I encountered a question a few months ago that has sent me on a sort of journey of discovery. My purpose for writing this is that you might have the chance to process this with me. That being said, I’m going to write this over multiple posts, going step by step so that we can all be on the same page.
The question was this:
(A) Is God good because whatever God does is automatically good? Or (B) is God good because He meets the objective standard of ‘good’?
This question was asked a couple thousand years ago and I’d like to walk through some of its implications.
This question is really about how we define ‘good’. For instance, if we take part A as true, then we could assume that if God decided to slaughter millions of people for funsies, then it would be ‘good’. If we take part B as true and we also say that God is perfect, that means God cannot do whatever He wants, but only conform to that perfect standard.
So either God can commit atrocities and we can commit atrocities at His command and still call it ‘good’ OR God is not actually sovereign, but just a slave to some standard of good.
I’d like to stop here for a second to point out that this is why our definition of good is so important. I already know that some reading this are starting to glaze over at the sight of a logic puzzle and are questioning whether or not this post, like any systematic theology, will be worth their time. But let me pull you, dear reader, back in with this fun fact: if either of the above options is true, God is not worth worshiping. It is not right to worship an atrocious God or one that is not all powerful. That bothers some of you and excites others. I’d like to take that tension and bring it back to the question that you may now find more important: what is good?
Good is what is desirable for everyone. This may seem an elusive and abstract phrase, and it is, but it has one tangible conclusion: only someone who knew everything ever could truly know ‘good’.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we just knew what ‘good’ was so we could measure everything we do against it? Every single thing that we chose would be measured against ‘good’. We wouldn’t need to argue with each other about what is good and what isn’t. We could structure our society and civilization on ‘good’.
All of our choices in life would be so much easier.
But it has been said:
“…human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way…they do not in fact [always] behave in that way.”
Why is this? Why and how do we know what we ought to do? Is it our choices that have taken us down that road of misbehavior? Is it our nature?
Over the next few posts I’m going to try and convince you that contemporary western thought on decision making has put our entire society into the doldrums. And then, hopefully, I’ll convince you that the wind is still out there, we just need our sails to catch it.