Articles

Articles

Euthyphro

The so-called Euthyphro dilemma asks:  Is something good because God wills it?  Or does God will something because it is good?  It appears problematic because if one answers that something is good because God wills it, then what is good becomes arbitrary.  In that case, it is assumed God could have willed that hatred is good, and then we would have been morally obligated to hate one another.  On the other hand, if you respond that God wills something because it is good, then that would imply that what is good is independent of God.   Obviously, both horns of this apparent dilemma are unbiblical and false.  The Bible teaches a third alternative, namely, that God wills something because He is good.  God, Himself is the standard of goodness, and His commandments to us are expressions of His holy nature.  In short, our moral duties are determined by the commands of a righteous and loving God.

1 John 4:7-8 reveals this truth plainly: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God:  and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God commands us to love one another, not only because He loves, but because HE IS LOVE!  It is His very nature.   The commandment to love is in no way arbitrary or independent but is grounded in, and dependent on, the very nature of God.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him (vs. 16). When we love one another we share in the essence of His character.  Love connects us with God.

In the same way, Jesus not only shows us the way, He is the way.  He not only speaks the truth, He is the truth.  He not only gives life, He is the life. (John 14:6)  God’s character defines these terms.

So moral values are not independent of God because God’s own character defines what is good.  God is essentially loving, compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, just, forgiving, merciful, and so on.  His nature is the moral standard defining good.  His commands necessarily reflect His Holy nature.  So they are not arbitrary.  If an unbeliever asks, “If God were to command child abuse, would we be obligated to abuse our children?”, he’s asking a question like “how many married bachelors are there at Oldham Woods?  There is no answer because what it supposes is logically impossible.  It is impossible for God to command that which is hateful because He is love.  God cannot be tempted by evil, because He is holy.

So, the Euthyphro dilemma presents us with a false choice.  Those that propose the question fail to understand the true, holy, and loving God of heaven.  We can stand confidently and firmly on the biblical truth that it is God’s nature that determines what is good, and what is what is good or evil is determined by God’s nature, and what is right or wrong is determined by His will.  God wills something because He is good, and something is right because God wills it.