One of the questions considered in Ethics is whether moral rules are an arbitrary decision by God or are moral rules God’s confirmation of an independent Good. We may get some insight using the analogy of a machine built to function well only if certain procedures are followed. In the analogy the mechanical “rules” are the parallel to the moral “rules” for mankind. In both cases, the rules cannot be separated from the item, nor are they imposed independently upon the item. They are inherent in the item; they are natural to the item. If the operational rules of the machine were other than what they actually are, the item would be a different kind of machine. At the same time, the operational rules reflect the creative mind of the maker.
When moving from the operational rules of a machine to the moral rules of humanity, we face the question, “Are the moral rules right because God says so?” If we answer in the affirmative, we are making two claims. One is that the rules are God’s idea, thus kicking the concept of morality back to God. Two is that it is God who made the “item” that is as it is because of its purpose and functioning rules.
One question that is raised is whether the moral rules could be otherwise if God had wanted that to be the case. For example could it have been the case that hatred rather than love could have been the dominant moral claim.
In response to this question, first, if God would have made humans with hatred being normative, we humans would be so different from what we are that the word human (as used by humans at this point in history) would not be the correct word for what we are. The moral claim of love is an essential part of human life. Without the moral claim of love on us humans, we humans would not be human as we use the term; we would be something else, requiring a different word (assuming that the word “human” would still make sense in some way.)
Secondly, God would not make anything whose essential nature included something contrary to God’s character. He has made things whose essential nature is less than Him, but not contrary to Him. The vegetable, animal, and mineral worlds are not contrary to God’s nature. To be contrary these three worlds would have to be governed by hatred. But, they are governed by neither hatred nor love. They are less than, but not contrary to, God’s moral nature. They are amoral.
Perhaps, some might say, “It is an arbitrary action by God that humans are to live by the rule of love”. The better affirmation is that all of nature reflects the character of its Creator. Being moral is not an arbitrary attribute added onto humanity by God. Being moral is what is natural for humans; it is part of the definition “human.” There is no other alternative available if we want to use the word “human” to describe what we are. If we want to strip “moral” from the essence of “being human” a new word needs to be used for the entirely new non-moral being.