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I've been entertaining the idea that the Christian God might be utilitarian, after noticing many correlations between things that the Christian God commands or desires and things that promote happiness and well-being. The idea is that if God commands what He commands because those commands, if obeyed, would ultimately lead to maximum happiness and well-being, then I would say that the Christian God is a utilitarian.

To illustrate, I'll enumerate some examples:

  • Example 1: Heaven vs. Hell. This is the clearest one. Heaven represents the utilitarian utopia, a place of maximum happiness, maximum well-being, and minimum (zero) suffering. In contrast, Hell is the complete opposite. So if God is a utilitarian, it makes sense that He would want to maximize the number of people who make it to Heaven and minimize the number of people who wind up in Hell.

  • Example 2: Love vs. Hate. Love promotes well-being. Hate promotes violence, crimes & suffering. From a utilitarian perspective, it makes sense that love ought to be preferred over hate.

  • Example 3: Love vs. Lust. Lust can be a tricky one, considering the accompanying pleasure. However, one could argue that lust and love cannot simultaneously coexist in the same person (i.e., they are mutually exclusive), and if we concede that a profoundly loving state of being can produce more well-being than a profoundly lustful state of being, then, from a utilitarian perspective, it makes sense that love should be preferred over lust.

  • Example 4: Self-control vs. Addictions/Compulsions. This is pretty much self-evident. People who are enslaved by addictions and compulsions are vulnerable to all sorts of health problems, can sometimes be quite dysfunctional, cause accidents, underperform and become less productive in their jobs, etc. A society in which all individuals are masters of themselves can be much more productive and prosperous than a society in which everyone is compulsively distracted by the urge to find their next fix.

  • Example 5: Honesty vs. Lying. Misinformation can cause a lot of trouble. People can make all sorts of terrible decisions based on bad or deceitful information. A lot of suffering could be spared if people only reported accurate information (to the best of their ability) in good faith. It makes sense, therefore, that honesty should be preferred over lying in most situations (with the typical exception of mercifully lying to the Nazis in order to save a Jewish family that is hiding in one's basement).

  • Etcetera.

In light of these correlations, I'm wondering if it would make sense to think of the Christian God as an adherent to some sort of divine version of Utilitarianism. Is it possible that all Christian morality is ultimately based on the pursuit of maximum utility?

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    That fact that the bible actually suggests any of this itself is upto debate May 29, 2023 at 4:37
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    If a divine being is itself infinitely happy, then as soon as it is happy, it has achieved the aggregationist goal par excellence. Moreover, it could simply arrange the world to be devoid of suffering, much less the threat of infinite torment. No reason to make a labyrinth-game for mortals to solve, unless it also wants to maximize torment, maybe. May 29, 2023 at 4:54
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    No. Christian God could enact maximum happiness and well-being right away, there is no need for him to wait for "ultimately". So he clearly has other priorities and values to consider (respecting free will of creatures is often suggested). God's commands are God's will, but so is the good, what is willed cannot be the "because" of itself. It is also telling that the morality he commands to humans, made in his image, is distinctively non-utilitarian. And Christian God is not a deceiver.
    – Conifold
    May 29, 2023 at 4:59
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    God commended his people not to eat bacon. How can you possibly think he is striving for maximum happiness? May 29, 2023 at 8:20
  • @DavidGudeman, ati sundar! What are pigs? We shouldn't eat 'em. Quare? Jun 3, 2023 at 1:55

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It is possible that the Christian God is utilitarian, but only with a non-mainstream understanding of the Christian God.

As Kristian Berry and Conifold pointed out in the comments to your question, the Christian God is omnipotent, so if He were utilitarian, one would expect Him to just create the universe such that everyone were maximally happy all the time, with no need for suffering along the way. The fact that He allows for suffering means that He must value things (such as free will) other than maximum happiness.

One can only accept that God is utilitarian if one accepts that God is not omnipotent in the absolute sense. The Bible teaches that God has all power and can do all things. If "all things" is interpreted literally and broadly, then it means "anything that can be imagined". In that case, God can make everyone happy instantly, and He doesn't, so He's not utilitarian.

However, "all things" might be hyperbole (not all Christians believe every line of the Bible to be literal). It is possible that there are fundamental constraints of the universe that even God is subject to, and "all things" means "all things that are fundamentally possible". And it is possible that these constraints mean that you can't be maximally happy without first experiencing suffering, or perhaps you can't be maximally happy if you don't have free will. And so God, in order to maximize happiness, has created a world where people have free will and suffer a lot.

I think most Christians would reject the idea that God is subject to constraints of the universe. Most Christians will argue that God created the universe out of nothing, and He could have made the universe any way He wanted. So most Christians will reject the notion that God is strictly utilitarian.

But the Bible is subject to many interpretations, and I think there are reasonable (but not mainstream) interpretations that would allow for God to be constrained by fundamental laws of the universe. Under such an interpretation, the Christian God might very well be utilitarian.

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  • You could think of God as not so much 'constrained', as: participating in the game he set up. It's not very sportsmanlike to create a game, then just mess around with the rules all the time.
    – Scott Rowe
    Jun 29, 2023 at 10:39
  • But if he were capable of setting up the rules of the game, then why didn't he make the rules such that we can be happy all the time? I'm still inclined to say that God is either actually constrained or else not utilitarian
    – T Hummus
    Jun 29, 2023 at 16:51
  • "That's what makes a horse race."
    – Scott Rowe
    Jun 30, 2023 at 17:04
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The Christian god is complex. There is the old versus the new testament, and then there is the holy Trinity, it is a huge mess really, a hodgepodge of different mythological traditions of various tribes of illiterate shepherds if the bronze age middle east.

