What is the Divine Command Theory of Ethics?

I was going over some writing from when I was taking a course in Ethics while attending Bible College, and I thought the information would be good discussion material.  I do not recall the source material. If anyone recognizes any of this, please let me know, so I can attribute it appropriately.

Divine Command Theory says, “God said so.”  God is the source of moral truth and communicates His will to humanity via commands.  We choose to follow His commands or not.  God made the universe and the rules about right and wrong, and humans’ duty is to obey those rules. Humans are morally imperfect and guilty of sin against God. Only God can offer salvation. God is the standard of what is good and right.  Rebellion against God is wrong. Although there may be logic to God’s actions and decrees, human intellect is limited in its ability to comprehend the way and will of God. Only special revelation can be relied upon.

The systems of Natual Law Ethics and Command Theory Ethics can be combined to form a working Christian Ethical system.  First, it makes sense to think that there are certain universal moral constants found throughout humanity, which can be reasoned out from general revelation because of the structure and consistency found in nature – this would fit with Natural Law.  These moral constants are found in all religious belief systems, which explains why non-Christians hold many of the same morals Christians do.  We know when our moral senses have been abused, just as Natural Law suggests. Unfortunately, not all people seem to be naturally inclined to do what is considered good.  This is why Divine Command Theory is so useful.  God has spoken directly with mankind about Himself and how we should live.  Mankind is not infallible, unlike God.  Only God’s word is infallible.  Man should use his moral sensibilities as a general compass, but that should be tested against what the Bible tells us.  The Bible should be used as the final as the source of what to do and how to live. But we have a choice in following God’s commands, even though we may or may not realize we are disobeying God.


2 Responses

  1. I alter the original definition of Divine Command, which I can do as a free thinking individual who does not recognize the historical “period of enlightenment”. In the beginning was the Word. Outside of free will, living creatures do as God commands without exception. Choice is what makes us human and at the same time this ability has made man a fool! The Word Command that we will surely die will not be disobeyed just as the Word Command that we shall live (through Jesus only) will not be violated. Man thinks he is in control of himself but like others who have gone before him, who were without Christ, he is a fool without hope.

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