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#698 God as the Ground of Morality

September 06, 2020

Hello Dr Craig, thank you for all the work that you do! It has benefited me tremendously over the years. I need some clarifications regarding the Euthyphro dilemma. On what basis can God's nature be made the grounding for objective morality? I think the answer to this is that God's nature can be made the grounding because of God's Moral Perfection. But if I propose a hypothetical being B such that B is morally perfect and eternal but it isn't omnipotent and omniscient, then can B be the grounding for objective morality? Moreover, if objective morality provides us with evidence for the existence of God (moral argument), can it also not be said that objective morality provides us with evidence for the existence of B? Kindly help me resolve this confusion.



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Dr. craig’s response


It’s wonderful to know that people in Pakistan are engaging with the work of Reasonable Faith, Danial!  Thank you for writing!

It seems to me that there are some confusions in your question. Most basic is the conflation of a moral theory based in God with a moral argument for God’s existence.

For the sake of clarity, let’s begin with the latter. The moral argument tries to prove that there is a metaphysically necessary, personal being who is the paradigm of moral goodness. That’s it. It no more tries to prove that this being is omnipotent and omniscient than does the kalām cosmological argument or the fine-tuning argument, neither of which claims to prove that the personal Creator and Designer of the universe, however powerful and intelligent, is literally omnipotent and omniscient. For me personally, one of the attractive features of these arguments is their modesty: they don’t claim to prove all of the divine attributes but just a select few. To get omniscience and omnipotence you’re probably going to need the ontological argument. So the moral argument is quite compatible, I think, with a being like B (unless I’m missing something). The moral argument leaves it an open question whether the moral Absolute is omnipotent and omniscient.

Now turn to the question of positing God as the ground of objective moral values and duties. Here one is not trying to prove that such a being exists. One is just offering a moral theory for people’s consideration which provides a theistic grounding of morality. A person who believes in a being like B is perfectly welcome to offer his alternative theory instead, as is the Platonist who proposes to ground moral values in some abstract object like the Good or the humanist who proposes to ground objective moral values in human beings. Every theorist is entitled to his explanatory ultimate in laying out his theory, and then we’ll assess which theory is the most plausible. So when one offers a theistic moral theory in response to the Euthyphro dilemma, the question, “On what basis can God's nature be made the grounding for objective morality?” doesn’t even arise, since one is not trying to prove God’s existence but is just offering a moral theory that features God as an explanatory ultimate. I’ve argued that the Anselmian conception of God as the greatest conceivable being makes God a more plausible explanatory ultimate than those of rival theories, which strike me as premature and arbitrary in their explanatory stopping points. Moreover, as Richard Swinburne has argued, a being which possesses a property to an infinite degree is simpler than a being which inexplicably possesses that property just to some finite degree n (where n is some natural number). God is thus a more plausible explanatory ultimate than a being like B.

- William Lane Craig