Wednesday, December 7, 2016


For many, the moral argument for the existence of God doesn’t work. They are willing to say that there is nothing objectively wrong about rape, even genocide, and are willing to live with the consequences of moral relativism. However, many of these same people will, nevertheless, claim that we have to live according to the dictates of our conscience. The “Argument for God from the Conscience” might, therefore, speak to them.

In “Handbook of Christian Apologetics,” Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli (K/T) observe:

·       Isn’t it remarkable that no one, even the most consistent subjectivist, believes that it is ever good for anyone to deliberately and knowingly disobey his or her own conscience? Even if different people’s consciences tell them to do or avoid totally different things, there remains one moral absolute for everyone: never disobey your own conscience.

Remarkably, they deem the conscience to have absolute authority, but what would instill within it this authority? K/T list four possibilities and then show the problems with the first three:

1.    From something less than me (nature)
2.    From me (individual)
3.    From others equal to me (society)
4.    From something above me (God)

They show that the first three fail to provide a basis to absolutize our conscience:

1.    From something less than me (nature) K/T write:

·       How can I be absolutely obligated by something less than me..?

Certainly, a TV show or the song that my neighbor is singing cannot obligate me.

2.    From me (individual) K/T again write:

·       How can I obligate myself absolutely? Am I absolute? Do I have the right to demand absolute obedience from anyone, even myself? And if I am the one who locked myself in this prison of obligation, I can also let myself out.

Clearly, there is no reason for my words or decisions to be absolute. If I make them, I can also break them. And why not?

3.    From others equal to me (society) K/T write:

·       How can society obligate me? What right do my equals have to impose their values on me? Does quantity make quality?

I might decide to follow a given law but not because it possesses absolute authority. Instead, we recognize that our laws are evolving and can be challenged. If they were absolute, they could not be challenged or amended. If we could challenge them, this would suggest that we are doing so from a more authoritative, superior, or absolute basis.

If these first three possibilities for a rational foundation for our belief that our conscience absolute is absolute and should never be violated fail, there remains only one other rationale – that our immutable and all-wise God provides that foundation. Only He can provide the rationale to regard our conscience absolute.

It is ironic that the very Being we seek to avoid pops up despite all of our efforts to hide from Him. Of course, when we see that we, once again, are looking into the face of God, we will de-absolutize our conscience and think that we have escaped Him. However, this is His world, His values, and His workmanship. To escape Him is to escape life itself.

Besides, when we reject Him, we also reject ourselves – the ones created in His likeness. How? When we reduce ourselves to mere animals, albeit sophisticated ones, and then reject the fact that we are morally responsible – many deny freewill and objective morality for this reason – and finally reject the sanctity of our conscience, we narrow our lives.

The negative repercussions are numerous. Psychologist James Hillman has written about one:

·       We dull our lives by the way we conceive then…By accepting the idea that I am the effect of…hereditary and social forces, I reduce myself to a result. The more my life is accounted for by what already occurred in my chromosomes, by what my parents did or didn’t do, and by my early years now long past, the more my biography is the story of a victim. I am living a plot written by my genetic code, ancestral heredity, traumatic occasions, parental unconsciousness, societal accidents.

Instead, when we fail to embrace God, the One who has given us food, drink, family, identity, and life, we fail to embrace ourselves, dooming ourselves to a life of endless wandering, looking for our place, which we have already rejected.

4.    From something above me (God)


  1. I think you misunderstand what a true academic objection to the "moral argument" for God is about. It's not just a discussion of whether or not there are absolutes. Most people WOULD agree for instance that rape is absolutely wrong. But this is not based on theology, this is based on social contract. So while there are absolutes, those absolutes do not require God to have demanded them, they are absolutes because no human wants to experience those things. For a better explanation of the issue at hand see this link:

    As far as your argument that everyone thinks no one should ever violate their conscience, I think THAT is an argument that just doesn't wash. Many many people would say that there are very good reasons to violate one's conscience. If you were raised in a strict vegan household for instance and you are starving and meat is offered to you, most religions and people would agree that in that instance you should violate your conscience and eat the meat. Our consciences are largely the result of social conditioning - there are times when they don't tell us the truth about the situation we are in and they need to be violated.
    I say all these things as a follower of Christ. It is great to have a passion to win people to the faith, but you'll never be able to do so if you rely on a stereotyped understanding of what people really believe and take shots at that, instead of really understanding what people truly believe. I'd rather join in telling a nonbeliever that something they heard from a Christian's playbook on "Why you should believe" is false, than try to point people to God with arguments that aren't true. In the end they will usually respect you for your authenticity, even if you come to them empty handed saying, "I can't prove God to you, but I know He is the truth - reach out to Him and you'll see." That's far better than telling them, "You need to believe in God because of such and such bogus argument."

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful response. However, you wrote: "Most people WOULD agree for instance that rape is absolutely wrong. But this is not based on theology, this is based on social contract."

    "Social contract" is just something that we make up, and, therefore, might change or evolve. And when we do change it, we implicitly acknowledge that it was never absolute to begin with. It it had been, we wouldn't change it.

  3. If a vegan meats meet in order to survive, he is not necessarily violating his conscience, but recognizing that there might be more critical factors involved that would tilt the conscience in another direction.