Filial Gratitude and God's Right to Command

Journal of Religious Ethics 19 (1):93 - 118 (1991)
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Abstract

Defenders of theistic morality sometimes insist that God's will can impose moral obligation only if God has a right to command. The right is compared to that which parents have over their children and which is thought to derive from a filial debt of gratitude. This essay examines arguments for divine authority based on gratitude which employ the parental analogy. It is argued that neither parental nor divine authority is based on gratitude. An alternative derivation of parental authority is suggested but shown to be unavailable to those who would compare divine to parental rights.

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Joseph L. Lombardi
Saint Joseph's University of Pennsylvania

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