Sunday, July 12, 2009

C. S. Lewis's critique of the raw divine command theory

I asked what refutation might be available for what I called the raw divine command theory. This critique, for Lewis's A Grief Observed, is the closest I've seen to a refutation.

And so what? This, for all practical (and speculative) purposes
sponges God off the slate. The word good, as applied to him, becomes
meaningless: like abracadabra. We have no motive for obeying Him.
Not even fear. It is true that we have His threats and promises. But why
should we believe them? If cruelty is from His point of view “good,”
telling lies may be “good” too. Even if they are true, what then? If His
ideas of good are so very different from ours, what He calls “Heaven”
might well be what we should call Hell, and vice versa. Finally, if reality
at its very root is so meaningless to us—or, putting it the other way
round, if we are such total imbeciles—what is the point of trying to
think either about God or about anything else? The knot comes undone
when you try to pull it tight.


Steven said...

I don't see how it follows from Divine Command Theory that God's ideas of what are good and so on are different from ours. If what counts as good and what counts as bad depends on his choice, then I should think our moral sense and ideas of good and bad would correspond to what he decided they were. If he decided rape was bad, he would make us with the idea and conviction that rape was bad.

Derek said...

Your criticism negates the point. There is still the possibility within your divine command theory that God could command rape and it would be morally obligatory, even good, merely because he commanded it. Suggesting that God would not command rape because it is not his idea of good implies that he has an idea of good independent of himself. A divine command theorist can't say God would not command rape, because under Divine Command it would be right if God did, and to say that God wouldn't do so implies God has a knowledge of good, not an arbitrary control of good.