School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Richard A Holland
Dilemma, Divine Command Theory, Ethics, Euthyphro, Non-voluntarism, Voluntarism
Other Religion | Practical Theology | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Posey, Evan, "A Non-Voluntarist Theory: An Alternative Evangelical Apologetic for Dealing with the Euthyphro Dilemma" (2016). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 1321.
This dissertation presents an alternative response to the Euthyphro dilemma that will be referred to as the Non-Voluntarist Theory. It offers a critical evaluation of contemporary evangelical divine command theories to demonstrate the inherent ambiguity as they relate to Divine Command Theory, and their lack of apologetic force for answering the Euthyphro dilemma. To accomplish this task, it is important to understand how the Euthyphro Dilemma relates to theology and apologetics in general, and the contemporary attempts to ground objective moral values and duties in particular. The topic relates to theology, since one’s response to the Euthyphro Dilemma can implicitly or explicitly speak to God’s moral sovereignty. The topic relates to apologetics in two primary ways. First, the Euthyphro Dilemma is still offered by contemporary non-theists as a critique of the Christian faith. Therefore, the response one gives, and the method used, is vital to the apologetic enterprise. Second, the Euthyphro Dilemma is meant to challenge the belief that God is the explanatory ultimate for objective moral values and duties. In addition, an examination of the philosophical landscape that surrounds the relationship between the Euthyphro Dilemma and Divine Command Theory is needed. Contemporary formulations of divine command theories of ethics make a distinction between moral values and moral obligations and duties. While this is not an illicit distinction, it is a distinction that weakens the apologetic force of the argument. Therefore, it is imperative that a proposed solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma is able to explain sufficiently moral ontology, moral epistemology, and moral obligation. Contemporary evangelical formulations of Divine Command Theory are not evangelical, per se. Rather, these formulations are moral theories that happen to be ones that evangelicals tend to support. In order to critically evaluate contemporary evangelical divine command theories, one should be aware of the historical development of the Standard Divine Command Theory. In the field of research, special attention is given to one of the most notable representatives of the Standard Divine Command Theory, William of Ockham. Thus, one must be familiar with Ockham’s work. Also, one must be aware of the modifications that have been made to Divine Command Theory that depart from the Ockhamist version and frame the modern perspective. Non-theists tend to understand the Divine Command Theory in Ockhamist terms. Consequently, attempts by contemporary evangelical modified divine command theorists use divine command terminology in a non-standard way, which creates a more cumbersome apologetic. This dissertation will advance a position that moves towards the first horn, or non-voluntarist horn, of the Euthyphro Dilemma. It is thought that those who embrace this horn commit to the existence of a moral standard “outside, or distinct, from God” that guides the divine will. For example, William Lane Craig argues that to embrace the non-voluntarist horn of the Euthyphro Dilemma is to embrace atheistic moral Platonism. Traditionally, those who affirm this horn argue for the existence of objective moral values and duties that exist independent of God’s existence and are accessible independent of divine revelation or command. This position at times has been referred to as the Guided Will Theory, since God would be guided by these independent moral values and duties. This dissertation advances a Non-Voluntarist Theory of moral values, obligations, and duties by affirming that God’s divine nature is the basis for morality as a whole. It will be argued that a Non-Voluntarist Theory does not commit the theist to a standard of moral values, obligations, and duties that exist independently from God. Furthermore, if a clear methodology is employed a Non-Voluntarist Theory provides common ground with the non-theist, and provides a practical theistic framework for ethics.