Divine command theory


In the beginning … the message of Genesis for Christians.

“And God said ‘Let the water teem with living creatures, and let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky’. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fifth day.”

(Genesis 2:20-24)

  • What is the particular message from this passage?

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”

(Genesis 2:27)


  • What are the implications for God creating man in His image?

Divine command theory is the meta-ethical theory that moral values are whatever is commanded by God or the gods. Thus all moral requirements derive from God’s commands. One way of articulating the basic idea goes as follows:

  • An action is morally forbidden (wrong) because God commands that it not be performed
  • An action is morally permitted (right) because God commands that it be performed


What are the consequences of these claims?

This conception of morality figured prominently in the writings of Ockham, Locke and Berkeley, Kierkegaard and Barth. It coheres with scriptural portraits of God – both in the Old and New Testaments.





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