If you decided to buy a new car, and wanted to get the best car for your money, how might you proceed? Well, you might go to magazines that test various cars and report on how they performed and compared. You could talk to mechanics about their experiences repairing various makes and models. You could go to friends in person and go on social media to learn of people's personal experiences with their particular cars. Through this process, you could gain a strong trust that a particular car would reasonably meet your desires. That's a valuable trust to have, but it won't transport you to work or on vacation. For your conviction that a car would be a good car to own to do any practical good, you have to put your trust in that car by going to the dealer, buying the car, and driving it off the lot.
The same trust that and trust in distinction is important for considering Christian truth claims. We can trust in all kinds of spiritual claims for all kinds of reasons, including tradition, family culture, personal experience, even reason and evidence. So, can we know how to sort them out and be confident about what to place our trust in? I think we can, testing truth claims objectively to verify that they are true. The areas of testing are science, philosophy, and history.
Here's a brief summary of the objective evidence for Christian truth claims. Through science we can find that the universe came into existence a finite time ago and is extremely fine-tuned. Life came to exist on earth with information in DNA, and information comes from minds. From philosophy, we learn that objective moral values require a transcendent moral law giver. These evidences reveal a Creator who is personal, intellegent, powerful, pursoseful, and moral. History gives us evidence that Jesus of Nazareth came into the world, performed miracles, claimed to be God, and proved He was God and Savior by predicting and accomplishing His resurrection from the dead. You can read more at my website: http://www.reasoningfaith.com/index.html , where there are articles and resources listed for follow-up.
One might ask, what role does objective trust that Chriatian claims are true fulfill in becoming a Christian? Should we trust that Christian claims are true before or after we trust in them? The answer is, either way. God can use objective evidence to prepare the heart for conversion. God can also use objective evidence to confirm trust that has been established through personal witnessing, preaching, or baptism. Of course trust in Christian truth claims and in Christ Himself is more important, but we are not given the requirement or necessity of trusting in Christian truth claims without trusting that they are objectively true. Scripture teaches that we can have both.
Years ago I read the classic book "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. It is a wonderful guide to the science and art of reading and thinking, and I still recommend it. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has produced a simpler version of the method which can help students, or casual readers, gain and retain more from their prose reading, and more efficiently than the plow-through-it method. I hope some find it helpful.
Why Settle for Merely Reading a Book When You Can Master It?
How to read less more, and twice as fast
If you're like me, you really want to read more effectively, but you don't know how and can't find
the time. Solomon wrote, "The writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to
books is wearying to the body."* I agree. The stacks of unopened volumes in my own library
weary me just looking at them.
To make matters worse, even the good books we read teach us nothing. We forget the details
almost immediately because our goal is to finish the book, not master the material.
I have a plan to change that. I want to show you how you can read less, more. It's based on one
simple idea: It's better to thoroughly read one or two good books than "finish" ten or twenty by
reading them cover to cover and then moving on.
The idea raises two practical problems. First, how do we know if a book is worth investing time
in? Second, what techniques will allow us to read thoroughly, yet quickly, leading to mastery?
Four Pages a Day
Don't think you've got to read 50, 25, or even 10 books a year to stay educated, informed, and
equipped. Instead, I want you to think about carefully reading just six books during the next
For some of you the idea may seem overwhelming. It isn't. It's 60 days per book, or four pages
per day for a 200 page title. Even a person who reads very casually can accomplish this,
especially using the tricks I'll show you.
I want you to consider devoting two months to one book. The object is not simply to read from
beginning to end, though. The goal is to master the contents. I'm going to show you how to read
a book in such a way that at the end of two months you can say, "I own this book."
For that you need a system. Don't start from the beginning and read through word by word to
the end. That's a mistake. The key is to read through the book more than once at different
levels. I'm going to show you how. Follow these four steps for non-fiction books: overview,
preview, read, and postview.
