The Moral Argument for Christian Theism -- By: Clark H. Pinnock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 131:522 (Apr 1974)
Article: The Moral Argument for Christian Theism
Author: Clark H. Pinnock


The Moral Argument for Christian Theism

Clark H. Pinnock

[Clark H. Pinnock, Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.]

Many excellent arguments have been advanced throughout the years on behalf of Christian theism: the cosmological, the historical, the teleological, and so forth. One of them, the moral argument, by reason of its extreme relevance to the human situation, has a certain advantage over the others. Although like them it supplies grounds for believing in a transcendent, personal God, the moral argument goes further. It addresses itself to a most fundamental question which concerns humanists and Christians alike. Both groups are eager to sustain an ethic of moral obligation to our fellow man. But on what basis does such a noble commitment securely rest? How is it to be sustained, or even explained? The moral dimension of human experience raises very readily the question of God whom Christians believe constitutes the only ground that can support the kind of moral commitment which is needed today.

Naturalistic Ethics

In his convocation address to the Darwin Centennial celebration, Sir Julian Huxley put forward a naturalistic ethic based upon his evolutionary vision of the world. Man’s hope depends, he argued, upon his ability to generate human values and guide the course of his own development. How can this be done? Let us observe the direction we are developing, and from that decide in what direction we ought to be moving. In agreement with C. H. Waddington, Huxley defined what is right and ethical as activity which is in conformity to the evolutionary process.

There are three decisive weaknesses which, quite apart from

Christian revelation, are immanent within this proposal. First, Huxley has committed the “naturalistic fallacy” as set out by G. E. Moore. Moore held that ethical concepts cannot be reduced to, or derived from, non-ethical concepts. It is not possible to derive an ought from an is. Although Huxley is anxious for us to believe that his ethics arise out of his science, they do not in fact do so. On the contrary, they were derived from elsewhere, and by a process of circular reasoning were read back into it. When we look at evolution, for example, we see the principle of the “survival of the fittest” which, if it were translated into ethical terms, could only justify an ethic of power and selfishness which Huxley could not endorse. Science by itself is incapable of generating values, and just because it is value-free stands in need of an axiology from the outside to direct its own work. Naturalistic ethics are parasitic. They are unconsciously i...

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