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Divine Command Theory Essay Research Paper The

Divine Command Theory Essay, Research Paper The Divine Command Theory Religion and ethics are seen to be somehow inseparable in our culture. Religious leaders are usually appealed to in some capacity when

Divine Command Theory Essay, Research Paper

The Divine Command Theory

Religion and ethics are seen to be somehow inseparable in our

culture. Religious leaders are usually appealed to in some capacity when

dealing with various moral and political problems. Their opinions are

given great weight because they are thought to be in some kind of special

relationship with God that the common person does not have.

The view that God creates the moral law is often called the

“Divine Command Theory.” According to this view, what makes an action

right is that God desires it to be done. The divine command theory is the

idea that moral actions are those which correspond to God’s will. The

simplest and most common form of the Divine Command Theory states that the

phrase “morally right” actually means ” commanded by God.” Similarly,

“morally wrong” means ” forbidden by God.” Accepted, this explanation of

Divine Command Theory does not consume all possible expressions, but it is

the simple is used to introduce the theory and it is its common form. A

slightly more sophisticated form of the Divine Command Theory would be

that “something is right if and only if God commands it”, and this form

should be kept in mind.

However, if goodness is not an essential property of God, then

there is no guarantee that what he wills will be good. Even if God is

all-powerful and all knowing, it does not follow that he is all-good. One

can be powerful and intelligent without being good. Thus, the Divine

Command Theory faces a dilemma: if goodness is a defining attribute of

God, the theory is circular, but if it is not a defining distinction, the

theory is false. In either case, the Divine Command Theory cannot be

considered a potential theory of morality.

The preceding considerations indicate that it is unreasonable to believe

that an action is right because God wills it to be done. One can probably

believe that God wills an action to be done because it is right, but to

believe this is to believe that the rightness of an action is independent

of God. In any event, the view that the moral law requires religion is

unsound. Plato demonstrated the logical independence of religion and

morality in the Euthyphro; the belief that morality requires God remains a

widely held moral statement. Socrates, in a discussion about the nature of

piety, asks, “Is conduct right because the gods command it, or do the gods

command it because it is right?” According to this argument theorists is

given two options: either it is good because God commands it, or God

commands it because it is good.

This first alternative that “it is good because God commands it” leads to

the idea that God’s commands are arbitrary – without justification. God

cannot appeal to the goodness of an act as justification for commanding

it, because it is the very command that makes it good. Before God’s

command, the act was neither good nor bad. God has no reason to choose one

action as a good one before God’s own command. Surely, the Divine Command

theorist would not want to admit that God’s commands are arbitrary. This

option is therefore unsound.

When this second alternative is that, “the gods command it because it is

right.” To say that God commands an action because it is good is to say

that the action is good independent of God’s command. Whether or not God

commands the action is irrelevant to that action’s goodness or badness. It

is good or bad before God’s command. There must be some independent

standard of goodness and badness that does not depend on God’s will. The

point here is that even if God were asked why he chose to command

something the reasons would have to be independent of God’s will.

This shows that morality is independent of religion. Religion is only an

enforcer of morality and not related to it. To say that morality is

dependent on morality is to state that people without religion have no

morals. The argument drawn from Plato’s Euthyphro effectively weakens the

Divine Command Theory. If it is claimed that God commands an action

because it is good, there is the consequence that morality is independent

of God’s will.

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