Divine Command Theory Weaknesses

Divine Command Theory Weaknesses
• Starter – Missing Words
• LO s
• To explore some of the
key criticisms of the
divine command theory,
including the Euthyphro
• To evaluate divine
command theory in
light of such criticisms
Missing Words Starter
_____ of hippo and John ____ argued for predestination
Descartes argued that God can do anything, including ___
______ was willing to _____ to show faith in God
_____ said that you cannot have a ______ without a
• God cannot be understood through Aquinas’ _____ argued
Karl Barth
• Luther suggested we can be moral through per sola ____
and per sola _____
• Barth ‘God is not just ____ but ____.’
• Euthyphros Dilemma – Plato, Ockham, Adams,
Geach (read script)
• Christianity about love not like the ‘legalistic
• Slaves of Christ – obedience not a virtue
• Obedience and Freedom – Incompatible?
• God’s will cannot be known…Aquinas vs Barth
• Supervenience – moving from non-ethical to
ethical eg man in image of God=abortion is wrong
Divine Command Theory Weaknesses
– Lesson 2
• Summarise DCT
weaknesses in word
cloud format, using
notes from last lesson.
• To further explore the
weaknesses of divine
command theory
• (the bigger the word,
the more significant it
• To discuss and evaluate
this, speed dating style
DCT Weaknesses Speed Dating
• In pairs, you must make sense of and
summarise your slide…you are then going to
go and meet other ‘couples’ who are going to
share their summary with you (notes to be
taken from first person conversation not from
• Leibniz – paradox – “If God wills a person to
do the opposite of what God has already
willed, this would be morally good.” Absurd.
• Why does DCT mean God is not free?
• God not free – bound to reward and punish if
subjects are obedient
Divine Command Theory: Ayer
• For some philosophers,
morality can’t depend on
authority alone.
• A.J.Ayer said:
• ‘No morality can be
founded on authority,
even if the authority were
• Commanding something
doesn’t make it morally
Divine Command Theory: Leibniz
What is more, if God chose his
commands arbitrarily, then why
worship Him?
• The philosopher Gottfried Leibniz
• ‘…in saying that things are not good
by any rule of goodness, but merely
by the will of God, it seems to me
that one destroys, without realising
it, all the love of God and all his
glory. For why praise him for what
he has done if he would be equally
praiseworthy in doing exactly the
• (Leibniz, ’Discourse on Metaphysics,
Divine Command Theory: God Beyond
Human Comprehension
• Perhaps God is so unlike human beings that
He is beyond comprehension.
• While it seems impossible to imagine that His
commands make things good or bad,
nevertheless, since he created morality this is
within His power.
Divine Command Theory:
J. L. Mackie
• J.L. Mackie maintains that
moral truths exist
independently but are the
product of the creative will of
God, who has made human
beings for which these rules
are right.
• Just as human beings were
created by God gut are now
free and separate from God,
moral laws were also part of
the creation of God. They are
now separate from Him.
Divine Command Theory:
• God might require human beings to follow the
moral rules, but human beings might not be
able to infer directly what these rules are.
• Human beings may then infer from God’s
commands that they are worth following.
Divine Command Theory:
James Rachels
• James Rachels uses an
example to illustrate
another possibility.
• Suppose that a leader
commands a follower to do
• The follower performs the
action, not because he is
ordered to do so, but
because he thinks that the
action is right in itself.
Divine Command Theory:
James Rachels
• In this situation the rightness of the moral
action isn’t conferred because it is
commanded by God.
• The rightness of the action comes from the
fact that it is right in itself.
• (James Rachels ‘God and Human Attitudes’
Divine Command Theory:
Alisdair MacIntyre
• Alisdair MacIntyre
concludes that there
must be a secular
reason for being moral,
which religion sheds
light on.
• (Alisdair MacIntyre A
Short History of Ethics
Letter to Abraham
• “So your thinking of sacrificing your son
because God told you too…”
• Write this letter based on what you have
learnt about these weaknesses.
Divine Command Theory
• Further Reading:
• Oliphant J. OCR Religious Ethics for AS and A2 Chapter
6 (pages 79 and 80).
• Vardy P. Puzzle of Ethics Chapter 2 (pages 7-11).
• Flannagan M. ‘In Defence of Divine Commands’
dialogue Issue 37 November 2011

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