Abortion, white privilege, refugees, pay gap, fake news, illegal immigrants, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, all lives matter, taxation is theft, God, Jesus Christ. Are you triggered yet? Good, good… let the outrage flow through you.
Now we can begin looking at the morally outrageous evidence for the existence of God. Take a look at the syllogism below for my argument then I’ll spend the rest of our time together explaining and defending it.
p1. If moral outrage, then the God of the Bible exists.
p2. You are morally outraged.
C. The God of the Bible exists.
No doubt you will take exception with premise 1, “If moral outrage, then the God of the Bible exists.” Where do I get off making such dogmatic assertions!? Some of you who weren’t triggered by the opening paragraph have certainly been scandalized by p1. But before you bust out the “tolerance rods”, let me explain myself.
Morality, any sense of morality, presupposes the God of the Bible. “I gotta stop you right there, Park! Are you really saying that atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers can’t be moral? You self-righteous piece of sh”- Hang on! Hang on! Let me get to what I’m trying to say. Of course I’m not saying that non-Christians can’t behave morally. What i’m saying is that moral behavior presupposes God, therefore, anyone who doesn’t believe in God (of the Bible) isn’t justified in their moral behavior. More specifically, in this argument, my point is that the unbeliever isn’t justified in their moral outrage since their own worldview cannot account for moral outrage at all.
“That’s ridiculous, we don’t need some sky-daddy to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong! Morality is culturally relative.” That’s an interesting objection. But If morality were relative, then how could you make sense of the differences between moral convictions that exist in a certain culture? And furthermore, if there are no moral absolutes standing above culture, then culture is your absolute. If that’s the case, how could you ever work to improve the morality of the culture? By what standard would you appeal to in order to bring about any change?
Of course morality isn’t culturally relative, and thank God that the abolitionists of the past didn’t believe that or they would’ve never fought to end slavery. If morality were culturally relative then we have no business condemning Nazi Germany or Communist Russia for their grotesque human rights violations and genocides. Thankfully, morality isn’t based solely on one’s culture, and therefore we can be justified in being morally outraged when our cultures commit atrocities.
“Whatever, Park! Then morality is personally subjective. We each have our own moral compass that we gotta follow. You have no right to condemn or judge me!” Well, I’m certainly not trying to condemn you, I’m sorry if I’ve come off that way. But I have to crack on because if morality were personally subjective then you’d be in an even worse situation than before. You certainly wouldn’t be justified in your moral outrage. “How do you figure?” Well, if morality were based solely on yourself, then how could you even express your outrage to anyone else? Why would you expect me to be able to empathize or even understand your outrage?
Secondly, why should I care If I have a completely separate and subjective moral compass than you do? If morality were subjective then I could come along and take your wallet and you couldn’t stop me. “I could totally stop you because according to my morality, stealing my wallet is wrong.” Sure, but what if my subjective morality allows me to steal from others? Now we have ourselves a Mexican standoff and might makes right, If i’m stronger then my moral compass prevails. “Don’t say Mexican standoff, it’s offensive!” I mean… my dad is Mexican soo.. “Well, you still shouldn’t say it!” Ok, I apologize, I guess. But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that my morality allows me to use offensive phrases and steal other peoples wallets. Your subjective morality says, “stealing is wrong and being offensive is unacceptable”. How do we decide between the two? It’s almost as if we need a moral code or moral law outside of ourselves to appeal to in order for our moral outrage to be understood, weighed, and justified, right?
“Alright, Park. So maybe it’s a bit more transcendent than I thought at first, but why can’t moral truths be objective and self-evident?” Ok, so I agree with you to a certain degree. Moral truths are self-evident, but they can’t be merely self-evident. For instance, you’ve seen Terminator 2, right? “Yeah, of course! It’s a great flick!” Ok, so at one point in the movie, John Conner tries to explain to the Terminator why killing people is wrong and he uses this same kind of “brute fact” moral argument that you’re proposing. John says, “You can’t go around killing people, okay!?”, then The Terminator asks, “why?” to which John replies, “what do you mean why!? ‘Cause you can’t!”. Again, Arnie asks “Why?” and the frustrated (and morally outraged) John says, “because you just can’t, okay?! Trust me on this.” And that is why moral outrage can’t be grounded solely in a “brute fact” self-evident morality. Sure, you can use the snarky line, “we don’t need some silly sky daddy to tell us not to kill people. We just know killing people is wrong.” But that’s where you’re argument ends. Why is killing people wrong? Why should we be outraged when someone is wrongfully killed or murdered? Because you say so? How do I know you wont change your mind when I turn my back? Is murder wrong because society says so? There have been lots of times when societies have said that genocide is fair game and where the state decided to bump off it’s dissenters. So excuse me if I’m not particularly comforted by brute fact morality.
“Ok, Park! You explain your silly religious justification then!” Sweet, here we go. Moral outrage presupposes the God of the Bible; when you exhibit moral outrage you are giving evidence that God necessarily exists. It’s an indirect proof, but a proof none the less. God must be the foundation of morality for moral outrage amongst human beings to make sense at all.
The biblical doctrine of man gives justification for moral outrage. The Bible describes human beings as moral agents, made in the very image of God. We were created with a purpose, to rule over creation as God’s vice regents or arbiters. We’ve been created with the ability to reason, to love, and to choose. We are rational, volitional, and emotional creatures to be sure, but all those attributes are backed by our morality or “ethical ought”.
