Notes on Apologetics study from On Guard by William Lane Craig, Chapter Two, Part Three
(*Use the "On Guard" category to the right to see all posts related to this book*)
Recap: Chapter Two of Craig's book is entitled "What Difference Does It Make If God Exists?" In this chapter, Craig asserts the logical conclusions that follow if God does not exist. Based on what we know about energy and the nature of the universe, and since all life had a beginning, it is inevitable that all life will eventually cease. If all is doomed and there is no life beyond death, then ultimately, life has no meaning, value or purpose. All things done (good or bad) will ultimately become nonexistent. Here is a link to a rather helpful article regarding the first and second laws of thermodynamics and the impending "heat death" of the universe.
In my last post on this chapter, we looked at the meaning of life in this regard. If everything in the universe is to ultimately meet its utter end, then life itself is objectively absurd, and thus has no objective meaning. This creates a problem for the atheist because he can live neither happily nor consistently under this axiom. Just because a person ascribes his or her own meaning to life doesn't make it true.
If you ascribe a certain meaning to the universe and I supply a different meaning, which meaning is correct? Remember we are talking about objective truth, not subjective truth. This is a "what is two plus two" question as opposed to a "what is the best flavored ice cream" question. One is true in reality (applies to all people), the other is a personal opinion (a personal truth). So if you and I each ascribe a different objective meaning to life, which one is actually correct? To the atheist, the answer of course is neither; the universe without God is objectively meaningless for there is no one outside the universe to impute that meaning.
This brings us to the next section of the chapter dealing with the value of life. In a previous post, I shared with you that Craig defines the value of life as having to do with good and evil, right and wrong. The value of life refers to our moral ethics...how do we know what is right and wrong, and how should we behave because of that knowledge?
"If there is no God, then objective right and wrong do not exist. As Dostoyevsky said, 'All things are permitted.' But man cannot live this way. So he makes a leap of faith and affirms values anyway. And when he does so, he reveals the inadequacy of a world without God." (pg. 42)
Under this banner of "all things are permitted," we are subject to all kinds of living hell. Rape is no longer a violation; child molestation is nothing but a fetish, a preference. The most heinous murder is in reality just as morally justified as paying it forward in the drive thru. Sound ridiculous? But if there is no God, then there is no one to define ethical absolutes. All things become subjective. Nothing is right. Nothing is wrong.
The problem comes when we must admit that there are certain things that seem "right" to us. Craig uses several examples to show this, and one of those is modern atheist Richard Dawkins. "For although he says that there is no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference, he is an unabashed moralist." (pg. 43) He condemns all manner of offenses against homosexuals, indoctrination of children, etcetera ad nauseam, but is apparently blind to his own inconsistency of ethical relativism which says that there can be no absolute right or wrong.
Just as in the meaning of life, I can say what is "right" for me, and you can say what is "right" for you, but that doesn't make it intrinsically right or wrong. If it did, we could easily justify the brutal rape as a moment of intense passion and wanton desire. Child prostitution could be argued to be as innocent as teaching grooming or good table manners. Thievery is not "wrong" but simply a symptom of need. All things are permitted.
Most atheists can not and do not live under such pretenses. They still see some things as intrinsically good and evil, but do not want to admit that someone must be the definer of such concepts. We have already established that man cannot adequately be that definer - that leads to "might makes right." Who else but God?
Discussion question: Imagine a world where everyone believed that moral values and duties aren't real, but are just subjective illusions. How would it affect our legal and justice systems? Countries involved in warfare? Our social relationships? World business and commerce?
Without moral objectivity, the laws which govern our legal and justice systems would need to be constantly evolving and morphing as the culture moves through moral relativism. I believe this is the single most often used tool in the arsenal of the social liberal. It's the reason we take so many polls, surveys, and social media quizzes. This is how we (as a society) tend to find out what is "morally right" on many issues.
Apart from a God who provides moral objectivity, we are left to decipher for ourselves what is right and wrong. So if society says that homosexuality (social relationships) is acceptable, then under this banner of subjectivism, laws should be changed to reflect that. If enough gather together to say that perverted relationships with young children are acceptable, then it's time for the laws to change again. Should society (even a relatively small portion of it) decide that our government should be trusted enough to provide for our every need - even in exchange for personal freedoms - then the very foundation upon which this country was built would be ripped from its place in society and be replaced with whatever our culture has bought next. That's a very unsettling thought to me, but I fear it's where we're headed.
Countries involved in warfare would be governed by the same "might makes right" mantra, which always leads to the oppression of those who are not in charge. In thinking about the Middle East region and the war over land in Israel, my mind immediately is drawn to Israel's determination to strategically target the known safe havens of the enemy only after they can confirm there are no civilians in the area. Their respect of life is owed to their respect for God. If they were to operate under "might makes right," then they would behave more like their enemy...who seeks out death.
Next time: Purpose of Life