Overview the Book
Every book does not deserve a good reading. The initial overview allows you to determine
whether a title deserves your attention by giving you a sense of the main thrust of the book in
five to twenty minutes.
Start by reading the jacket cover. Read the table of contents. Skim the book's preface and the
introduction. Read the conclusion in the last three pages of the book. Browse through the index
in the back. Note the publisher and the date of publication.
If you don't like what you see, abandon the effort and look for a better book. You've only lost five
minutes and saved hours of fruitless reading.
If the treatment looks promising, though, page through the entire book at the rate of 2-3 seconds
per page. Don't try to "speed read." This first step is a casual one. Let your eyes stroll over the
material as your gaze falls on the text and enjoy the process of serendipitous discovery.
The overview takes less than twenty minutes in the extended form and can be done while you're
browsing in the bookstore. If you like what you see, buy the book to read more thoroughly later.
The overview is always the first step of thorough reading, even if you already own the book and
have decided to read it (or it's been assigned to you for a class).
Preview the Book
Go through the book a second time. Sit down and read it at a slower rate, but still not word for
word. I suggest you skim at the rate of four to ten seconds per page. Force yourself to move
Obviously, you're not reading all the words. You're skimming. I read the headings and the first
sentence of each paragraph. Get a feel for the author's main case and his progression of
This is more aggressive reading than you did in the overview, but still casual. Don't linger,
though. Force yourself to push ahead, turning the page every four to ten seconds. Break the
book in as you go, gently creasing each page as you move forward. You'll be amazed at how
much you'll absorb during this quick preview phase.
When you're done, write a summary sentence or two on the title page capturing the main thrust
of the book. Answer the question, "What is this book about?" What is the book trying to
accomplish? Use pencil because you may want to change the summary after you've read the
book more thoroughly.
The second step of our approach will take 20 to 40 minutes at four to ten seconds per page,
depending on the book. You'll have gone through the whole book twice--overviewing and
previewing--in about an hour, with a summary statement capturing the central idea of the book.
This "layering" method imbeds the book's basic ideas in your mind in a way that won't happen if
you simply start at the first page and read through to the end. The first layer--the overview--
gives you a general sense of the material and allows you to decide whether the book is worth
reading or not. The preview clarifies the basic content and organization of the book, and gives
you the author's approach and main argument.
Read the Book
Now it's time to actually read the book. This can be done in multiple sessions, one chapter at a
Start by quickly previewing the chapter once again, 4-10 seconds per page. This is very
important. It reacquaints you with the material, but takes only minutes. Then read the text word
for word, as quickly as possible.
Don't linger and don't regress (don't reread what you've just been over). Don't stop to underline,
either. It slows you down. Instead, use a pencil and make a vertical line in the margin to mark
those things worthy of note. You'll come back to those places later. You don't want to lag here,
even though you're reading carefully.
Complete this phase by writing, in pencil, a summary sentence or two in the big white space
above the title at the beginning of each chapter. Try to capture the main point of the section. Use
pencil because you may want to make changes when you postview the chapter.
Postview the Chapter Immediately
Go back over the chapter focusing on the marks you made in the margin. Review the material,
interacting with the author's ideas and making further notations. At the end of each chapter or in
the flyleaf sketch a quick outline or recall pattern. Look at the summary you placed at the
beginning of the chapter and see if it's accurate and precise. Refine it if you need to.
Go through each chapter in the same way. Preview it, skimming quickly, then read it carefully
but at a good clip, making your notations during the postview. If you take a break and resume
your reading a day or more later, review your summaries at the beginning of the book and each
preceding chapter before you pick up where you left off. This will only take a few short minutes,
but will set the stage for your next session.
This is aggressive reading. When you're done you'll have gone through the book at least four
times in a fairly short period of time working from the whole to the parts to the whole again.
You'll have brief chapter summaries and an outline--handy tools for quick review in the future--
and a solid grasp of the material.
