Morality and truth

by Matt Slick

In this dialogue I introduced something I've been thinking about for a while:  the relationship between truth and morality.  If truth relates to something, then what does a moral truth relate to? 

Matt Slick: Delong, what is right and wrong is not based on harm.
Delong: Well harm seems to be part of it but I can see you're point.
Matt Slick: Delong, can I ask you a series of question?
Delong: Duhhh okay
Matt Slick: Delong, bear with me for a few questions while I try to set up the situation or the argument. You'll get what I'm saying here in a minute. It's about morality. But I must start somewhere else.
Matt Slick: Let's start with what truth is.
Delong: Ok
Matt Slick: Are you with me? Do you want to take about 5 min. out for this?
Delong: Ok
Matt Slick: Okay. Good. If I were to say that I am communicating to you, that would be true.
Delong: Nods
Matt Slick: If I were to say that 2+2 equals four, that would also be true.
Delong: Nods
Matt Slick: I am sitting in front of the computer. That is true. I am in my home. That is true.
Matt Slick: Truth corresponds with reality. When a statement is made and it corresponds with fact, with actuality, it is said to be true.
Matt Slick: Likewise, truth cannot be illogical.
Matt Slick: To say 2+2 equals four is a logical statement.
Matt Slick: If I were to say 2+2 equals 6, that would not be true. It is counter to logic.
Matt Slick: Are you with me?
Delong: Yes.
Matt Slick: So we could say then that truth is what corresponds to reality and or logic.
Delong: OK
Matt Slick: In other words, truth corresponds to something else because truth is a statement that properly relates to something else.
Matt Slick: Okay?
Delong: OK . . .
Matt Slick: Now, I'm going to offer what I believe is a moral absolute truth. We could discuss whether or not it really is. But you will get where I'm going with this in a minute.
Delong: OK
Matt Slick: Here's the offering of a moral absolute truth. "It is always wrong for you to torture babies merely for your personal pleasure."
Delong: OK
Matt Slick: Now, would you agree with me that that is a moral absolute? If you do not, then I would ask you to produce a situation where it is morally proper for you to torture babies merely for your personal pleasure.  If you were to try to do this, you would look pretty bad, etc., etc. Okay, you agree.
Delong: Yeah I agree.
Matt Slick: If it is a moral truth, then to what does the moral truth correspond in order to obtain its truthness?
Delong: Hmm
Matt Slick: If something is morally true, it must correspond to something--at least, as far as the logic of what truth is that I presented so far would suggest.
Delong: The conscious well-being?
Matt Slick: The funny thing about morals is that they are truth statements. For example, it is wrong morally to murder someone. It is wrong morally to rape someone, etc.
Delong: Hmm yes
Delong: I compare moral statements with prudential statements.
Matt Slick: But why? Against what do they compare by which they obtain their truth values?
Delong: It's prudent to brush your teeth.  It's prudent to look both ways, etc. etc.
Matt Slick: But being prudent doesn't mean something is moral or not moral. It just means it is prudent.
Delong: Right.  I'm just comparing them.  In my mind they are similar.
Matt Slick: So, when you ask what is moral, in my mind, I'm thinking of these things. I wonder how an atheist, for example, would say that something is or is not morally true.
Delong: Shrug.
Matt Slick: The idea of something merely being harmful doesn't add up. If you were to read the questions for atheists on morality being based on reducing harm, you would see that there are all kinds of problems with that position.
Matt Slick: So, I have a suggestion about the truth values of moral statements.
Delong: OK
Matt Slick: But let me set something up before I make my point. It deals with the issue of "is" and "ought."
Matt Slick: The is in the situation I am raising.  For example, I own this chat room. I'm the one who purchased it. I own the domain name. I installed it, etc. It's mine. That is the "is" condition.
Delong: Nods
Matt Slick: Now, because that is the "is" condition, I have the right to say what "ought" to be done or not done in this discussion room.
Matt Slick: Therefore, we can see that moral obligations--right and wrong--seems to be tied to, for lack of a better word, ownership.
Delong: OK
Matt Slick: Therefore it would seem consistent to say that moral truths are derived from the moral truth giver who "owns" the situation, people, conditions, environment--whatever we want to add to this list--from which we would receive the statements that are moral truths.
Matt Slick: In this case, since we would recognize that there are universal moral truths, it seems logical to imply that there is a universal moral truth giver. Otherwise, how do moral truths obtained their truth values?
Matt Slick: Thanks for the 5 minutes . . . er, seven minutes.
Delong: Okay, wait up, Matt Slick
Delong: You said moral obligations depend on ownership not moral claims right?
Matt Slick: I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. 
Matt Slick: . . . because a moral claim must be depended upon something else.
Delong: You said "therefore, we can see that moral obligations, right and wrong seems to be tied to, for lack of a better word, ownership."
Matt Slick: If someone has a moral claim, it implies a moral obligation.
Delong: Hmm ok . . .
Matt Slick: Okay, let me rephrase and say that moral right and wrong seem to be tied, for a lack of a better word, to ownership.
Delong: That's good :)
Matt Slick: Delong, what are you? Are you an atheist, Christian, what?
Matt Slick: Delong, what church you go to if you don't mind me asking?
Delong: City Church in Seattle :)
Delong: Although I have not gone for a while.
Matt Slick: Ok . . .


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.