Ellen Charry on Two Types of Divine Commands
Biblical commands are of several kinds… (1) single-occurrence or rarely occurring punctiliar orders that test obedience, and (2) guidelines that commend an ongoing way of life. Tests, the first type, are voluntarist rules that God lays down in particular situations for a specific purpose or around specific events. Voluntarism holds that the divine will defines morality. Even if a command looks arbitrary or even immoral to us, it is good because God commanded it. Divine power defines goodness. The assumption here is that blind obedience is praiseworthy either for its own sake or because it cultivates humility. The second type of command is moral guidelines that cultivate wisdom: they embody broad humanist principles that shape a salutary life for the well-being of both the individual and the community. They are asherist commands that are conducive to wise living. While voluntarist commands require blind obedience, asherist commands promote open-eyed obedience because their value for personal and communal well-being is evident.