In the future when you simply skim through the book again, all the information will come back to
you. You'll be able to clearly state who the author is, his main point, the structure (development)
of his thought, if his views are correct (why or why not) and what difference it makes. You'll have
mastered the book, not just read it.
Double Your Reading Speed Instantly
Let me give you an additional tip that will double your reading speed in one step. Use your
finger as a pointer and move it along underneath the sentences at the fastest comfortable speed
you can read. You can read above your finger, ahead of it, or behind it, whichever is most
comfortable for you.
This forces you to read more aggressively, with more concentration. Don't be afraid to push
yourself a little bit. Go as fast as you can and still grasp the material. Don't stop, pause, or
reread portions of what you've just covered (regressing). Keep up with your moving finger, just
like following the bouncing ball.
Again, this is not "speed reading," taking in a whole page at a glance. You're still reading every
word just as you normally would, but you're using your finger as a pacer , increasing your speed
and keeping your eyes from drifting.
You'll be surprised how dramatically your reading speed will increase. If you're reading 150
words a minute (a relatively slow rate) you can jump to 300 words per minute simply by
consistently using your finger as a speed guide. Just move it underneath the words and follow
along. Your comprehension and retention will improve too, even though you're moving faster.
Finding the Time
Anyone is fully capable of mastering six books a year, but it won't happen by itself. It takes a
plan (which I've just given you) and the will to apply a modest amount of time to your goal. Thirty
minutes three or four times a week is all you need.
First, turn off the TV. The average person watches two to three hours of TV a day. Most of you
can read 50 books a year in that time. Devote some of your TV time to reading. Skip the nightly
news. It's the worst possible source of information and almost always puts people in a bad
mood. Instead, use that half hour to read. You'll be amazed at how much you'll get done and
how civilized you'll feel as a result.
Here are some other ways to redeem pockets of useful time for reading. Try getting up half an
hour earlier in the morning. Go into the family room before the household is up and read. Or
redeem the time you spend sitting in the bathroom. Just ten minutes a day will get even slow
readers 150 pages a month. That's six books a year. I also keep a book with me in the car so I
can read while waiting for an appointment or stuck in line.
Think for a moment what six books you would like to have mastered a year from now. You can
do it. Choose your titles carefully, then apply the plan. This may be one of the most rewarding
habits you'll ever develop. I hope you start today.
Yours for a lifetime of learning,
President, Stand to Reason
P.S. My next book for thorough reading (actually, re-reading) is going to be Mere Christianity.
This short classic by C.S. Lewis is a great place for you to start, too. To order it, visit the STR
I keep the following information on an index card in my Daytimer for ready reference:
• Get a sense of the book in 5-10 minutes.
• Read jacket copy, contents, skim preface & introduction, read conclusion (last 3 pages) and
skim the index. Note publisher and date of publication.
• Quickly page through the entire book at the rate of 2-3 seconds per page.
• Determine if you want to read the book more thoroughly, give it away, or file it for future
• Skim entire book at a slower rate (4-10 seconds per page), breaking the book in as you go.
• Look for structure, outline, key facts and concepts.
• Write a quick summary for the book in pencil on title page.
• Preview each chapter again before you read it to get the structure (4-10 seconds per page).
• Read every word at fastest comfortable speed using a pointer so you won't wander, hesitate,
regress, or lose your place. Mark the margin, but don't underline the text.
• Write a 1-4 sentence summary in pencil at the beginning of the chapter.
• Re-read the chapter quickly, focusing on marked sections, interacting with the text.
• Refine your 1-4 sentence summary at the beginning of the chapter.
• Sketch a quick outline or recall pattern.
• Review at regular intervals, looking over recall patterns and summary material.
