The Ultimate Dilemma for the Atheist
Nearly a year ago, I was asked by a friend whether I thought the moral code of the Christian (or theist) was superior to that of the atheist. My answer to the question was, “Yes; no; well, sort of.” The questioning challenge sent me on a journey of discovery through the world of Immanuel Kant, Sören Kierkegaard, and the German rationalists; and ending up with Friedrich Nietzsche. To find a starting point, I have had to go to the Bible (my normal starting point). For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. [Romans 1:18] According to this verse, men do not overlook the truth, men simply suppress it (lit.: hold it down). The common celebrity atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, and Neil Tyson, are not denying a falsehood, they are suppressing the truth. Even Friedrich Nietzsche (a real atheist as opposed to the aforementioned chroniclers of small beer) suppressed the truth to such a point that he went insane. Here is the problem we face: Each of these professing atheists (except Nietzsche) claim a moral code, yet moral codes are, by their nature, metaphysical. Naturalism cannot provide such a foundation. There is no metaphysical reality to atheism, so there can be no moral code. The one who would deny the God of the Bible must also deny the only legitimate source of morality. This truth comes not from philosophy or theology, but from mathematics and logic. Kurt Gödel, in 1931, postulated his two Incompleteness Theorems in which he demonstrated that the proof of an arithmetical statement or any statement of logic is found outside the system in which the statement is located. As a system, atheism contains nothing that would provide a moral code and, not only that, it denies that there is anything beyond itself. The atheist, unknown to himself, and of necessity, must “borrow” his morality from a theistic system for his societal world to function. Romans 2:15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves, their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) NKJV This verse posits that God’s law is innate in man. Man must consciously suppress that truth to attempt to prove his autonomy: The atheist must shout down the voice inside his soul! Without a personal God as the center of all belief or reality, the Universe leads us to anarchic self-serving. Everyone has an a priori set of foundational beliefs that are presuppositional to man and not subject to proof. (Cf. mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel’s two Incompleteness Theorems.) The attempt to deny this is the primary factor in the catatonic insanity of Friedrich Nietzsche that crippled him for the last twelve years of his life. In his words, he looked into the abyss he created and found it was staring back at him. The atheist must believe that epistemology (the study of the nature of knowing) is founded only upon empirical naturalism. Such empiricism forces us to deny all that we cannot investigate. Believing, or not believing, in the Loch Ness Monster, however, is not the same as believing, or not believing, in God. The Loch Ness Monster is “just another thing.” The existence of God is foundational to the entire system. The existence or non-existence of God is not just another thing. The existence of God is the question of the character of the Universe. If we get the answer to who won the Super Bowl wrong, nothing changes. If we get the God question wrong, everything in our worldview comes crashing down. There is an intrinsic moral law which all humanity shares. It is the only construct that tells us that Adolf Hitler was evil, and therefore wrong and that Billy Graham was good and right, even though both were unrighteous sinners before God. If there is a God, then ethics and the moral code upon which it is found are universal; if not, everything is relative, and there can be no moral code of any sort. One cannot borrow parts from another worldview to make a unique worldview work, especially if one is the antithesis of the other. Naturalists are driven to do this. Atheistic moral values are wholly borrowed from a theistic worldview because values (especially moral values) are metaphysical and atheism must deny metaphysical truths. If there were no God at all, we would have to posit a set of values stemming from the chaos of a self-generated cosmos devoid of any purpose or direction. This dilemma was Friedrich Nietzsche’s great concern: How do we establish order to function in such a world? His answer was an evolutionary leap from man to ubërmensch (over-man), who would exercise the “will to power” to gain dominance and weed out all who were weak or otherwise infirm. Hitler had a field day with this concept. Before I try to explain how we got here, let me say that all worldviews rejecting a personal, immanent/transcendent God borrow from that worldview a moral foundation. Let’s go back to the late fifth century and a man we know as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. He defined God as so transcendent that he defined Him out of existence. God was so transcendent, and thereby completely disconnected from the Creation, that He was effectively unknowable. No one bothered with this heresy until Immanuel Kant came up with the idea that there was a transcendental wall between God and the Universe/Creation that could not be breached by any flights of reason. Sören Kierkegaard thought he had solved the problem by describing a “leap of faith,” separate from reason that could clear the wall and, by faith and not reason, we could know God. Charles Darwin rendered God an irrelevance, and we found ourselves in a naturalistic cosmos with no place for the metaphysics of the divine. When forced to be honest, even naturalists must admit that their system has no engine with which to produce a moral code. Bertrand Russell tried to invent one with pragmatism, but it was as metaphysical as the Judeo-Christian moral code and, in practice, nearly identical to it. To sum up, the atheist, trapped by naturalism, must borrow from the metaphysical foundations of a personal-supernatural worldview. Since values, and the moral code they generate, are metaphysical, the atheist has nothing to draw from other than Nietzsche’s “will to power,” which wasn’t a code at all but a failed effort to break through the chaos of the death of God to a new evolutionary order. If the Bible and Kurt Gödel are correct, it takes a Triune God to produce a socially responsible morality. Anything else is mere kleptomania.
If the Bible and Kurt Gödel are correct, it takes a Triune God to produce a socially responsible morality. Anything else is mere kleptomania.