A few years ago, Dinesh D’Souza wrote a book titled, What’s So Great about Christianity? His book contains numerous arguments for theism and against atheism. Since I mentioned D’Souza’s version of a moral argument for theism in my last post, I want to expand on it here.
In chapter twenty, “Natural Law and Divine Law: The Objective Foundations of Morality,” D’Souza argues for the following thesis:
Morality is both natural and universal. It is discoverable without religion, yet its source is ultimately divine. (225)
A little farther down, D’Souza clarifies that there are three central issues:
[(1)] Is there a universal or objective morality? [(2)] Does it have a religious foundation? [(3)]How can it be known? (225)
D’Souza’s answers to these questions may be summarized as: (1) yes; (2) yes; and (3) through conscience. While I am inclined to agree with D’Souza about (1), I think he has overstated his case for (2).
How does D’Souza defend his claim that morality has a religious foundation? By appealing to the old “laws must have a lawgiver” slogan. He writes:
If there are moral laws that operate beyond the realm of natural laws, where do these laws come from? Moral laws presume a moral lawgiver. In other words, God is the ultimate standard of good. He is responsible for the distinction between good and evil that we universally perceive as binding on human action. The fact that these standards are distinctive to human beings implies that there is something special about us, and that God has a special interest in how we live. (233)
Now, off the top of my head, I can think of six (6) contemporary theistic philosophers who’ve defended some sort of moral argument for God’s existence: Robert Adams, David Baggett, Jerry Walls, William Wainwright, Phillip Quinn, and C. Stephan Evans. None of them defend this argument. So why should anyone agree with D’Souza that “moral laws presume a moral lawgiver?” Laws require a lawgiver only if they are, in fact, given (or made). Statutory (governmental) laws are the paradigm example of laws that require a lawgiver, but, to use one of William Lane Craig’s trademark expressions, statutory laws began to exist. Not all laws are given, however. The laws of nature, logic, and mathematics are three examples of laws that are discovered, not invented. Not only do these examples undercut the support for D’Souza’s slogan, they actually provide the basis of an argument against it, based on the following negative analogy.
(1). The laws of nature, logic, mathematics, and (objective) morality did not begin to exist.
(2) The laws of nature, logic, and mathematics also do not have lawgivers.
(3) Therefore, the laws of (objective) morality do not have a lawgiver.
(3) entails, accordingly, that the slogan, “laws require a lawgiver,” is false.
Furthermore, not only did the laws of (objective) morality not begin to exist, a moment’s reflection should reveal that objective moral laws are the sort of thing which cannot be invented. To say that morality is objective is to say that the truth of objective laws is independent of the subjective states of minds. For example, if it’s an objective truth that it’s prima facie morally wrong to harm someone, then it’s prima facie wrong to harm someone regardless of how many people agree or disagree. So how could any mind invent an objective moral law? Any would-be moral law that a mind might invent would seem to be a subjective moral law (or inter-subjective, in the case of agreement of many minds). This shows that objective moral laws cannot have lawgivers.
This article is archived.