“Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? …. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.”
From “The Madman”, Friedrich Nietzsche in “The Gay Science” #125
I have been trying to build the case that if we cease believing in a moral law-giver our beliefs and actions will be pragmatic and practical where individuals will not believe in nothing but rather they will believe in anything. Our values and beliefs therefore, will ultimately reside on Wall Street, gazing into the pool of Narcissus, rather than in Wisdom, bathing in the ocean of Grace . So humans may have value if it informs our pride and pads our pocketbook and just as easily lose that value if we deem the cost too great or our chests too flat.
To rightfully establish a moral right requires a moral Maker but moral rights cannot be separated from moral obligations and this is where the modernist tension lies. Former Yale Law Professor Arthur Leff brilliantly illustrates this tension between moral rights and moral obligations.
“I want to believe –and so do you– in a complete, transcendent, and immanent set of propositions about right and wrong, findable rules that authoritatively and unambiguously direct us how to live righteously. I also want to believe –and so do you– in no such thing, but rather that we are wholly free, not only to choose for ourselves what we ought to do, but to decide for ourselves, individually and as a species, what we ought to be. What we want, Heaven help us, is simultaneously to be perfectly ruled and perfectly free, that is, at the same time to discover the right and the good and to create it.
“Putting it that way makes clear that if we are looking for an evaluation, we must actually be looking for an evaluator , some machine for the generation of judgments on states of affairs. If the evaluation is to be beyond question, then the evaluator and its evaluative processes must be similarly insulated. If it is to fulfill its role, the evaluator must be the unjudged judge, the unruled legislator, the premise maker who rests on no premises, the uncreated creator of values. . . . We are never going to get anywhere (assuming for the moment that there is somewhere to get) in ethical or legal theory unless we finally face the fact that, in the Psalmist’s words, there is no one like unto the Lord. . . . The so called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral; it also seems to have effected the total elimination of any coherent, or even more-than-momentarily convincing, ethical or legal system dependent upon finally authoritative, extrasystematic premises.”
In legal parlance those statements of value that require absolute obedience and absolute allegiance are called “normative statements”. Normative statements are those type of statements that cannot be violated across culture, time, and space without violating the Natural Law, or a higher law than man’s law, these statements are derived from. A normative statement says things like torturing babies is wicked, genocide is evil, and splitting an embryo is immoral. But, using professor Leff’s terminology, to make these kind of normative statements requires a “Grand Sez Who.” Who says splitting an embryo is immoral?
You may have heard this type of retort, or variants of it, if you are of the belief that morals are absolute, and this conviction leads you to make the type of normative statement such as abortion is murder. “Who says?”, betrays the questioners presuppositions or prior beliefs. If one asks, “Who Says?” you can be pretty sure that person has no moral confidence to claim anything is immoral in a binding sense. I would like to make this very clear: If you, as a believer in moral absolutes, try to engage in a moral conversation with one who does not believe in absolutes you might as well be telling her pigs can fly. She may look at you as if you are joking and then upon the realization that you are deadly serious dismiss you as a crank or entertain herself further by asking you how high and how far can pigs fly. And you continue to facilitate the circus by regaling her with “facts” authoritatively telling her their weight really is a problem for endurance flying, which is why they frequently rest and why they are seldom seen flying!
But we do not preach pigs who fly. The answer to Professor Leff’s lament hangs suspended from two timbers. This secret that is public lies within a man where mercy and justice intersect and where freedom and security embrace; in whom is found redemption we alone are unable to attain. We preach the vine, the gate, grace, bread, blood, water, light, peace, freedom, security, love, truth, hope, and wonder all contained in a man called Christ nailed to a Roman cross!
It has been said moral conservatives lack civility while moral liberals lack conviction. Why moral conservatives lack civility is a different problem to be treated elsewhere, but as to why moral liberals lack conviction: they do not believe in a “Grand Sez Who.” I first began this series arguing against moral pronouncements separated from a moral law-giver and here is where I end this series. To communicate effectively across the Public Square (where we all gather and policy is made by us and for us) we first must demonstrate that morals derive from a Creator, but to do that we must demonstrate that there is a “Grand Sez Who.” One who is sovereign over not only my affairs and thoughts but your affairs and thoughts too, and by extension the state’s affairs and thoughts. Only when we do this and argue for a Creator as Paul did in Acts 17 will we overcome the bias and boredom affecting moral discourse. In short we must argue effectively and intelligently for the metaphysic of God prior to the epistemic of morals. If we fail to do this we are of no more concern than the madman left screaming in the square, only to be ridiculed, ignored, and avoided. I fear if we continue not heeding the call of Christ (John 13:34-35) we will have failed our mission (Matt 5:13, Col 4:2-6) and left a world in despair with only shouts of indignation stinging their ears rather than cries of concern soothing their sores.
Again Professor Leff sums up our position apart from the hope in Christ (John 8:31 -36):
“All I can say is this: it looks as if we are all we have. Given what we know about ourselves and each other, this is an extraordinarily unappetizing prospect; looking around the world, it appears that if all men are brothers, the ruling model is Cain and Abel. Neither reason, nor love, nor even terror, seems to have worked to make us “good,” and worse than that, there is no reason why anything should. Only if ethics were something unspeakable by us, could law be unnatural, and therefore unchallengeable. As things now stand, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: Napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved. Those who stood up to and died resisting Hitler, Stalin, Amin, and Pol Pot– and General Custer too–have earned salvation. Those who acquiesced deserve to be damned. There is in the world such a thing as evil. [All together now:] Sez who? God help us.”