“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
Of all the animals on earth, so far as we can tell, only one thinks about right and wrong. That animal is man. We not only think about it, we think about it frequently, almost constantly. Other animals certainly get upset and angry with their fellow creatures but there is little evidence that they do so on the basis of a sense of justice or equity. Yes, some primates seem to expect reciprocity on occasion and get upset or disappointed when such does not occur, but it rises no higher than that. Right and wrong as adherence to and deviance from an objective moral standard is not a part of their consciousness. When someone fails to do justly by us, on the other hand, we are not merely angry or disappointed, we are sure that they have offended not only ourselves but a moral standard everyone should follow.
While everyone admits that this is what humans generally think about right and wrong, there are some influential members of the intelligentsia who are seeking to persuade us that this view is based on an illusion. They reason that all that actually exists consists solely of space, matter and energy, none of which have the quality of rightness or wrongness. Moreover, the “moral law” is not a law of nature. Unlike laws of nature, one can choose to fulfill it or not. Again, they reason that since nature is all that really exists, and it contains no moral qualities and is governed only by physical, and not moral, laws, it therefore follows that our perceptions that some actions are “right” and other actions are “wrong” are mere illusions. Under this view, moral judgments are arbitrary and subjective. They have no rational basis but are simply what societies happen to inculcate and enforce. Some of these rules, they believe, are probably bequeathed to us by our evolutionary history and had some adaptive value for the survival of our species. Nevertheless, this does not make them objectively true. Since, according to them, there is nothing beyond or above the natural world and an objective moral standard would be such a thing, it must therefore not actually exist.
A well-known scientist and author, Jerry Coyne, had this to say about morality in a recent article: “We always hear that ‘unlike humans, nature is amoral.’ You can’t say that the actions of animals are moral or immoral—they just are. When a male lion invades another group and kills the cubs, when a chimp tears another chimp to bits, those are just bits of nature, and aren't seen as wrong. And the amorality of nature is touted even by those who realize that our primate relatives show rudiments of morality, making it likely that some of our moral instincts were inherited from our pre-hominin ancestors. So why, when a stepfather kills his stepchild (something that, presumably is not something he decides to do “freely”), that is morally wrong, but when a lion does it, or a chimp kills an infant, it’s just nature… In other words, is it really true that all of nature, including primate societies, must be seen as amoral, while human actions must be judged by this thing called ‘morality’?” (from the website, “Why Evolution is True”)
This load of rubbish is easily refuted. As a believer in Naturalism Jerry should be asked to produce the reasons or evidence that nature is all that exists. If only “scientific” evidence is allowed then tell us what scientific test or tests prove that nature is all that exists. In fact, Naturalism is simply an unproved and ultimately self-refuting philosophy. If it were true, then we would have no reason to believe that reason is true. For, after all, if Naturalism were true, the law of reason, like the moral law, is purely subjective and can no more reliably tell us what truly is “out there” than what nature convinces us is true when we dream. We, in fact, do know the difference between the unreality we perceive in dreams and the reality we perceive through our minds when awake and in good condition. And among the realities we perceive (often even while dreaming!) is the Moral Law. We know that the well-being and happiness of another conscious creature has intrinsic worth. We know that we owe fairness and justice to our fellow humans. Yes, selfishness leads us to all kinds of rationalization of wrong behavior but the fact that we feel the need to “explain” how our apparent violation of the Moral Law is somehow justified demonstrates that we know that the Moral Law is real and that obedience to it is obligatory.
The Moral Law and our obligation to obey it is not a part of nature. It does not occupy a position in space, it is not composed of any form of matter or energy. It is not a physical field, like gravity or a force, like electromagnetism. Yet it has had a tremendous effect upon human behavior down through the ages. It makes the hypocrite tremble. It leads the holy to do differently than what their animal instinct, physical desire and mere survival interest urge them to do. But if it occupies no physical position and cannot be detected by any scientific instruments or tests, where does it exist? The answer is found in the passage quoted at the beginning of this article. It is “written” in men’s hearts. This means that human beings are more than mere animals, more than physical bodies. There is a part of them, a part of their being, that can detect the Moral Law and determine whether or not they will obey it.
As our ability to perceive the Moral Law and choose whether or not we will obey it proves we are spiritual, not just physical, beings, so it also proves that everyone has seen God and heard from God. The Moral Law is not a physical law. A physical law tells us what regularly occurs when certain physical conditions are met. In other words, it tells us what will happen. The Moral Law, on the other hand, tells us what should happen, even if it never does happen. We are quite familiar with this form of “law”. We encounter it every day as the laws of our land, enacted and enforced by persons who have political authority over us. We may choose to obey or not to obey our local, state or nation’s laws. So where does the Moral Law come from? The answer is that God has written it upon our hearts. It tells us both His nature and His will, for His will flows from His nature. God is love, the Bible tells us, so it is not surprising that He commands us to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. In this sense, everyone has seen God and has heard from Him. We all know God and we are all accountable to Him. Soon, every one of us will answer to the One who will “judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” Prepare now.