For me, one of the most compelling reasons I believe in a good God is the nearly universal human awareness of morality. There are wide-ranging opinions regarding morality. Many people say that morality is subjective. To support their claim, they point to different cultures and the vastly different moral norms found around the globe. It is true. In one culture someone may bring their neighbor dinner while in some remote areas of the world, someone may eat their neighbor for dinner. This extreme example aside, moral norms do vary widely. However, what is consistent is that all people have some sense of morality. Some will balk at this statement claiming that they themselves, or others may be amoral, that “anything goes,” as far as they are concerned. This breaks down as soon as someone “wrongs” them or someone they care about. At that point a person is convinced that morality is a real thing. Still, the argument is made that morality is a human construct, or the result of evolutionary processes that came about to preserve mankind in the survival of the fittest.
The idea that morality is the result of societal evolution is a popular notion, but one that I believe is flawed in its failure to account for moral behaviors that would seem to be in direct opposition to evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory and the terms “Survival of the Fittest,” and Natural Selection, refer to the process of less dominant genes ultimately being “beaten out” or removed from the gene pool through various means. For instance, more well adapted organisms may selectively mate with other well adapted partners to the exclusion of the less adapted organisms, thus ending the genetic line of the lesser organisms. Other factors may also play a role in the removal of the so-called “bad genes.” Environmental conditions may change and eliminate some. Predators, including those of the same species may eliminate genetic competition by killing rivals.
When this occurs in nature, among wild animals, there is little concern about morality. The exception to this would be that many people will lament the damage that man has done to the natural environment in cases where an animal's decline may be attributed to mankind's intrusion into nature. Of course, this thought process seems to miss the fact that man's so-called intrusion into nature could also be looked upon as Natural Selection at work as man is supposedly the top of the food chain and the pinnacle of evolution up to this time. Though people tend to blame humanity for our encroachment on other wildlife, most human beings still agree that human life has worth. Therefore, killing people has been looked upon as immoral throughout history with few exceptions. There have been horrific genocides over human history and these have been roundly criticized by humanity. Still, what drove those who committed these atrocities? Did Hitler not aspire to create the Master Race? Was his idea out of line with evolutionary theory, or was it acting upon evolutionary theory? Richard Weikart, Professor of History at Cal State Stanislaus, has written several books addressing this topic. Criticism or praise for his books seems to depend on the worldview of the critic. In his book, From Darwin to Hitler, Weikart explores the connection of Darwinism to Hitler's beliefs and the moral impact these beliefs had in Nazi Germany.
Looking at Nazi Germany gives us an example of an entire culture buying into a particular ideology and the devastating effects that were manifest as a result. Without an objective standard for morality, we are all subject to formulating our own. This is a perilous state for humanity. Things can go smoothly for a culture as long as those in power share common moral norms with the people they lead or govern. However, if those in power have a different ideological or moral belief system, there is reason for the populace to be fearful. If there are no moral absolutes, if there is no objective moral standard, then opinions, feelings, preferences, and ambition may drive the morality of a society. The ramifications for this are profound, particularly if we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint.
From an evolutionary view, humanity should aspire to keep the strongest, smartest, most well-adapted genes in the collective gene pool. Those who don't advance the genetic ascension should be eliminated. As opposed to a moral obligation to care for the elderly, sick, weak, physically or mentally challenged, these people should be removed from the gene pool, and they should not be allowed to use the limited resources available as the earth's population continues to grow. In essence, these “needy” people should be killed. That sounds and is reprehensible. Yet, I find it difficult to come up with a rational argument against it from a purely evolutionary standpoint. On the contrary, there are things that we see in humanity that we instinctively know to be good. These acts contradict a purely evolutionary explanation. For example, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor was a Navy SEAL manning a sniper hideout along with three of his SEAL teammates during operations in Ramadi, Iraq. On September 29, 2006, insurgents apparently located their position A grenade was tossed through the doorway into their rooftop hideout. Monsoor was closest to the door. His teammates said that “He never took his eye off the grenade. His only movement was down toward it.” Mansoor threw himself onto the grenade killing himself, but saving his teammates. As a member of a SEAL Team, Monsoor would be considered elite in several areas. His physical strength, endurance, and skills would be among the best in the world. His mental aptitude and emotional and psychological prowess would also have to be elite as the training required to become a SEAL is renowned for its brutal combination of physical and emotional endurance challenges. The genetic profile of a SEAL would be a definite “keeper,” for the evolutionary gene pool. Yet, when we see heroism like that of Michael Monsoor, we marvel at the goodness, bravery, and valor of a person who would make such a sacrifice to save others. An evolutionary theorist may contend that this moral choice was made to preserve the genetic contributions of his similarly gifted teammates. This contention seems extremely flawed in that it removes a primary objective for any organism living within a system governed by evolutionary laws. That motivation? To keep your genetic material in the gene pool. Additionally, the choice to sacrifice oneself for the others, to genuinely align with “Survival of the Fittest,” must only be made if it is conclusive that the genetics of the survivors is superior to the one who makes the sacrifice. Obviously, in the heat of battle, these types of choices are made, not because of “evolutionary forces,” but because of character, goodness, and love. I will provide one final example that, for me, is difficult to explain if morality is an evolutionary construct. The name Benedict Arnold has become synonymous with betrayal. Arnold served as a general for the American Continental Army in the Revolutionary War before defecting to the British and leading their troops against his former country as a Brigadier General. Most of us view betrayal as one of the most egregious and hurtful actions that can be taken against another person, or people. Yet, why would this make sense from an evolutionary standpoint? Arnold benefitted greatly financially and vocationally. One could argue that his actions were consistent with a “survival of the fittest” mindset. A traitor may rightly see that their best chance at living and prospering may be to sell out their friends, workmates, etc. If the others weren't smart enough to make that choice, then, they deserve what they get. Of course, this isn't how most people view life. Most of us see these types of actions as despicable. We know that these selfish actions are wrong. Why? God teaches us through the words of Paul as he writes to the church in Rome:
(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) Rom. 2:14-15
There are an abundance of verses in the Bible that tell us that God is good. Psalm 106:1 says “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” Jesus Himself said, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good...." The biblical worldview believes that morality is objectively established by the One Who is good. God is good and defines good. In the same letter to the Roman church, Paul tells them that the mind of man has been darkened by sin. He says that, as a result, we make wrong choices. The prophet Jeremiah writes in his book that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. This may sound harsh, but it does explain the extremes in what various cultures have arrived at in their definitions for morality. It explains the horrors that are possible when morality becomes a relative choice made by mankind that is often driven by convenience or popular opinion. Objective morality as defined by God requires that mankind submits to His authority. This is humbling. I know that there are times in my life when I have tried to define my own morality. My prayer is that I live a life of constant repentance from that tendency. I believe that many people have a mistaken idea about what submission to God's authority really is. Yes, it can be difficult (but life is difficult anyway!). However, submission to a good God, a God who designed every good thing, is not intended to spoil our fun. To the contrary, Jesus tells us that He came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). The One who invented fun, joy, food, sex, happiness...the One who is good, wants you to have life and have it the way it was designed.
I see goodness in the world. I see evil in the world. I believe both are real. Therefore, I believe in a good God, and I am so grateful to Him.
Until next time!
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.