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24 June 2015

Hello from Atlanta! We've just got back from the Philippines, Cambodia, and (most recently) Singapore (our favorite city-state). People were not only grateful for the teaching, but also highly expressive, overwhelming us with notes of thanks, gifts, hugs, and hospitality.

The journey home took 24 hours. We crossed 12 time zones, making our travel day last 36 hours. Is it worth the fatigue? Absolutely.

Today we return to our evidences series, Answering Skeptics. Below is the fourth and final installment in the Morality segment. But first, a reminder of what we learned last week.
God is Dead: Recap
  • By his famous saying, "God is dead," Nietzsche meant not that God has expired, but that he is functionally dead. The Judaeo-Christian God, the all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good Judge, has lost his authority. We've advanced beyond any need for him. 
  • If atheism is true, then nothing is absolutely good or evil, since there's no absolute standard by which to measure morality.
  • In short, no God, no morality.
Why Morality Means God
In the past few newsletters we have been examining morality. Opinions run strong, yet God's word is clear. There are universal moral absolutes in this world -- certain non-negotiable truths that no amount of philosophizing can get around. Sure, there's some gray in the world (gray areas, gray hair, gray matter...) Yet there's also black and white. Right and wrong aren't simply a matter of preference -- like favorite flavors of ice cream, which are subjective (not objective).

While there may be occasional disagreements over some moral or ethical issues, everyone agrees that some things are always wrong -- like torturing babies for fun. And I've never met a skeptic who didn't think it absolutely wrong to coerce others to convert. What kind of a world would it be without (true) good (love, grace, integrity...)? A world where serial killers received praise, while honest persons were censured? This truth readily feeds into one of the strongest evidences that there is a God.

Let's now approach the matter from a philosophical perspective, making use of a syllogism. The first syllogism I ever heard, in a junior high school English class, was (1) All men are mortal; (2) Socrates is a man; (3) Socrates is mortal. The conclusion follows from the premises. So if the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true. Let's consider the following syllogism, which is a proof for God:

1. If there's no God, then there are no universal, objective moral values.
2. Objective moral values do in fact exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Let's analyze the argument. (1) If there's no universal good by which actions can be measured, then we may speak of preferences or opinions, but not of objective values. (2) Objective morals do exist, and nearly anyone will concede the point. (3) The conclusion follows directly from the premises. God exists.

Take away universal standards, for example, and how could anyone measure anything? I normally weigh 100 kg. But what if at my friend's house I tip the scales at 150 kg? Somebody's scales need recalibrating -- but whose? We can't appeal to either scale to settle the matter; we need a third scale, one we both agree is accurate. Similarly, without an external moral standard, who’s to say something is good or evil? If there’s no God, then there is (ultimately) no morality. We are "beyond good and evil" (Nietzsche's phrase). “Whatever is, is right” (so the Marquis de Sade). The world is an ugly place, without God and without hope (Eph 2:12).

For these reasons, we who live by faith have a mandate to distinguish right from wrong in our own lives, and to teach others. We can use the syllogism to convince our erudite friends. If they get stuck on premise (2), keep pushing. Eventually they will almost certainly give in.

Of course we can't force anyone to believe in God. There's always a choice. Back to the syllogism, Nietzsche would have heartily endorsed premise (1). He would also agree that the conclusion (3) follows -- that the syllogism is valid. What he would reject is that (2) there is any objective, universal morality. He foresaw that without morality, the world would go crazy (his prediction for the 20th century, as well as his own experience -- he died insane). No one was meant to pilot his ship without a compass. Without the moral compass of God and his word, he's on a collision course with reality. That's why "we persuade men" (2 Cor 5:10).
Sense & Nonsense
This month quite a few Europeans and Asians have written in, saying how helpful the material has been, and how it has made sense. It should make sense, because the Christian faith is "true and reasonable" (Acts 26:25). 

Next week we're on to a new topic, and a lighter one: Nonsense questions intended to disprove God. Hopefully we should be able to dispose of these objections in a single article.

2 Corinthians 4:5,
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