This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Hi Dr. Craig,
I just finished watching your rematch with Austin Dacey at CSU ... One point he made seemed to me to be a good one and I was wondering how you might have responded to it if you had the time.
His argument was as follows:
- If God's goodness is essentially deterministic, then He is not worthy of praise.
- God's goodness is deterministic.
- Therefore He is not worthy of praise.
The logic of this is valid, and it seems to me that if we say God's goodness flows from his essential nature, then it's hard to deny the deterministic elements of it. I've been a Christian for over 20 years, and a student of your work for the last 5 years. It's my understanding that God's goodness is the primary reason for which He is worthy of praise. So what am I missing here? Is premise one false because God's goodness is demonstrated by His miraculous directing and working in human history to bring about a plan of redemption for such a stiff-necked people such as us, which can only be explained by acts of His will?
Thank you for the amazing work you do every day for the kingdom.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
I think that a Divine Command Theory of ethics helps to provide a satisfying answer to this question, Jim. According to Divine Command Theory our moral duties are constituted by God’s commands, which are rooted in His character. Since God does not, presumably, issue commands to Himself, it follows that God has no moral duties to fulfill. While human beings may be praised for doing their moral duty, God therefore cannot be praised for doing His moral duty.
So why should God be praised? One might say that God is to be praised for His goodness. But God’s goodness seems to be rooted in His nature, not in His will. In that sense God’s goodness might seem to be “essentially deterministic,” not in the sense that it is causally determined but in the sense that God is essentially good independent of His will. So it would seem inappropriate to praise God, in the sense of commending Him, for being good.
God, however, might still be praised for His acts of supererogation. That is to say, He does things which are not determined by His nature but are the result of His free choice. The whole plan of salvation, including creation, incarnation, substitutionary atonement, election, calling, and regeneration are acts of God which He did not have to undertake. It is entirely consistent with His nature that He create nothing at all or a world in which I was not saved. It is therefore entirely appropriate to praise and thank Him for such things.
Even more fundamentally, however, God is to be worshiped and adored for His essential goodness. Even if we do not praise God for being good (as if to say, “Way to go, God!”), still adoration of God as the summum bonum (the highest good) and, indeed, the paradigm of goodness itself is entirely suitable and, in fact, obligatory for creatures. God alone is to be worshipped and adored for who He is; no creature can receive such attitudes.
This understanding can add a whole new dimension to your worship experience, Jim. The next time you are in church, focus not just on praising God for the things He has done but on adoring Him as the supremely worthy One. You will find that not only His goodness but also His other superlative attributes, like aseity, necessity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth, make Him worthy of awe and worship.
This post and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website: www.reasonablefaith.org