We need to keep the main issue in the forefront of our minds to understand why DCT is important. The objection by the skeptic is that It is morally impermissible for anyone to mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing. To answer this objection we gave three premises:
- Our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a loving and just God.
- A loving and just God, in normal circumstances, prohibits killing the innocent.
- In very unusual circumstances in the past, God commanded people to kill the innocent for the sake of some greater good
To defend premise 1 we need to answer the questions, "What is the DCT?" and "How does it apply?". We can answer the first question in three statements:
- If theism is true, then we can plausibly explain the nature of moral obligations by identifying them with God’s commands. That is, whatever God commands then that is our moral obligation.
- By “God” we mean a title or description not a personal noun. “God” is defined as the greatest conceivable being, who is worthy of worship. Since He is the greatest conceivable being He must be morally perfect.
- It is impossible for God not to be essentially good, in the same way it is impossible for Caesar not to be the emperor of Rome. If you have an emperor of Rome then by necessity you call him Caesar. If there is a God then he must by necessity be essentially good since he is the greatest conceivable being.
How does DCT apply to premise 1 that our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a loving and just God? Well the conclusion can be summed up in this line of deductive reasoning:
- God is the greatest conceivable being and thus will have perfect love and perfect justice
- Therefore, based on #1, whatever God commands will be the most loving & just act possible.
- God, in rare circumstances in the past, commanded the killing of innocent people
- Therefore the command of God to kill some innocent people in the past was the greatest act of love & justice because it created the best outcome amidst all available options
What does this mean for us? That since God, the greatest conceivable being, in rare circumstances, commanded the killing of innocent people, then the ones commanded to carry out the act were morally obligated to do it. Why were they morally obligated? Because God, in His omniscience, knew that the killing of a few innocent people was a better outcome than whatever else he foreknew. Things, which by the way, we have not seen and cannot see because we are finite in our knowledge.
Let me break this down by giving a very practical example. It is a sunny day on the Eastern Coast of America. It is mid-morning and you are the POTUS. You pick up your morning paper and see the date is 9/11/01. There is a rush of advisors who come into your office and start explaining how multiple planes have been hijacked. Two have already hit the World Trade Centers in NY, a third hit the Pentagon, and a fourth is thought to be heading for the White House or some other major government building. Here is your choice, do you either:
- Let the plane go and wait to see what it crashes into. It could hit a football stadium filled with thousands of innocent people, a government building full of those who lead our country, a school with thousands of children, etc...
- Order the plane to be shot down knowing that it will kill, at most, a few hundred innocent people.
In our scenario we are assuming you have all the available facts, you have been briefed by the best advisors and most just members of your military. All things being equal you only have two options. Obviously this is a hard choice that nobody wants to make but welcome to the world we call "reality". Sometimes you have to choose between two bad choices.
God lives in the realm of reality as well. He decided to create a world of free-will creatures and has imposed this limitation on himself (sorry Calvinists but I disagree with you). Therefore, sometimes He is bound by certain choices which are not optimum. In our scenario we have all the facts and know of all the available choices. But in the real world, when we look to God, we must remember that we do not sit on the throne, we are not omniscient, we do not have all the facts, and we do not know all the available choices. Therefore, we must trust the hand of God because we trust His heart.