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PART 1: The Goodness Delusion

This Monday I had the opportunity to teach at my Pastorate, which is a small home church that meets every other week. In this group we are studying the attributes of God in an attempt to learn more about him and in so doing learn more about us and our relationship with him.

This week, after a very interesting discussion last week concerning the will of God, I decided to talk on God’s goodness. In preparing for this lesson I had spent some time pondering several points. I was planning to cover the first two briefly here before going on to cover the third more extensively but just kept on writing on the first point so I split it into three parts instead. So here is part 1.

First, what is goodness according to man? Goodness according to man is what we deem worthy of our approval. If it is a created product it is good if it meets the expected function it was intended for, or the function we expected it to fulfil. A product may be good to the creator because it fulfills the function he expected but be bad to you and me if we expected it to be or do something different. The same thing occurs when it comes to art. The piece of art is good if it meets with my approval despite the original intent of the artist. It is hugely subjective.

The problem is that we maintain this same subjective understanding of what is good and bad when it comes to morals. A person is good so long as they live up to the expectations of their moral code in their own eyes. We dictate a person’s level of goodness based on examining them through our moral code, despite the fact that they, in their opinion, may have a completely different moral code. You might say so what? “To each his own.” How very postmodern. However none of us truly do ethics that way. We all bring our foot down when it comes to men like Hitler or Stalin. We say “They are bad and compared to them I am good.”

The best part about humans, and I mean that in a sarcastic way, is that we fall short of our own moral and ethical codes and thus we are forced to re-write the moral code to suit our own failings. Where do we stop? We don’t! “He’s basically a good boy, he just makes mistakes sometimes.” No He’s basically a horrible rotten sinner just like the rest of us, just like me. Where is our right to dictate the ethics of Hitler and Stalin if we are so week in our ability to set a standard of base ethics for all of humanity?

Just as the rest of humanity, the Church is full of fallen humans called sinners. In the Church, The moral failures consistently lead to a re-interpretation of the scripture to suit the readers understanding of goodness in an attempt, by the interpreter, to ignore the standard of goodness expected by the Bible. If a Church is re-defining the message of the bible to be more palatable for a modern audience they are trying desperately to re-define the standards of goodness in the Bible to meet their own moral or ethical code rather than allowing the morals and ethics of the Bible to change them.

Goodness according to man is subjective, flippant, frivolous, self gratifying and it changes with the wind all in an attempt to delude ourselves into believing that mankind is basically god, sorry did I say god…I meant to say good…

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About Andrew Linden

Web/designer in training @BCIT, gamer, painter, comic fan and artist. Taking a new direction in my career. Husband and Father to an amazing 2 year old little girl

One response to “PART 1: The Goodness Delusion

  1. Interesting. Of course, our understanding of ‘goodness’ must come from God – because God is good. And there is something of an oxymoron in that sentence.

    The Romans believed their gods were great and powerful and right. But I don’t think they’d have argued they were good, when in many of the classical stories they were playing with people for their own enjoyment.

    Yet we believe that God is good, outwith (somehow) of himself. If there was a measure of goodness outside of God, he would still be found to be good.

    But then we come to another problem: was Abraham sacrificing Isaac good? How are we assessing right and wrong, good and bad (in relation to God)? On a certain level we might say that God is way above all that stuff and that therefore is unable to do anything bad with relation to killing something he has made (death is happening all the time, yabber yabber). But then are we not creating a category of goodness which defines it only as what God does?

    And then, if we say that we can only measure our own moral goodness with reference to God how does our own perception come into the equation?

    If I say that I am morally right to murder my daughter because God has told me to (giving various bible verses to support it), do we stand back and marvel at the faith shown or call authorities to send me somewhere for society’s protection?

    So something which at first sight is simple becomes extremely brainachy.

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