Human beings are unique in that they are the only creatures that have the full capacity to make decisions based on right and wrong, good and evil, beneficial and harmful. For the people out there who like to spend their time thinking about random things, questions concerning life, love, good, and evil might surface, and people try to come up with theories as to how this world came into existence and why goodness is an idea that humans naturally pursue. Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, and St. Thomas Aquinas are examples of people who developed their own thinking concerning the basis and action of moral behavior. These philosophers might all have differences in their approach towards morality, but they all have one thing in common – they believe that through careful thought and reason, the purpose of this universe and human morality can be understood.
In light of several weeks of intense discussion on normative ethical theory, my philosophy professor asked us to develop our own ethical theory. So this is what I believe to be the highest standard of morality, which also ultimately ties into the thought of the meaning of our entire existence: The purpose for human existence is that man would have God’s image and dominion over this earth, and the only way for man to live out genuine morality is for man to take God, the ultimate standard of morality, as their source in everything they do. In dialogue with different normative ethical theories, there will be an exploration as to what the purpose of God is, how that purpose is in harmony or in dissonance with the different normative ethical theories, and an explanation as to why God’s purpose cannot be comprehended through human reason and objective argumentation alone.
According to the Bible, God created man in His image and according to His likeness, and God said that man would have dominion over all the earth. God’s plan was so that man would express God in His image and also represent God in His dominion. This is God’s original intention. But later in Genesis, Satan as the serpent corrupted man and caused man to fall. And because of the fall of man, one may say that virtue, as an innate characteristic of the human object, ceased to exist. In fact, it would not be all too ridiculous to say that virtue is impossible to achieve by any means of the human agent. Why is this? It is because the innate qualities of a human being are nothing but rebellion and evil. Can anybody in this universe confidently and accurately say that they have done absolutely nothing wrong in their life? If you think the answer is “yes”, then you are lying, which is by virtue, a wrong, and the answer automatically now changes to a “no.” Everybody can agree that innate humanity is broken, defiled, and corrupted. Immanuel Kant believes that empirical evidence can elucidate moral law, and morals themselves are “liable to all kinds of corruption as long as the guide and supreme norm for correctly estimating them are missing.” This statement comes from a man who claims that the existence of God cannot be proven and that human definition of morality is liable to corruption. Kant was still able to recognize the fact that humanity innately does not tend toward good, but that we instead tend toward evil.
Now, one may argue that despite the deficiencies of humanity, human beings are in the process of seeking to achieve ultimate goodness and developing theories as to how moral dilemma can be approached. The fact that humans are unique in that they have a choice actualizes the need for man to take the right steps towards obtaining goodness, happiness, and purpose in life. If this is true, then the question now is this: if man has a choice between good and evil, yet man is innately evil and not really all that good, how is goodness ever actualized? Is a collection of good works amidst many more failures in your lifetime really the answer to purposeful ethical behavior? In short, moral behavior can only be found in Christ, who is the reality of all positive things in this universe. In the New Testament, God became a man, became tabernacled among us, lived on this earth for thirty-three and a half years, was crucified, and bore all the sins of all of humanity. We were enemies of God, but then we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. Man now has a living hope. No longer do we have to live according to the rebellious, evil nature that humanity is born with. The point is that man does not have to try to find the best criteria of moral action to guide their life journey. Because when we try to carry that out, we will ultimately fail, due to our sinful nature. But when we believe, we have access to God, who is the standard and the source of all morality. God, as the Spirit, can enter into man. So, the way that God can have image and dominion through man and on this earth is for God to be lived out through man. This is the purpose of God.
In response to the different theories of normative ethics, the first question that we must ask is this: what is the meaning of human existence? According to Aristotle’s principle of contradiction, a determinate concept or property and a contradictory concept or property cannot both be true as the same object, existing at the same time and in the same relationship. This principle is an axiom, so it is the premise or the starting point of reasoning. By applying the principle of contradiction, how does one explain the genesis of the universe? Another axiom that must be covered is the principle of causality. This law states that for every effect, there must be a prior and sufficient cause that provides an adequate explanation for its existence as a conditioned entity. How does one explain the first cause that caused all other things to be caused? In order to answer the initial question of the meaning of human existence, these axioms must adequately and sufficiently apply in order for an answer to carry truth.
