Post Author: Bill Pratt
Christians assert that God is the only source of morality. Wanting to reject this assertion, atheists sometimes offer a counter-argument which claims to invalidate the Christian God as the source of morality.
The challenge is often referred to as the Euthyphro Dilemma because it was first raised in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro. The argument goes like this. Either something is good because God commands it, or else God commands something because it is good.
Christians have problems with both options. If you say something is good because God commands it, then right and wrong are arbitrary. God could command tomorrow that murder, rape, and theft are right, and that love, kindness, and generosity are wrong. That seems bizarre; it runs counter to all of our common moral intuitions. It also conflicts with traditional and orthodox concepts of the Christian God. If murder and rape can be declared good, then we have no idea what kind of God we are worshiping.
On the other hand, if God commands something because it is good, then goodness exists outside of God. The ground for morality would then be independent of God – a stand-alone entity. God would be subservient to this source of morality, and therefore not God at all. The Christian God is not subservient to anything outside himself.
What is the solution to this dilemma? Christians have split this apparent dilemma by offering a third option: goodness is part of God’s nature. God, according to Christians, is the good. God commands the good because he is essentially good. His nature does not change, so he cannot declare murder to be right tomorrow. On the other hand, morality does not exist outside of him, but as part of him. He is only subservient to himself, which is no subservience at all.
It turns out that no dilemma really exists once you understand the nature of God. He truly is the source for all moral values and duties.