Tract #29: Is God Good?

Tract #29, Is God Good?, is ready for you to download and review. Download it, see page #3 for printing instructions, and let me know your comments! Thanks!

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Is God Good?

Most people with a Judeo-Christian mindset will tell you that God is good and that you should be good, just like God is. Unfortunately, they can be a little vague about what they mean by this.

As it relates to God, “good” can mean three things.

Obeying God’s commands

If “good” means obeying God’s commands, then — by definition — God is good (unless he disobeys himself, which wouldn’t make a lot of sense). But by saying that God is good by this definition doesn’t tell us much — surely even Satan obeys his own commands. So when we say that God is good, we must mean something else.

The “good” property of God

It is possible that the phrase “God is good” isn’t describing God but, rather, defining good (making it equivalent to “God = good”).

By this definition, God is an embodiment of goodness, and whatever he does or desires is good. This means that God is indeed good, but it also means that there is no objective, non-God definition for the word good. God is good no matter what God does.

Conforming to a certain standard of behavior

If being good means conforming to a certain set of moral standards and God conforms to those standards, then God is good. The problem then becomes one of defining those standards.

If good is something outside God, we might presume that it means the same thing for us as it does for God. But God sometimes does things that we would not consider it good for a human to do, such as killing children. One might argue that God has the right to kill people because he created them, but if that is the case then do humans have the same right? Can humans decide to blow up a dam they built? Can an artist destroy a painting after he’s sold it? If a scientist created the DNA for a human from scratch and brought it to life, would the scientist have the right to kill the created person?

The Biblical book of Job makes it pretty clear that God is not subject to the same moral rules concerning people as we are. This means not only that if God is good it is because he conforms to a different set of standards than humans, but also that humans can’t look to God for an example of goodness.

And that brings us right back where we started. If God is good, it’s either because we define good in terms of God or because God conforms to some set of standards that we can’t explicitly describe.

God might be good, but if he is, that doesn’t tell us much.

Posted on August 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Defining god, Tract

One Response

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  1. Written by Zach
    on August 26, 2009 at 5:14 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    “Can humans decide to blow up a dam they built?” Why not? “Can an artist destroy a painting after he’s sold it?” No, not after he’s sold it. But God never sold humanity, so that is not a good analogy. An artist is certainly welcome to make a work of art and then destroy it, provided it still belongs to him. “If a scientist created the DNA for a human from scratch and brought it to life, would the scientist have the right to kill the created person?” I would argue that the scientist does not have the right to kill the creation, but this is also a different scenario. A better one might be, if a scientist engineers a bacterium from scratch (as much as I don’t like comparing myself to a bacterium, compared to God I probably am one), does that scientist have the right to destroy that bacterium? There, I think, the answer is yes. (And, yes I realize that God is supposed to love us more than we would love a bacterium. Still, on a comparative scale, I feel like we hardly rank equivalent with God in the way a scientist creating a human being would rank equivalent with his creation.)

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