Question: a hole in Ravi Zacharias's argument for a moral lawgiver?

(Samuel Rausch ) #1


I have enjoyed watching videos of Ravi Zacharias and other RZIM speakers very much in the past few years ever since my teacher at my Christian Classical high school program introduced me to him. Please redirect me if this is not the best avenue for my question below to be answered.

Largely through the University of Toronto Psychologist Jordan Peterson, I have run into the idea that “moral” action could simply be action that is most sustainable in repetition. Peterson references Kant: " Act only according to that maxim by which you can also will that it would become a universal law."

Assuming that “good” and “evil” are relevant terms in discussing morality, wouldn’t the largely practical concept of morals mentioned above mean that the presence of a “moral code” does not in fact require a “moral lawgiver” (as I have heard Ravi Zacharias argue)?

I am very interested in an answer to this. There are many other possible conclusions hanging in the balance.

(SeanO) #2

@Boy The short answer is no, Peterson’s point is not a hole in the argument for a moral lawgiver. Rather, it is a competing explanation for how humans come to have a moral law in the first place. Dr. Zacharias points to the reality that God has written the law upon our hearts - every time we say ‘you ought to’ we admit that we are moral creatures and the existence of the ‘ought’ points to God. Now, Peterson offers a competing explanation - via evolutionary psychology archetypes have arisen as humanity sought to bring order to chaos and these archetypes are what we perceive as the moral law.

So I do believe this is a competing explanation, but that is different than a loophole. Competing explanations are to be expected - every world view offers its own explanation. I have written a critique of both of Jordan Peterson’s most well known books on Connect - the 1st of each series is linked at the bottom. It may help you understand his world view more fully.

Let’s refresh ourselves on Ravi’s argument:

When you say there is evil, aren’t you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. Ravi Zacharias

The jump that we are discussing is the jump from moral law to moral law giver.

Now let’s consider what Peterson says (as far as I understand it) - morality is the result of human beings attempting to bring order out of the chaos inherent in human existence. The moral law seems real to us because it is the product of thousands of years of psychological evolution in the human race.

Now, Peterson’s claim about order and chaos is based at least in part on the theory of ontogeny, which per my understanding is the theory that evolution generated mythological archetypes. These archetypes are a sort of moral law to which we must conform - the hero, the knight in shining armor, the man who trades his life for another. However, the theory of ontogeny has been debunked.

So one could say Peterson’s case rest on shaky ground. For further reading, I have some good resources below - C. S. Lewis’ defense in Mere Christianity is particularly powerful.

C. S. Lewis’ defense of the moral law:

Critique of Jordan Peterson - Connect Threads

A Defense of Ravi’s Statement by John M. Njoroge

Is a moral lawgiver necessary for good and evil?
(Harris Ratnayake) #3

Morality has to do with oughtness and oughtnotness (I think I just coined a new word!). Or is there a way we ought to and ought not to live by. If Peterson says we ought to act only according to the maxim by which we can also will that it would become a universal law, we have to ask “Why?” Why should an individual act according to Peterson’s definition of how we ought to act. If I desire to have something that someone else has why should I not try to get that? Why should I worry about universal laws. As long as I feel I can get away with it why should I not do it? I still not have had a secular answer to this?

If there is a lawgiver that has control over us then there is a reason why we ought to act in a way that is in accordance to this lawgiver.