The Moral Argument for God’s Existence

Christian apologist C. S. Lewis used this proof in his witnessing as found in his foundational texts Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man. The essence of the argument is that the existence of an awareness of the need for an objective moral composes a compelling witness to the existence of a Standard-giver. Here’s a quotation to chew on:

“If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies.” (31)

Here’s a corroborating quotation from the secular philosopher James Q. Wilson from his text The Moral Sense. I find it quite compelling and reflective of Romans 1.

“Lest we adults think that these childlike prejudices disappear with age, we should remember the countless places where one group of adults has systematically reduced another to servitude and the numberless centuries during which men have used torture and merciless warfare to impose on others religious convictions that to someone from Mars would differ only in esoteric and irrelevant detail from the beliefs of the victims. Even people who fancy themselves too moral and cosmopolitan to practice slavery or religious persecution would do well to recall how wary they are when they encounter people who differ in race, accent, dress, or political outlook. Mankind has a moral sense, but much of the time its reach is short and its effect uncertain.” (192)

What do you think about the moral argument? Is it a good argument for the existence of God? Should we use this proof and other theistic proofs (teleological, cosmological, etc) in our witnessing? Does the “moral sense” really point to God’s existence?

  • keegan

    I think we can make a “moral argument” for the existence of God WITHOUT claiming that humans have innate knowledge of good and evil (or something like Lewis’ moral sense). The moral argument I have in mind begins like this: Any universalistic moral claim we make relies logically on the existence of a Law-giver, or a Being with purposes for us. Moral claims cannot be predicated on any other grounds.

    Notice that this argument sketch does not assume that fallen man has access to the true moral law either innately or by use of his reason. I don’t wish to deny these things, but I think you can make a moral argument for the existence of God without appealing to a moral sense.

    I see mental wheels turning in Cambridgeshire.


  • Anonymous

    I thought about creating a name, but reading through the seemingly infinite links that I would have needed to read just wasn’t worth it to me. Anyway…

    This post reminds me of some reasoning I did back in high school and college. I remembered always getting warned not to do something or getting into trouble for misbehaving when I was really young. And the explanation was almost all ways the same: Essentially, I was told that what I did or what I was about to do was “wrong.” Going by this guideline and the existence of rules and laws that were considered “wrong” to break, I learned that some things were right and others were wrong, which led me to conclude, “wrong exists, so God must exist.” Later on I argued to myself that “The existance of right and wrong necessitates the existance of God.” I believe that C.S. Lewis’ argument for the existence of God is essentially the same as my internal argument for His existence.

    In college, I used the Bible and Pascal’s Wager to fight off atheism. Pascal’s Wager essentially goes as follows: The claim of the atheist (who does not believe in God)directly contradicts the claim of the Christian (who believes in God), so both claims cannot be right. Either God exists or he doesn’t. If the atheist is right, then both people will permanently lose conciousness when they die and will eternally cease to exist once their bodies have completely decayed. In addition, if the atheist is right, then ultimately, neither person gains or loses anything. Conversely, if the Christian is right, he will go to Heaven when he dies and spend eternity there, but the athiest will go to Hell when he dies and spend eternity there. Essentially, this means that ultimately, if the Christian is right, his gain is infinite and the atheist’s loss is infinite, but that if he is wrong, he loses nothing and so does the atheist. Pascal’s wager reveals the atheist’s foolishness and the Christian’s wisdom by reasoning from these conclusions in the following way: From an eternal perspective, if the atheist is right, he gains nothing, but if he is wrong, he loses everything. Conversely, from an eternal perspective, if the Christian is right, he gains everything, but if he is wrong, he loses nothing. Essentially, the atheist’s position is foolish because it is synonymous with the worst possible investment, which has infinite risk and offers no reward, whereas the Christian’s position is wise because it is synonymous with the best possible investment, which has no risk and offers an infinite reward. Therefore, no wise, sane, or logical man can choose atheism over Christianity. Pascal’s Wager is derivative from the Lord’s famous question, “What does it profit a man if he gains the world, yet forfeits his soul?” Pascal’s Wager also exposes the pagan’s hypocrisy: Pagans have always accused Christians of being people who commit intellectual suicide, favoring “blind faith” over logically informed skepticism, when in fact, is it they who are guilty of intellectual suicide, rejecting the revealed and inspired Word of God in favor of blind unbelief. I borrowed the term, “blind unbelief,” from a pastor who regularly records his sermons and broadcasts them on the radio. I can’t remember who he is, but I think he’s one of two people: Alaistar Begg or D. James Kennedy. Rev. Begg pastors a baptist church in Cleveland and Rev. Kennedy pastors (or pastored) a PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) church in Ft. Lauderdale. Both are very sound and faithful preachers of God’s word and I encourage any Christian who lives in the Cleveland or Ft. Lauderdale area and has not yet joined a church to join one of those two churches.

    My name is Tommy Lebowitz. You can e-mail me at