Right now one of the hottest topics in the news is the shooting of Trayvon Martin. It seems that an overzealous neighborhood watchman named George Zimmerman thought 17-year-old Trayvon looked suspicious. He was walking down the street with something in his hand. George didn’t recognize him, and there had been a string of burglaries in his gated community. George began to follow him, talking to the police–who told him that following Trayvon wasn’t necessary. After that it gets sketchy, but in the end, George shot Trayvon. It turns out that something Trayvon had in his hand was skittles and iced tea. Zimmerman has yet to be arrested.
That was a month ago. Today, crowds are protesting, and the Rev. Al Sharpton has shown up to speak to the crowds. Many believe the shooting was racially motivated while other urge us to suspend judgment until all the facts are revealed. The New Black Panther Party has put out a $10,000 bounty on George Zimmerman. A witness insists George was attacked and acted in self-defense. What everyone can agree on is something is rotten in the state of Florida.
But how do we know anything is wrong, and where did we get this sense of right and wrong from? The Bible says that every man knows right and wrong intuitively. God has written His law on our hearts.
Romans 2:13-16 ESV
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 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. 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 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
By why should we trust the Bible or even believe in God? I’ll save the former question for another post, but for now I’ll say that I believe that one powerful line of evidence for God’s existence is this law written on our hearts. Most everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. We disagree on the details, but by and large, morality is the same no matter where you are. Whether one lives in the United States or the United Kingdom, Russia or India, Congo or Canada, all people believe we should treat each other as we would want to be treated. We believe murder is wrong now, and we believed it was wrong in ancient times. It’s universal, objective, and transcendent.
Recent studies indicate that babies have an inborn sense of morality. It isn’t just something learned from parents or society. It’s as real as math or matter. I’ve met people who have denied objective morality, but I have yet to meet anyone who actually lived as if there were no objective morality. It’s unshakeable. This is what C.S. Lewis had to say about it in his classic Mere Christianity:
Whenever you find a man who says he does no believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining “It’s not fair” before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties do not matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong–in other words, if there is no Law of Nature–what is the difference between. A fair treaty and an unfair one? Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?
It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may ne sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.
So how did we get this sense of objective morality, if not God? Did it evolve or is it determined by society? If either of those is the case, then Mother Theresa was no better than Hitler, and Joseph Stalin was no more evil than Billy Graham. This is the conclusion we must come to if we don’t get morality from something–or Someone–higher than ourselves. We can either have a real, objective, transcendent standard of right and wrong–rooted in God’s nature, or we don’t have a God and we don’t have any good reason to believe in a real right and wrong. But I don’t foresee humanity ever being free of this innate sense of morality any more than it can defy gravity.
The sense of morality within us is compelling evidence of an All-Wise Creator who has written His objective law on our hearts.