a1 Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Fort Hays State University
The ethical theories often called divine command theories have a long philosphical history. As early as Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, persons – in this case, Euthyphro – were advocating theories that claim such things as whatever is morally obligatory is obligatory because and only because God commands it. There is a range of such theories, however, and offering one description that adequately characterizes them all is very difficult. Some theorists focus on the moral obligatoriness of actions, others on the moral virtue of traits of character, and still others on the moral goodness of states of affairs. Some theorists take God's commanding as creating the obligation (or whatever), others think God's willing an action creates the obligation. Theories concentrating on God's loving, his preferring, and perhaps other states, too, could be advanced. Paul Helm in the introduction to his anthology Divine Commands and Morality regards this sort of theory as holding’…that God does issue commands and that these commands are to form the basis of a believer's morality.…’ And Janine Marie Idziak in the introduction to her Divine Command Morality: Historical and Contemporary Readings writes, ‘Generally speaking, a ‘divine command moralist’ is one who maintains that the content of morality (i.e. what is right and wrong, good and evil, just and unjust, and the like) is directly and solely dependent upon the commands and prohibitions of God.’ Rather than spend much time attempting to develop necessary and sufficient conditions characterizing all such theories, however, let us label them all ‘divine normative theories’ and hope that the basic nature of divine normative theories is relatively clear.