Philosophy Homework Paper on Divine Command Theory

Divine Command Theory


Morality cognates to ethics, in that, the two terms are often used interchangeably to determine whether an action is right or wrong in a given context. Nonetheless, there is apparent dissonance between the two terms. Morality embodies a set of facts or concepts that enumerate right or wrong conduct while ethics studies morality from a philosophical perspective (Barcalow 7).  Several theories have been popularized by philosophers to determine the propriety or impropriety of a behavior. They include the Natural Law, Divine Command, and Cultural relativism theories. Of these, the divine command theory has accrued the most controversy due to its advocacy for decorum based on submission to a superior supernatural being, universally referred to as God. The Divine Command Theory (DCT) is a meta-ethical theory that popularizes the idea that an action is moral if it corresponds with the command of God (Allan 56). Essentially, the theory presupposes that the status of an action, behavior, or choice is equivalent to its submission to the will of God. Moreover, according to DCT, morally obligatory acts are willed by God (Austin 21). However, the constant allusion to God’s commands raises the question whether good acts are willed by God because they are good or actions are good because they are willed by God.

DCT points out a necessary connection between religion and morality. According to Divine Command theorists, the presence of religion or lack of it , determines morality. Philosophers assert that the existence of God or gods plays an integral part in motivating or guiding people to behave in the right or wrong way. Theists agree that right or wrong actions are not arbitrary, rather they are endorsed by God just as they are stated in religious writings to guide humans in their relations (Oderbrg 111). Additionally, religious texts sanction behaviors that facilitate true happiness for all people by discouraging decadency.  However, the theory does not rest on a cogent argument given that it only applies to a section of people that believe in the existence of God. Being primordial, religion has garnered an unparalleled following despite the rise in atheism in various parts of the globe.  For instance, the Euthyphro dilemma, coined by Plato, promotes a different opinion from that held by religious activists (Barcalow 199). The philosopher’s view is that morally good or bad actions are independent of God’s will. Therefore, if theists think that morally good actions are willed by God because they are good, then they must be ethical prior to their representation (Barcalow 207). On the other hand, if they believe that morally good actions are willed by God, then it follows that they are arbitrary and, thus, abhorrent commands. Similarly, Socrates asserts that God loves good because it is acceptable. Therefore, good existed before God and is independent on God .

DCT rests on a cogent argument that satisfies the criteria for the objectives outlined by ethical frameworks. Religion and reason are compatible, therefore, they cannot contradict one another (McKay and Harvey 447). They are identical in content especially when they are applied simultaneously with moderation.  Undoubtedly, religion abets reasoning on various instances. For instance, the Solomonic wisdom described in the bibles comes in handy when handling intricate situations in and outside courts. Additionally, religion and ethics agree that corruption is wrong and supports the castigation of state officials involved in evil deeds. Besides, DCT accepts both atheist and agonistic reasoning (Shafer-Landau 333). Religious principles are absolute and reasonable when applied as explained in the bible. However, the interpretation by different people in favor of the status quo tarnishes its divinity. In some instances, morality overrides ethics, which creates room for crises. For instance, the belief that all transgressions are punishable by the book rather than the law creates loopholes to overstep individual rights. It is for this reason that the strict adherence to Sharia Law is perceived as an abuse of human rights by secularized nations (l-Attar 27). Kant also shares the opinion that morality is guided by reasoning and even God himself must follow the dictates of reason.

Plausibility of Divine Command Theory


DCT maintains that God is the foundation of morality and that if he ceases to exist and so does morality. The theory promotes the notion that moral obligations are absolute and thus no reasoning is required to justify ethics (Oderberg 211). It then follows that if DCT is accepted as truly divine, the moral laws on which it is anchored will be absolutely reliable, trustworthy, and unassailable. Humanity will feel obliged to follow the rules that are divinely established and synchronized by the ultimate authority. DCT preserves God’s sovereignty because it portrays Him as the only being with moral authority (Oderberg 209). Additionally, it saves humanity the trouble of seeking descriptions of morality since the clear limbo between good and bad is stated in religious books. For instance, Jacques Maritain asserts that humanity would eventually discover the Ten Commandments through concerted efforts, experiences, and human reasoning. However, it would take them inordinate time to unearth singular laws. Therefore, the ascription of the Ten Commandments in the early chapters of the Bible granted humanity a moral leap forward without them putting undue effort to discover these inherent rules.

