Divine command theory is based on the idea that God is the determinant of right and wrong behavior. Religious groups such as Christians, Muslims and Jews follow laws contained in holy books that guide their worship activities.
Holy books were written by wise people inspired by God and should be followed. God forbids morally wrong actions and encourages people to engage in morally upright activities. Violation of commandments of God is immorality. People will be held responsible for their actions on the final Day of Judgment.
Theists disagree with divine command theory because they do not believe in the existence of God. There are also differences within believers. According to Plato, any act is neither good nor bad unless God has categorized it. This raises an issue of dilemma in some cases such as whether people should be truthful because God has commanded them or because it is good (Rachels & Rachels, 2011).
According to Rachels and Rachels (2011), the criterion used to define wrong and right is not clear. For instance, in a case of child abuse where a child has been slapped, the action could be right if God wants it that way. In such a case, defining morality would be mysterious.
The definition of what is moral makes commandments of God Arbitral because judgment depends on God. For instance, lying is not allowed. However, if God commanded it, it would be accepted. Conception of morality differs with moral principals. This is because the theory does not recognize effects of child abuse as long as punishment is based on Gods commandments.
Divine command theorists argue that child abuse could be allowed if God was not in existence. The statement is invalid because if God was not there, then He could not be there to make child abuse wrong. Since child abuse is malicious, it would still be wrong. Religious texts give contradicting information that makes even believers have doubts in God’s commands.
It is wrong for believers to say that the commandments given by God are arbitrary because He knows what best fits them. People should remain truthful because God requires them to do so. Believers should follow Gods wishes if they are to remain religious. Many theologians have rejected the theory because it is impious and untenable. Other thinkers like Saint Thomas Aquinas have explained the relationship between religion and morality in other ways (Rachels & Rachels, 2011).
The Theory of Natural Law
According to this theory, laws of nature govern human beings. According to Aristotle who lived between 384 and 322 B.C, everything that exists should serve a certain purpose. He gave the example of a knife that is used for cutting, different body parts that perform different functions in the body and rainfall that enables proper growth of plants.
Many things exist in the world with each serving its own purpose making the world a rational and orderly system. Other scholars who followed later have supported Aristotle’s view. For instance, Christian thinkers accepted the view but added that the aspect of God was missing. They argued that human beings use animals because God made them to serve that purpose (Rachels & Rachels, 2011).
Rachels and Rachels (2011) point out that the Natural theory describes the nature of things. People live in unity when everything is in place and every individual assumes his/her responsibilities in order to maintain social order. For examples, eyes that cannot see are functionless and this can be explained by the natural law. God created people to help each other. Naturally, human beings are social beings who need the company of other people. People who seem not to care about others (psychopaths) go against the natural law.
Deviant sexual activities are condemned in the theory of natural law. Theorists argue that sex is meant for procreation. Practices like gay and masturbation are condemned. The Catholic Church bases its moral values on this theory. Apart from Catholics, the theory has few supporters; reasons being that not all natural things are good. Secondly, it brings about confusion because people must not engage in sex except for purposes of procreation. Lastly, natural law differs with science (Rachels & Rachels, 2011).
The theory of natural law points out that determining right and wrong depends on one’s reasoning. Right actions should bring about good results. In this case, believers and non-believers follow in the same category of accessing moral truth. People have the ability to listen, think and make sound decisions. Natural theorists argue that morality is not dependent on religion (Rachels & Rachels, 2011).
Rachels, J. & Rachels, S. (2011). The elements of moral philosophy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.