What is divine command theory?

by Matt Slick

The divine command theory is the position that an action is good or bad based on whether or not it is commanded by God. Therefore, to do what is good is to do what God commands. This position presents the problem that an action is good merely because God commands it is good, and bad because he commands that it is bad. The problem would then be that God could arbitrarily say murder is good and honesty is bad, which in turn would mean that nothing is really intrinsically right or wrong. Instead, morality would be purely subjective and relative based on God's arbitrary declarations.

The divine command theory is faulty because it does not properly represent the biblical position that God is not arbitrary. He works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). In addition, God speaks out of the abundance of his heart (Matthew 12:34). Therefore, it would follow that what is morally right is not arbitrary, but is that which is revealed by God as a reflection of his character.

The advantage of basing morality on God’s character is that we would then have an absolute and objective moral standard; namely, that which is revealed by God that is based on his holy character. It would further mean that we are held accountable by God for what we do. This is exactly what the Scriptures teach us.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.