The moral laws laid down by the divinity offers believers the motivation to do well. DCT is clear and objective. It is also easy to understand and grants promises of eternal life to those that emulate mercy, humility, and forgiveness. Furthermore, the divine command theory underscores love as the greatest commandment. As a result, individuals that are affiliated to certain religions feel obliged to observe these rules. DCT has been used by nations to promote peace, tolerance, and coherence (Austin 79). For instance, Catholicism in Brazil and numerous South American nations has been deployed by governments as a unifying factor in times of crisis. The bottom-line is that everyone who knows God and identifies with Him learns the distinction between good and evil and understands the commands, obligations, and conformity.


The divine command theory remains controversial both in the past and in the present. The philosophers cannot agree on the moral grounding of theory which approbates behavior to God’s wish. As a result, atheists strongly dissent to the idea that God’s supposed good qualities prescribe acceptable and unacceptable behaviors.  The theory suffers major drawbacks arising from the argument that there lacks a third-party benchmark to ascertain the plausibility of the hypothesis (Johnston 56). Foremost, using God as the moral grounding for behaviors makes his commands arbitrary assumptions because they lack rationalizations. Besides, the theory overlooks the concept of causality . They presume that a character is good because God is thought to possess those attributes and they reflect the goodness of God. Nonetheless, these qualities do not make God good.

Another weakness emanates from the questions raised by atheists concerning God’s authority in determining the good and the bad. The answers offered by theists to affirm God’s position in morality seems ambiguous. It is indistinct how the fact that God says something is right makes it right. Theists argue that God’s commands are arbitrary because there was no right or wrong prior to their formulation. Additionally, people believe that certain things are right or wrong because God vilified or lauded them to different extents. Therefore, there is no coherent reasoning to vindicate God’s commands. Furthermore, the presupposition is consequentialist hence defies everyday moral reckoning and intuition. For instance, all people understand that rape is wrong and punishable because their intuition pinpoints the harm it causes to the victim. However, religious fanatics believe that rape is uncouth because God said so. Also, Jews do not work on the Sabbath but Protestants do. The former group strictly abides by God’s command while the latter also follow the same command to worship Him. Hence that does not make Protestants second-class Christians.

DCT threatens harmonious coexistence. The modern world is in crisis due to religious intolerance that threatens human existence. A lot of evils are being perpetrated in the name of religion (Al-Attar 200). Also, there is constant finger-pointing when it comes to the practices abetted by individuals from certain religions. Hatred is pervasive courtesy of religion and religious-backed massacres are publicized frequently  (Al-Attar 231). In the Middle East, for instance, religious conflicts are ubiquitous as residents and visitors are expected to ascribe to the Islamic religion which is the dominant culture.  Everyone, including foreigners, is mandated to abide by the Muslim dress code as well as religious values. Western secularization has further increased the rift between religions. The result of religious differences is antagonism that has irked terrorism, radicalization, and extremism. Furthermore, the counterterrorist attacks aimed at stopping Islamic extremists from attacking the West has furthered abhorrence from different factions.


Morality and ethics  are often used interchangeably to determine whether an action is right or wrong in different contexts. The Divine Command Theory (DCT) is a meta-ethical theory that asserts that an action is moral if it is in line with the commands of God. Hence, DCT points out a necessary connection between religion and morality. According to Divine Command theorists, the presence of religion or lack of it thereof, determines morality. DCT maintains that God is the foundation of morality and that if he ceases to exist and so does morality.

Works Cited

Al-Attar, Mariam. Islamic ethics: Divine command theory in Arabo-Islamic thought. Routledge,


Austin, Michael W. “Divine command theory.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy 21 (2006).

Allan, Leslie. “A Taxonomy of Meta-ethical Theories.” URL=< http://www. RationalRealm

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Johnston, Paul. Wittgenstein and Moral Philosophy (Routledge Revivals). Routledge,


Ryan, and Harvey Whitehouse. “Religion and morality.” Psychological bulletin 141.2

            (2015): 447.

Oderberg, David S. “M. oral theory: A non-consequentialist approach.” (2000).


Shafer-Landau, Russ, ed. Ethical theory: an anthology. Vol. 13. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.