Divine Simplicity and Divine Command Ethics

International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (3):361-369 (2008)
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Abstract

In this paper I will argue that a false assumption drives the attraction of philosophers to a divine command theory of morality. Specifically, I suggest the idea that anything not created by God is independent of God is a misconception. The idea misleads us into thinking that our only choice in offering a theistic ground for morality is between making God bow to a standard independent of his will or God creating morality in revealing his will. Yet what is God is hardly independent of him, and in coupling a perfect being theology with the doctrine of divine simplicity we discover that God’s “reason” is God. Accordingly, obeying the truths of goodness that we humans speak of as contained in the divine wisdom hardly impugns the divine sovereignty. By modifying divine command ethics to give primacy to God’s love or justice, thinkers such as Robert M. Adams, Philip L. Quinn, and Edward J. Wierenga admit the repugnance of this picture in spite of their verbal allegiance to divine command ethics. Accordingly, they implicitly concede that basing morality on God’s sheer power should not be the preferred option for the Christian theist.

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Susan Peppers-Bates
Stetson University

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