* Eccl. 12:12
For about a dozen of my formative young adult years, I was immersed in a very controlling religious group. All of my major life decisions that were made during that time, and many less major ones, were affected. The group was part of a network which was the size of a small Christian denomination, and the degree of control over members varied according to the desire of the local persons in charge. The co-dependent nature of the groups could not be maintained indefinitely, and within about fifteen years of their springing up, they began to break up. Some of my dearest friendships were forged in that context, and in the years since, our interaction has sometimes turned to criticism of what "he or they did to me." Some of that has been necessary to understand what went on, and to be able to grieve over loss, to forgive, and then to move on. It is not my main purpose for this writing, however, to rehearse or to criticize that past, so I will not be using names or specific details. Rather, my purpose is to learn from it for the present and future.
As we moved on, many of us landed in healthier Christian churches, whether traditional or non-traditional. Some of us, unfortunately, left church and/or God altogether. There is a smaller, third group which has caused me to really scratch my head. One would have thought that people who had been jerked around like we were would avoid joining similar groups, but a few friends from that time, and more recently a few children of friends, have gotten involved with groups which seem to be as bad or worse. This has gotten me wondering “why are they doing it again?” Surely they’re not looking for abuse, and they ought to be sensitized by their or their parents’ previous experience.
This has got me thinking that perhaps part of the problem is in the methodology of one's spiritual/church life. Can something be thought of as “normal” Christian faith and church life, which might not be? I want to suggest thoughts for consideration. I’m not trying to be comprehensive. While most of my content has been floating around in my mind for some time, I got some help for the structure of this writing from comments by Greg Koukl on the Stand to Reason radio show/podcast on February 24, 2015 (www.str.org/podcasts).
I should inject at this point that when I entered the group as a very young adult, I had three areas of hindrance that would have affected my life’s directions regardless of my spiritual environment. The first is that I had a very significant inferiority complex. God has helped me enormously with this. The second is that I had significant theological confusion. Charismatic excesses and end times speculation were factors. The third is that I had a gifting for analysis that I did not know how to use well, and sometimes used foolishly. So I am not claiming to having been a pure, perfect young person who deserved so much better. My personal issues played into what happened.
In my mind, there were two foundational methodological problems that paved the way for the rest.
First, there is the issue of “hearing” personal messages from God. In Christian spirituality there is personal, or subjective, religious experience and objective religious experience. They both belong in the Christian life. By objective experience I mean those things we experience that come to us from outside of us, like hearing the Bible read and taught, receiving the Lord’s Supper, submitting to Baptismal waters, and the like. Personal, subjective experience includes the inner confidence we have that we belong to God and the “aha” moments of spiritual understanding we have. There are also claims of specific, personal, subjective messages, or “words” from God. Let me go on record saying that God can do whatever He wants. If He wants to say something to me, then, like Ross Perot used to say, I’m all ears. (Ross Perot was a 1990’s politician with protruding ears the cartoonists liked to exaggerate). In my knowledge of the Bible, though, when God spoke to people, it seems there were two things that were clearly factors when we are given enough detail to know what happened. One is that the person was clear that it was God who was speaking. It was not their desires, fears, imagination or last night’s pizza causing the thought. They were clear that it was God. One exception was when God spoke to the boy Samuel. At first, Samuel thought he was being called by his mentor Eli, who realized it must be God calling to Samuel. The passage also states, though, that young Samuel did not yet know God. Later, Samuel did not have an issue knowing who was speaking to him. The other thing that was clear when God spoke was the content of the message. There was no ambiguity about the message, no progressively better knowing what was said, and no getting better at receiving it. God never failed to communicate. God’s ability to speak is not limited by the hearers’ ability to hear. If God speaks, people hear. Supernatural things, like communication, are secured by God.
Second, there is the issue of understanding the Bible. Christians know that the Bible is a very important book, even that it is the Word of God. But the Bible says many things in many ways about many people and situations over a long period of time, and it was finished being written almost two thousand years ago. Poor interpretation techniques can lead to big problems. The largest problems I experienced were reading Bible verses and passages out of context, and making poor analogies from the Bible.
