In this blog’s inaugural post – Origins of the Moral Law – I made a case for the well-known Argument from Morality. I argued that Theism (specifically, the Christian narrative) provides the best account for our innate sense of right and wrong.
Although I stand behind what I wrote in that post, there’s an important issue that I failed to account for. If the Moral Law is ingrained in each of us, then why do people seem to have genuine disagreements over specific moral questions? Or put another way, why is it that some people regard certain behaviors as immoral, and others don’t?
The answer, I believe, is that humans are masterful at redefining right and wrong within the context of their own desires. These desires actually become integrated into one’s “moral intuition” – perhaps as a consequence of original sin. Right is replaced by “what feels right” and wrong is replaced by “what feels wrong”.
I say this from personal experience. If it were entirely up to me, there are plenty of biblically sinful behaviors that I wouldn’t have chosen to consider sinful (pride, gluttony, etc.). Of course, that’s really the entire point. What kind of relationship can we have with a personal God if we’re unwilling to let Him contradict our own desires and opinions?
So on the one hand, morality often seems intuitive and clear (a reflection of objective morality). On the other hand, we can’t necessarily rely on our own moral intuition being correct all the time. In other words, there exists a need for guidance, obedience, and a willingness to conform one’s conscience to some kind of external moral standard.
This is obviously very controversial, even among professing Christians. It directly clashes with the modern humanist’s advice to “follow your heart” – a maxim based on an optimistic (but incorrect) belief in mankind’s innate goodness.
The major branches of Christianity may disagree over whether this “moral standard” consists of Scripture alone, or includes Sacred Tradition. The important point – at least as it pertains to this discussion – is that there must be an external source of moral authority to take precedence over our flawed moral intuition.