Divine moral obligation

I don’t think God has moral obligations, but as long as everybody else takes his “moral perfection” or “omni-benevolence” for granted, I’ll assume that there is some sense to a divine moral obligation and see what follows.

Moral obligations fall within our power and knowledge. Given omniscience and omnipotence, it looks like God has infinitely binding moral obligations, i.e. he seems bound to do anything a moral agent would do if he had the power and ability to bring some good about. So it looks like the Argument from Evil is self-evidently true, since it’s obvious there are evil situations that would be very different if some being with perfect goodness and know-how were in the room. As Rowe put it, it’s just obvious that evils happened that a god would have been morally obliged to prevent.

But this putative self-evidence comes from conceiving omniscience halfway and not as a bona fide view from eternity. If moral obligation extends as far as vision and power then God’s decisions are made with an eye to the totality of all time and throughout the whole universe. Accurately describing God’s moral obligations can only be done from an exhaustive knowledge of what is, for us, the totality of future consequences, which means that the definition of divine moral obligation commits us to being unable to confirm whether such obligations are fulfilled or not.

If God exists and has moral obligations, all we can say is that this results in whatever the universe happens to look like. The desire for anything more, like the Pauline promise of Rm. 8:28, is purely revealed and confirmable only in the eschaton. If you take this to mean that it is meaningless to talk about divine moral obligation I’m fine with that too. I didn’t believe in it in the first place.



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