The question about the resurrection of the dead is a critical point to consider. Since we’ve already argued (see the previous post) in the positive of the resurrection through the proof of Christ’s resurrection, let’s consider it from the negative – that there is not a resurrection. If mankind, and all life here, is just the result of matter plus chance plus time, then there is no eternity to consider. We are matter, and nothing more. There is no spirit to live on after this life has turned to dust. If that is the case, then we have to wonder, “What is the point in trying to be good?” Paul even makes this point himself. If this life is all there is, then “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” So what is it that drives the atheist, the unbeliever, the one who scoffs at the resurrection or eternity, to do “good”? That desire is really at odds with the core beliefs of the atheist.
Granted, one might look at the evil around us and wonder if we can really claim that we all have a drive to be good. But there truly is something inside each of us that compels us to good behavior – or at a minimum appear that we have good behavior. As C.S. Lewis said, “If we do not believe in decent behavior, then why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not behaving decently? We know that it could be beneficial to cheat on a test when we didn’t study, or to tell a lie when the truth makes us look foolish, or to break a promise when it’s difficult to keep, but there is something that prevents us from doing these things. There is something that tells all societies from all eras that honesty, loyalty, and unselfishness are admirable traits and treason, lying, and selfishness are not. Each society may change to whom you should be loyal, whether it is to your family, your god, or your government, but none of them desire treason. Ah, but there are many people out there that do cheat, lie, and steal. But don’t they try to hide the fact that they do those things? Even the basest of humans will try cover up their horrible deeds – because they know there is something wrong with them.
Well, you might say, they are only hiding them because of society’s standards. And we all know that doing good benefits society. This is a valid consideration. Society tends to benefit when people treat each other according to this standard of behavior. But that’s essentially saying that we should behave decently for the benefit of society. Behaving decently to benefit society is behaving unselfishly; and behaving unselfishly is behaving decently. We’ve now created circular logic. We are still unable to define what decent behavior really is. It’s like saying ‘Men ought to be unselfish’ because it benefits society. But we’re trying to define what drives the “ought” part of that statement. From where did man get the compulsion to benefit society? Yes, we should behave to benefit society, but why should we care about benefiting society? So in this argument we’ve said you should be unselfish because that’s being unselfish. This argument fails to explain the origin of the standard of behavior; it simply points out its usefulness.
So where did mankind get this idea of what constitutes good behavior, this Moral Law? It couldn’t have come through nature because humankind are the only species that exhibits this idea of morality. The rest of the animal kingdom has no moral compass to guide their actions. We even judge animal behavior differently than we do human behavior because, well, they’re animals. Animals “kill” but don’t murder. Animals “mate” but do not rape. It is because they don’t have this moral element to their actions.
Does that mean that mankind has just evolved to a superior state to develop morals? But the basis of evolution is simply to progress the species forward. Therefore, evolution would determine any behavior that progressed the species was beneficial or good, even if that involved destroying other fertile females or killing male infants that challenged the alpha male. Evolution could not have determined that those actions are morally reprehensible.
We clearly exhibit this desire for behaving decently, yet it could not have come through nature or evolution. Therefore, there must be a Moral Law Giver, something outside of nature that imparted this Moral Law onto mankind alone. It is the only way to explain the existence of this Moral Law. Only this Moral Law Giver, or God, can give us the sense of an Ultimate Right and Wrong that we are inherently continually striving toward. Only a moral code based on Godliness, not mankind’s preferences, can provide us adequate motivation for living an ethical life and for judging against those who do not. It is only because of this Moral Law that we have this innate compulsion to do what is right and refrain from what is wrong. And we only have this compulsion for good behavior, this Moral Law that defines good behavior, because God exists.
So if there is no resurrection, why do we desire to be good? The atheist cannot answer this question because without God there is no explanation for desiring good behavior. The only way to explain desiring good behavior is that God exists and that there is an eternity. We only desire to be “good” because God has written this Moral Law and this eternity on our hearts.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
And because there is a God and there is a resurrection, we can have hope.