God, Man and Morals

Just a couple of chapters more and I’ll be through with Francis Schaeffer’s Trilogy. I’m now in chapter 2 of the 3rd Book in the Trilogy, He is There and He is Not Silent, where Schaeffer describes man’s dilemma: man is noble and he is also cruel. How do you account for both his nobility and cruelty? But before we can answer that we have to reckon with the fact that man is finite and personal; that’s a given. But how did he begin, i.e., how did he come to exist? Well, one answer is he is the product of time plus chance plus energy plus matter, in other words, he had an impersonal beginning. But an impersonal beginning spells the death of morality. As Schaeffer explains:

If we accept the impersonal beginning, finally we will come to the place where man’s finiteness and his cruelty become the same thing… With an impersonal beginning, morals really do not exist as morals. If one starts with an impersonal beginning, the answer to morals eventually turns out to be the assertion that there are no morals… With an impersonal beginning, everything is finally equal in the area of morals.

I think what Schaeffer is saying is that without a personal Creator-God to give us existence we have no foundation for morality, there is no absolute standard by which we can distinguish right from wrong. Right cannot be better than wrong if both are simply the products of impersonal chance. Schaeffer goes on to say:

So we find man cast up with a feeling of moral motions which in reality leads only to a complete cosmic alienation, because if you begin with the impersonal, in the universe as it is, there is no place for morals as morals. There is no standard in the universe which gives final meaning to such words as right and wrong. If you begin with the impersonal, the universe is totally silent concerning any such words.

I am reminded by something Dostoevsky put into the mouth of one of his characters in his novel The Brothers Karamazov (I’m quoting from memory): “Without God everything is permissible.”

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