Does the existence of moral law require the existence of a God who created this world and gave it purpose? Is it possible for atheists to have morals without believing in God or in meaning?
The existence of a moral law has been debated by philosophers for hundreds and maybe thousands of years.
Absolute Moral Law
Years ago I had the privilege of talking to a young man about this topic. One day he told me that there were no moral absolutes. I responded by asking him how he would feel if I killed his girl friend the next day? He did not like that idea. So I stated that he should not care unless there was an absolute moral law. The issue is not does a moral law exist. The issue is does an absolute moral law exist? When a nation, province, society, or culture determines the moral standards for its citizens, there is no moral law and the laws change and move like a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In realty there is no moral law. It is constantly changing and moving. What was yesterday’s moral law may not apply for today.
Is God Necessary?
Does an absolute Moral Law require a God? If there is no external, unchanging moral being who sets the standard, how can there be an absolute moral law in a society which is constantly changing its moral values? Society’s moral standard changes, and that is what we are seeing in the world. The Bible says that the moral laws of men and women will change. They will do whatever they want.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight . . . (NASB) Prov. 16:2
Every man’s way is right in his own eyes . . . (NASB) Prov. 21:2
But an absolute moral law does not change. The only way to have an unchangeable moral standard is to have another moral being establish it and impose it. That being is a holy God and His moral standard is holiness. Listen to God,
YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY. (NASB) 1 Pet. 1:16
The truth is that men and women do not want an absolute moral law. Neither the atheist nor any other person can have an absolute moral standard because they do not accept the moral law that God has put into their consciences. That is the message of the next passage.
. . . 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. (NASB) Rom. 2:15-16
There is an absolute moral law, and it is God’s moral law.
One of God’s moral absolutes is this,
This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (NASB) 1 John 3:23
God’s absolute moral law says that we are to believe and worship only Him (Ex. 20:3-6). The atheist may hold to some relative moral standards, but he violates the absolute moral law when he does not worship God. A holy and loving relationship with God starts when one believes that He exists and that He is Jesus.