Euthyphro Dilemma Crash Course

The so-called Euthyphro Dilemma has been said to present problems for many theists; however, I would argue that it really doesn’t present any problems at all, especially for the Christian theist. Consider this modified version of the dilemma: Is something good because God wills it, or does He will it because it’s good?

At first glance, this would appear to present a problem for the theist; however, since the alternatives are not contradictories, the theist can propose a third alternative, namely, that God wills it because He is good. Does this solve the so-called dilemma?

If we say that God is good, that presupposes that good exists in the first place. If good exists necessarily, it must exist outside of us. If that’s the case, we can rightly say that good is objective, rather than subjective or illusory. To say that God is good is perhaps the best way to ground the good because it exists in His very nature, but this is only half the story.

When you think about virtues that constitute goodness, they are almost always specific to persons. Consider the virtue love; how can we say that God loved perfectly before He created anybody? It seems to me that the answer is made manifest in the Trinity: the God of Christianity. For before God created anything, He loved the Son perfectly from all eternity, and this is worthy of praise and worship.

If God is the good, there is no standard of good that is outside of Him; for God neither has a standard to adhere to, nor does He have any moral duties to fulfill. We, on the other hand, have both. If good is objective, it is binding for everyone. This is where it’s important to make a distinction between moral ontology and moral epistemology. Merely knowing that good exists is not enough; we also need to be able to discern between what is right and what is wrong. We are able to do this from God’s commands; they are good and obligatory for us.

So, If God is the good, the Euthyphro Dilemma fails: God neither wills something because it’s good, nor is it good because He wills it, rather He wills it because He is good. It makes no sense, then, to ask why God is good because that’s tantamount to asking why goodness is good, which is nonsense. If God does not exist, I see no reason to think that good does either. However, if God does exist, He is the object of goodness, if ever there was one.