VIDEO COMING SOON!
This is the written transcript for lessons 7 and 8 in this series of presentations on evidence for the existence of God — (it is likely that transcripts will vary somewhat from the actual video recordings).
We’ve been looking at some scientific evidences for the existence of God; now, we’re going to get just a little more theological in our approach. We’re going to discuss, on a very simple level, the field of Axiology, and how it bears upon the fact of God’s existence. Admittedly, we have to be very careful with this one because the whole axiological argument is somewhat vulnerable to subjective reasoning. But the point of this lesson, and this whole series of lessons really, is not to convict you of the fact of God’s existence, or to provide a forum for arguing with the atheists, but simply to help those of you who are disciples of Christ to be aware of some of the evidences that point to the existence of God; so that you will be a little more prepared to, as the Bible says, “make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:15). And so, you need to at least be made aware of, what we sometimes refer to as, the “Axiological Argument,” for the existence of God — or argument by morality.
It all begins with this little story from the book of Genesis:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:1-7, NASB)
Do you believe this story? I do! I don’t fully comprehend it—it’s full of wonder and mystery—but I believe it. One reason I believe it is because my Lord Jesus, Himself, referenced the account of creation portrayed in Genesis and God being the architect of the marriage covenant – (Matthew 19:3-9); and also because the Apostle Paul—the most prolific New Testament writer—firmly believed and referenced this story in particular – (I Timothy 2:13-14).
So what is with this whole thing regarding “good and evil,” anyway? And what, exactly is “axiology” and what does it have to do with evidencing a higher power?
Well, according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a simple definition of an “axiom” is, “an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth” (“Axiom,” 2012). “Axiology” is described as: “the study of value, or goodness, in its widest sense” (“Axiology,” 2012).
One of the biggest differences between a human being—one who is created in the image of God—and every other species on the planet is the recognition of morality and the general acquiescence to an ultimate source, or authority, in determining what is right and what is wrong. My friend and colleague, Bill Smith (2012), points out that:
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis reminds us that one of the greatest proofs of an almighty God is the common thread of consistent morality running through all mankind. The God responsible for creating us, for making us in His own image, is responsible for the moral character which permeates all mankind. (p. 1)
Smith, then, goes on to relate how that “mankind is indwelt with a basic moral law,” saying:
Some call this a conscience. Whatever we call it, it is evident that something causes us to know the difference between right and wrong. While it is true that some differences exist in the details, there is certainly a commonality of moral principles in all cultures. For example, in some cultures it is appropriate for men to have more than one wife and in some only monogamy is appropriate. But all agree that a man doesn’t just take any woman he pleases any time he pleases. Some cultures have put people to death for certain beliefs or behaviors that today we might tolerate. But no culture puts people to death randomly… we all share a common sense of moral judgment that the indiscriminate taking of a human life is wrong. There is no place for discussion about relative truth or circumstance, it’s just wrong and we know it from the core of our being. (p. 1)
So, from whence comes this common morality binding all humanity, in every age and in every culture, to at least a basic, almost instinctual, understanding of right and wrong? Smith points out that:
Skeptics and opponents of theism have espoused the science of evolutionary psychology, wherein concepts like marital fidelity, love for children, and other morals are reduced to simple genetic connections that have been coaxed into place through natural selection… To which we might ask the question, “where is the empirical evidence for such an understanding?” (p. 1).
And, of course, there is none!
But, back to the tree! One thing that stands out to me in the Garden of Eden story, and that I’m glad the prophet saw fit to include, is the fact that when Eve, and then Adam, tasted of the forbidden fruit and “the eyes of both of them were opened,” the very first thing that dawned on them was that “they were naked” (Genesis 3:7, NASB). In other words, the very definition of an axiom—“a self-evident truth” (“Axiom,” 2012)—was suddenly thrust upon them. Something happened in that very moment; something that was not natural, but supernatural, something that came from God. And their sudden ability to discern good and evil was revealed in their instant sense of need for privacy and for protecting their own, personal, anatomic integrity. This same phenomenon continues today as children in every culture around the globe grow beyond the age of innocence and begin to develop their own need for privacy and for the preservation of their own anatomic integrity. And this is what makes the sexual abuse of a child, or anyone really, so harmful to the psyche, and so insidious and deplorable in the eyes of society at large.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans, points to the source of this knowledge as it is cultivated in the hearts and minds of people the world over, saying:
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law WRITTEN IN THEIR HEARTS , their CONSCIENCE bearing witness and their THOUGHTS alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16, NASB).