The meaning of human existence can be sufficiently answered by the texts of the Biblical narrative, due to the Bible’s ability to adhere to the axioms of contradiction and causality. The account of creation in Genesis states that “God created the heavens and the earth.” God, an unconditioned being, created this universe into being and began this series of condition upon condition. A universe could not have just come in and exist out of nothing, as that would negate the principle of contradiction. Something else that is unconditioned, uncreated, and self-existing must have caused the universe to be conditioned, created, and existent. Through this, one can conclude that the account of creation that is described in the Bible can be a legitimate theory (though it will never cease to be controversial). This is very much in line of the moral philosophical approach of Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas believes that all reality has come into existence through God’s creation and that the reality of human personhood is contingent upon the unconditioned self-existence and goodness of God Himself.
The theistic view of normative ethics is completely harmonious to the view of God’s purpose laid out in the Bible. But the approach of coming to the conclusion of that theory is controversial, vague, and refutable to the atheists of this world. Those that have opposing beliefs of normative ethics attempt to use sound reason to come up with their theory. Thomas Aquinas also attempts to use sound reason to back up his claim that God indeed exists and is the source of all ethical behavior. Aquinas came out with Summa Theologica during the thirteenth century, a time when atheism and theories that lacked any reference to God was the prevailing philosophy of that time. Aquinas attempted to bring out the harmony of science and religion. His claims are indeed factual, and there is absolutely no dissonance when he logically goes through the process of proving the existence of God and how God is the root of all goodness, which all adhere to the natural laws of contradiction and causality. Yet, most atheists of this world will continue to refuse to believe in God’s existence and will not drop their concepts of whatever theory it is that they have. Why is this? Perhaps it is because we are all trying to tackle this principle through the wrong approach.
Here lays the heart of my assessment –
Human beings formulate theories using their finite minds to find purpose and meaning in life. The faculty of the human mind can always come up with a theory through sound reasoning. But here comes the honest answer when it comes to trying to develop my own perspective on philosophical moral theory: reasoning alone and capturing physical evidence through our limited human faculties are not enough to convince me of which ethical theory should reflect my own worldview. Through reason, the concept of God may not make any sense. God is invisible and kept hidden. But according to the Bible, perhaps we are using the wrong faculty of our being in trying to comprehend God. This is the issue of the theistic view of ethics – their line of thinking still tries to use reason to understand the meaning of our existence. The book of 1 Corinthians says, “no one can say, Jesus is Lord! Except in the Holy Spirit.” It is through the Spirit in our spirit, not through our mind, that we can understand that God exists. Because I have personally experienced and enjoyed this wonderful Triune God, the purpose of God that is outlined in the Bible is the purpose of my own human life. The fundamental principles of moral action is rooted and grounded in God Himself. I am not a religious person. My goal in life is not to try my best to follow the laws of the Ten Commandments. I realize that my corrupted nature will always prevail when I try to do something good in myself. In myself, I am not and can never be a good person. My goal is to contact God through my spirit, have a loving relationship with this living Person, so that God can be the standard of morality in me. The more you love and enjoy something, the more you become it. In response to all of these different theories, we all must realize that in the end, humans try to find happiness and satisfaction in their life. Happiness is so much more than finding a means to an end, or abiding to universal moral law. From what I observe in the day-to-day activities of human living, the world is a sad and bitter place. But in my experience, I have found the secret to living a life that is really life. I have encountered a Person in whom I can find peace and joy, and I can declare that Jesus Christ is the only One who can truly satisfy the deep longings in man’s heart. To an Aristotle follower, everything action we carry out is for an instrumental ends. To a deontologist (Kant), the morality of an action is based on the action’s duty to law or rules. To a theist, goodness only comes from God and the acknowledgement to the existence of God is precedent to all ethical behavior. In contrast, a nihilist may say that all moral principles are meaningless because there is absolutely no purpose to life. Humanity is broken, and that will never change, and there is no reason as to why it should change. Happiness is something final and self-sufficient, and is the end of action, the chief good. Perhaps attempting to find ultimate happiness and the answer to the meaning of the universe cannot be rationalized in our minds. It is more difficult to argue with one’s experience. And to me, my experience is that I find utmost love, joy, and peace when I see the purpose of God – which is something that Aristotle, Kant, the computer science major atheist in my class, or even Aquinas cannot persuade me otherwise.
 Genesis 1:26 Recovery Version.
 Immanuel Kant. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1981), 413
 Romans 5:10.
 Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle (New York: Random House, 1941), 735. Ibid., 111.
 Genesis 1:1.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae. (ed: Timothy S. McDermott) (London: Blackfriars in Conjunction with Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1964), 363.
 Stephen A. White, Sovereign Virtue – Aristotle on the Relation Between Happiness and Prosperity (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1992), 46
 1 Corinthians 12:3.
 1 Timothy 6:17.