Monday, February 23, 2015

God is Good, Part 2

Still coming to terms with the goodness of God

In my last post I talked about what the goodness of God is not. Specifically, the goodness of God is not the goodness of people. What makes something good, I explained, is that it properly fulfills the role for which it functions. A good pet is an affectionate obedient creature. A good employer is not. So, while a good person who finds out his neighbor is abusing his children will do everything he or she can to stop it, God who is all knowing and all powerful might let it continue. That doesn't seem very good to us, but that's because we see God as a human being. He's not. God's goodness is different.

God's goodness must allow for goodness to be chosen over evil.

In order to be good one must have the opportunity to be evil and choose not to. If you ever talk to drug-users or alcoholics, people involved in a perverse sexual relationship, or folks addicted to overindulgence of any sort (over-eating, over-spending, over-sleeping, etc.) they will often defend themselves with the encomium that they are "only hurting themselves." Whether or not this is technically correct, it does point to a fairly universal perception that things that are evil are things which hurt other people, especially the innocent. If we don't hurt anyone, we really haven't done anything bad.

I work at a coeducational state university in the United States Southwest and I do not cheat on my wife. I probably could if I wanted to. I am in a situation where I involve myself in the lives of my female colleagues and students. There are hundreds of them, so saying that I probably could cheat is not a matter of bragging, it is a simple matter of odds. I could probably turn some of these conversations into obscure flirting, some of that obscure flirting could turn into more flagrant flirting, some of that flagrant flirting would probably occasionally turn into some sort of sexualized relationship. I don't do any of that. I choose the goodness of my marriage over evil. It is good of me not to choose evil. The more intense the temptation is, the more good it will be to avoid it.

If I worked at a men's only university, my predilections being what they are, it would not be so good of me not to cheat. In fact, it would take some work to engage in philandery in that context. If God made it so that we could not do evil, then we would not be able to do good. If he made it so that every time we did evil he would rush in and stop the consequences to the innocent, we wouldn't be able to choose not to do evil. Without this choice, the choice to be good wouldn't exist.

If there were a creator God, and if he were good, he would have to allow us to choose evil, with consequences to the innocent, so that we could be good too. So, when you or I, as human beings, find some innocent person being abused and turn a blind eye to it, we are bad. However, if God MUST allow the possibility of evil so that his creatures can turn away from it.

God's goodness must allow for goodness to be enacted in His creation.

Goodness is not just the absence of evil. There must be positive good as well. If there is a creator God, and if He is good, He would need His creation to engage in positive good. That positive good is to help and serve others, especially those from whom one can enjoy no benefits from that service. In order to do this, people must have needs and desires that others must fulfill. If God gives everyone everything they desire directly from His hands, then other people do not have the opportunity to do good to them. If we all know that a need will be met by God whether we act to meet it or not, there would be no good we could do for others. Thus God would have to leave needs and desires unmet, and if we fail to meet other people's needs and desires, God would have to continue to leave them unmet.

God's goodness must have consequences. 

If there is a creator God, and if He is good, could not just let everyone choose the opposite with impunity. A creator creates things for a purpose, in the case of a good God as a creator, that purpose would be goodness. To be good, it would have to choose good and not choose evil. But if something is created for a purpose and does not fulfill that purpose, then it needs to be cast away. So, the possibility of a person choosing to become useless and being put in a trash heap is completely reasonable. Now, for a human being to cast off another person this way would be a hideous and contemptible act, but other human beings are not made for our purposes, they are made for God's purposes and if they fail to live up to that, they can be tossed out.

God's goodness contains mercy and grace. 

While all the other subtitles in this section contain the word "must," this section does not. After thinking about it, no reasonable person can ask "Why would God allow all this suffering and evil in the world if He is all powerful, all knowing, and good?" No reasonable person would ask this because it is fairly obvious if you think about it (as we have done here) that a God who is all powerful, all knowing, and good could only make a world pretty close to the one we have. In fact, I think the sorry state of much of the world is pretty good evidence for a God who is all-knowing, all powerful, and good. He has given every single person the opportunity to choose to do good and not to do evil. Pretty much everyone has chosen not to do good and to do evil from time to time. Therefor, needs are not met and even more than that, bad things happen to people who do not deserve them. That's going to happen under a good God.

On the other hand, sometimes very good things happen. Grace and mercy are not a logical necessity of a good God. Grace and mercy are not rewards fro goodness. They are gifts. Sometimes God does interfere. I don't know why. God is not bad when he doesn't do this. In fact a good God could not always do this, but sometimes He does. I'm not sure, but I think more often than not, He does. There is no reason that He must to maintain he good nature, as in the other cases here. Still, His goodness is magnified in doing so.

So get some mercy

I rarely get evangelistic in my blogs. Partly, I have some evidence that my only regular reader is my Mom, and I don't worry much about her salvation (sometimes, sometimes). Still, just in case someone stumbles here in dealing with some questions, I want to get this out. A good God would logically create a world pretty much as it is. The God of the Bible meets these criteria. While God would have no reason to offer anyone mercy and grace, He does. Furthermore, He doesn't make it a secret about how to get it: repent (that means make a conscious desire to change), accept the salvation he offers through Christ, then follow His will (which, if you read the New Testament includes baptism in water, taking the Lord's supper, meeting with fellow believers, and other much more important stuff like taking care of hurting people that would have probably been something you already knew when you repented even if you never read an inch of the Bible). Not only is His mercy there to cover where you didn't lead up, it's available and not too hard to get.