The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Excellent paper on the failures of modified divine command theory

I found this paper excellent. Robert Adams’ attempt to ground the necessary moral goodness of divine commands in relationships’ intrinsic value means relationships have value independent of God’s commands. Linda Zagzebski’s attempt to ground morality in God’s nature means God can only command that which conforms to his nature, but there are no limits to what God’s nature can allow God to do.

I’m going to read it, but have to admit I have never heard of this from the title page,
“the Department of Human Performance Management”.

(A Thesis presented in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Department of Human Performance Management, The University of Mississippi).


Part way through it - I will finish it - and one thing I have to ask is: if the greatest commandment is love for God and neighbor - is it one we would wish was NOT given? Is it onerous? According to Jesus, it is the most important of the commands - keep that one and the rest are fulfilled.
I’ll keep reading…

The issue is not whether or not these are good commandments, per se. The issue is whether or not their goodness is grounded in the act of God commanding them or in God’s nature which compels him to command them, or in something else.

I am inclined to go for the second horn - goodness is grounded in God’s nature which compels Him to command them as per Thomas Oord’s essential kenosis idea. That nature also shapes what God can and can’t do which is how he approaches the age old problem of evil.

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Yes I realized what the issue is - but was trying to see what the problem is in reality, not just as a mind-game, interesting as it is.

That is an interesting paper, thanks for the link!

@mcarans What if God’s nature was not benevolent? Would torturing babies then not be immoral?

I like this quote from CS Lewis: “God’s will is determined by His wisdom which always perceives, and His goodness which always embraces the intrinsically good.” If something is intrinsically good, then its goodness is not grounded in God’s willing it.

Another way of looking at it is this: nothing exists that was not created by God. (Taken in the general sense; noone believes God created automobiles for instance; except for maybe the 1965 1/2 Ford Mustang.)

So if any thing has intrinsic goodness, it came from God. We recognize the goodness; we did not create it nor did it create itself.
I have great comfort in knowing God is the fount of goodness; it is in good hands.

@DaveB2.0 I agree with what you’re saying there, but I think a distinction needs to be made between concrete entities and commands. Obviously nothing concrete could be good without God creating it good (leaving aside the issue of free will). I think morality is an entirely different matter. God couldn’t make torturing people for fun good.

Probably correct. But a part of me says - sure he could have. He could have made us love what we know now is evil. He could have created in such a way that we got a hormonal kick, or an oxytocin rush, or adrenaline high, when seeing others suffer, for instance. We would then call those things ‘good’.
But made as we are, it is love and justice and mercy and good cheer that we cherish.
Maybe I’m wrong?

This has actually happened. Public executions and humiliation, spectator “sports” of animal cruelty, human sacrifice… Hell, for much of history conquering has been considered glorious.

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Or my '55 Chevy.



But I would say intrinsic goodness is a moving target as societies develop.:thinking:

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Thanks for the memory, Chad. Below is a photo of my '56 Chevy which I took in 1967 outside a leper colony in Central Africa. It had three-on-the-tree.

What’s this with “maybe”? Which part of you? Presumably the part of you that takes delight in making provocative statements. Well, you succeeded. Are you happy now?

Gee, you’re really mean. You big meanie you…

That God’s nature is good is a matter of faith. It is not something that can be proved or disproved. The question comes down to : does God do things we perceive to be evil?

The typical Calvinist answer is yes because there is some greater good of which we are unaware or, even more simply like horn 1: because God did it, it must be good regardless of how it appears to us.

However we have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so the Calvinist position which is typically also literalist has a major contradiction within it.

I don’t believe God wills things we perceive as evil but that is merely a faith position on my part based upon the revelation of God’s character and nature we see in Jesus from the gospels.

Hi @mcarans. You didn’t answer my question… Do you think torturing people for fun would be moral if God’s nature compelled God to command it?

My faith position means that I believe God’s nature is good so torturing people for fun would not be in God’s nature. The idea that something I perceive as bad is good simply because God is doing it because of His nature is not very much different to the Calvinist position where it’s God’s will. I guess I’m with Lewis. Goodness is intrinsic to God’s nature.

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