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Divine Command Theory

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Exercise Theory Title: DIVINE COMMAND THEORY

Theory Description:

The Divine Command Theory is a kind of rule-deontological theory which believes in a single non-teleological principle, 'will of God', that would define whether an action is right or wrong. Also known as theological voluntarism, it holds that rightness or wrongness of an action is defined by the will or law of God. Believers of this theory would perform, or judge an action right, only if it is commanded by God; and prohibit, or judge an action wrong, only if it is forbidden by God. Theological voluntarisms may believe in ethical approach that people should only perform actions that are for the greatest general good, for his own good, or that we ought to keep promises, tell the truth, etc. Based on this approach, their working ethics would fall among utilitarian, ethical egoist, or pluralistic deontologist. But in any case, they believe that such conduct is right or wrong, only because it is commanded by God. (Frankena, 1973, p. 28)

The Divine Command Theory is the view that moral obligation consists in obedience to God's commands. The theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God. Moreover, it proclaims that the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires. "The specific content of these divine commands varies according to the particular religion and the particular views of the individual divine command theorist, but all versions of the theory hold in common the claim that morality and moral obligations ultimately depend on God." (

Theory Application:

The Case #5, "The Prosecuting Attorney", talks about debatable decision that an attorney would be taking regarding a person on a trial. The person on trial is a "bad" guy, who has history of syndicate crimes. Though he had committed lots of crime in the past, he has never been proven guilty. During the process of trial, the prosecuting attorney uncovers some evidence in the particular trail in question that completely exonerates this person of this particular crime. This brings the prosecuting attorney in a difficult situation. Should he keep the evidence secret, and place the bad guy behind bars, which would protect the society; or should he reveal the secret, and let the bad guy go free?

The Divine Command Theory says that one should perform the actions that are commanded by God. Although keeping the evidence secret could place the bad guy behind bars and protect the society against his crime, it would not be ethical because the God commands us to be truthful. The bad guy should only be prosecuted for the crimes that he had committed which would not be true in this case. Therefore, in-accordance to the Divine Command Theory,



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