This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
On your site (www.reasonablefaith.com) you say: "On most Divine Command theories God possesses His moral qualities essentially (indeed, that's just what it means to say they're part of His nature!). So there is no possible world in which God is not kind, impartial, gracious, loving, and so on. So I don't think it is possible that Allah is God, since Allah is not all-loving and impartial."
Essentially you argue that Allah can't be God based on His immorality. But don't you? It follows therefore that if Allah WAS God, whatever morals he has would BE the perfect morals. The list you offer of "Kind, impartial, gracious..." may be the morals that the Christian God is believed to have, but to say ANY God would need these qualities is begging the question.
The only way you can argue that ANY moral God would HAVE to have those qualities is if they are transcendentally perfect morals with or without a God. In other words, God has those qualities because they are the perfect ones they aren't perfect because he has them. If that is the case, then they would be perfect morals even in a Godless universe, and a God cannot be used to explain them.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
Your objection to Divine Command theory, Andrew, seems to be that if moral values are based in God, then it would be the case that if a morally defective being were God, then its defective character would determine the good. But it is impossible that there be different goods than there are. The only way to ensure the necessity of the goods there are is if moral values are transcendent qualities not based in God.
Now I hope you can see that there are some gaps or leaps in this argument. Consider, for example, the claim that it follows from basing moral values in God that
1. If a morally defective being were God, then its defective character would determine the good.
The problem, Andrew, is that (1) is a counterfactual conditional with an impossible antecedent clause. Such counterfactuals are typically treated as having no non-trivial truth value. (1) is analogous to the assertion
2. If a circle were a square, it would have four corners.
Since the antecedent clause is logically impossible, (2) is at best trivially true; that is to say, it is also true in the same sense that
2*. If a circle were a square, it would not have four corners.
I trust that you can see that it will be hopeless to try to generate any significant argument based on such trivially true premises. For it will also be true that
1*. If a morally defective being were God, then its defective character would not determine the good.
What you’re imagining is logically absurd; there is no possible world in which a morally defective being is God or a circle is a square. So no non-trivial truth follows from it.
Now I do think that there are some counterfactuals with impossible antecedents which are non-trivially true. But you’ve given no reason to think that the Divine Command theorist is committed to the non-trivial truth of (1) or (1*). Do you see that here is a gap or leap in your argument?
But let’s grant for the sake of argument that the Divine Command theorist is committed to the non-trivial truth of (1). What follows from that? You say that it’s impossible that there be different goods than there are. Well, of course! But we’re already theorizing about the logically impossible in entertaining the antecedent of (1). So what if an impossibility were to result from an impossibility? After entertaining the possibility of square circles, you can hardly pull back now and complain that circles can’t have corners! I hope you can see that here is another leap in your argument.
You yourself seem to want to deny the truth of (1) and think that the only way to do this is to reject Divine Command morality. But the divine Command theorist can also deny (1) if he wants to. Why couldn’t he affirm
1**. If a morally defective being were God, then it would have a different character than it does.
Indeed, in such counterfactual situations it will be more fundamental to keep God’s character constant than the character of the defective being. So if the defective being were—per impossible—God, he wouldn’t be defective but would have the character God has.
By contrast, your secular answer solves nothing. For we could with equal warrant claim that on your view it follows that
3. If a different set of transcendent moral values existed, then there would be different goods than there are, e.g., child abuse might be good.
It will be of no avail for you to protest that it is impossible that there be a different set of transcendent moral values. For the antecedent clauses of both (1) and (3) invite us to imagine logically impossible situations and ask what follows. Just as you claimed that the Divine Command theorist is committed to the non-trivial truth of (1), so he can with equal justice claim that you are committed to the non-trivial truth of (3). You are hoist on your petard.
This post and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website: www.reasonablefaith.org