This movie requires Flash Player 8. Download Flash Player 8

 
Issue Features
  
View this issue online as it looks in print
Reason and Revelation Volume 31 #9

The Euthyphro Dilemma

Q:

 What do atheists mean when they speak of the “Euthyphro Dilemma” as a means to discredit theism?

A:

The so-called Euthyphro Dilemma has its genesis in Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro in which Socrates and Euthyphro discuss the nature of piety: “Is the pious  loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (2008). Over time, philosophers have sharpened the salient point of the dilemma by presenting it in a modified form. The world-renowned late atheist philosopher Antony G.N. Flew worded the argument this way: “Are the things which are good good because God approves of those things, or is it the case that God approves of those things which are good because they are good?” (Warren and Flew, 1977, p. 26). By this thorny contention, the atheist hopes to dismiss the notion of God by placing the theist in an untenable dilemma.

On the one hand, if an action is right simply because God approves it, then morality would be the product of the arbitrary will of God, which He could just as easily alter. Instead of saying that lying and murder are wrong, He could just as well have said they are right—and that divine intention would make them so. On the other hand, if God approves of an action because it is inherently good, then an objective standard exists outside of God that He merely acknowledges. Such a law would therefore be above and higher than God. By the Euthyphro Dilemma, atheists think they have demonstrated that good is either above or beneath God and thereby proof that God is not God (see Figure 1).

Figure 1:
The Euthyphro Dilemma

Figure 2: Reality

But this dilemma is impotent in that it fails to take into account the nature, being, and character of the perfect God of the Bible who is eternal and infinite in all of His attributes. Goodness, like all God’s other attributes, flows from His very being as the Ultimate Good (see Figure 2). Good is neither above nor below God (cf. Mark 10:18; 1 John 4:8; Psalm 33:5). God’s attributes and God’s will are inseparable. The alternatives posed by the atheist do not pose a proper dilemma.

REFERENCES

Plato (2008), Euthyphro, trans. Benjamin Jowett, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1642/1642-h/1642-h.htm.

Warren, Thomas and Antony G.N. Flew (1977), The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God (Ramer, TN: National Christian Press), info@nationalchristianpress.net.



Copyright © 2011 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

This document may be copied, on the condition that it will not be republished in print unless otherwise stated below, and will not be used for any commercial purpose, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (4) textual alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden; (5) Some illustrations (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, etc.) are not the intellectual property of Apologetics Press and as such cannot be reproduced from our site without consent from the person or organization that maintains those intellectual rights; (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original written content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken. Further, documents may not be copied without source statements (title, author, journal title), and the address of the publisher and owner of rights, as listed below.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
U.S.A.
Phone (334) 272-8558

http://www.apologeticspress.org

Web Store

Islam, the Quran, & Christianity - DVD

This DVD provides an excellent introduction to Islam, its founder, and its "holy book".

Featured Audio

Listen

Click the following link to visit our Multimedia section.

Featured Audio