-do list that will cure our root problem. We need a complete change of nature, and Jesus alone offers this to us. As theologian John MacArthur once put it: “There are many different religions in this world, but there are only two gospels. First, there is the gospel of divine righteousness—that is called ‘Biblical Christianity’. And then there is the gospel of human self-righteousness—and that is called ‘everything else’.”

The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone
Premise 1: Objective morality exists.
Premise 2: God is the true paradigm of objective goodness.
Premise 3: Evil is false righteousness that attempts to challenge God as the paradigm of true goodness.
Premise 4: All other faiths outside of Christianity are inextricably rooted in self-justification.
Premise 5: The Christian Deity alone challenges humans to surrender their self-righteousness to God.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Christian God alone exists as the true paradigm of objective goodness.

If the above logical argument is sound (and I expect to be vigorously challenged on this), then the Moral Argument is not just checkmate for theism—it is checkmate for Christian theism!
« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 04:02:32 pm by Orion »

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Gordon Tubbs

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Re: The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2016, 06:58:15 pm »
Hello Orion, I would like to first introduce myself, just so you (or anybody else) doesn't have to play the guessing game of what my "allegiance" is. --- I am a Christian who has been called into ministry. I am currently in seminary at Regent University (a private, non-affiliated school), seeking an ordination with the Presbyterian Church. I affirm every word of the Nicene Creed. So, all that to say: I am here to offer some constructive criticism as the Devil's Advocate in this debate.

Like many theists, I have heard and have grown fond of The Moral Argument (MA) because it is essentially (in a different form) the argument C.S. Lewis used in Mere Christianity and it is, according to Lewis, what led him from atheism to Christianity. The MA itself is relatively coherent at face value, and so I can see why it is very convincing to non-believers who are on the fence if they have an intellectual hang-up with the morality and ethics of this world. However, as convincing as it may be to some, New Atheism has stood up to the MA and has taken a few of the argument's punches without so much as flinching. Here's why:

1. The Moral Argument's philosophical foundation is Moral Realism. Many expositors of the MA fail to do their homework in this school of thought - presumably because they assume the Christian apologists who use the MA themselves already have. It is crucial to understand Moral Realism and it's issues and conflicts before utilizing the Moral Argument. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-realism/

2. Premise 1 must be established within the framework of Moral Realism. If you want Premise 1 to really be a knockout, then you need to make it more precise. Unfortunately, this leads one down a theological rabbit hole. For instance, give some examples for an objective moral duty that cannot normally be explained away as an evolutionary behavior. Use the Ten Commandments if you want, but simply stating Premise 1 as "objective morality exists" is basically saying "Moral Realism is a true belief" (which is arguable). The non-cognitivist would simply dismiss Premise 1 prima facie, so you need to convince him why he shouldn't.

3. Lastly, amoral positions have more going for them than you think they do. The Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition (aka Natural Theology) is the bedrock of Christian philosophy, but the difficulty with natural theology is that while it may point to the existence of God - it does not point one directly to Moral Realism.

3A. Simply put, I deny Moral Realism (apart from God) because I believe humans are morally ignorant as a result of the Fall. We've lost the ability to know what is truly right from wrong, which is why we are depraved and we are utterly reliant on God for moral guidance. Let me be clear: it is impossible to know Moral Truths if you don't know God BUT that does not prevent you from doing something that is morally true apart from God in the first place out of pragmatism.

3B. Suppose for instance you remove all humans from existence and we have a Universe without human minds. Is morality still real? Can we affirm Moral Realism apart from moral actions and duties? I err on the side of "no; in order to affirm Moral Realism, we need Moral Agents" - in this case us. However, this makes morality subjective, which means the Moral Argument falls apart.


I would frame the Moral Argument as an epistemological one in order to defeat the non-cognitivist response:

Premise 1: It is impossible to know moral truths without divine revelation.
Premise 2: Apart from this divine revelation, all moral propositions are subjective.
Premise 3: Subjective moral propositions are either good or bad.
Premise 4: Apart from divine revelation, knowledge of good and bad can only be derived from evolution or Ethical Theory.
Premise 5: Evolutionary traits were developed purely for survival.
Premise 6: Ethical Theory is only useful to determine desirable outcomes, which are subjective.
Premise 7: Human history has shown that Ethical Theories have a terrible track record - actions taken apart from or in opposition to moral truths derived from divine revelation have shown to be more bad than good.
Premise 8: Actions and behaviors derived from divine revelation have historically panned out better.
Conclusion: Therefore, one ought to consider the moral truths espoused by religion if their Ethical Theory coheres with it. 

