Why Do We Need God for Morality?

Brett explains why our obligation to follow a moral code can only exist with God.


Read more posts

God makes the best sense of our moral obligations. Think about the nature of an obligation. Let’s say you’re in a Chinese food restaurant. At the end of your meal, you crack open the fortune cookie, and it says, “Get up, and leave now.” How many of you would get up and leave? Would you feel obligated to obey that command? I don’t think anyone would. 

Let’s say you’re sitting there, and you look over at a lady at the table next to you. She says, “Get up, and leave now.” Are you going to get up and leave? Would you feel an obligation to obey her? I don’t think so. Your first question is going to be, “Who are you? Why should I get up and leave now?” What if she says, “I’m just a customer, and I don’t like you, so get up, and leave now”? Do you have an obligation to get up and leave? No, there doesn’t seem to be an obligation to obey that command. 

Let’s say you finish your meal, and the lady next to you says, “Get up and leave now.” You ask, “Who are you?” She says, “I’m an FBI agent. I’m under cover, and we’re about to bust the owner of this restaurant. Get up, and leave now.” Do you get up and leave? Yes, you do. There now seems to be an appropriate obligation to follow that command. 

Notice in all three scenarios, whether it’s the fortune cookie, the customer, or the FBI agent, the command is the same, “Get up, and leave now.” In the first two cases, there’s no obligation to obey the command, but in the third situation, there is an obligation to obey the command. What’s the difference? In the third situation, we have an appropriate authority that backs up the command that creates an obligation to obey the command. The appropriate authority, the FBI agent, has issued the command. Not just a customer, not a fortune cookie, but an appropriate authority.

When we think through this, we realize a moral obligation only makes sense in light of some kind of relationship between persons. I don’t have obligations to inanimate objects. Obligations only make sense in the context of persons. Not just any persons. There has to be one person that has appropriate authority to issue commands. In the same way, the theists say we have moral obligations because there is an appropriate authority that stands behind the commands we discover in this universe. The best explanation is that God is the appropriate authority. Moral obligations, the theist would argue, only make sense in the context of the existence of God.  

video |
Brett Kunkle