Image via Brews Ohare, per CC Liscense
When I first moved to the Toolroom at the manufacturing plant I worked in as an apprentice Toolmaker, I was having difficulty with trigonometry. In my vocation, trig was used on a daily basis to obtain accurate angles, or to figure bolt patterns, etc.
I was horrible at math in school, especially geometry and trig. Learning the trig functions was important. Doing your job well is a great motivator for learning things you have difficulty with.
I’m not particularly brilliant, but I am stubborn. I kept banging my head around sine, cosine, and tangent.
One day, it’s like it all just fell together. I had wrestled with the fundamentals so long, I just got a good grasp of it. It seemed to happen overnight, but I really worked hard at it, since it was a necessary skill for my work. I became the trig expert of the shop, which was humorous to me, considering how bad I was at trig in high school, and college.
There are several equations that are the foundation for trigonometry.
Three important ones are:
O/H = Sine (the O/H meaning the Opposite of the Hypotenuse);
A/H = Cosine ( the adjacent of the hypotenuse); and
O/A = Tangent (the opposite of the adjacent)
Theses equations all deal with the relationships between the angles and lines of a right triangle.
The way I learned to remember these relationships was to employ a mnemonic device:
It really helps to understand the equations.
Philosophy uses equations called syllogisms. These syllogisms are representations of logic and argumentation. By argument, I don’t mean a knock-down-drag-out with your bestie. In philosophy, “the goal of an argument is to offer good reasons in support of your conclusion, reasons that all parties to your dispute can accept.” (1)
The syllogism of the moral argument for the existence of God goes something like this:
Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists. -
If the atheist denies Premise 1, he or she must offer some alternative source for objective moral values.
By “objective moral standards”, we are making the case that there are at least some ethical values (things that ought to be done, or ought not to be done) that exist in all cultures at all times.
This first premise has to do with moral ontology, or the ultimate source of ethical values. Where is the grounding for “objective moral standards?
This is a difficulty for atheists to deny or refute, which is why many move to deny Premise 2. Of course, this creates its own set of dilemmas.
For instance, how do we explain that even isolated peoples have certain moral absolutes in common with the rest of humanity?
Some examples of a universal moral value might be:
1) it is always wrong to torture babies;
2) it is always wrong to kill someone for the simple pleasure of killing.
“Most people want to uphold premise 2 of the moral argument. After all, if there are no objective ethics, then who is to say that Hitler was objectively morally wrong? Humans have an intuitive sense of right and wrong. The moral argument requires only that at least some actions are objectively right or wrong (e.g. torturing children for pleasure is objectively morally wrong). Premise 1 relates to the perfect standard against which everything else is measured. God, being the only morally perfect being, is the standard against which all other things are judged. Moreover, in the absence of theism, nobody has been able to conceive of a defensible grounding for moral values.” (2)
Human beings have an intuitive sense of what is right and wrong. The Bible identifies this sensing as conscience.
Romans 2:14-16 ESV
14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
The belief in objective moral absolutes is called “moral realism” by philosophers.
It would seem to me, that if we feel guilt over transgressing a moral “law”, that it would have to be more than some abstract idea of morality. It would need to be grounded in a person. We don’t feel guilt when we transgress the law if gravity…we will feel pain, and maybe even die…but not guilt. We feel guilty when we disobey our parents. We don’t feel guilt when we fall off a ladder, unless we fall on our mom…then we feel guilt, of course.
“In other words, objective moral values must be ontologically grounded in a transcendent personality before whom it is appropriate to feel moral guilt (it’s worth noting that the possibility of objective forgiveness for moral guilt is equally dependent upon the moral law having a personal ground).”(3)
Just like learning trig functions helped me in my vocation as a Toolmaker, learning the various arguments for the existence of God will help us all in our vocations as Evangelists and Apologists. Don’t think that by ignoring the arguments for the existence of God that you are somehow not responsible for “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…”(1PE 3:15b ESV) it takes real mental work and reasoning to prepare yourself for the inevitable questions about your faith.
Much of the above discussion was inspired by:
1. Pryor, Jim. “What Is an Argument?.” Philosophical Terms and Methods. N.p., 6 Jan. 2006. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. .
2. “Moral Argument.” AllAboutPhilosophy.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014. .
3. Williams, Peter S. . “Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?.” bethinking.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. .
simul justus et peccator,