The moral argument for God’s existence, as formulated by professional philosopher William Lane Craig goes like this:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
- Objective moral values and duties do exist
- Therefore God exists
It is important to ask exactly how objective moral values exist if God exists. People who make this argument usually subscribe to a divine command theory of ethics, which asserts that what is moral is determined by what God commands, and that to be moral is to follow his commands. Socrates discovered the most glaring flaw in this system when he asked Euthyphro: “is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” Is something good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good? If it is the former, then that makes makes morality arbitrary. God could command genocide and it would still be considered good because he commanded it. If it is the latter, then that makes morality independent of God. God would simply be the middle man in informing us of what is good.
After much deliberation, apologists have decided that the answer is actually neither: God commands something because he is good. Goodness is rooted in his nature, which is reflected in the goodness of his commands. This gets rid of the dilemma momentarily and usually gets people to stop asking questions, but it has serious consequences in that it entirely strips goodness of any meaning. If to be good simply means to be like God, then when you say God is good, all you are saying is that he is like himself. It then becomes inexplicable why God has the properties that he has rather than other properties. If God’s nature were one of dishonesty for example, then he would command dishonesty and dishonesty would be considered good. Theists will outright deny this, but the fact that they deny it shows that there must be more to something being good than it being part of God’s nature.
It’s like saying Abraham Lincoln is the standard for tallness. If this were true, then to be tall would mean to be similar in height to Abraham Lincoln. If you accept this, you must also accept that if Abraham Lincoln were only 3 feet tall, then that is what we would consider tall. If not, then Abraham Lincoln was never actually the standard of tallness, the standard was his relative distance above the ground. Unless goodness is defined in some quantifiable way, such as that which promotes well being, then it becomes arbitrary. It might be complained that this definition is simply my opinion and therefore arbitrary as well. Well, if morality is not intended to promote well being, then what exactly is the point?