The Divine Command Theory

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The divine command theory remains one of the most common theories used to explain the link between ethics, morality and religion. Divine command theory remains a highly controversial issue and has been criticised by a number of philosophers namely Kai Nielsen, Plato, Socrates and J.L Mackie as well as receiving support from philosophers such as Philip Quinn and Thomas Aquinas (Wierenga, 2009). The arguments for and against this theory has practical and theoretical significance, both philosophers of religion and moral philosophers have interest in exploring the role of religion in moral thought. (Wierenga, 2009) The divine command theory associates moral goodness to what God commands or Gods will (Berg, 1993). In its purest form it postulates…show more content…
This brings about the first objection to the divine command theory, the issue of arbitrariness (Quinn, 1978). That is it seems that there is no basis for what is right and wrong, God has no reason for commanding an action to be right or wrong, it is simply his will, there are no moral rules or justifications that exist therefore making the choice of what is right and wrong arbitrary (Rachels, 1969). This in turn leads to the problem of emptiness –that standard moral claims about God are empty tautologies - and objectionable commands. The objectionable command problem lies in that if God has no reason for willing actions to be morally right or wrong then objectionable acts like murder, fraud etc. could also be morally right if He commands it (Wainright, 2005). That is, how do we govern the interpretation of sacred text and which sacred text is the correct one. When He states that an action is immoral is it always as such or is there any specific context that make it immoral, it is in this method of interpretation that we begin to exercise our own intuition of morality (Wierenga,…show more content…
In terms of the second part God commands these actions because they are right, this statement places morality separate from God, there is an independent standard of moral right and wrong that undermine the omnipotence and Omni benevolence of God (Leibniz, 1951). This point is also a response to the objection of the divine command theory, in making morality and God independent we ignore the greatness of God, who as the creator has the right to command and we are obligated to obey His commands (Rachels, 1969).
Some other critiques of the divine command theory and its failure that have been brought up includes the pluralism objection which describes the matter of the number of religions practised around the world and the differing understandings and the possible misunderstandings that could arise due to conflicting views (Wierenga, 2009). Some moral theists argue that without religion there is no basis for morality, without God then everything including the unsavoury actions mentioned previously is
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