Divine Command Theory is an ethical theory which claims that God’s will is the foundation of ethics. Based on Divine Command Theory, things are morally right or wrong, compulsory, allowed or disallowed if God or deities commands it. In Divine Command Theory, what makes an act moral or immoral is that God commands or prohibited it. Apart from being commanded by God to do certain thing, some other aspect of Divine Command Theory, also hold that an action is moral if Divine motivated.
In this motivation aspect of Divine Command Theory, we can say that apart from the religious documents someone can be motivated to carry out moral.
The Divine Command Theory is divided by some Scholars into three ethical sub frame work: (1) Religion communities, (2) Command as motivated (3) Created morality. These three sub frame work is in practice in all the major religion of the world today, like Christian, Islam and Judaism, but with slit difference. The Religion Communities Frame Work This type of Divine command Theory hold that only God commands is moral.
And that only the true believers of God’s command or religion community members can explain and obey God’s command.
For instance some Christian denomination claim that when you are in the Church auditorium and it compound one need to put off his shoe to follow what God instructed Moses in Media, thus seeing the auditorium to represent the holy place in that particular passage of the Bible, while other do not interpret the passage that way.
The Religion Community Frame work views the Divine Command Theory meaningless to unbelievers. And that they (non believer) cannot abide with God command except they believed in God. The Command as Motivation Framework
This frame work holds that some actions are morally right without Divine commands, but God’s commands empower or motivate people to act morally. In other words some actions are morally good even if God do not issue command, but the commands of God put people in proper shape to act in accordance with that morality The proponent of this frame work believed that only individual who truly believed in God can obey God’s command. They claim that if someone did not believe in God, he may want to be moral, but such person will act contrary to these moral when they are in difficult situation because of lack f motivation.
For example if someone who does not believe in God, he may decide not to steal but when faced with challenges like; lacking or hunger he may revised his decision. But someone who believed in God will be motivated by the command to abide by the term. The Created Morality Frame Work Created morality hold that only God will and commands are moral. Any actions outside God are immoral. This framework tries to establish that only those who believed in God can do things which are moral. And that anything done without acknowledge to God’s will is immoral.
In other words no action is good on its own, rather God determine what is good. For instance if someone refuse to steal in other not to put pains on ethers as a result of the loose of his property, the person is not moral because he is not refraining because God is against that act. The view of divine command theory is one that ties together morality and religion in a way that is very comfortable for most people, because it provides a solution to pesky arguments like relativism and objectivity of ethics.
An action is morally acceptable if God commands such an action and morally wrong if God prohibit such an action. The theory has been criticized by numerous philosophers, including Plato, Kai Nielson, and J. L. Mackie. The theory also has many defenders, both classic and contemporary, such as Thomas Aquinas, Robert Adams, and Philip Quinn. Although the basic premise of the divine command theory is rather simple (what God commands is good, therefore do only that). Things get somewhat complicated once we start to consider why God’s commands are good.
In the light of the foregoing, had it been that God commanded otherwise e. g. we should inflict suffering on others for fun, then doing so would be morally right. We would be obligated to do so, because God commanded it. If God commanded us to inflict such suffering, doing so would become the morally right thing to do. People would conclude by saying that the foundation of morality becomes arbitrary. The main fact is that, that God could have made a different decision does not make His decision arbitrary.
What is in accordance with God’s command is moral and what is contrary to that command is immoral, period. It must be concluded that any independent views people have on what is moral and immoral are irrelevant and irreverent. As God will never change, so moral truth will never change. A major assumption of the divine command theory of ethics is that God is good (benevolent) and only wills good things (or issues good commands) for the sake of humanity. Any concern over the nature of God’s command merely indicates that such people do not have complete faith in God, and therefore, in His command.
If they did, then they would be wholly unquestioning of, and obedient to Him. The criticisms over divine command theory would simply not arise, for people who have the genuine, and therefore complete, faith in Him. God created the universe and everything in it, including human being. If God created human beings, then God has an absolute claim on our obedience, if God has an absolute claim on our obedience, then we should always obey God’s commands. Therefore, the divine command theory is true. Criticism of Divine Command Theory: The Euthyphro dilemma
Critics of Divine command theory have used the Euthyphro dilemma since the period of Plato who spoke through the mouth of Socrates to criticize the Divine command theory, that says morality should based on what God or gods commanded. The Euthyphro dilemma is named after Plato’s dialogue “The Euthyphro” in which Socrates posed a question “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods? ” In other words Socrates is asking, whether something is good because God or gods pronounced or commanded that we should do it, or something is good that made God or gods to pronounce or commanded it.