This argument is merely a set-up to frame morality of the Bible against morality of the world or other religions and it leads one to view Premise 1 of the Moral Argument as a propositional claim and not an axiomatic claim.
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Orion

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Re: The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2016, 09:59:13 pm »
Hello, Gordon—thank you very much for reading and responding to my post! I really appreciate your insight and will certainly do more research about Moral Realism. Your expansion on the classic Moral Argument was very thorough and intriguing. On my end, the reason I did not expound more in defense of Premises 1–3 is because I have already done so in the separate posts I mentioned towards the beginning. The Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism post focuses on Premises 1 and 2, whereas the If God Is Good, What Is Evil? post focuses on Premises 2 and 3. You are absolutely right that establishing assertions like “objective morality exists” requires in-depth analyses. However, for the sake of brevity, I decided to allude to my prior two posts and focus on Premises 4 and 5 instead.

The Bottom Line
As I demonstrated in the Objective Morality post, even the attempted denial of objective moral truth ends up asserting objective morality, thus backfiring. This is unavoidable! Consider the final paragraph in the link you sent on Moral Realism: “By all accounts, moral realism can fairly claim to have common sense and initial appearances on its side. That advantage, however, might be easily outweighed, however; there are a number of powerful arguments for holding that it is a mistake to think of moral claims as true.” Yet to claim “it is a mistake to think of [objective] moral claims as true” is, in itself, an objective moral claim—one that purports itself to be real and true! So if objective moral claims are untrue, then the final statement in that paragraph is untrue. So it contradicts and defeats itself!

You mentioned analyzing morality based upon evolution, as well as the necessity of divine revelation, and such discussions have tremendous merit. (Note that the atheist also unwittingly believes in a form of revealed moral truth—only it is the non-sentient matter-and-energy cosmos accidentally revealing moral truth to highly evolved biological life forms, rather than a sentient Deity revealing moral truth to sentient creations.) You can find many examples of this in other discussion threads, since there are brilliant atheists reading these posts, who clearly have a very advanced understanding of logic and philosophy. However, what is noticeably absent in the atheistic rationales is anything that solidly answers the foundational question: Who or what defines objective moral truth?

Because objective morality undeniably exists, it requires an ultimate explanation. And that inevitably leads to the endless back-and-forth of the Euthypro Dilemma. And once the Dilemma has run its course, we end up facing the three cosmological explanatory ultimates: Atheism, Pantheism and Theism. My goal in the initial post was to demonstrate that only God’s nature (personal ultimate) provides a sufficient explanation for objective moral values, whereas Atheism and Pantheism (both impersonal ultimates) inevitably fall short. As such, both premises of the classic Moral Argument are affirmed.

The Reason for My Latest Post
My prior two posts were meant to drive the discussion to the nature of objective good versus evil—true divine righteousness versus invalid self-righteousness. The applicability is that no matter what type of non-believer the Christian debates, the non-believer’s moral theory is rooted in self-righteousness and therefore corrupt. Even devoted moral atheists (who espouse adhering to objective morals based on impersonal axiomatic values) actually have a lot in common with non-Christian theists (who advocate adhering to divine mandates). One has an irreligious explanation for objective morality, and the other a religious explanation—but both are seeking to establish their own righteousness. While God alone is true righteousness, both moral Atheism and non-Christian Theism echo of the Serpent’s words in the Garden of Eden: “If you [do this], you can be like God, knowing good and evil.” In other words, the essence of evil is the desire to be legitimately self-justified, independent of God—even if that means using divine law to justify oneself. From amoral Atheism to strictly moral Theism, all such philosophies are based on exactly the same flaw. In contrast, Jesus alone offers the cure for humanity’s self-destructive ills through our surrender to His divine righteousness.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2016, 04:04:09 pm by Orion »