The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Necessary Moral Truths Lead To God?

In his book “The Existence of God” the Christian philosopher, Richard Swinburne, gives an argument for the existence of necessary moral truths. He holds these to be (logically) necessary. The logical necessity here is broad logical necessity (metaphysical necessity). Here’s the argument:

This is the view of most philosophers. The problem here is that because some moral truths are necessary then it would seem that they require no further grounding and hence, no God is required for their existence. Indeed, this is the view of Swinburne. I think William Lane Craig successfully answers this objection though. Says Craig:

What say you?

One statement I like from Moral Knowledge by professional philosopher Michael Huemer, PhD, is this:

The problem with arguing for God from a moral premise - or vice versa - is that Buddhists and Jains (both religions without a theistic outlook) can make similar arguments from their ultimate reality perspective (i.e. Buddha nature, Jain perfectionism, etc.). And philosophers can argue from some philosophical construct that makes perfect logical sense. Both can argue coherently from the same set of premises.

If you want one example of a rebuttal, look into An Analysis of Richard Swinburne’s The Existence of God. Pay particular attention to 2. Where the Argument Fails.


The critique in the link you provided deals with Swinburne’s case for God. NOT his case for necessary moral truths. Which is what I gave here. Unless I missed it. I agree that our assumptions and such color how we view the arguments for God’s existence. This is why we must go for the best explanation.

You’re right, Cole. That sometimes happens when you multitask, like I do. My bad! But what I said about Buddhists, Jains and philosophers earlier still applies.


Do you have a better explanation for the existence of necessary moral truths than a necessary being? If they are necessary then they exist in every possible world and hence were around at the time of the Big Bang. It seems illogical that the necessary moral truth - “torturing babies just for fun is wrong” - was just somehow sitting up there.

It’s not that I don’t agree with a creator God or Christianity - I do. Sometimes I like to play Devil’s advocatel. As Wiki says,

But moral truths can just as well be argued from the Buddhist perspective - they have the eightfold path. Jains also teach moral truths. Neither religion is theistic.


Would you agree then that it makes it possible that a metaphysically necessary being exists?

Personally, I believe it. From the argument? It is possible. So let’s ignore the Jains for the moment and focus on the Buddhists (i.e which I like much better, but I won’t tell the Jains that :smiley: ). And let’s just focus on the Tibetan and Zen traditions for argument. One could also argue for Buddha Nature (i.e. Zen), for example, as the stepping stone that moral truths lead to - or vice versa.

Since you agree that it makes it possible that a metaphysically necessary being exists then we must say that there is a possible world in which a necessary being exist. But since a necessary being exists in a possible world then it must exist in every possible world (the nature of necessity). And since the actual world is a possible world then it follows that a metaphysically necessary being exists in the actual world. Hence, God exists.

Just substitute Buddha Nature for being and Buddhahood for God and you have an argument for Zen Buddhists. Luckily, Zen Buddhists don’t put much stock in logic. But Tibetans do and used to have historical debates and contests. Sorry. Arguments for the existence of God are full of holes. So are arguments against the existence of God. For an example, look at example debate. I think you will find some variation of his moral argument presentation and a rebuttal somewhere in that debate. Whom do you think did a better job of presenting premises, arguments and conclusions?

I think proofs for and against the existence of God are usually “dry as wood”, to use someone describing Aristotle. I had to sit in university philosophy classes and study them - both classical and contemporary. But most of the world is emotional. People are emotional beings. I think examples of good Christian charity and morality are better persuaders to the average person. Otherwise, you just present a new variation on an old theme. And other competent philosophers come up with either loopholes, rebuttals or objections.

How? in How to Debate William Lane Craig, it offers 5 ways:

Know the arguments.
Know how logic and argument work
Practice writing
Practice speaking.
Practice debating

I do think that the rebuttal An Analysis of Richard Swinburne’s The Existence of God, does find weaknesses in the moral argument. In it, it says,

You know, I read an online article in Scientific American entitled 2 Futures Can Explain Time’s Mysterious Past
New theories suggest the big bang was not the beginning, and that we may live in the past of a parallel universe
. I wonder if God might exist in one possible time stream and Buddha Nature in another - given that last argument. So we have “a possible world in which a necessary being exists” and “a possible world in which a necessary being does not exist - since we have Buddha Nature instead”. Some thoughts to ponder and think about.

Barbour says.

And there’s an interesting article entiled 5 Reasons We May Live in a Multiverse. Even mathematics itself may be a universe. There might also be many dimensions, like in The ten dimensions of string theory.

You know what is mind boggling? These might not be just possible worlds but actual ones.


