Divine Command Theory Essay

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“Examine the key features of the divine command theory and identify its weaknesses.” (21)

The view that moral rules are true by virtue of being commanded by God is called the divine command theory.  It is a deontological theory and claims that sentences such as "charity is good" mean the same thing as sentences such as "God commands charity”. If you believe that moral actions are good or bad because they are commanded or forbidden, certain things must follow. First, if they had not been commanded or forbidden by God then they wouldn’t have been good or bad. Secondly, if God has said the opposite to what he did in fact say, then the things that would have been good are now bad and vice versa. If God said “Hate your neighbour”, then that indeed would be the Christian and Jewish code of behaviour. This makes the moral codes appear somewhat arbitrary and brings up Plato’s question of “Is x good because God loves it or does God love x because x is good?”

Plato was an absolutist and may have believed in a set of absolute moral rules which are true in themselves, and not by virtue of being commanded. If we believe that God and morals are separate from one another we have to ask the question what we make of God. This is due to the fact that God would defer to a higher set of absolutes which would take away from the classical theistic view that he is omnipotent. Therefore it would mean that there is no religious reason to be good and that god is not worth of worship. A biblical example of the divine command theory is where God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of his faith. Here we have a conflict between the religious and the ethical. Abraham does not kill Isaac, but if he did his community would have judged him to be a murderer. The reason for this is that Abraham’s community does not know whether the command to kill Isaac was a legitimate divine command, or some delusion of Abraham’s. So, this community must depend upon the ethical prohibition...
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