The divine command theory- strengths and weaknesses

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weaknesses

  • The Euthyphro Dilemma: provides two problems - if morality stems from God, then is it arbitrary? Or if he makes these laws because what they teach is good, it implies there is an external standard of goodness therefore challenging his omnipotence 
  • Arbitrariness: if God can change laws whenever he wants then morality isn't standard and based on a whim. An example would be the commandment don't kill being broken directly by God during the Battle of Jericho. Arminius rejected Determinism on the grounds it presents God as using us as his 'play thing', which seems relevant here too 
  • Religious pluralism: how do we know which rules are right? The rules of Hinduism, such as Ahimsa and so eat vegetarian meals, but Leviticus teaches to eat (certain kinds of) meat 
  • Pluralism of interpretation: religious believers choose to reinterpret some aspects of the religion, such as the rules on not wearing wool and linen in the Old Testament. Christians don't abide by this, Jews do. If we are told to reinterpret Paul's attitudes towards women, how do we know which bits to re-interpret and which bits not to?  Belief in God: dependent on whether God exists. You can't expect an Atheist to accept the teachings of a being they don't even accept as real 
  • In conflict with modern life and human law: for example, Leviticus teaches not to lie with man as with woman, but our human laws protect the rights of all citizens including homosexuals/transsexuals etc. 
  • Absolute and deontological: difficult to accept Christianity as so rigid due to Biblical teachings such as Jesus healing the man on the Sabbath, where a law is broken. Fletcher argued that this reflects the need for a more 'compassionate' Christian ethic, led to the development of Situation Ethics 

 

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weaknesses

  • In conflict with modern life and human law: for example, Leviticus teaches not to lie with man as with woman, but our human laws protect the rights of all citizens including homosexuals/transsexuals etc. 
  • Absolute and deontological: difficult to accept Christianity as so rigid due to Biblical teachings such as Jesus healing the man on the Sabbath, where a law is broken. Fletcher argued that this reflects the need for a more 'compassionate' Christian ethic, led to the development of Situation Ethics 

 

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strengths

  • Metaphysical and objective: God is the origin and regulator of morality. Surely there is no better source for deciding what is right and wrong than God's unchanging law 

  • God knows us best: God is objective, as well as our creator. We may think that things are good for us, such as having an affair, but God's law is against this for a reason               

  • Absolute rules: the laws we have to stick by are often clear, such as the Ten Commandments 

  • Takes away human responsibility: goodness isn't subject to our misunderstanding of situations - our reasoning is fallible, and so following God's law safeguards against this 

  • God is inherently good: the Bible describes God as 'holy', meaning separate from sin. Therefore, what he commands must be good 

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weaknesses

  • Pluralism of interpretation: religious believers choose to reinterpret some aspects of the religion, such as the rules on not wearing wool and linen in the Old Testament. Christians don't abide by this, Jews do. If we are told to reinterpret Paul's attitudes towards women, how do we know which bits to re-interpret and which bits not to?  Belief in God: dependent on whether God exists. You can't expect an Atheist to accept the teachings of a being they don't even accept as real 
  • In conflict with modern life and human law: for example, Leviticus teaches not to lie with man as with woman, but our human laws protect the rights of all citizens including homosexuals/transsexuals etc. 
  • Absolute and deontological: difficult to accept Christianity as so rigid due to Biblical teachings such as Jesus healing the man on the Sabbath, where a law is broken. Fletcher argued that this reflects the need for a more 'compassionate' Christian ethic, led to the development of Situation Ethics 

 

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