Metaethics

Erik Wielenberg’s Theory

Erik Wielenberg has proposed an atheistic theory of where morality comes from. He claims that God is not necessary in order to have objective morality by which humans are required to live. Wielenberg's theory has three main components: First, it is not a materialistic theory, meaning that it does not assume that the physical world is all there is. Second, Wielenberg's theory proposes the existence of "brute ethical facts" that exist outside of nature which ground moral values and obligations. Third, Wielenberg says that these facts become applicable to human beings by something he calls the "making relationship," whereby facts about circumstances in the world cause moral facts to become applicable to certain situations (to be instantiated). This lecture explains the main concepts of Wielenberg's theory and also examines some objections to his theory.


Introduction to Metaethics

Metaethics is the study of what makes something good or bad. It is not the study of what is good or bad, but why there are such things as moral good and moral bad. What is morality? Where did it come from? There are many theories of what morality is; some think morality is subjective and depends on individual people, cultures, and circumstances. Others believe that morality is objective, that it is independent of human beings. Most theists think that morality comes from God, but many atheists claim that God is not necessary for morality. Non-naturalists, for example, believe that morality can exist objectively without God. Thinkers throughout Western history have defended many positions, both subjective and objective as well as theistic and atheist ones. Listen in as Adam gives an overview of the different metaethical theories.


Is God Necessary for Morality?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Mark D. Linville and Louise Antony recently participated in a written debate on the question of whether or not God is necessary for morality. Linville argued that God is necessary for morality whereas Antony argued that God is not. Adam interacts with the arguments made by these two authors and also puts forth his case that God is the best explanation for objective morality.


Q: Should Christians Today Follow Old Testament Laws?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Different Christian groups and denominations have disagreed about this issue over the years.  Thus, just like with any theological disagreement, we should look into the various positions which have been put forth, make a decision as to which position seems most biblical, and then calmly and rationally explain why we hold our position while showing grace, humility, love, and respect with Christians who have taken other positions (Romans 14).

Keep in mind that the Old Testament law was given by God to the Israelites through Moses and includes over 600 commands that cover a wide range of issues including clothing, house styles, worship instructions, governmental society rules and respective punishments, food to eat and not eat, sexual practices, hygiene, etc. 


A Trinitarian Moral Argument

Why Christianity’s Trinitarian God is a Better Explanation for Objective Morality than Islam’s Non-Trinitarian God

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Both Christians and Muslims affirm the following argument:

There are objective moral truths.God is the best explanation for objective moral truths.Therefore, God exists.

However, which understanding of God, the Christian’s or the Muslim’s, is a better explanation for objective morality? In this paper I argue that Christianity’s trinitarian God is a better explanation for objective morality than Islam’s God. As part of this argument, I propose a Trinitarian Metaethical Theory (TMT) which maintains that the ultimate ground of morality is God’s trinitarian nature.


Why God’s Triune Nature Is the Foundation of Morality

In this interview by Crash Course Apologetics, Adam defends his model of morality which holds that God’s existence as a Trinity, His triune nature, is the foundation of all morality. Specifically, the loving relationships between the members of the Trinity are the basis for all moral values and duties for human beings since humans are called to imitate that love and reflect it to others. As Jesus explained in Matthew 22:37-40, love of God and love of neighbor are the foundations of all morality, and this love flows from the loving relationships within the Trinity, which is why Adam proposes that God’s triune nature is a superior explanation for the existence of morality than atheistic models.


Critiquing Erik Wielenberg’s Metaethical Model

Atheist Erik Wielenberg has proposed a theory of morality (also known as a “metaethical model”) which claims that objective moral values and obligations can exist without God. In this interview with Crash Course Apologetics, Adam critiques Wielenberg’s theory of morality by explaining how Wielenberg’s model is susceptible to what is called the “Lucky Coincidence Objection,” the idea that, without God, it is just a lucky coincidence that humans are able to know what is objectively morally right. (This interview is based on a paper Adam published in Philosophia Christi, which you can find here.)


God and Morality Debate: Craig vs. Wielenberg

In 2018, William Lane Craig and Erik J. Wielenberg participated in a debate moderated by Adam Lloyd Johnson at North Carolina State University, addressing the question: “God and Morality: What is the Best Account of Objective Moral Values and Duties?” Craig argued that theism provides a sound foundation for objective morality whereas atheism does not. Wielenberg countered that morality can be objective even if there is no God. The transcript of this debate was subsequently made into a book called A Debate on God and Morality which was edited by Adam Lloyd Johnson. The book provides crucial resources for better understanding moral realism and its dependence on, or independence from, theistic foundations.


Defusing the Euthyphro Dilemma

How a Concretist Position on Properties Salvages Divine Simplicity

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Why salvage divine simplicity? Consider the Euthyphro Dilemma, often presented as a rebuttal to the moral argument for God’s existence. In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates asked “Is that which is holy loved by the gods because it is holy, or is it holy because it is loved by the gods?”1 The dilemma can be restated in monotheistic terms as follows: Either 1. Morality is based on God’s commands; thus, He could have arbitrarily commanded any heinous act and it would be morally right, or 2. Morality is based on necessary truths that even God cannot change; thus morality is independent of God and out of His control.2

In order to avoid both horns of the dilemma, theists have proposed that morality is dependent upon God’s nature in such a way that He could not command something that violates His moral nature.3 Robert M.


Sweeping Contingency Under the Rug

How Erik Wielenberg’s Third Factor Model Fails to Rebut the Lucky Coincidence Objection

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Erik Wielenberg describes his view as “godless robust normative realism,” a combination of holding that “robust normative realism is true and there is no God.”1 Enoch describes robust normative realism as the view that “there are response-independent, non-natural, irreducibly normative truths… objective ones, that when successful in our normative inquiries we discover rather than create or construct.”2 Adding ‘godless’ to this, Wielenberg’s position then is that objective moral values and obligations exist, even though God does not.

In his non-theistic model Wielenberg claims that moral facts and properties are objectively real and that we as human beings can have accurate moral knowledge of these facts and properties.