With these thoughts in mind, there tends to be a progression common to wayward groups. Mine was no exception. To start out, we and our leadership were a nice, normal Charismatic group. But even in the beginning, we emphasized personal, subjective experience like prayer, worship, and “hearing God” over objective experience like inductive Bible study. Over time the gap grew much wider. Many, many prayer meetings. Very, very few Bible studies. Some of us, including myself, were attracted to the group by the promise that by being linked to a more mature leader, we would be able to synergistically hear God better, since for me at least, the practice of hearing God never worked out as well as advertised.
Leaders began introducing things not Biblical at all. Ironically, this was sometimes done with the Bible itself. Authority texts were taken out of context, such as Hebrews 13: 17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (ESV) Taken alone, that could seem to give leaders a green light for whatever direction they felt was right, with the probable exception of actions which were clearly immoral. But less quoted were verses like 2 Peter 5: 2-3, “ shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (ESV) There was also the use of poor analogies. The actions and words of Jesus toward his disciples would be used as example of authority for human leaders. The problem was there is a big difference between Jesus and human leaders. He is God incarnate; they are not. A normal reading of the New Testament epistles, which were to instruct the young church, does not indicate military-style church organization and authority. So what use was made of the Bible was often not very helpful. Along with this, there was a growing sense of separation and spiritual superiority compared to other Christians and groups that did not “get it” like us.
Teachings contrary to the Bible came next. This is just a ramping up of the previous point. I attended a regional men’s conference in which one of the speakers stated something to the effect that “if you haven’t given the reins of your life over to your pastor, you haven’t given them to God.” When we returned home, this was the theme of leadership for several years. This control entailed all parts of life leaders wanted to control, including relationships, education, jobs, residency, finances, and so on. I want to state very strongly that most of the time this control was exercised with love and friendship, but the methodology was bad, and spoiled much of the fruit. With it all at least in theory being based on “hearing God” the wisdom model of divine guidance was neglected or underdeveloped. By the wisdom model I mean what is also known as “sanctified common sense.” When a choice can or should be made, one makes sure not to go in a direction that is clearly evil. Then one views the options on the basis of what can be done with good motives Biblically, and what is in the best interest of the parties involved. Then make the decision and move on, not worrying about peeking behind the veil of God’s providential knowledge and will. They are not for us to know, unless He pulls the veil back at His initiative for a particular reason, as he did with the prophets and apostles of Scripture.
Finally, authority is advanced, and those who disagree are threatened, if only by implication. There is the understanding that our group is the true group, and opposing us is opposing God, or at least that leaving the group would mean accepting less than God’s best. A friend of mine went to his leader to express disagreement with the leader about something. The leader told him “You’re out, unless you agree this will never come up again.” Another time, a young woman left our group. We were told about it by a leader in a small group meeting I attended and also told she was out being unfairly critical of the group. I don’t know if she was being unfair or not. She might have been telling the truth. One member of the group asked the leader how we could pray for her. The leader shook his head and said, “I don’t know.” All of us in the meeting understood that if you leave, you’re unfortunately wrong, at best.
Believe it or not, the purpose of the previous discussion has not been to dwell on the past. Rather I wish to show readers who are unfamiliar with this kind of group how bad things can go in groups that start out with the best of intentions. Now I wish to share a prescription that Greg Koukl shared on his show, with my own additions.
The New Testament’s Second Letter to Timothy was the Apostle Paul’s spiritual last will and testament, written to his spiritual son and colleague. Paul knew he would soon die, and so he wanted to use this opportunity to emphasize what was most important.
The beginning of chapter 3 tells about trouble in the world. The beginning of chapter 4 tells about trouble in the church. Between these is the prescription for persevering in truth in the midst of trouble. 2 Timothy 3:14 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.” (ESV) The verb “continue” directs Timothy and us to look backward to sound teaching, not forward to some new ‘move of the spirit.’ Verse 16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV) Continuing in what we have believed is not committing Christians to some old, outdated, irrelevant religious book and practice, but to the timeless revelation of almighty, wise, indwelling, loving God, the creator of all things created, and redeemer of His people and creation. What new spiritual way could possibly top that? When we come into contact with something that claims to be God’s new and improved movement in the world, we are free to reject it and to continue in what we have learned and firmly believed.
