Or to put
it less tersely, is God good because He upholds some absolute standard of goodness, or is there no such thing as an absolute
standard of goodness, but only that what God commands as good is good. Goodness first, then God? Or God
first, then goodness. These are the two horns of the so-called Euthyphro dilemma.
The first horn is called, among other things, rationalism, or objectivism, the second horn divine command theory, or
Naturally, (to spoil the ending,) we take a position which transcends
the idea that one must be a consequence of the other, but rather that, morally speaking, God, and goodness are identical.
Thus the question arises merely because of limitations of our thinking. So instead we propose, (as
have others,): The Word is God; God is the Living Word. Or: “God ‘acts only out of His nature.’”*
But the dilemma:
First, if God is good because He upholds some absolute standard of goodness, then He would not be
absolute. There would be that which was greater than Him. Further, he would not be omnipotent, since He
could not arbitrarily make something good which was ‘bad.’ His freedom of will would be compromised,
since if He were good, He could not command anything opposed to this standard of goodness.
And He would be unnecessary, for moral authority could exist even without Him.
(Could God, out of love, make Himself unnecessary for His children?)
But if instead goodness is merely what God commands, we lose reason for morality.
If the only moral standard is God’s will, then the moral basis for behavior is arbitrary. There no longer exist
any moral principles. Indeed, since His will can change, and thus by definition what is moral, there is
no definition at any point in time or space for any moral behavior. What is moral in one instant and place,
can be immoral the next.
Neither can we claim God is rational, for the
claim is the opposite, that His will transcends His reasons. For if reason dictated God’s behavior,
then reason would be transcendent.
the entire moral basis for behavior comes into question, “if one only acts out fear of God, or in an attempt to be rewarded
by Him.” Then there is no higher obligation to obedience. Only might makes right, and God should
only be obeyed because He is the biggest bully. Truly moral, principled, behavior thus becomes impossible.
Thus this highest possible goal for humanity is taken away, as is the only possible significant behavioral distinction between
man and animal. Man is reduced to animal. (Which suggests that adherence to the doctrine
that a thing is good merely because God says it is good is, in fact, an evil. And truly moral behavior does not become impossible,
but becomes instead opposing the bully, and thus the ‘willful God’ is necessarily less than the moral principles
He supposes Himself to transcend. God is reduced to oppressor, pressing Man back down to the animal, which Man, by adopting
a higher morality, seeks to rise above. Would God want to be this oppressor?)
That outlines the dilemma.
The solution is
to address the limitations in our thinking: We give different names to the same thing
and think therefore that one name must be the consequence of the other name. We give order to things which
have no order. And so, here as in the question of free will and determinism, http://www.truthabouttheone.com/2010.08.01_arch.html we tend to imagine we have to choose one ordering, one truth, over the other, where in fact it is the superposition
of truths which is ‘the Truth.’ Simply, God submits to higher moral authority and
what God wills as good, is good. Yet holding this superposition of truths in the mind is uncomfortable,
and we find it easier to relax into one (erroneous) alternate truth or the other.
And because of this discomfort, even our very notions of the ultimate qualities we talk about, such as God,
and goodness, will and determinism, right and wrong, absolute and relative, each of which are themselves
superpositions of things we suppose truths, may change when we relax our hold. Further, these qualities
almost certainly diverge from the very nature of the qualities others may give the same names to, whose minds may be comfortable
with juxtapositions we might find discordant.
reasonings transcend our own. This does not make them separate from His will, or His will unhinged from His reason. There
are no boundaries between His will and His reason. Neither does one extend beyond the other. The dilemma
arises because we make boundaries between His will and His reason, and extend one beyond the other. After
all, our notion of will is informed by our experience, where we do things with reference to will, but sometimes not with reference
to reason. But that cannot be God’s experience. He is omniscient, and aware of
all reasons for all things.
Anyway, our thought is that God desires to be
emulated: Man created in His image, to act in His image. And that God and good are inseparable, at least
in the context of moral standards. Thus, that to emulate God, the goal is not to exercise arbitrary standards
with absolute authority, but to seek instead to identify with the absolute moral standards that are God.
To identify with the Word of God. Granted, this puts the ideal above the flesh, as it were, God the Word over God the Body,
(though they are identical,) rather than the flesh above the ideal, which is the tendency of voluntarism. So
this chooses the first horn of the dilemma, as a practical guide for personal behavior, above the other.
To choose the other, of course, to emulate the powers of God before the responsibilities,
is to lose all moral compass: To lose one’s soul, though one gain (power over) the world.
The discussion is actually trickier. After all, our choice of
the first horn, as one of practice, is basically one of God’s motive. He chooses to subordinate
himself to a higher standard of goodness, because this allows the greater possibilities for Mankind. Thus
the second horn after all. But of course, He cannot ever un-choose this, as the mere possibity
of this would negate this potential. Thus the first horn.
But note again, we have fallen into comparison of basically defective alternatives to transcendent
superposition, once again limited by the models of conception our brains are comfortable with.
*A more thorough, neutral, discussion of the Euthyphro dilemma can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma
. Quotes are from the article.