I have been reading Jerry Bridges’ book The Pursuit of Holiness for the past few weeks with a good friend of mine.  Bridges writes in his book, “[God] always does what is just and right without the slightest hesitation.  It is impossible in the very nature of God for Him to do otherwise.”  In the next paragraph Bridges continues, “…God is absolutely free from any moral evil and that He is Himself the essence of moral purity.”  These quotes succinctly summarize the heart of what I have been meditating on for a few months now, that the entirety of scripture reveals God to be holy and good.  Furthermore, it is God’s goodness that provides an objective foundation for morality.

Many critics of Christianity claim that God’s goodness is subject to the so-called Euthyphro dilemma.  In Plato’s Euthyphro, the dilemma is formulated through an exchange between Euthyphro and Socrates.  In essence, the dilemma is presented as either piety is loved by the gods because it is pious or piety is pious because it is loved by the gods.  Bertrand Russell updated the dilemma in his book Why I am not a Christian:

If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not?  If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is not longer a significant statement to say that God is good.  If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is god, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them.  If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God.

The crux of the dilemma is that morality is either (A) derived from God’s commands or (B) derived from some higher authority than God.  The implications are obvious.  The first horn ultimately makes God’s commands subjective to his personal preferences and thus arbitrary.  The second horn results in God being subservient to a higher authority.  Consequently, God is no longer sovereign.  On the surface this is a formidable challenge the Christianity.  However, there are major flaws with the dilemma.

The False-Dilemma Response

William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler have both argued that the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma because the two options are not mutually exclusive.  A true dilemma should take the form, either A is true or ~A is true.  However, the dilemma dissolves when the Euthyphro dilemma is formulated in this context (viz., either morality is derived from God or morality is not derived from God), and Christians unhesitatingly choose the first option.  The central problem with the classic presentation of the dilemma is that horn A may be split into two separate alternatives. 

(A’) God’s commands are arbitrary.
(A”) God’s commands are not arbitrary. Rather they are derived from his nature, which is necessarily good.

Thus, the dilemma is now represented by three options (A’, A”, and B), resolving the apparent dilemma.

Necessity of God’s Goodness

The refutation of Euthyphro dilemma hinges on the necessity of God being good.  An argument for God being necessarily good can be given as

1. If God exists, then he is the greatest possible being.
2. It is greater to be good than not good.
3. Therefore from 1 and 2, God is good.

Taken with the other attributes normally attributed to God (immutable and infinite in particular), God must be eternally and unchanging in his goodness, and God’s goodness must be infinite. I suppose that one could argue that “good” does not exist, but it seems intuitive that goodness exists.  Indeed, powerful evidence would have to be presented to suggest that goodness is a mere illusion, and our moral intuitions are incorrect.

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