As such, philosophy cannot give useful answers about questions like that. The art if trying to make sense of all that is called theology, not philosophy.

In philosophy, asking about the nature of specific gods like the Christian one has long ago been discarded same as debating how many angels can dance on the tip of a needle.

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Confusing Heaven Vs Hell: Christianity Vs Marxism

You have completely misunderstood utilitarianism or the amoral ethics of consequentialism. Here is a brief explanation on Bible-hermeneuticsSE, where I explained how socialism cannot be confused with altruism since socialism/marxism is based on amoral utilitarianism.

The Marxist Utilitarianism aims for social worldly pleasure or happiness. It is by definition amoral in which its ethics is consequentialism, as opposed to deontological morality/value based ethics. Consequential ethics morality is relativistic, in other words, whatever action is deemed right that produces a certain interest or goal (e.g. self-interest of preferential consequentialism or hedonistic-consequentialism) which are normally described as "good" or maximum pleasure. Consequentialist ethics, therefore, cannot be confused with objective morality of value based ethics of deontology.

(wikipedia) consequentialism is a class of normative, teleological ethical theories that holds that the consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for judgement about the rightness or wrongness of that conduct. Thus, from a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right act (or omission from acting) is one that will produce a good outcome. ... Consequentialists hold in general that an act is right if and only if the act (or in some views, the rule under which it falls) will produce, will probably produce, or is intended to produce, a greater balance of good over evil than any available alternative.

New world encyclopedia hesitantly describes consequentialism, though I encourage readers to find better sources which clearly differentiate it as an amoral or relativistic ethics and discern by yourself using logic:

Moral theories may be classified according to how they specify the relation between the theory of value and the theory of right action. The Greek word, telos, means goal, end, or purpose; teleology is the study of goals, ends and purposes; teleological ethical theories, therefore, emphasize that morality is oriented toward bringing about a certain goal. Consequentialism is one important sort of teleological moral theory. Consequentialism in its most general form is the claim that a normative property (such as "rightness," "wrongness," "virtuousness," etc.) depends on the value of consequences. There are various forms of consequentialism. For example, act consequentialism holds that the right act for a particular agent is the one that produces the greatest balance of good over bad consequences. Rule consequentialism justifies moral rules according to the value that the rules tend to promote. Motive consequentialism is the thesis that the moral qualities of an action depend on the overall consequences of actions done from a particular motive.

The Biblical Christian social utopia seen in Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:32 is based on altruism which comes from truth and value based obedience to the objective/real moral law of God.

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.... Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.

To confuse the Utilitarian amoral Utopia of worldly pleasure with the eternal joy of those who deserve the reward of eternal life due to their success in obedience to God is to confuse Marxism with Christianity. It is the typical misconception that confuses socialism with altruism.

Socialism is Not Altruism

The Marxist Utilitarian leaders like Stalin, or philosophers like Sam Harris, both openly defends eating human babies for the sake of increasing social happiness. It is the opposite of the Biblical ethics which rewards sacrificial love or morality based ethics. It should be noted that a Utilitarian (communist/Marxist) culture sucks out all humanity from its slaves, as it rewards obedience to its barbaric system that suppresses the well-being of people, and leads to increase of selfishness and sins or crimes, as seen in China's examples.

Utilitarian utopia is the idea of increasing worldly pleasure, it should not be confused with goodness or morality. Heaven is the reward for obeying God's laws and following his commands, it is not a social utopia. In no possible world where heaven can be occupied by evil wicked people, whereas as demonstrated by the nations working under Marxism, the Marxist Utopia is always occupied by the most cruel and evil people. You are making the same errors as amateur Sam Harris, who mistakenly promoted his amoral social landscape as morally good. Confusing pleasure with goodness.

So this is a critical move in his moral theory—redefining the word “good” to simply mean the well-being of conscience creatures, so that now the question becomes pointless – “Why think that the flourishing of conscious creatures is good on atheism?”

And the problem is that he admits that it's possible that the moral landscape, that is to say, the highs and lows of moral values, good at the peaks and bad at the valleys, that that moral landscape, he said, could fall apart from the landscape of creaturely well-being. You could have a possible world in which the peaks of well-being were occupied by morally evil people – rapists and thieves and psychopaths, people like that – and in that case he says, he admits this in his book, that his so-called moral landscape would no longer be a moral landscape. It would just be a continuum of creaturely well-being, but it wouldn't map morality—it wouldn't map the moral landscape. So what that means is it's possible that goodness and creaturely well-being are not identical after all.

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Decades ago I read my working concept of ethics in Schaum's outline:

  1. What is good in life or the good life?
  1. How should one act to cause the good?

Deuteronomy - Moses leads the people to the promised land and they are told that they can dwell in the good land, from generation to generation, if they keep God's commandments. On the contrary, "The wicked will perish from the land."

Jesus - Seek first your knowledge of the Father in heaven, his rule over you, and all good things will be added unto you.

God offers unilateral terms like a parent or spouse: If you want X, then you have to Y.

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