Converging and Convincing Proof of God: The God Behind the Moral Imperative
particularly important to emphasize the link between morals and God.
Kant famously stated towards the end of his Critique of Practical Reason: "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within." The moral law, then, shared a certain sublimity, a certain grandeur, which, like the stars, betokened a Creator.
For Kant, morality, which is at heart the life of reason, was essential for human fulfillment, for justice. And yet the idealist Kant was grounded enough to know--even though he only twice left his city of Königsberg--that though we strive mightily for it, justice seem impossible of fulfillment in this life. Justice is simply unachievable. In fact, often (one need only look at the history of Communism) one falls into injustice trying to achieve justice.
Yet, as Kant famously stated, "if justice goes, there is no longer any value in man living on earth." Without justice, there is no meaning to life.
If justice is the demand of moral duty and this is the most rational act and fulfilling act for man, but justice is unachievable, then it seems that we cannot achieve the very thing for which we exist.
In Kant's view, to resolve this paradox, one had to affirm the existence of God.
As Aidan Nichols put the quandary that Kant confronted and whose resolution required the thesis "God exists" to be true: "Either God is or we must dismiss the call to total ethical righteousness, the sense of the sovereignty of the good, as a joke played on us by an unwitting cosmos."
If there is no God, if there is no sense of awe when we look at the stars above and the moral law within, then the stars above and the moral law within are laughing at the cruel joke played upon us.
Our deeply felt need for justice founded on moral truth and reason's mighty suggestion that God exists or (if God does not exist) morality is grounded in a fundamental absurdity guide us into the threshold of faith.
As Pope Benedict XVI has expressed this insight: it is in Jesus that we learn "there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith. . . . Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an 'undoing' of past suffering, reparation that set things aright." (Spe salvi, 43).
George Eliot, whom we quoted earlier in this article in part, could not connect the dots. She saw the "dot" of moral duty, but was blind to the connection it had to the "dots" of God and eternal life. As she supposedly told Frederic W. H. Myers in a rainy May evening at the Fellows' Garden of Trinity College in Cambridge: "God, Immortality, Duty . . . how inconceivable the first, how unbelievable the second, and yet how peremptory and absolute the third."
Despite George Eliot's personal desire, stemming from the demons that haunted her, to see morality independent from God and immortality, it seems that without God morality collapses. Is there any doubt that our current moral relativism is founded on atheist premises?
As George Eliot's contemporary and fellow writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky, put it in his Brothers Karamazov in the words of Ivan Fyodorovitch: "For every individual . . . who does not believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognized as the inevitable, the most rational, even honorable outcome of his position." Yes, if God and immortality do not exist, then everything is permissible where unprevented by power.
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the problem of moral relativism. As we might expect, he comes in on the side of Dostoevsky and against Eliot. "If there is no God, then there is also no moral law." If there is no God, then "[e]veryone comes up with his moral order, in accordance with his own ideas and tendencies."
Implicit in the very notion of the natural moral law is the existence of a divine legislator, the author of man's human nature. Why shouldn't reason make it explicit? Implicit in the very notion of justice is the desire to see it come. Why shouldn't faith--faith in God and faith in the Resurrection and Final Judgment--make it real?
God, Immortality, Duty . . . how necessary the first, how perfectly fitting with our deepest desire for justice the second, and, for this reason, how peremptory and absolute the third.
Our best guide in this regard is the righteous Gentile Job: "With the hearing of the ear, I have heard you" in the peremptory demands of the moral law. "But now my eye sees you" with the eye of reason which tells me that the moral law requires a divine legislator, God.
Therefore let us come to God in the response of faith: "Wherefore I reprehend myself, and do penance in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5-6) Then, and only then, life begins anew and life begins to make sense. The stars above us, and the moral law within us, give us comfort as they testify to the God who made us and who humbled himself, even to the extent of suffering death on the Cross.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: existence of God, proofs of God, moral law, Kant, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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