Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do We Need God to be Good?

My Response to an Atheist who tried to argue that the “happiness” principle is just as good a basis for morality as is God:

I will try to list several reasons why God is a superior basis for morality than your notion of “happiness”:

1. AUTHORITATIVE: For morality to function as morality, it has to be authoritative. There is nothing authoritative about “happiness.” Regarding this, the secular humanist, Max Hocutt, stated, “To me {the non-existence of God} means that there is no absolute morality, that moralities are sets of social conventions devised by humans to satisfy their needs…If there were a morality written up in the sky somewhere but no God to enforce it, I see no good reason why anyone should pay it any heed.” (Understanding the Times)

2. PERFECTION IN WISDOM AND LOVE: There is little reason to follow moral dictates if we’re not convinced that they represent the highest form of wisdom and love. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to follow a morality based upon someone else’s conception of “happiness.” However, if we are convinced that the omniscient God loves us, we gratefully want to follow the dictates He’s placed on our heart.

3. IMMUTABILITY: If morality is always changing, there’s no reason to adhere to it. It might just be different tomorrow? “Happiness” depends upon our moods and culture, which are always in flux.

4. UNIVERSALITY: Morality needs to be applied consistently and uniformly. “Happiness” does not provide an adequate basis. It is capricious and differs from person to person. Besides, doing the things that make us happy isn’t always the same thing as doing the moral thing. “Happiness” can be appealed to to justify racial cleansing and sadism, depending upon whose “happiness” we’re referring to. “Happiness” is also myopic. It inevitably looks for immediate payoffs.

5. TRANSCENDENCE: Morality must be able to transcend our individual whims, wills and cultures and provide a standard by which we can assess all conduct and a standard for our legal codes. If it fails to transcend all of these claims and concerns, then each one of us represents our own ultimate supreme court – hardly any basis for morality. This will leave us with no basis to adjudicate disputes and to promote justice. It will fracture whatever cohesiveness a society might have had.

6. EXPLANATORY POWER: God can not only explain and provide a rational basis for morality, but He can also account for the balance of reality – consciousness, freewill, meaning/purpose, the origins of life, DNA, the cell, the fine-tuning of the universe, and the physical laws. “Happiness” lacks explanatory power.

I think that a powerful historical case can be made that when morality lacks an adequate rational basis, it’s inevitable that the ruling powers resort to physical coercion. Just look at the experience of communistic/atheistic nations!

Meanwhile, you have elected to choose the moral basis of “happiness” over God. However, there’s no escaping God. Even your paradigm points unmistakably back to Him:

1. The very fact that there is such a strong correspondence between what satisfies (happiness) us and what is virtuous points to an Intelligent Designer. I thank God that he didn’t design virtue as something painful (although sometimes it does require sacrifice.)

2. If “happiness” is your governing principle, then you must believe in Christ to maximize your happiness!

Even when atheism tries to flee God into the darkness of its mental contrivances, it inevitably runs into Him. There is no escape! This is because He is the creator of not only the physical world, but also all truth, wisdom, and morality. But why does atheism hide from God? Here’s Jesus’ answer:

• “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
(John 3:19-20)

I wish I could show you how Christ has unified my life and has given me such intellectual satisfaction. The way I treat my neighbor, the awesome sunset, the touching play, the edifying concert, and even raising children all fit together into a harmonious mosaic, a completed puzzle. I rise to serve my Savior. I shed tears, knowing He’s with me. I go to sleep singing His praises.

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