Euthyphros Worst Nightmare: How Christianity Solves an Age Old Riddle

Have you ever wondered about the many thousands of religions that exist, and how anyone could seriously claim to have the truth amidst the sea of diverse worshippers on the Earth? Is it not the height of arrogance to profess to know what’s really real about reality?

Well, no. Not really. 

I understand completely the atmosphere of agnosticism that fuels belief in that notion. The “aura of doubt” in our culture that professes to be oblivious to the obvious. I understand it, I just think it’s bunk. I think it’s a willful denial of the implications of our Universe in hopes that the plausible deniability will avail before the courts of Heaven. Self deception. 

It’s not rocket surgery. There’s an exquisite and highly curious Creation that exhibits design and beauty ad infinitum. A moral Universe with laws of conduct that don’t depend on us and that we have broken times without number. The implications are on the surface. There is a Creator-Judge that we don’t feel like facing, and ignorance is a popular plea.

So there’s a Judge, and we need an advocate; a mediator to put things right between us and God. 

But you may say, “That there is need for one doesn’t prove one exists! And is there no other way to account for the world and morality? With all the different religions and philosophies, surely there’s one better than Christianity, given the odds alone.”

Many at this point would begin a discourse on Biblical prophecy, or would recount the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Maybe they would go into the consistency of the Scriptures, the Bible’s accurate portrayal of the human condition, its historical reliability,  or even the beauty and wisdom hidden therein. However, I will go a different direction. 

To be fair, I think a plain reading of the Bible is evidence enough of its divine origin. What will follow is a cheap (very cheap) substitute for those who, for one reason or another, haven’t taken a deep dive into its life-giving pages.

The Riddle That Only Christianity Can Solve

About 2,400 years ago there was a man who had some thoughts. Thoughts on morality. Thoughts on morality that have some major ramifications for pretty much every worldview that exists. That man was Plato.

While contemplating the “good,” the moral law by which we are all bound, Plato had a question. A profound one.  

Assuming that universal moral imperatives actually exist, I will attempt to explain Plato’s question and show how it, as well as reasoning rightly about morality in general, drives us to the conclusion that Christianity is the only viable option when compared against all alternatives. 

So What’s The Question?

The question Plato raises in his dialogue Euthyphro asks whether the gods love the pious because it is the pious, or whether the pious is pious only because it is loved by the gods. 

Or to put it another way: 

“Is what is morally good that way because the gods command it, or do they command it because it is morally good?”

The implications being thus: 

If morality depends solely on a god’s pronouncements, then that deity conceivably could have chosen differently when deciding what would be considered good and what would be considered evil. And if there exists even the possibility that the moral code could have been something other than what it is, the objectivity of that code is destroyed (if it could have been something else, then it’s not objective at bottom). 

Conversely, if morality isn’t subject to that deity’s will and instead is a fixed law that they only affirm, then that law would be outside –and transcendent to– that god (thus making the god unnecessary). 

It’s my conviction that this is a perfectly sound and devastating critique for most every religion that holds a deity to be the source of morality… that is, every religion that does not espouse Biblical Trinitarian Theism. Let me elaborate. 

Within the one Being that is God, there exists three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Because the One God is Himself a perfect community of three, He is the standard for social interaction. 

This solves Euthyphro’s dilemma, because it is the communion within God—Father, Son, and Spirit that is the reference point for His moral commands (thus the moral code does not exist outside of God—it is not transcendent to Him). 

Additionally, it’s not arbitrary because He— having always existed with the same nature, references Himself as our standard of right behavior—and because He is unchanging, the moral commands could not have been any different than what they are. 

On both points Christian Theology comes away the victor. The Christian can account for the objective moral standards so evidently a part of our existence—and every other worldview is left answerless to the question of morality. 

You see, it’s not that you have to investigate every single religion or philosophy in order to judge the merits of what they teach, since the myriad of religious positions can be categorized and summed up in only a handful of worldviews (ways of viewing reality). So what are those other worldviews, and why are they answerless with regards to morality? I’m glad you asked.

The Religious Landscape 

Those worldviews that stand against the Biblical testimony are Materialistic Naturalism (Atheism), Pantheism (all is divine) and Panentheism (the divine is in all), non-Trinitarian Theism (to include Islam, Judaism, Modalism, Deism, and the Polytheistic religions), and for lack of a better term, “a general and impersonal force that determines morality.” Think Star Wars or Buddhism. 

Naturalistic Materialism

The Atheist supposes that we’re the product of random—unguided processes… the result of time and chance acting on matter in a universe that doesn’t care. Morality becomes nothing more than preference in such a worldview. 

One-ism

Both Pantheism and Panentheism fail at providing a basis for objective morality because the serial killer and the saint, the parasite and the infant, the rapist and the raped are all equally divine. 

The Force

An impersonal force has no social knowledge (social intuition requires personhood and interaction with other persons). It’s then nonsensical to say that an impersonal (and therefore non-social) force can be the grounds for personal social laws. 

Non-Trinitarian Theism

The Unitarian notion of the divine is subject to Plato’s critique (Euthyphro’s Dilemma) because without a social component intrinsic to the divine nature, God becomes nothing more than an impersonal force. So Judaism, Islam, Deism, Modalism, and any other worldview which would suggest that God is one in essence and one person are out. 

And in Polytheism (Greek mythology,  Mormonism, etc), if you choose one god to be the standard, your choice is either arbitrary or informed by a standard outside of that god. The community of the gods cannot be the moral standard because, with multiple wills, there remains a possibility of conflict, which would ruin the objectivity and universality of the standard (not an issue for Trinitarianism since orthodoxy has always maintained the existence of only one divine will– see the Chalcedonian Creed). 

And there’s nothing left. 

The whole of humanity’s religious expressions will, in one way or another, fall gently into one of these categories. And because Trinitarianism is the only player that can account for objective morality, you either have to deny the existence of an objective moral code or else affirm orthodox Christianity.

I suppose you could go off into the woods with that knowledge and piece together a religion of sorts, but idolatry is bad for your health. 

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