Atheistic Moral Realism – Part 1

In his essay “Why I Believe God Exists”, William Craig gives three main reasons for believing in God (Why I am a Christian – hereafter: WIAC – edited by Norman Geisler and Paul Hoffman, Baker Books, 2001, p.62-80):

  • God makes sense of the origin of the universe (the Kalam Cosmological argument, p.62-68)
  • God makes sense of the complex order in the universe (the Fine Tuning argument, p.68-74).
  • God makes sense of objective moral values in the world (his argument from the Existence of Objective Moral Values, p. 74-80)

One problem with the Kalam cosmological argument is that it fails to establish the existence of a perfectly good person.  At best, the Kalam cosmological argument proves the existence of some sort of ultimate first cause in a causal chain that led to the formation of the universe.  But it is far from obvious that this first cause must be a perfectly good person.

The Fine Tuning argument, a modern version of the Argument from Design, suffers from the same problem.  Both the Cosmological argument and the Fine Tuning argument raise the problem of evil.  How can a perfectly good person be the first cause or the designer of a world that contains so much moral and natural evil?

It is essential that a case for God show the existence of a person who is perfectly good, not just the existence of an omnipotent or omniscient being.  Craig’s discussion about God as the source of moral values indicates why this point is crucial:

…by definition, God is a being who is worthy of worship.  When you think about what it means to worship someone, then it is evident that only a being who is the embodiment of all moral goodness is worthy to be worshiped. (WIAC, p.78)

If some very powerful and very knowledgable person is cruel, unjust, and blood-thirsty (like Jehovah, for example), then that being would NOT be worthy of worship, and thus could not possibly be God.  In fact, some very powerful and knowing person who is generally good but who sometimes does things that are selfish or morally wrong, would also be someone who was not worthy of worship.  So, any person who is to properly be called ‘God’ must be a perfectly good person.

The only argument here that has any hope of establishing the existence of a perfectly good person, is the argument from the Existence of Objective Moral Values.  So, that is the argument that I’m going to focus in on, analyze, and evaluate.

Craig states the argument very simply as something like a  modus tollens:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.


3.  God exists.

It is not quite a modus tollens because the second premise and the conclusion of a modus tollens are negations:


Not Q.


Not P.

But Craig’s argument can be re-stated as a modus tollens:

1A. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

2A. It is NOT the case that objective moral values do not exist.


3A.  It is NOT the case that God does not exist.

It seems a bit odd that Craig did not state his argument more straightforwardly as a modus ponens:

1B. If objective moral values do exist, then God exists.

2B. Objective moral values do exist.


3B.  God exists.

I’m not sure if this is significant, but we should keep these different ways of stating the argument in mind, in case there is some subtle difference between them that is significant.


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