Smith (2012), goes on to point out some of the inconsistencies we sometimes encounter in confronting the atheist mindset with regard to the whole issue of morality. Referencing Robert Wright (1994), author of The Moral Animal – Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Smith addresses a statement Wright ade in promoting his book—“Human beings are a species splendid in their array of moral equipment, tragic in their propensity to misuse it, and pathetic in their constitutional ignorance of the misuse” (cited in Smith, 2012, p. 1)—to which Smith responds:
Isn’t it curious that he would use words like tragic, misuse, and pathetic to describe our moral makeup if our emotions are merely a collection of randomly selected genes? Darwinists have reduced morals into a set of pre-programmed responses. The problem is that morals are not just responses, they are motives and intentions as well. Moral rules don’t have the physical properties that are required to define a programmed response. In other words, the ability to reason, practice introspection, make good judgments, and reflect is very real, yet can’t be explained by a chemical process. (p. 1)
But why would God care, anyway?
As a Bible believer, I have felt the brunt of oppression generated by a modern, materialistic, and relativistic society seeking to undermine the divine morality so intimately imposed by God upon every human heart. One line of thinking that seems to pervade our world today is conveyed in terms something like this: If there really is a God, or some higher power, why would such a mighty being—omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (universal presence)—be the least bit concerned about the minor details of “good and evil,” or one particular person’s “sin” problem? After all, he’s got a whole universe to run, why would he even deal in something as trivial as right and wrong, or what you people refer to as “morality”? What’s the big deal with all this “sin” stuff, anyway?
When I encounter or contemplate people’s attempts to trivialize morality, or to rewrite the script and redefine for themselves the meaning of “good” and “evil,” or to make themselves the final authority for determining what “sin” is, I am led back to the very essence and nature of God and who scripture says that He is. One passage that I like, from the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, describes God as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (I Timothy 6:15-16, NASB). God is so powerful, so radiant, so pure and holy that He is described as dwelling in “unapproachable light.” As He conveyed to Moses on one occasion, and for the very same reasons, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Exodus 33:20, NASB).
What then does such a One, with all the energy of the universe, perhaps even multidimensional universes, at His disposal, and after wielding all that power and glory and manifesting all that unimaginable creativity, have left to be concerned about? In other words, what really matters beyond mere matter? Would such a divine entity remain content with merely orchestrating and arranging material processes (as intriguing as they may appear to us human beings)? Clearly, from scripture, we get the picture that here is something more to the existence of God than what mere material substance, regardless of how magnificently arranged, can testify to. Something beyond the mere exertion of limitless, divine power. That “something more” transcends the mere fact of His existence and probes the realm of “Who” God is—the core content of His character. Even we human beings, created in His image, are far more concerned with “who” a person is than we are merely with “what” he or she has done or is capable of doing, aren’t we? We understand that, because we are like Him, “character” is far more important to our identity, to our being, than is talent or industry.
So, how can God not be concerned with good and evil; particularly, as evidence of His own divine character? How could He not care about, or refuse to delve into, the arena of right and wrong; as evidence of His righteousness and His justice? How could He not deal with humanity’s “sin” problem; as evidence of His compassion, His patience, His loving kindness and mercy in the face of justice? This is why we are told that:
“He [Jesus] was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (I Peter 1: 20-21, NASB). God does not want it to be just all about His power and great glory, but about “faith, hope, and love” (I Corinthians 13:13, NASB).
God had this issue of morality—right and wrong, good and evil—in view even before the creation. He also had the whole issue of sin and salvation—and what He would do in order to be able to offer us the hope of eternal life with Him—in view before the creation. God’s moral character—is woven into every thread and fiber of the creation and our existence in it. And so, we dare not trivialize the morality God universally calls us to and instills within our hearts.
Now, this is where we need to be very careful with this argument because, you see, even though human beings are created in the image of God and endowed by Him with an innate understanding of good and evil, the Bible makes clear that people can be corrupted. And, sadly, this corruption can begin very, very early in the life of a child. In fact, generation by generation, whole civilizations can be corrupted to the point where virtually no one in that society lives by God’s standards of right and wrong. The Apostle Paul gives us dire warning, saying:
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32, NASB)
We have seen this kind of corruption spread like a cancer throughout virtually every great society that has ever existed down through the annals of human history; often leading to the destruction of that society.
I hope that what you will remember from this lesson is that there is an axiological argument to be made for the existence of God. As Smith (2012) states: “Common moral laws indicate a moral Lawgiver with the power to implant these laws in mankind” (p. 2). The very fact that we human beings—who are made in His likeness—have this innate knowledge of basic morality testifies to both the existence and the character of the One who made us. But, friends, please be careful how you choose to use this argument – the argument from morality; lest you find yourself, as Jesus said, “casting your pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6). Obviously, we should not expect someone whose moral value system has been, or is being, corrupted by evil influences to agree with us on this point.
May God fill you with His grace and wisdom as you continue to journey on toward eternity…
Resources and References
Axiology. (2012). In Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/axiology
Axiom. (2012). In Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/axiom?show=0&t=1350596042
Smith, B. (2012). Argument by morality – The axiological argument. Retrieved from the knowtruth.com website at: http://www.knowtruth.com/god/existence/morality_argument_1.php
Scripture taken from:
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright (c) 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972, 1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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