Volume 36, Issue 3, July 2019
The Prior Obligations Objection to Theological Stateism
Theological stateist theories, the most well-known of which is Divine Command Theory (DCT), ground our moral obligations directly in some state of God. The prior obligations objection poses a challenge to theological stateism. Is there a moral obligation to obey God’s commands? If no, it is hard to see how God’s commands can generate any moral obligations for us. If yes, then what grounds this prior obligation? To avoid circularity, the moral obligation must be grounded independent of God’s commands; and therefore DCT fails to ground all moral obligations in God’s commands. I argue that DCT proponents should embrace “metaethical DCT.” On this view, there is no moral obligation to obey God. God creates our moral obligations out of normative nothingness. I argue that this helps DCT proponents to escape the prior obligations objection. Other theological stateist theories can modify their theory similarly to meet this objection.