entirely because of God’s say-so . God’s will is what gives something its moral status as right or wrong. Thus, no act is morally right or wrong “in itself”—that is, independently of God’s will. As one student summarized it, the Divine Command Theory says “God makes the rules”— the moral rules, that is. This view was maintained by WILLIAM OF OCKHAM , an English philosopher of the 1300s (died 1347). Here are some explanations of his views: ● According to Ockham, actions become “morally obligatory, permitted or forbidden simply because God decrees so. Thus, in Exodus, the Israelites’ ‘spoiling the Egyptians’…was not a matter of theft or plunder, but was morally permissible and indeed obligatory—because God had commanded it” ● NOTE: According to Exodus 12:36, “the Lord had given the people favor in
the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they despoiled the Egyptians” ● Here’s a definition of “despoil”: “to deprive of something of value by or as by force; rob; plunder” ● “…Ockham holds that the ultimate ground of a moral judgment’s truth is a divine command…. God could assign a different moral value not only to every exterior act, but also to loving God” ● “For Ockham…the divine will is the ultimate norm of morality: the moral law is founded on the free divine choice…. [Ockham:] ‘By the very fact that God wills something, it is right for it to be done.’ … Hence, if God were to order fornication, the latter would be not only licit but meritorious. Hatred of God, stealing, committing adultery, are forbidden by God. But they could be ordered by God; and, if they were, they would be meritorious acts…. Needless to say, Ockham did not mean to suggest that adultery, fornication, theft and hatred of God are legitimate acts in the present moral order…. His thesis was that such acts are wrong because God has forbidden them…. [Ockham made] it clear not only that God could have established another moral order but that He could at any time order what He has actually forbidden. There is no sense, then, in seeking for any more ultimate reason of the moral law than the divine fiat . Obligation arises through the encounter of a created free will with an external precept. In God’s case there can be no question of an external precept. Therefore God is not obliged to order any kind of act rather than its opposite. That He has ordered this and forbidden that is explicable in terms of the divine free choice…” (F. Copleston, History of Philosophy , III, pp. 104-5). ● “It is the divine will which imposes the moral law which man is obliged to obey. ‘By the very fact that God wills something, it is right for it to be done.’ Ockham does, indeed, give a traditional view of morality when he says that ‘nothing is dear to God unless it is good’; but he insists that it is good because God wills it. … Adultery, for example, is wrong; but it is wrong because God has forbidden it. If God were to order adultery, it would be meritorious.
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- Fall '13
- Wade Singletary