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Divine Command Theory

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The divine command theory is the view that moral actions are those which conform to God's will. Charity, for example, is morally proper because God endorses it, and murder is wrong because God condemns it. One way to test to see whether any action is right or wrong is first to determine if it conforms to God's will, it is morally permissible, if it does not, then it is impermissible. The divine command theory is difficult to maintain given that it is hard accessing the will of God. Others claim that God's will is the foundation of morality. Here, the content of God's will does not have to be explored.

As a theory, there are three ways that the divine command theory can be understood. The weakest claim is only that, within certain religious communities, the meaning of the statement, "charity is good," is that God wills us to be charitable. Although it may represent the views of a particular religious group, it has no bearing on what those outside that group mean by the statement "charity is good." Also the divine command theory states that charity is morally good in and of itself, but that God's will provides us with the motivation to be charitable. On this view, only the religious believer has the motivation to be moral. Theoretically, unbelievers could also act morally, but it would only be by accident since unbelievers would lack the motivation for consistent moral behavior. The strongest version of the divine command theory states that morality is a creation of God's will. According to this view, charity is good because God has willed that charity is good. The claim here is not about what particular communities mean by the word "good" or what motivations people have to be good. Instead, the claim is that moral conduct is identical to the conduct which God commands of us.



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