The semantics of possible worlds being used here isn’t referring to a physical universe or the possibility of extra dimensions as taught by string theory. It’s referring to a state of affairs or a description of how reality might be. The best way to think of possible worlds in metaphysics is a huge conjunction p & q & r & s, whose individual conjuncts are the propositions p, q, r, s. A possible world is a conjunction which comprises every proposition or it’s contradictory, so that it gives a maximal description of reality. By negating different conjuncts in a maximal description we arrive at different possible worlds. If something is necessary by nature it holds in every possible world. Take the necessary truth - It is wrong to torture babies just for fun. There is no possible world where the proposition - “Torturing babies just for fun is okay” is true. The person who thinks that torturing babies just for fun is okay is just as mistaken as saying 2+2=6. The nature of necessity is such that 2+2=4 is not only true but true in all possible worlds. It’s necessarily true. You failed to give an explanation or grounding of such necessarily true moral truths. The best explanation is that there is a locus of moral value that must be as metaphysically necessary as the moral values He grounds. Granted, there are holes in arguments but this only shows that we must rely on the best (available) explanation. The argument makes it possible that a metaphysically necessary being exists as you agreed to. That is to say, there is a possible world in which a metaphysically necessary being exists. But it follows of necessity that this necessary being must exist in every possible world. This includes the actual world. Hence, a necessary moral being exists. This isn’t a principle as in Buddhism but a personal being.

There’s really no difference in applying the argument for the existence of a personal being or Buddha nature. All we are really doing is taking the same premises and arguments and applying them to a different conclusion.

On another front, his argument falls under the category Moral Arguments for the Existence of God. We can read the history of these arguments and counter arguments in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry I’ve shared.

The point is i’m making is this, Cole. It’s not a bad argument. It might even be a good argument. But I can find counter arguments to this argument, as well as objections, loopholes or even substitutions - like I’ve made.

And I can even consult experts in the field (i.e. professional philosophy professors with PhD degrees - I’m friends with them. One PhD professor teaches philosophy at Wheaton College and attends the Anglican church I do) regarding taking the argument apart.
Or I can research attempts myself to dissect the argument. After all, I do have online access to the College of DuPage library and the local public library research materials. I am a professional researcher. I have to do this for the technology field. I’ve also did it all my life for graduate academic work in psychology, as well as years of coursework in math, computer science, philosophy and English literature.
Or I can attempt to take it apart myself. I understand the nature of philosophical logical arguments. After all, I had university level courses in logic, computer science and mathematics. What is really the difference between constructing and deconstructing a philosophical argument and proving a theorem in advanced calculus? I have refrained from intense dissection and rebuttal to his argument.
Or I can just use the Socratic method and just ask questions that are difficult or impossible to answer. I must warn you in advance - this is my usual modus operandi

This is the belly of the beast. It has been done since the beginning of time. It will continue until the end of time.

But when Saint Peter finally meets people at heaven’s gate, what will they say?


How about a joke to reinforce this point?

Yes, 'Richard Swinburne has a good academic background. After all, he is an Oxford educated Christian philosopher. But some bored, atheistic philosophy professor from Standford, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford or the University of Chicago, might wish to make a name for themselves. I’ll bet they already did so! And they will take apart that argument. But Richard, according to the entry I’ve shared, is enjoying

. It’s highly probably I’ll stumble across the Standford, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, University of Chicago, etc., atheistic philosophy professor rebuttal - as you would, if you took the time to research. Just like An Analysis of Richard Swinburne’s The Existence of God did a rebuttal to his book.

Nothing wrong with philosophical arguments or debates. Or even theological arguments or debates. That’s what human beings do. ** So let’s leave things this way - my peace offering. ** It’s a good argument. But like all good arguments, you can find counter arguments and objections. That’s what professional philosophers do. And they will continue to do so, until the end of time. Otherwise, we would probably bore everyone to death here. If we continue, it’s like Flogging a dead horse. I have no objections to continuing - I do love challenges. I just see it as fruitless to do so.

How long would any battle go on for?
And how many people with continue to read and learn something from this exchange?

Let’s do!

Hi, Cole. Happy holidays. But if one were to ask questions in a Socratic manners, they might ask these:

Why do you call Buddha Nature a principle?
By whose authority do you call Buddha Nature a principle?
Couldn’t Buddha Nature also be the name of the Zen worldview for ultimate reality? Why or why not?
Could we substitute some other word for the Buddhist ultimate reality, like Dharmakaya, Dharmadhatu, Alayavijnana, ground of all, the ordinary, etc.?
If the Zen word for ultimate reality embodies both metaphysics and ethics, what’s the difference between substituting that word and a personal God in 'Richard Swinburne’s morality argument?

