Divine Command Theory

  • Created by: Ohtom
  • Created on: 25-03-14 11:17

Morality depends on God's commands as revealed in Scripture.

Sometimes called Theological Voluntarism, Divine Command Theories are found in the Francisean ethics developed by John Duns Scotus (1266-1308), William of Ockham (1285-1347), and Andrew of Neufchateau (1340-1400).

  • Something is good because God commands it and wrong because he forbids it.
  • In the Old Testament God is described as a commander of his people and lays down the laws, disobedience is punished by death.
  • God's omniscient and omnibenevolent character underpins the law - gracious, compassionate, merciful, steadfast.
  • In the New Testament Jesus uses 'Love', and says love entails obedience 'if you love me you will obey me'
  • So agape (unconditonal love) is a divine command, if of course Jesus is God.
  • Aquinas argued that when Abraham went to slay Isaac he did not wrong because 'the Lord of life and death' commanded it

The Problem of Abhorrent Commands

With Abraham and Isaac God appears to approve of murder, and when the angel of the Lord commands Joshua to kill everyone in the cities of Jericho and Ai, Joshua is not guilty of genocide. God is also described as 'jealous', as he will not tolerate rivals such as Baal, the God of the people of Palastine. Authority comes from power to…


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