Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Refuting Divine Command Theory

One of the favorite theories clung to by the moral absolutists and the religious right is the theory of Divine Command. Essentially this theory states that moral goodness is determined solely by the will of God. God, Bad, Right, Wrong, singularly depend on Gods will.

I will state theory again in unequivocal terms…

God determines the morals of the world.

Refuting this theory is accomplished solely through the use of logic. The great Athenian philosopher Socrates presented this logic impeccably in his Euthyphro Dilemma:

1) To begin our logical destruction of Divine Command Theory let us first assume that it is true… God dictates the morals of the world.

So, if Divine Command Theory is true then one of two possible scenarios occur with regard to actions deemed “morally good”

a. Morally good acts are willed by God because they are morally good.
b. Morally good acts are morally good because they are willed by God.

See the distinction? Is it good because God says it is good, or is it good because it simply is good?

2) Let us now address these two scenarios. If (a) morally good acts are willed by God because they are morally good, then all morally good acts exist entirely independent of Gods will.

Is it the case that morally good acts exist independent of Gods will? If you are an atheist then certainly, but if you are a person of faith you cannot possibly believe that things in the world can exist independent of God or you are simply a hypocritical moron.

Let us assume then that you are a person of faith, God's will controls all, thus our first premise must be false.

3) This leads to our second scenario, (b) morally good acts are morally good because they are willed by God.

If this is the case, then what is the point? God’s will has already been set and determined. He has dictated what is right, what is wrong, what is good, and what is bad, so there is no need for any independent assessment. If there is no reason for independent assessment what is the point of worshiping God at all, would he deviate from his own set plan? I purport that he would not, therefore if out second scenario is true…

There would be no cause either to care about morality or to worship God.

4) Again, assuming we are persons of faith, we clearly disagree with the aforementioned statement. Thus our second scenario is also incorrect.

5) With both our scenarios being incorrect where does that leave Divine Command Theory? The answer is in tatters and we should continue debating, discussing, and seeking the truth about morality and the nature of man.

1 comment:

Greg said...

I enjoyed this post on Divine Commmand theory. This argument for a supernatural source of right and wrong is certainly decimated by right thinking, if only Divine Command Theory would stay dead.