Why Are We Moral?


This week’s time cover is a whopper. Its an article written by Jeffrey Kluger called “What Makes Us Moral.” As soon as I checked the mail and saw the cover I said, “Oh boy, here we go.” My expectations were confirmed after reading it. It continually amazes me how often pure speculation passes for science, whatever science means these days. The subtitle says, “Humans are the planet’s most noble creatures—and its most savage. Science is discovering why.” Now unlike many Christians, I am all for science, and if fact only a Christian worldview can support even the doing of science. For example, ask an atheist scientist how she accounts for the uniformity of nature, when in their worldview we live in a chance random universe. According to the atheist (or materialist, naturalist, Darwinist, etc.) this universe started by some material process, and nothing in the world goes beyond the physical world. There is nothing outside of matter. No mind, only brain. “Nature is all there is, was, and ever will be.” But the atheist runs into trouble when they start trying to do science, but especially when they try to speak of morality. This article is a prime example. As Greg Bahnsen writes, “Atheism is philosophically unable to argue ethically, scientifically, or logically against the Christian faith.”

Of course the article is filled with naturalistic presuppositions, with no less than three comments to the effect that the thought that humans are unique among animals is arrogant. In effect, it says that humans are “equipped with moral programming” (just like other animals) but our social environment will shape and acquire the appropriate moral categories. An implication of this view is that we have no right to condemn the Muslims who took down the twin towers. After all, they are a product of their culture, and who are we to say that our culture’s morality is better than theirs? Jeffrey, who are you to say that Hitler was wrong? According to whose standard?

This is the heart of the issue. According to the atheist, there is no objective standard by which to measure good or evil. We are all just matter in motion. When is the last time you made a moral pronouncement on a chemical reaction in the lab? You would never say that it is right or wrong, it just is. A consistent naturalist never has “ought”, but only “is.” On the atheist worldview, to make a moral judgment is to presuppose a Theistic worldview. The question that must be asked is “What are the necessary preconditions for morality?” Not every worldview has the rational grounding to make a moral judgment. You must have an objective standard by which to measure what is good or evil. Christians have no problem with morality. God’s will and character revealed to us in Scripture is our objective standard. We make moral pronouncements because He has made moral pronouncements.

Kluger also ironically speaks of human responsibility. Again, on his own terms, why should humans be responsible? Theoretically, we are no different than an ant, just a little more evolved. The Christian has no problem with human responsibility and dignity.

Another interesting omission from the article is the fact that those who have turned out for the worse (Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot) were philosophical materialists. The problem with humanity is not their environment, but their fallen nature. Christianity has a viable answer to why the world is so messed up: Genesis 3. Humanity has devolved, not evolved. We also have a viable solution: The seed of the woman (Gen 3.15) has come and won the victory and guaranteed the restoration of all things. He will restore the created order.

Finally, contra Kluger, humans are indeed unique among creation. We alone are created in the image of God. To think otherwise is a natural response though without God’s Word. When one looks at the utter vastness of the universe, we are indeed a very small part of it. This is why the Psalmists says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”