What in the world is the Euthyphro Dilemma?
In debates between Christians and Materialists, sometimes Christians will bring up the apologetic that since there is an objective morality, then there must be a God. Materialists have countered using the Euthyphro Dilemma. In short, this dilemma was a story told by Plato describing a fictional encounter between Socrates and Euthyphro. In it Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods.”
To transliterate this parable to modern thinking and applying it to the monotheistic God:
“Does God define what is right, or does good define God?”
The dilemma then, for Christians, would be if they answered affirmative to the first part of the question, “Yes, God defines what is right”, then the materialist can say that God has the ability to be arbitrary or capricious. God could essentially change his mind on what He defines as right and wrong.
Were the Christian to answer the second part of the question with the affirmative, “Yes, Since something is good then God commands we do that,” then God is unnecessary since there is a standard greater than God to which he must submit. If there is something greater than God, then that greater something is what should be worshiped.
Neither answer is palatable for the Christian, and that is why it is so important that Christians study their Bible. With correct Bible study, we see that this is a false dilemma.
Isaiah 45:19 says “I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.”
Does this spring the materialist’s trap into saying that God can arbitrarily decide right from wrong? It might, unless we take further notes from his eternal Word.
Hebrews 13:3 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Malachi 3:6 “I the LORD do not change.”
So, God both defines what is right, and He never changes. God’s very nature is good. “For the LORD is good. His steadfast love endures forever.” Since God’s very nature is good, then He defines for us what he expects and how we should reflect his image by our actions. We were created in God’s image, and to be excellent reflections of his image, it is imperative that humans follow his commands…and thus, fulfill our purpose.
In part 2 of this post, I want to go deeper into this discussion to see if we as Christians can answer this question of absolute morals, how it is communicated, and what is our purpose.
If you’re interested in further research on how philosophers discuss the Euthyphro Dilemma, you can look here.