Jesus asks his followers to obey him and keep his commandments, but are certain actions wrong just because God said so? Jon Noyes responds in this excerpt from To the Point.
“Why is rape wrong? Because God said so? Is there another reason?”
Well, I don’t know if it’s because God said so. Rape is wrong because you’re violating another image bearer. They’re made in the image of God, and you’re causing violence to that image, and we ought not do that. Right? We don’t do that because people are of infinite value and worth. That’s why we don’t rape people. It’s not because God gave a specific commandment: thou shalt not rape. That principle of goodness comes from the very character of God, the very nature of God. So, that’s why rape is wrong—because you’re doing violence to the image of God.
I’d ask that of you as a naturalist. What do you mean? I’d want to know what do you mean, “rape is wrong”? What do you mean by that? Is it wrong in some sense that it’s absolutely wrong, or is it a personal preference to you? Because I’d like to know where you derive your morals from as an atheist.
But that’s a great question, right? Why is rape wrong? Things aren’t right and wrong just because God says so. I mean, certainly God gives commands and we follow them. We ought always follow God’s commands, but that’s not where our sense of morality comes from—just from his commands. It’s expressed in his commands, but we get a sense of ultimate right and wrong—goodness is derived from the very nature and character of God. That’s the firm foundation on which morals are based.
John says, “I think the atheist’s biggest challenge is to explain the moral law from a purely naturalistic world.”
I had that trouble as an atheist. Listen, man, I’m just trying to be honest with you guys. If you guys get to know me at all, if you guys have me out to your churches to speak or your conferences to speak, if nothing, I’m authentic. I’m real. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to wrestle through life with everybody else, and this is my experience. As an atheist, this was my experience. When I met my wife, I was an atheist, and I had just moved to Southern California. I met her, actually, on my first night in California. My bags were still in the back of my sister’s car, and she brought me to a party. My wife walked in and completely blew me away. But we started becoming friends, and then, eventually, after we started dating, she told me she was a Christian.
I spent so much time debating her on stuff, and she oftentimes couldn’t answer my objections. So, I understand the frustration on the atheist’s part. Sometimes, oftentimes, I think we don’t have adequate answers to answer the atheist’s objection, either. That was my experience, at least. I would take people out for coffee and argue their worldview with them, and they just couldn’t hang, or they’d just start quoting Scripture at me, and I just didn’t care. So, I’d be, like, “Get that out of my face. I want to know where this stuff comes from. You’re the one who believes in an all-powerful, all-good, all-just God. Well, why does my five-year-old cousin have leukemia? Where do you get that?”
Nobody could answer me. But then once I started actually really pursuing the answers pretty in depth—like, I started reading and I started really interacting with some Christian apologists, I listened to Greg Koukl’s program. I started listening to Stand to Reason, reading their blog. I actually used to listen to J. Warner Wallace before he was Cold Case Christianity—he was Please Convince Me—and I was listening to his podcasts even before I was a Christian. Hearing these guys actually give these arguments for the existence of God, they were starting to get me to think. And this was the major contention—one of the major contentions—for me was this moral law, the existence of a moral law. As I lived in the world, as I started to get to know my future wife and treat her in a certain fashion, and then the people around me, it was very clear to me that there’s an objective moral reality that we all live in. We all have to participate in it.