Religious Studies

God's creation of morality

T. J.  MAWSON  a1
a1 St Peter's College, University of Oxford, OX1 2DL


In this paper, I argue that classical theists should think of God as having created morality. In form, my position largely resembles that defended by Richard Swinburne. However, it differs from his position in content in that it evacuates the category of necessary moral truth of all substance and, having effected this tactical withdrawal, Swinburne's battle lines need to be redrawn. In the first section, I introduce the Euthyphro dilemma. In the second, I argue that if necessary moral truths are seen as analytically/logically so, then, pace Swinburne, they cannot be regarded as substantive principles. Thus, seeing necessary moral truths as analytically/logically necessary and independent of God does not threaten God's power or sovereignty and leaves open the possibility that all value is contingent upon His will. In the third section, I turn to consider how the claim that all value is contingent upon God's will might best be understood, arguing that classical theists will want to commit themselves to a relatively strong form of objectivism about moral value (even though this is not needed in order to solve the Euthyphro dilemma). I then give and defend an account of God's creation of contingent moral truths which coheres with what I argue is the most plausible form of this commitment. In the following section, I argue that this account avoids the charge that God is arbitrary in His choice of values and, finally, I argue that it avoids the charge that God may not be said to be good without vacuity. Thus, I conclude that the Euthyphro dilemma does not threaten classical theism.