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Divine Command Theory | ETHICS

Introduction | Divine Command Theory | ETHICS 

  • There are ethical theories that make reference to or depend upon the existence of a deity.
  • The first is Divine Command theory that is not used anywhere in the world by the major organized religions.
  • It is mistaken for the foundation of the moral theory of Judaism and Christianity and Islam but it is not so.
  • The Divine Command theory has too many problems with it to be used by large organized religions.
  • It is used by small cults and by those who are uneducated about what their own religion holds.

Divine Command Theory And Criticisms Of It | Divine Command Theory | ETHICS 

  • The first is one that equates the GOOD with whatever the god or deity commands.
  • Socrates (469-399 BCE)was one of the first to question this theory.  He asked whether we call the GOOD good because the gods have done it or whether they have done it because it is GOOD.
  • His question implies the possibility of the existence of a standard for the GOOD separate from the divine.
  • Religions often base their notion of morality on the character of their God claiming that
  • What is ‘good’ is good because God commands it and
  • People cannot live moral lives unless they follow God’s moral teachings.
  • In Christianity (2) is often believed to be impossible until a person has had their sin dealt with by God. Only then will they be in a position to want to do what God wills and be able to do it (‘The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so’ (Romans 8:7)).
  • However, this raises questions concerning the relationship between morality and God. If what is ‘good’ is good only because God wills it is it not possible that one day God might say that what was previously known as ‘bad’ is now ‘good’? Some might say that this would not happen because we would know God was making something ‘bad’ good but this means we have an independent criteria by which we can assess God’s morality. If this is the case then we know what is right and wrong without God’s intervention – so why bother with God?- – – Stephen Richards
  • Plato(,427-347 BCE)  presented this matter in the dialogue titled the Euthyphro.
    • Many people claim that morality is impossible without the belief in a supernatural entity (god), from which our sense of right and wrong ultimately derives. And yet, Plato put a huge hole in this argument, back in the 4th century BCE.
  • An excerpt from Plato’s Euthyphro (Socrates is speaking): “Consider this: is what is pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods? (Euthyphro, 10a)”

Euthyphro’s dilemma | Divine Command Theory | ETHICS 

Euthyphro’s dilemma, as it has come to be known, is this:

  • Horn 1 – If the good is such because God says it is, then morality is arbitrary (e.g., God condoning all sorts of immoral acts in the Old Testament, including: Genesis 34:13-29, Exodus 17:13, 32:27, Leviticus 26:29, Numbers 16:27-33, 21:3, 21:35, 31:17-18,Deuteronomy 2:33-34, 3:6, Joshua 6:21-27, Judges 3:29, etc., etc.).
  • Horn 2 – If the good is absolute, and God cannot do evil, then we don’t need the middle Man to figure out what is good and what is not (e.g., we know that killing innocent children and women, ethnic cleansing, etc. are wrong, period).
  • Notice that this is not an argument against the existence of God, only about gods’ irrelevance to morality. Yet, if one cannot avoid either horn of the dilemma, it is difficult to see what the point of religion ultimately is… by Massimo Pigliucci.

Christian Divine Command Theory

  • There are many people brought up to accept the Ten Commandments as guides for a moral life and they think that following those commandments would make them adherents to the DIVINE COMMAND Theory .This is NOT the case at all.
  • In DIVINE COMMAND THEORY the GOOD is whatever the “god” or deity commands. This means whatever and whenever and wherever.
  • DIVINE COMMAND does not stop with the Ten Commandments.
  • The theory holds that the deity did not go out of existence after issuing those commandments but continues to exist and issues new commandments. The deity can even issue commandments that change the previous commandments and even in contradiction to them.  In fact it is often the case that someone claiming to have received a direct command from the deity or god will do something quite inconsistent with or a violation of one of the ten commandments, for example killing innocent children because the deity told them to do so.
  • How does anyone know what the “god” or deity commands?  The “god” or deity tells them either directly or through some intermediary or through signs or omens or some experience that those who receive the command claim has been the transmitter of the message or the command.  How exactly do people get the command ? Well again it is either directly or indirectly through some intermediary like a person or a written work. Can the deity continue to issue commands after previous recordings?  Yes, the deity can update and change commands as the deity wishes.

Problems With Divine Command theory

  • The religions of the West have rejected DIVINE COMMAND THEORY and instead hold for Natural Law Theory.  The rejection may be based on the fear of some charismatic person receiving a divine command to change the religion or to kill the leaders of that religion.
    • People claim that GOD has COMMANDED them to do X
    • Therefore doing X is a morally good act.
    • X can be ANY ACT AT ALL.
    • ANY ACT AT ALL can be good if GOD COMMANDS it!!!
  • In DIVINE COMMAND THEORY there is NO GOOD or BAD by itself at all. There is only what GOD COMMANDS
    • GOD commands= GOOD
    • GOD forbids= BAD
  • No one who accepts DIVINE COMMAND THEORY can question the commands of the deity or make a statement such as “I do not believe God would command the things you stated here at all.” because a person who accepts the DIVINE COMMAND THEORY accepts NO ACT as being GOOD or BAD except according to what the deity commands.
    • rape can be good
    • child molesting can be good
    • lies can be good
    • theft can be good
    • slaughter of thousands of innocent people can be good
  • All that matters is that the “god” commands it.
  • Scriptures can record what some people at some time thought god commanded them to do. Some people can follow what is written in those scriptures. That is not DIVINE COMMAND THEORY.  Why not? Because for those who believe in a deity or a god then GOD lives forever. GOD is alive. GOD keeps issuing COMMANDS.
  • DIVINE COMMAND THEORY has so many problems that there are very few people on earth that use it and they tend to be fanatics, and mentally unstable people. No organized religion actually supports DIVINE COMMAND THEORY because of all the problems with it and the threat it poses to organized religions. Judaism and Christianity and Islam support NATURAL LAW THEORY and not DIVINE COMMAND.