Mailvox: evading Euthyphro

NR queries the Catholic response:

I regularly visit your blog and remember that you’ve discussed the Euthyphro question. I was looking at a Catholic website ( that answers theological questions, and the old question came up on their website like this:

“Is the difference between good and bad whatever God says it is? Or is God good because he conforms to a standard of goodjavascript:void(0)ness?”

And the question was answered this way:

“Neither. Goodness is not imposed upon God from some external standard nor is it invented by him. Rather, it is rooted in his own eternal and unchanging nature. For example, when God commands us to love him with our whole heart and to our neighbor as ourselves, that is rooted in the fact that God himself is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). He could not suddenly choose to forbid loving God and neighbor, or command hating God and neighbor, for he cannot be other than what he is.”

Is this a valid answer in your opinion?

It’s potentially valid answer, but I consider it to be inaccurate as well as evasive because it confuses God’s essence with God’s will in an attempt to avoid the so-called dilemma. I believe God can choose to distinguish between His will and His essence and I suspect that He has done precisely that in the case of certain individuals who had specific roles to play at a crucial nexus. In fact, there is an inherent contradiction in the two ideas of a) a Catholic God who cannot forbid loving God, and, b) an Omniderigiste God who controls the actions of all individuals, including those who do not love Him. Of course, Catholics do not necessarily subscribe to omniderigence, so this contradiction is not necessarily intrinsic to the Catholic answer.

So, I come down strongly on the side of good and bad being whatever God says it is. We know, from the Bible, that God does change His will. But changing one’s will is not the equivalent of changing one’s essence. And I never lose any sleep over the possibility that He will change His mind about His definitions of good and bad tomorrow, since that requires a failure to distinguish between the concepts of possibility and probability.