Why are God’s commands good?

Whether the commands are good unto themselves or good because of theistic declaration seems to be a “chicken and egg” argument, but it is not. Copan addresses the question by first stating that “objective moral values are an inescapable, properly basic bedrock.”[1] Further, moral absolutes are “discovered, not invented, and persons with a decently functioning conscience can get a lot of moral things right.”[2] Second, Copan differentiates between knowing and being known. This aspect is important because those that deny theistic moral origins can, in fact, make the right moral choices. However, they would not have a foundation for why those moral choices are made.[3] Theistic answers link God as good and creator with the moral absolute of human dignity.[4] Infinite goodness is the source of finite goodness. Created creatures are given the image of an absolute moral God. Morality without God “ends up being subjectivistic and ultimately reduces to relativism.”[5] Thus his third point is that all naturalistic explanations for morality are insufficient. They leave humans with an arbitrary morality, whereas the theistic approach “begins with value, so bridging the is-ought gulf is a nonissue.”[6] So the theist answers Euthyphro’s question by stating first who God is – His attributes and character – and then how God’s commandments are an extension of who He is. [7]

I appreciate Copan’s approach to this question. It brings the discussion away from arbitrary commands and focuses instead on who God is. For the nonbeliever, the question back would be, “What kind of god do you not believe in.” This non-belief will set up the conversation exposing the presuppositions of the nonbeliever and focus on the source of all morality, God’s character.


[1] Paul Copan, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, ed Khaldoun A Sweis and Chad V. Meister (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Press, 2012), Kindle Edition, 174.

[2] Ibid, 175.

[3] Ibid, 178.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 184.

[6] Ibid, 183.

[7] Ibid, 188.

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