We ought to believe the truth, we ought to choose good, we ought to love God and we ought to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We are moral creatures, everything we do has a moral aspect to it. Our relation to God as His image bearers gives us inherent worth and dignity. This fact is in a sense, self-evident. We see another person and we know they are worth more than a tree or a frog or anything else in the world. This self-evident fact, however, isn’t just hanging out in midair, it’s tethered to God’s revelation. These truths that we find so self-evident, are explicitly biblical.
Similarly, we have all been created with a conscience to guide us into the good we ought to know, do, and love. The Apostle Paul, in Romans chapter 1 and 2, expounds on the human conscience, also called the law of God, which is written on our hearts. He also describes the self-evident knowledge of God that’s present in all of creation. The created order testifies to it’s Creator and at some level we all know the Creator deserves our adoration. This explains our astonishment when we look at the stars or a huge redwood; this explains our “woah reflex” when we see the Grand Canyon.
“Well, isn’t that convenient, Park! But I still find that ridiculous. There is moral outrage on both sides of every topic! If we all have this supposed moral law written on our hearts, then how do you explain the differences in our moral outrage?” That’s a great question! I have two answers for you. 1. We are sinful. 2. We are finite.
We are sinful. The Bible tells us that we are born with a sinful nature and out of that nature and our sinful desires comes our sinful thoughts and actions. This truth can be pretty quickly confirmed by a short study of children. No one teaches them to bite, lie, cheat, or steal. They come out of the womb with the innate ability to sin and we have to discipline that out of them. Since we are sinful, our conscience gets marred more and more. Think back to the the first you can remember telling a lie. It was hard, you were really nervous and you probably felt a little sick to your stomach. But as you lied more and more it became easier and easier. That’s how our conscience works, the more we abuse it the more scarred up and callous it becomes. When we do this on a cultural level we can see how different cultures come up with variants in their moral code. When a culture makes peace with a certain sin, individuals born into that culture will act on that sinful desire with less conviction.
Secondly, we are finite. We don’t know everything and we never will. Only God is infinite, and because of our sin we turn away from Him and His instruction. Now we stumble and bumble around trying to figure everything out for ourselves without the only One who truly knows everything and is able to guide us into the truth. The combo of sinful and finite is deadly.
“Well, in that case Park, even if I buy into your fairy tale, how can we know proper moral truth if our consciences are so marred up and if we are soooo finite?” Again, from a Christian perspective I can make sense of that. Though we are sinful and finite, we can still know proper moral truth because God has revealed his truth to us in the Bible. To get into that more would be going a little too in depth for our conversation right now, remember we are talking about moral outrage in general; the fact that human beings can be justified in being morally outraged one way or the other.
And again, I’m not saying that non-believers can’t be moral, I’m saying that without God they have no justification for their moral outrage, it doesn’t fit within their unbelieving worldview. A humanist and I might both get upset at some of the same things, but the humanists outrage is like a ballon with no tether, there is no ultimate grounding for their indignation. Whereas I can appeal to our common humanity, our intrinsic worth and unalienable rights given to us by God our Creator, the image of whom we’ve been made in. We ought to get upset when God is not honored as He deserves, we ought to be outraged when our fellow man is abused and taken advantage of, we ought to love truth, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, God and our fellow man.
The Christian worldview makes sense of moral outrage on either side of a debate. Moral outrage presupposes the God of the Bible and without God you can’t make sense of the outrage you might be feeling right now. If we are merely evolved stardust, why should you be outraged at noises you hear or black marks on a page that another evolved thing makes? Without the Ultimate and Personal God of the Bible our moral outrage makes no sense.
If you’re scandalized right now then I’d say you’re actually showing that Romans ch. 1 and 2 are true of you. By being outraged and expressing that outrage, you’re appealing to a law, a standard outside of yourself. You’re showing that what the Bible says must be true.
Let’s take another quick look at the argument in it’s syllogistic form,
p1 If moral outrage, then the God of the Bible exists.
p2 you are morally outraged.
C. Therefore, the God of the Bible exists.
Premise 1 is what I’ve tried to demonstrate up to this point but I think this argument can be reworked to help us further understand the dependence of moral outrage on God’s existence.
p1 If the God of the Bible exists, then moral outrage makes sense.
p2 The God of the Bible doesn’t exist.
C. Therefore, moral outrage doesn’t make sense.
If our Creator God doesn’t exist, your moral outrage has no transcendence, it’s just an illusion. It’s just hot air passing through your vocal cords because of chemical processes in your brain that happen as a result of random chance acting on matter that programmed your ancestors to “think” a certain way. But of course you don’t actually believe that or else there would be no reason to try and change peoples minds or public policy. Moral outrage only makes sense if we have really been made in the Image of God.
There are lots of things to be outraged about today. Lots of things are out of wack. This world is not as it should be and we all feel it. But, in the midst of all the trouble, sin, disasters, and hate, we can find hope in the God of the Bible through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only hope for humanity; what the world needs today is more people loving God and loving their neighbor as themselves. If more people took up their cross and followed Jesus daily, there would be a lot less reason to be morally outraged today.
(Original picture taken from http://images.enca.com/enca/styles/overlay_image_1280_or_1024/s3/2015-05-01T170426Z_1886292486_GF10000080227_RTRMADP_3_ITALY-EXPO%20(1).JPG?itok=k2MBY9uQ)