The Euthyphro Dilemma??

16 February, 2023

There are two main ways of understanding the relationship between God and objective good.

This brings us to the most common objection to divine command theory, the Euthyphro Dilemma. This dilemma states that if we accept point 1 to be true, then God can arbitrarily command things that are known to be evil, to be good. This seems counter-intuitive. Most people reason that good and evil must be rooted in something more foundational than the will of a being. If we accept point 2 as true, it appears that good exists independently of God. It implies that morality transcends God and begs the question, why do we need God at all to justify morality? Why can’t we just appeal directly to a transcendent objective account of good?

This dilemma is one of the most common ways that people dismiss the possibility of divine command theory. Before I explain William Lane-Craig’s contemporary response, I will pose a few challenges to the very nature of the dilemma itself.

If point 1 is true, then God can arbitrarily command that which is good; however, on what rational basis can we say that this is objectionable? We might assume that murdering innocent children is wrong in every possible universe [1], but without presupposing the apriori existence of an unchanging moral standard how could one possibly know that? We would have to prove that if the nature of 'good' changed, we would notice that change. Unless we presuppose the very truth of transcendent morals (and subsequently the very existence of God), proving this is impossible.

Many assume that the implications of point 2 would state that (a) morality transcends God (b) morality is separate from God. Few theists would be willing to accept these assumptions. Allowing (a) or (b) to be true would violate the very definition of a monotheistic God [2]. However, on what basis do we need to assume that if point 2 were true (a) and (b) would follow? All point 2 states is that there is a God, and he commands a standard of goodness. There is no reason to believe that the standard of goodness is separate from or greater than God himself. Recognizing this William Lane Craig offers the third possible relationship between God and objective Good. [3]

This alternative offers an internal explanation of what God commands and an objective standard of goodness. Craig’s response is that there is an objective standard, but it is not separate from or transcendent of God, but rather the standard is God himself. Good is not contingent (in a causal manner) upon the existence of God, but rather is a very description of God's nature. 


[1] See essentialist ethics. Erik J Wielenberg, “Value and virtue in a godless universe” 1972, 51.

[2] Frank Turek, “Does God Exist?”. Cross Examined, accessed May 4, 2021,

[3] William Lane Craig, “The Euthyphro Dilemma Once Again | Reasonable Faith,” accessed April 20, 2021,

[4] Craig’s view is popularised by evangelicals today as it coincides with teachings in both the old and new testaments. (See Lev 11:44, 1 Pet 1:16).