Why Do We Need God for Morality?

I recently received an insightful question about the Moral Argument.  The question was essentially why we should think that God is the foundation for morality?

He pointed out that we can experience moral values and duties without reference to God, and we can infer that there must be some metaphysical reality to ground them.  This is to say that there must be some *ontological* foundation for morality.  Why do we need to hypothesize about God if we can do just as well referring to a metaphysical reality?

My response is below:

You seem to understand the moral argument very well!  You recognize the need for an ontological foundation for moral values and duties and suggest that “some metaphysical reality” should be the ground.  This is just what is proposed by the Moral Argument!  God is that metaphysical reality.

Consider what this metaphysical reality must be like.  It must ground things like justice, love, and mercy.  This entails that it must be personal, for how could something like a stone or like electricity establish that things like Justice are good?  Additionally, we don’t just find moral values, we also find moral duties.  It isn’t just that “Love” is a moral value, but you are also obligated with the moral duty to be loving.  Thus, we do not just encounter moral values in our universe, we also encounter moral laws that we sense the obligation to follow.  Laws come from lawgivers, and thus the grounds for these moral duties must be personal.  How could I be obligated to obey a mindless inanimate reality?

As you have pointed out, it is the existence of the moral values and duties that we experience which gives us reason to think that there must be some metaphysical foundation for them.  Careful consideration will lead us to the conclusion that this metaphysical foundation must be personal, and this person is who we are referring to with the term, “God”.

We can take this a step further.  Consider that God must root the moral value of “Love” if he is the grounds for moral values.  Now whenever there is love, there must be at least two persons: the one who loves and the one who is loved.  One that only loves himself is not loving but self-centered.  If God exists by necessity, then he would have existed even if he had chosen not to create the world.  In such a possible world only, God would exist.  How then, would God ground love if there are no other persons to love?  Christianity has the unique advantage of a tri-personal deity.  Within the one God who exists there are three persons.  Thus, there is an eternal love relationship between them.  The ontological grounding for love seems to be a unique problem for worldviews that view God as only one person.

Sincerely,

Matt Bilyeu


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