Now while Cole and I have some virtual beers and sing holiday songs, others can reflect on these questions. Otherwise, we are finished here.

Quote “If the Zen word for ultimate reality embodies both metaphysics and ethics, what’s the difference between substituting that word and a personal God in 'Richard Swinburne’s morality argument?”

Why not end the year, as I sip this glass of fine red wine, by jumping into a discussion that never ends :slight_smile:

My answer to the above quote is, There is no difference.

Just speaking from an objective point of view, the values of the one over the other is a matter of personal perception. This personal perception will be based on a personal view of what ultimate reality is. Whether or not a moral imperative is connected to the existence of a higher being or a higher principle or a higher plane where all beings are connected into one cosmic essence or a higher plane where all beings evaporate into divine energy…etc. :slight_smile:, that is all philosophy and speculation unless and until that ultimate reality manifests in an undeniably recognizable way, expressing itself to people on a plane previously unconvinced of its existence.

The expression of the divine being to the Hebrews, according to their belief, was, and is, “I AM THAT I AM”. Self existent absolute being. Of course, the Hebrews had a real hard time identifying with the I AM…they couldnt figure out who He was or why He was involved and what He wanted out of them. So, according to their tradition, He sent prophets to them to overflow(nabi-“bubble over” hebr. fro prophet) words and actions that would remind them who He was and why He was involved.

Christians believe they never got it. Never saw it. And that when I AM fully manifested in this plane in bodily form He did so through planting a seed of Himself, the Logos(expressed thought, word) into the earth(a woman named Mary) and expressing Himself in the life of the man Jesus of Nazareth who said, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father(I AM sent me).

So the Hebrews killed him because he told them that they were not even close to understanding what and who the invisible almighty creator was, in the ether where they had not been, and that they refused to even look through the window- which he, Jesus of Nazareth was, as the last and greatest prophet of I AM THAT I AM and, by the way,His very own son.

Heb 3:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the eons. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and sustains all things by the word of His power.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Jesus said, and Christians (hypothetically) believe He demonstrated, that he was the image of God, undeniably expressing the I AM, in terms of His divine nature, on the cross- sacrificial love being the highest principle in His being .

Father forgive them, they don’t realize what they are doing.

Whether or not this is true, if it is a manifestation in time and mortal space of the ultimate reality that exists beyond time and mortal perception- only time will tell.

True “Christianity”, which as a word, for me has little meaning, even as being a Jew seemed to have little meaning to Jesus( I can from these stones raise up sons of Abraham), who, imo, would probably be rejected and killed for the same reason by many if not most “Christians” today.

Because they don’t get it either. So the light shines in the darkness and the darkness still does not comprehend it- the Light that lights “every person who comes into the world” according to John.

So to wrap up (this wine is delicious)- I became a Christian because the I AM contacted me and revealed Himself to me through an inwardly received image of Jesus Christ crucified for me, with a command to be crucified with Him, which I still don’t get much. I think it means i am called to sacrificial love, and I see it, but I am not sure how well I am it. I am sure it is about being, and doing follows naturally from being, because ultimate reality IS WHAT IT IS. I think it is the I AM, crucified, but in the final analysis, it will be what it always was, is and will be.

Only time will tell, but I am convinced. So happy New Year to all and to all a Good Night! :slight_smile:


I’ve been thinking this over and you may be right about the Buddah principle explaining morality. But if I use the arguments from the Big Bang, historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ etc etc. I think we must conclude that it’s possible that the God of the Bible exists. And since the God of the Bible (along with arguments) is a metaphysically necessary being then we must say it’s possible that a metaphysical necessary being exists. This is metaphysical possibility not epistemic possibility. That is to say, there is a possible world in which a metaphysically necessary being exists. But then He must exist in every possible. And since the actual. world is a possible world it follows that God exists in the actual world.

Now you could say that the buddha principle is another way of explaining it. And that would be true. You can rationally resist the conclusion. But I don’t claim logical certainty for the argument or even high probability. What I claim is rational acceptability. All the evildence and argument together make it reasonable to believe in Christ. It’s not the only reasonable conclusion but is A reasonable conclusion. And it seems to me to be the most reasonable conclusion. It may not to you but that’s okay. It doesn’t take away the rational acceptability of God. I’ve said it before, plausibility judgments are in the mind of the beholder. Logical explanations are infinite in number.

It looks like you are thinking deeply and in the right direction. :smiley:

1 Like