Whichever way one support on this Euthyphro dilemma, it is still very controversial. For instance, if someone says something is good because God or gods pronounced or commanded that we should do it, such person will be met with two objections: the abhorrence objection and the emptiness objection. The Abhorrence Objection If an action is good only because God command such action, then what would happen if God or gods chose to issue an abhorrent command? What if instead of God command that we should not kill, He changes it to we should kill or commit other atrocities like robbery, raping, etc.
Under Divine command theory or to support divine command theory, an abhorrent would be requiring. That is it a most that such atrocity is committed, in order to be moral. This may contradict a believer expectation of God or gods yet it would require abhorrent to the commandment because God or gods commanded such. In Divine command theory we say the mass killing of people including children by the Israelites recorded in the Holy Bible or the fanatic Muslim like “boko haram” who kills in the name of religion is moral.
But does these really justifies morality? A deep look at this will continue to generate more problems. For instance some people will classify that some act that others do, that they do not subscribe to is not from God or gods. So how can we then know that which is from God or how can we identify those that God directed to carry out his will? This will be the next question that might be raised. The Emptiness Objection If any particular action is good because God commands such, then God serve as the ultimate arbiter of what is morally right and wrong.
An issue will then arise, whether the statement “God is good” has any meaning where God determines what is good. Divine Command Theory proponent state “God is good”, while the Divine Command Theory itself claim that “good is whatever God commands”. The emptiness objection transposes these statements and claim that saying “God is good” is the same thing as “go Some said the multiple religions in the world which claim to have different command from the same od is whatever God commands”. The argument is then made that this statement is empty or meaningless.
Because abhorrent of Divine Command Theory strongly believed that the concept “God is good” and “good is whatever God commands” are meaningful. The Irrelevance Objection Looking at the other aspect of the Euthyphro dilemma, that is, if someone says something is good that made God or gods pronounce or commanded it becomes more problematic. This is called the irrelevance objection which is totally against the divine command theory. This holds that something is moral or immoral independence of God’s will. So even God commanded it or not it is still morally alright.
Other Criticism of Divine Command Theory Apart from the Euthyphro dilemma oppositionist of Divine command theory also try to argue in other form to render the Divine command theory uncalled for. Some said the multiple religions in the world which claim to have different command from the same God in which some of the commands are against each other. For example, Muslim and Christian even Judaism will have different view or notion on a particular issue and each will claim that God commands such. The question then is, how can the same God give out this kind different command to this people?
The critics said if God is the one that gave this command it must be a universal command. Meanwhile other critics of Divine Command Theory asked an epistemological question, how can we know the will and command of God? They asked further, if the scripture can be used as guide to morality? Some proceed to asked, if the scripture is still the will of God to this present age or for the living then? They, the critics said if Divine Command is a motivator, how then can we use the scripture as guide to morality? They claim that obey the scripture should not be seen as obeying divine command.
Because, God or the deities that gave this command is still alive and we continue to issue new commands, they added that as people heard the command many centuries ago, people must hear it now and will continue to hear until the deity or God does not exist again. Many Philosophers and Religious over many centuries have attempted to proof the objection raised by the Euthyphro Dilemma as unsound argument against the Divine Command Theory. These defenders of Divine Command Theory argue that the logical flow of the argument of Socrates is invalid.
The Divine command Theorist claim that it is not necessary that the believer in this command of God or gods limit them self to either of the two point of the Euthyphro dilemma postulated by the Plato’s intellectual work. The Divine Command Theorist also tries to disagree with each of the objection raised by the Euthyphro dilemma. Some of the advocates of the Divine Command Theory said, the abhorrent objection is not correct because God is a loving God and can never or we never issue a command which is abhorrent. With this they rule out any possibility of God issue an abhorrent command.
Meanwhile others proponent of Divine Command Theory hold that, God nature will prevent him from issuing abhorrent command. On the emptiness objection, defenders of Divine Command Theory argue that, it is never an empty statement to claim that God is good and that what God commands is good. They argued logically that if God is good, everything he does or says is good, therefore God command is good. The irrelevance objection was counter on the ground that, if something is good prior to the time God issue a commands such, God is the one that made it good then.
And now that he issues a command to effect it can never be said to be irrelevance to the goodness of that. In other words things that are good are made so by no other person but by God. And if God decided that what is good before should now be made a command, it is to make people act in accordance to the nature of God which is good. New form of Divine Command Theory The critic argument against Divine command Theory and many other problems raised about it have made it difficult to be practice by religion in society of this world. This has also made advocates to put forth strong argument for Divine Command Theory.
Philosopher like Robert Adams postulated a reform Divine Command Theory, where he substituted the word God with ‘loving god’, he argue that a loving God will never issue an abhorrent command. He therefore suggests that any command that tends to be abhorrent in nature is not from loving God. And that that must not be obey. In other words people that do things that are not moral, and tried to link it God’s command should be disregarded, because God cannot give abhorrent command. This reformed Divine Command Theory is now what must religions of the world practice which also go in line with normal ethical theory.