I will post a review of the remarkable book Did God Really Command Genocide by Paul Copan & Matthew Flannagan. For the moment, I offer the following addendum to a discussion and objection to the Divine Command Theory of ethics (the understanding that something is morally obligatory because God commands it to be so, whether or not human beings understand the source of that obligation).
An objection discussed on page 155 of the book raise by philosopher Wes Morriston:
In order to successfully issue a command, one must deliver it to its intended recipients. This brings us back to the problem of the reasonable nonbeliever. On the fact if, God has not succeeded in speaking to her. And since she is a reasonable non-believer, God has not even succeeded in putting her in a position in which she should have have heard a divine command. How then, can she be subject to God’s commands? How can her moral obligations be understood by reference to what God has commanded her to do?
Copan and Flannagan respond to the argument in terms of its philosophical merits. What I propose to add to their argument is a Scriptural response. Paul in Romans 1 & 2 directly addressed Morriston’s argument. In Romans 1, Paul explains that human beings actively seek to suppress the knowledge of God and his ethical condemnation of human sin:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:18–21 (ESV). Yet, despite the fact that human beings (the “reasonable nonbeliever”) deny any knowledge of God or God’s moral communication, human beings are well aware of the moral content of God’s communication: “Though they know God’s righteous decree” (Rom. 1:31). The “reasonable nonbeliever” apprehends God’s moral communication (“righteous decree”) in their conscience (which is exactly the basis upon which Morriston and other atheists seek to condemn the God of Scripture for being immoral). Paul makes clear that God’s moral authority is not premised upon the unbeliever being consciously aware of God having issued the command. The unbeliever’s moral conscience is a sufficient ground:
12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:12–16 (ESV). Francis Schaeffer in his book The Church in a Post Christian Culture puts it this way:
Let me use an illustration again that I have used in other places. If every little baby that was ever born anywhere in the world had a tape recorder hung about its neck, and if this tape recorder only recorded the moral judgments with which this child as he grew bound other men, the moral precepts might be much lower than the biblical law, but they would still be moral judgments. Eventually each person comes to that great moment when he stands before God as judge. Suppose, then, that God simply touched the tape recorder button and each man heard played out in his own words all those statements by which he had bound other men in moral judgment. He could hear it going on for years—thousands and thousands of moral judgments made against other men, not aesthetic judgments, but moral judgments. Then God would simply say to the man, though he had never heard the Bible, now where do you stand in the light of your own moral judgments. The Bible points out in the passage quoted above that every voice would be stilled. All men would have to acknowledge that they have deliberately done those things which they knew to be wrong. Nobody could deny it.
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, vol. 4 (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 41–42.