Author Greg Koukl
Published on 04/15/2019
Arts and Culture

Where Do Moral Laws Come From?

We can be good without God, but would goodness even exist without God? Greg explains the argument for God from morality


I want to talk just a few moments about the issue of God and morality because I think the arguments that Christians have offered in favor of God based on the existence of morality have been misunderstood principally by atheists but also by some Christians, okay?

Here’s the way the argument goes: If there is no God, there is no objective morality, but there is objective morality, that would be evidenced by the problem of evil, therefore, there must be a God.

Now, there’s a lot I can say about this, but let me address myself specifically to the confusion because atheists are quick to object that “you’re saying I can’t be moral if I don’t believe in God,” and that is not our point.

Our point is, if there is no God, morality has no meaning. And the quickest way I can get to that point is to offer a challenge offered by the late Christopher Hitchens, one of the New Atheists, and he said, “Tell me one good thing that you can do as a theist that I can’t do as an atheist.”

That’s a fair charge, but notice how it focuses on behavior. Can he do the same behaviors that we do The answer is yes, he can. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether the behaviors are good or not without God.

So let me offer another illustration. I’ll use Christopher Hitchens. What if Christopher Hitchens said, “I don’t believe in writers.” And I said, “Well if you don’t believe in writers, then how can you read?” And he says, “I can read anything just as good as you can read, maybe even better.”

Well, you see the point isn’t who can do the behavior more effectively. The point would be whether there’s anything to read without writers.

Now this is called the grounding problem. What makes morality possible? What does it sit on, so to speak? Reading depends on writing. Writing depends on writers. That’s the grounding problem with reading.

Morality, being good, depends on there being morals, moral laws, and moral laws require a moral law maker. If there is a moral law maker, then there are moral laws, and both the Christian and the atheist can do good things regardless of their beliefs because there are good things to do.

But if there is no God, then there are no morals, then there are no good things. You can still do the same behaviors, but they’re not good for the theist or the atheist.

That’s the point.