Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 21, 1949
NUMBER 11, PAGE 3-4c

The Reasonableness Of Belief In God

Pat Hardeman, Tampa, Florida

"He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Belief in God is the foundation of all truly religious effort, further, is the "rock" on which a man's whole life may be safely established. The purpose of these articles is to show that this "foundation standeth sure," in spite of all the criticisms that have been urged against it. It is not unreasonable to believe in God. Rather, as it has been shown in the first two articles, belief in God is the most reasonable position in accounting for the First Cause of the universe, and of all the order and intelligent design in nature. A prominent agnostic has criticized the first two articles by saying that the position defended is "reasonable" only from my "point of view."

There are two things to be said in reply to this criticism. First, the unbeliever's position is not reasonable even from his own point of view, as will be shown in another article. Second, this is really more of the nature of a quibble, for, by virtue of the type of problem it is, the arguments in the first two articles are attempts to prove that the believer's "point of view" is the most reasonable. From what "point of view" does the critic argue for agnosticism? (And he does argue for it.) He argues from his own viewpoint; so does everyone else; the question is: "Whose viewpoint is the most reasonable?" In the next article it will be shown that atheism is unreasonable, pessimistic, and has immoral consequences. In this article it is argued that belief in God accounts more reasonably for man's moral nature than does atheism.

The "Moral" Argument

When we base an argument for the existence of God on the moral nature of man, we are on very solid ground. The late Dr. A. E. Taylor , who was professor of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh University, and the author of many famous books and articles declared in 1945: "The reality of moral conviction is written in large letters in the actual conduct of mankind. A change in convictions about right and wrong is as potent an influence in modifying human conduct as a radical change in climatic conditions... As far as I can see, the systematic disregard of all 'moral' arguments would only be possible to one who frankly takes the line that there are no moral facts, that is, right and wrong are pure illusions... But even those who in theory profess to hold this view always reveal to a little inspection that, being human, they do not really mean what they say... They may draw the line between right and wrong in a different place, but at least they all agree that there is such a line to be drawn." (Does God Exist, pp. 83, 84). The capacity for making moral distinctions is innate in man's dispositional structure.

This does not mean that all men make the right distinctions, nor that all men make the same distinctions. What it does mean is that men can be taught morality, i.e.; that some acts are wrong and others are right. This is not the same as saying that men learn the expediency or inexpediency of their actions by the consequences of these acts. A long line of secular and Sacred writings (1 Cor. 8; Rom. 14) has shown that right can not be identified with expediency.

Morality is possible only where there is intelligence, and man's intelligence sets him off from all other creatures. Atheism is able to explain neither the intelligence nor the moral nature of man. How intelligence could come from that which was devoid of intelligence, and how morality could arise from non-moral agents are questions to which atheism offers no reasonable answers; yet these two affirmations are, as it will appear later, indispensable elements of atheism. Indeed, one might push the matter back a step further and ask, how could lifeless matter give rise to life which supposedly evolved into intelligent beings? These questions reveal at once that atheism is shot through with contradictions and paradoxes that make it unreasonable.

Kant's "Categorical Imperative"

But, to get back to the moral argument, how shall one explain the fact that man has always had what Kant called the "categorical imperative", a conscience which either accused or excused him (Rom. 2:15)? The Christian's belief that this "imperative" or "ought" originated with a Moral God is certainly more reasonable than the atheist's assertion that it arose in connection with a "struggle for survival". If the atheist is correct in his assertion, why is it that we blame men for their crimes, but do not blame animals? Why have not "other animals" been able to evolve the capacity for making moral distinctions (and they haven't, in spite of repeated assertions to the contrary)? From the earliest times men have measured their acts by their ideals, and have felt themselves "obligated" to work toward the ideals, even when the ideals were wholly unworthy. And what is true of individual men is also true of nations. Moral law and order are evident in history. It has always been true that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." From the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians to the modern Germans and Japanese this law has been verified.

At this point the question is usually raised, "If this is a moral universe, why is there so much suffering and evil?" The Christian of course can ask a counter-question, "If this is a non-moral universe, why is the moral law (categorical imperative, conscience) so widespread?" Although the atheist has no reasonable explanation of the universality of this moral law in individuals and in nations, the Christian, as is usually true, has an answer to the atheist's question. The Christian replies: "The universe could not be otherwise and still be moral. It is the freedom of choice between right and wrong and the triumph of right that gives the universe moral character." Men are not machines. They are moral agents; they can, and often do, choose evil; likewise, they more often choose good.

As to the problem of why the wicked often prosper while the good suffer, A. E. Taylor gave a succinct, but sufficient, answer, "All that is proved by the calamities of the good and the undeserved worldly successes of the bad is that, if there is a Divine Purpose, it is nothing so crude as remuneration of righteousness with worldly felicity" (Does God Exist, pp. 94; Cf. the second article). Any parent knows (unless he follows the "new psychology" in which case he probably remembers it from childhood) that more than the momentary happiness of the child must be taken into consideration if he is to develop the right kind of character. Undoubtedly some of the suffering in the world is designed to help man learn "obedience" (Heb. 5:8), to mold him into the kind of being which will be fit company for his Lord. Also, some of the suffering is certainly the result of man's sins. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).