Knowing that being in the Bible and church life can possibly lead toward the kind of trouble I have described can cause some to avoid them from fear. Or they wonder if the Bible can be trusted. Or they are not sure how to read the Bible for a sound understanding of its message. These are understandable concerns for which I’ll offer some help.
For starters, one can gain confidence in the historical reliability of the New Testament here: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2015/four-reasons-the-new-testament-gospels-are-reliable/ .
Some suggestions for how to conduct personal Bible study can be found here: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/tips-for-studying-the-bible/ .
Helpful principles for understanding the Bible are here: http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/Enhanced%20Solid%20Ground%2011-13%20Do%20You%20Take%20the%20Bible%20Literally%20-1.pdf .
One more time, this writing has not been produced in order to drudge up abuses from my past, but to show what can go wrong and how. It is also meant to be a warning to those who see or hear of similar approaches to Christian spirituality. Finally, it is meant to be a prescription for prevention of, or cure from, involvement with controlling, abusive religious groups.
2 Timothy 4: 22 (last verse), “The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” (ESV)
In a recent small group Bible study meeting, our pastor was finishing up a series of sessions studying the Old Testament book of Jonah. In this final session, he wanted to distinguish between being a witness or being a proclaimer of Christian truth. His goal was to take pressure off Christians who sometimes are reluctant to share their faith because they might struggle with questions and objections. He likened the believer's role to that of being a witness in a court trial.
A witness in a court trial is called upon to testify to what she saw and heard. She is not expected to interpret what she saw and heard. or to speculate about what she did not witness. A Christian witness is called to testify to what she has been taught and has experienced. In my tradition, she is taught in a variety of ways the story of the Bible, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the teachings contained in Luther's Small Catechism. She experiences her faith through divine services, the sacraments, ethical and devotional living, and loving her neighbor.
I should mention, almost parenthetically, the role of an expert witness. In the trial court, this person has expertise to be able to critique the evidence of witness testimony and other evidence. There are also those who are highly trained in disciplines such as history and philosophy who can critique the claims of the Christian witness.
Then there is the proclaimer. In the court trial, this role is filled by the lawyers, who attempt to persuade the judge and/or jury that the weight of the witness testimony and other evidence supports the conclusion they desire. In the Christian faith, this role is filled by pastors and other preachers. Their training in the faith is deeper and wider than most Christian laypeople. They are trained and skilled to persuasively explain the faith.
Are you a witness or a proclaimer? The truth is that many of us are somewhere on the continuum between a simple witness and a full-blown proclaimer. We all fill a variety of roles, such as parent, child, employer, employee, student, property owner, neighbor, etc. These roles all make demands on us, and along with our interest in spiritual knowledge, will determine where we fit along the witness/proclaimer continuum. 1 Peter 3:15 of the Bible instructs believers to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for their hope in Jesus. Their answer can legitimately be more in the style of a witness, or in the style of a proclaimer. We should each find our role and be willing to speak the truth in love.
Here is a very good video which uses good imagery to reinforce many of the points from my previous blog post:
The Difference Between Objective and Subjective Truth, by J. Warner Wallace
My personal working definition of philosophy says it is about thinking carefully, thinking clearly, and challenging assumptions. I'd like to discuss a few basic terms and ideas that are commonly confused, and hope to bring clarity.
