The Moral Necessity: the ‘Personal’ Answer

Dear hijas,

We’ve seen that in regards to morality, the evolutionary impersonal answer of time plus chance plus the impersonal, or ‘-the force be with you-‘ type answer in a couple of the world’s major religions doesn’t satisfactorily answer the question of man’s dilemma. Starting from the impersonal gives no answer to how objective right and wrong, noble and cruel, finite yet personal, have any meaning whatsoever. It was Sartre who said that ‘no finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point.’ This is just as true in the area of morals as it is in the area of metaphysics. Finite man has no place to rest any objective or absolute meaning or standard to the words ‘noble’, ‘cruel’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ without some kind of infinite reference point to give those words substantive, objective content. This is huge, and you should never allow someone in your apologetic endeavors to miss this point and evade the implication. There is ‘no’ answer starting with anything impersonal; it’s just ‘what is’.

If you recall, it was the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), the French philosopher, aristocrat, politician and writer whose cruel and libertine sexuality and lifestyle the term “sadist” comes, living during the French Revolution (1789-1799) who said, “What is, is right.” Can you see that starting with the impersonal, that is what man boils it down to, “Whatever happens to be, is right?” This is the natural outflow starting with the impersonal beginning. The problem though is that the Marquis de Sade could just as easily have said, “What is, is wrong”; for he had no place to rest his definitions of right and wrong, no standard or infinite reference point in which to give those words any meaning. As Schaeffer concludes, “If you begin with the impersonal, the universe is totally silent concerning any such words.”

Yet, we do find on the ‘personal’ side of the equation, a titanic answer! Starting with the personal there ‘is’ an answer. And it is an answer to man as he is and as he aspires to be. It gives justification to man as he finds himself, to his aspirations and moral motions, to his sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’.  Man finds an infinite reference point to rest a definition of objective right and objective wrong when he begins with the ‘personal’.

What we are speaking to here with the ‘personal’ answer is that man has been created by that which is personal rather than merely being part of a total, final, impersonal everything-there-is. That ‘personal’ is the infinite-personal Judeo-Christian God of the Bible. That man, made in the image of this infinite God, was created finite as opposed to God’s infiniteness, and yet with personality in the same way that God is personal. And because God’s character is the moral absolute of the universe, there truly is objective right and objective wrong. Morals do exist because they’re based on the character of God from which all evil is excluded.

As Schaeffer says, “It is not that there is a moral absolute behind God that binds man and God, because that which is farthest back is always finally God. Rather, it is God himself and his character which is the moral absolute of the universe.”

Schaeffer further concludes:

Again, as in the area of metaphysics, we must understand that this is not simply the best answer–it is the only answer in morals for man in his dilemma. The only answer in the area of morals, as true morals, including the problem of social evil, turns upon the fact of God’s being there. If God is not there (not just the word ‘God,’ but God himself being there, the God of the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures), there is no answer at all to the problem of evil and morals. Again, it is not only necessary that he be there, but that he is not silent…He has spoken, in verbalized, propositional form, and he has told us what his character is  (Francis A. Schaeffer, ‘He is There and He is not Silent’, Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, IL 1984).

So we have an answer to man being finite, yet personal, and we have an answer for the existence and justification for morality, a standard for right and wrong in God’s character itself, and for man’s moral motions, his sense of ‘ought’ and ‘ought not’, but do we have an answer for man being both noble and cruel?

Yes, we do, but that will have to wait for our next post.

Vaya con Dios mis hijas,

Dear ol’ Dad

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