PART 2: The Goodness Delusion

I’m a bit of a perfectionist which is always very difficult to live with when your far from perfect, so when it comes to art and drawing, writing fiction or blog posts I’m never truly happy with what I’ve done. But with that attitude sometimes I find it difficult to even finish something which I think stunts my growth as a writer or an artist. So, although I’m not fully happy with this post I think I just need to post it and move on. Maybe coming back to it again some other time and fleshing it out some more. I’m happy with the general direction of the post but not necessarily the full breadth and depth of my argument. In any case here you go.

PART 2:

The second question I thought about was what is goodness according to God, and how does it differs from mankind’s understanding of goodness? When we are confronted with God’s understanding of what goodness is we find it un-palatable. You don’t like it, it’s doesn’t sit well with us and we probably would rather dismiss it, I still do sometimes in favour of my own interpretation.

I said in Part 1 that what mankind believes is good is something that meets our standards and thus is worthy of our approval. If that is the case for mankind, if the quality of goodness of and object or person is based on our approval, if the thing is good when it meets our standards, than it should come as no surprise that it is the same with God.

According to God, God was, God is and God always will be the standard of what is good. That to be good a person must act and be as morally and ethically upright as God himself to be good, which we are not capable of.

MATTHEW 19:16-17

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Only God is good and to be good we must keep all the commands which we are incapable of doing.

PSALM 14: 1-3

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

2The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

God created everything and by his standards it was good. The created thing, the universe, the planet, the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals on the land and the humans he made to walk on this planet were good! That means they functioned as he intended. (Gen 1:31)

Romans 8:28 is an interesting verse. It says

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

So what is this verse saying? What is good? Becoming morally like him is good and being called according to his purpose. This is not a promise of earthly wealth or health or anything like this but rather it is a statement that those who will be saved by Christ for their faith in him will become conformed, morally conformed into the image of Jesus Christ the son of God, who is God, and will work things out for the good of his purpose.

It’s not about us getting something it’s about us being transformed, renewed to the state that God wanted us to exist in the first place and then being part of his purpose and plan. Unsurprisingly it is clear from this verse that it is an act of God not man in which we can become good, there is just no other way!

The Psalms are full of verses stating the goodness of God, the Bible is full of them as well but here is where we find it un-palatable because sometimes, or many times, we find God doing things we don’t understand in the Bible, things we just don’t think are in fact good.

We’ve established that mankind determines what is good based on what meets their standards of what is good which contradicts God’s understanding of what is good. To solve this problem we could go to Job where God descends on the poor wretched man who is crying out in pain and God says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” Saying who are you, oh man, to question your almighty God? What Does God owe you? And in truth that is a sufficient answer in some ways but in others it is not. It is sufficient in that the creation has no right to demand of the sovereign creator an explanation but it is insufficient because it is not the full message of the Bible about God’s goodness. Certainly it acknowledges his majesty which God wants you to know and acknowledge, but God also wants us to truly know and experience his goodness.

So we come to Question number three:

If God is truly good prove it!

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…

Hey Jude!

I really wanted to study an entire book this week and I must admit that I chose Jude due to it’s length but also due to my lack of knowledge concerning its content. The book has very similar content to material written by the apostles but uses some unique references to apocryphal writing. Jude doesn’t appear to use the apocryphal works in a canonical or authoritative way but rather as examples.

I want to note that the book of Jude has very similar, and parallel teachings, as 2 Peter 2 does and upon reading the two the similarities are absolutely evident. However, in my brief study of Jude I don’t spend time examining these similarities but rather I am simply outlining the key points and thoughts of Jude itself.

The Book of Jude

The Book of Jude was written to contend against those who have snuck into the church, those ungodly people who are set aside to be condemned (3-4). Why are they condemned? Because they reject all authority including Jesus Christ’s, they change the faith to fit their desires of sexual immorality and reject truth based on their “dreams” or visions. (4) They use visions as their basis of authority. They blaspheme out of their innate sinfulness (7-8). They are compared to the unbelieving Egyptians (5), and the angels who rebelled against God (6), they are guilty of like sins to those of Sodom and Gomorrah (7), They are useless, not producing any good works (12) and finally they are easily swayed, this way and that, by their own false teachings and feelings. (13)

Jude tells us that these ungodly men will suffer destruction; in fact it is for one’s like this that God is coming to judge the world. They will be judged for their actions, their unbelief and their blasphemy against God (14-15.) Jude summarizes who they are, they are “…grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favouritism to gain advantage.” (Jude 16)

These people have so offended God that their destruction is assured. They deserve nothing else. How could God do anything but destroy them is a question we have to ask ourselves?

Now Jude turns to the true holy followers, to those who are part of Jesus true disciples and tells them they need to remember that the apostles said that people like this would come (17-18). The ungodly cause division and so not have the Holy Spirit, but you those with the Holy Spirit must keep themselves in God’s love, they must build their faith through prayer in the Holy Spirit waiting on the mercy of God (19-21).

The holy are also encouraged to have mercy on those who doubt, which are not the same as those who reject and blaspheme (22).

In closing Jude acknowledges that Jesus Christ is able to keep his chosen from stumbling and able to present them blameless to God, and that he is glorious, majestic, has dominion and authority over all time (24-25).

Thoughts on Jude

Jude is writing to a church with some very big problems. These ungodly are as terrible and as opposed to God as you can get, yet they have made their way into the Church. Jude is trying to shine some light on them, to make the faithful aware of them, to cause the faithful to contend against them and save those who might be swayed by them to their destruction. It is interesting that Jude makes no mention of trying to save them but rather assumes that those who have crept in to the church have no hope but are doomed to certain destruction, yet he contends for those who are still on the fence. Jude wants the faithful to build their faith and save those they can while handing the ungodly over to God for judgment.

It is interesting that Jude identifies these individuals’ sins, exposing them, but makes no mention of expelling them. Perhaps, by his appeal to the beloved he hopes, when he says to contend, that he desires them to step up and remember the truth about their faith. Although there is no direct admonishment to throw out the ungodly from their midst there is definitely an indication that they must separate themselves from these people doomed to God’s judgment by keeping themselves in the love of God. His language is so strong concerning these individuals you are almost astounded by his lack of instruction as to how to handle them other than to look to their own faith and save the doubter.

Due to Jude’s use of language concerning the ungodly, who assumed authority through visions in verse 8, referenced as “Shepherds feeding themselves” in verse 12, that they are in fact the leaders of this church and Jude is instead writing to the congregation. Whatever the case it is clear that Jude is intent on God being the Judge and the faithful are to strengthen their faith and save those who can be. The mercy Jude talks about does not seem to be for the ungodly among them but rather the unbeliever or the doubters; a unique distinction, mercy for those who are in doubt but destruction from God for those who claim to be part of the body but clearly live in sin and rebellion against him.