A good place to start might be a discussion of subjective versus objective truth. What distinguishes one from the other is whether the truth value originates from inside a person’s mind (subjective) or in the world outside a person’s mind (objective). I’ll try to illustrate. If the temperature in a room is 70 degrees, that is an objective truth. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or feels about it, it’s 70 degrees, objectively. However, various people in the room may have different personal views about the temperature, based on their metabolisms, what they are wearing, and so on. Some might think that the room is warm, and some might think that the room is cool. These views about the temperature of the room are subjective truth for the individuals, because the origins of the views are in the minds of the subjects. A mistake that is sometimes made is that someone will think that all truth is subjective because it is subjects (people) that are experiencing it. The problem with this is that it commits the logical fallacy of equivocation. Equivocation happens when a word has more than one meaning, and the meanings are confused in usage. In this case the word “subject” is equivocated. The subject, or person, is indeed observing and judging the situation, such as the 70 degree room. But the subject, or person, and subjective, personal truth claims are different things. Subjects can indeed make objective truth claims. It depends upon whether the truth value originates in the subject’s mind (I think it’s warm), or in the world outside the subject’s mind (It’s 70 degrees).
The next step is to distinguish between subjective preference and objective good and evil. If I declare that Rocky Road is the best flavor of ice cream, it probably won’t incite too much controversy. Some people will agree with me, and some will disagree. My liking Rocky Road is recognized as a subjective preference. I can have my favorite, and others can have theirs, or none at all. The source of the preference is in the mind of each person, or subject. On the other hand, there are issues which we intuitively recognize not to be subjective preference issues. Most people, hopefully a vast majority, would say that rape is wrong. Now, is it wrong because people feel that rape is wrong (subjective), or is it wrong because the act of rape is wrong (objective)? Most people would probably say that rape is objectively wrong, regardless of what anyone thinks or feels about it.
If some actions and conditions, like rape, seem to have objective moral value, the question can be asked what makes it objective. Some think Darwinian evolution produces objective morality as natural selection favors characteristics which will enhance survivability. The resultant common perception of certain actions as right or wrong it thought of as objective morality. One problem with this is that Darwinism is purposeless and random. It is entirely possible from a Darwinian perspective that a slight tweak in conditions could have produced an entirely different world where some actions would be given the opposite moral value than we now give them. For example, rape might not be viewed negatively, which may not be far-fetched since we do not usually think of rape as applying to the animal world. If Darwinism could possibly produce such different senses of morality, it does not seem to be adequate to explain objective morality. A second problem with grounding objective morality in Darwinism is that Darwinism is explained as a naturalistic process. This means that all causes are natural, or physical, causes. There are no non-physical causes. Everything that happens boils down to chemical reactions. What we think of as our thoughts and personalities are really only illusion produced by chemical reactions in our brains. These have been passed down through our genes by natural selection for generations until here we are. If this is true, then all of our thoughts, including our moral thoughts, are the result of our DNA interacting with the environment, and we could not do otherwise. What is, simply is, and objective morality is illusion. Darwinist evolution thus seems inadequate to explain objective morality.
Social contract is also offered as grounding for objective morality. People in a society like to live in peace and security. Often they have different views of ultimate reality, but agree to live with a system of rules. Can this agreement, called social contract, ground objective morality? Let’s look at how social contract works. If I don’t want people to take my stuff, and you don’t want people to take your stuff, and everyone else doesn’t want people to take their stuff, then we can organize and agree that if anyone takes anyone’s stuff, they will be punished. That is social contract. But notice something. Where does the process begin? It begins in my personal subjective preference that no one takes my stuff, along with the same subjective preference for everyone else. Even if there is a unanimous agreement that no one should take our stuff, it is still not objective morality, because its origin is subjective preference. Social contract fails to ground objective morality.
What, then, can sufficiently ground objective morality? If humanity’s past and present experience can only produce subjective thoughts and feelings about good and evil, and yet we know intuitively that actions like rape are objectively evil in themselves, it seems that there must be a standard that transcends, or extends beyond human experience, which an action can be compared to in order to call it good or evil. That standard must have a personal, intelligent source to be a sufficient cause for the transcendent moral standard, since a cause has to be adequate to produce its effect. A personal source that can fulfill these conditions is commonly called God.